Thursday, February 14, 2008

Amazon River

River Amazon South America

Amazon RiverAmazon river image courtesy:

The very name may send chill in your spine too!

Those naked tall single breasted women shouting war-cry with pointed arrows set to shoot at you to kill! Fortunately this legendary Amazone is not this Amazon despite the similarity in names. Long time ago Francisco de Orellana led an exploration team to the Amazon Basins. The aim of the ‘exploration’ was a very ‘innocent’ one; to catch some tribals to be sold as slaves in the western market!

Unfortunately the ‘exploration’ turned out to a disaster and the ‘explorers’ had to flee for life when tribals attacked them with bows and arrows. Women also were there among the tribals. On return the team members told stories of a strange land with ferocious women like those lived in the legendary land of Amazone. It is said that Amazon River System got its name from their stories.

Some spice in a story!

The story said above is a popular one explaining how the river and the basin got so named; in fact the origin of the word amazone is elsewhere. ‘Hamazan’ in Ionian language means ‘fight in group’ as these tribals fought in group including men, women and children; that word was apt for the tribe’s behavior. Their neighboring tribes as well as those who were victims of their ferocity called them amazans as the Ionians did not aspirate the first syllable (ha of hamazan and was pronounced as amazan).

The real stuff!

The word ‘amazon’ in Greek means breast-less (a = no or without and mazon = breast); those women were fierce warriors of a legendary country; who kept their men indoors and took on the foes with bows and arrows! They were tall, brave, gymnastic, and extremely ferocious. So dedicated to warfare that they used to amputate their left breast so that it doesn’t interfere with arrow aiming! (Some women characters of the recent movies must be out of the legends in their depiction; ferocity in women some way gives men some arousal). The ‘spice part’ in the story added to the popularity and the myth became an instant hit; that’s all!

The mother of all rivers!

Amazon RiverAmazon river image courtesy:

By the total volume of water delivered per second Amazon is the god of all rivers; it is the life-blood of Brazil as Nile is to Africa. The Nile of Egypt is historically accepted as longer than Amazon. Recent study conducted by scientists taking Nevado Mismi as the source proved that Amazon is 6259 to 6800 km long; that means that Amazon must be about 110 km longer than Nile.

Nile, please excuse!

The length of the river is considered a national pride and the statement that Amazon is longer than Nile may hurt River Nile and the national pride of the Egyptians; but they have the credit of having the most of the wonders in the world like the Pyramids, Timbuktu, Northern Red Sea, Aswan dam etc; when natural and manmade wonders are taken there is no end to the candidates from Egypt!

Quantity matters

But length is nothing it is the quantity of water that matters; whole water of Nile coupled with the water of Ganges of India and Yangtze of China does not equal that of Amazon river! The basin of Amazon is the largest in the world and the water carried by this gigantic river to the Atlantic Ocean 0.3 million cubic meters per second! About one fifth of the total water received by all oceans combined!

The long march from Apacheta to the Atlantic

Amazon River

Amazon river map courtesy: encyclopedia britannica

The starts its course from the Apacheta Cliff, Nevado Mismi Mount at Arequepa of Peru in the Andes Ranges and reaches Brazil flowing through Peru and Columbia; it covers a total distance of 6570 km in its journey. The Peruvians call the portion of the river Mara none. Amazon is the recipient of the waters of a thousand tributaries; the major ones are Mara none of Peru, Japura and Rio Negro etc on the left side and Purus, Madeira, Tapajos and Xingu etc on the right side. When these entire rivers join to form the mighty Amazon it becomes such a phenomenon that it is called a river-sea, so vast that no bridge cross it!

Life-blood of the rain forest

Brazil is a large country with world’s largest river systems; it has eight river systems of which the Amazon River System created by Amazon and its tributaries is the biggest which supplies water to more than 45% area of Brazil. Amazon which is formed when River Ukayali merges with River Mara none; it may be about 40 meters deep during rainy seasons and at places it maybe 6 to 10 km in breadth. In its long course this river diverges and remerges at places forming many river islands. This big river and its tributaries together nourish the largest and the densest rain forest on earth called The Amazon Forest.

The Amazon Forest

The densest forest endowed with the world’s most wonderful varieties of plants, birds and animals; it has about 1000 plant varieties, 2000 bird species and more than 2.5 million types of insects along with thousands of fish species that live in this unique eco-system. About one fifth of the whole varieties of living things are found in the Amazon. As per experts one sq km of Amazon forest contain 75,000 verities of trees, 15,000 types of plants, all the more there will be 90,000 tons of plants per sq km! The carbon dioxide consumed and oxygen released by these plants worth several billions of dollars; but there is no one see things in that angle.

The exotic inhabitants

Amazon RiverAmazon river fish image courtesy:

Some of them very exclusive alone are mentioned below; Amazon River Dolphin known as Boto which grows up to 2.5 meters in length found in Orinoco; the largest river dolphin, Piranha – the most aggressive carnivorous fish which hunt in groups and leave even a man as a skeleton within minutes, Bull shark (zambi) aggressive river shark found upstream, Arapaima the largest fresh water fish, Anaconda; the largest snake on earth which live of swamps and can swallow even a fully grown goat as such are just some of them.

The mouth

Mouth of the Amazon RiverMouth of the Amazon River

If the origin and the course of this great river are so eventful how will be it at the time of its merger with the Atlantic Ocean, there also Amazon does not go un-noticed! It makes more than one world’s number one events. Its estuary extents from Cabo do Norte to Punto Patijoca; together with estuary of the Para River (the southern fork of the Amazon) is 330 km wide and the area belongs to the state of Para Brazil. This estuary has the credit of owning the largest island on earth that is covered with fresh water; please remember the southern side of the island is in the Atlantic Ocean!

Marajo Island

The largest marine fluvial island on earth surrounded by fresh water although its north east coast in the Atlantic. This big island is 47573 sq km in area and a part ‘Para’ a State in Brazil. Although the island in partly in the sea; the outflow of the Amazon River is so strong that salt water is kept kilometers away. People can drink water from the sea because it is as fresh as the water that is available in your house water tap!

Marajo Island is not only a tourist spot but also a center of ancient Pre Columbian culture called the Marajoara Culture; remnants of ceramics belonging to that period have been retrieved from here. Marajo has inhabited eastern side with cultivated lands and the western side with forests and swamps. It has a variety of animals like monkeys, anacondas, capibaras (wild rodents with semi aquatic habits often grown for food) and alligators and birds like eagles, flamingoes, herons, parrots. Fishing is also a flourishing job.


Vijay Vaidyanathan said...

Amazon in a nut shell - Nice one :)

Amazon is truly a great river beyond anything imaginable. I wonder how the First Europeans who landed in that region, reacted to the sight ofthis mighty river. European rivers are no match for this one.

Sinu S Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sinu S Kumar said...

Hello vijay, we're glad the you liked the article, yes indeed Amazon is unmatched. we'll be posting one on the Amazon forest soon.