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Articles Blog

The Amazon

Karyn Planett

Facts and Stats

Try to recall some of the world’s most important geographic record holders.  Really important ones, not like … oh … which city had the first McDonald’s?  Some come to mind in a heartbeat while others cause us to ponder, scratch our heads, drift back to those darned classes where we had to memorize such things.  But just for fun let’s test our memory because, lo and behold, we’re going to visit one of them really soon.

Can You Name Them?
(Answers at the end.)

  • The highest point on earth.
  • The deepest part of the ocean floor.
  • The lowest place on earth.
  • The highest navigable lake.
  • The biggest canyon.
  • The driest spot on earth.
  • The wettest.
  • The world’s longest river.

Ah-Ha !!!

If you answered “the Amazon” for the last question you are wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!

Oops.  Hang on.  Maybe you’re NOT wrong.  You see it’s rather confusing much like when family members debate over just who it was who started the latest dust-up.  Seems no one can agree on ANYTHING.  OK, that could be a bit of an overstatement but just know that virtually every reference checked offers different statistics about which is the world’s longest river.  So, we’re going with the tried-and-true Encyclopedia Britannica for our info and sticking with them ‘til someone with a red pencil comes along.

Here’s what good ol’ EB has to say about the Amazon.

  • Each and every day of the year, the Amazon deposits 1.3 million TONS of sediment into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Springtime brings a pororoca, which is a tidal bore that roars upstream traveling up to 15 miles per hour in a wave sometimes reaching 12 feet in height.
  • In peak flood years, the banks can widen to 35 miles, or wider.
  • The average flow of the water in the Amazon is approximately 1.5 miles per hour.
  • Friagems are cool air blasts that drift north from the South Pole causing average daily temperature in the Amazon to plummet into the 50s Fahrenheit.
  • In Manaus, it rains from 60 to 120 inches every year, which is a lot of rain!
  • Along the border with Colombia, 140 inches of rainfall are not uncommon.  That’s even more rain.
  • It’s 4,000 miles from the Amazon headwaters in southern Peru to the sea.  (It’s only 2,900 from San Francisco to New York City.)  If anyone asks, the distance from Apacheta Creek to the entrance of Marajó Bay is 4,345 miles and that is the current precise distance of the Amazon River as published by a team of specialists from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (who had neat toys to measure these things).  Those same people used the exact same instruments and parameters to measure the Nile and, you guessed it, it’s shorter.  Shorter, in fact, by almost 90 miles, the distance between your house and a really great shoe store.
  • Other experts, however, claim the Nile is longer.  (This is a hotly debated subject so you decide who’s right.)  The issues clouding precise measurement include seasonal fluctuation and complicated streambed distribution so you really can see the problem.  In all honesty, it does seem a bit tricky this measurement thing.
  • From the Amazon’s western headwaters in the Andes Mountains, it’s only 100 miles to the Pacific coast.  If some industrious person dug a giant trench to the sea, the Amazon could theoretically slice South America in two.  But that’s a long trench.
  • Some trees in the Amazon basin stand 120 feet tall, with the granddaddies of them all soaring up to 200 feet.
  • 8,000 species of insects live in the Amazon.  Remember your insect repellent.
  • 1,500 fish species swim merrily along in the Amazon.  The piranha is the most famous for its flesh-eating fetish.  If that’s not enough, there are also vampire bats, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, not us.
  • The actual Amazon Basin measures 1,725 miles across.  That’s just about exactly the distance from Paris to Istanbul, except here you have to paddle.
  • Scientists calculate that approximately 20% of all water draining from this giant Earth of ours, is swept along by the Amazon River.
  • It is believed that there are small bands of what are called “undiscovered” groups of traditional Indian people living in such isolated outposts that they have probably never had contact with anyone other than their immediate group.
  • 100 miles out beyond the coastline from where the Amazon empties its fresh water payload, the sea’s salinity is distinctly diluted.
  • Supposedly, the river was named after the mythological Greek warrior women because indigenous women of the Amazon fought against the early Spanish explorers.
  • But, perhaps the strangest factoid of them all is that, following the end of the Civil War, Confederate soldiers fled to the Amazon to set up a new life.  And, again, the experts seem to disagree wildly as to the exact number or if the entire story is just that.  But, if you accept this chapter of “history”, somewhere between 100 and 5000 Confederate soldiers, along with their wives and children, settled in the Amazon region.  Their destination was called the Lost Confederate City.  According to some references, there are even images of Confederate battle emblems carved into the local stone.

Well, now you should at least have enough info to ask some intelligent questions of experts you meet along the way.  Oh, and the answers to the opening questions …  Mt. Everest; Marianas Trench; the Dead Sea; Lake Titicaca; the Grand Canyon or the Great Canyon of Yarlung Tsanpo (or Zangbo) along the Brahmaputra River in the Himalayas … again, controversy!; Antarctica where there’s been no rain in Dry Valleys for nearly 2 million years; Hawaii’s Mt. Wailea is one of the wettest averaging 450 inches a year though, in 1982, they recorded 666 inches.  What an amazing world we live in, eh?