The longest river in the world meanders through three countries, takes its source from over 5,000 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level and is over 6,400 kilometres (3,900 miles) long. Bordered on all sides by the rainforest of the same name, the Amazon is one of the most spectacular bodies of water in the world. Starting in Peru, crossing through Colombia into Brazil, the Amazon discharges over 209,000 cubic meters (7,380,000 cubic feet) of water every second – to put that in perspective, it is responsible for over 20% of the total river discharge into the ocean.
However, its sheer size isn’t the only thing that has made the Amazon famous. A unique ecosystem boasting a huge biodiversity, it is contrasted by continued logging of the rainforest and polluted waterways. Whether it be the local populations of native Indians – some of which have yet to be introduced to the modern world – or the mining corporations searching for new deposits, the banks of the Amazon is teeming with activity.
The river itself is believed be the deepest on Earth, and it has seen its fair share of history. Prior to European discovery, it was used by local communities as a source of food and water – but the river soon became an obsession amongst scientists and explorers alike once it was its existence came to light after Spanish conquistadors happened upon her during the course of March 1500.
Spanish explorers made several journeys on the Amazon hoping to find valuable profitable crops or following up rumours of lost cities like El Dorado. Soon after, the Amazon’s banks began to be settled, and cities formed as European colonization intensified in the region. Scientists began exploring the river and the nearby rainforest, notable figures such as Charles Marie de la Condamine, Alexander von Humboldt and Henry Walter Bates all putting forward contributions towards the annals of the Amazon’s history.
In modern times, the Amazon continues to be a thriving hub of commerce, exploration and development. Major cities have arisen from the original settlements, whilst early observations by scientists and explorers have been built upon and consolidated – although large parts of the rainforest continues to lay as untouched and undisturbed as when the conquistadors made landfall. A biodiversity hotspot containing over a third of the entire world’s known species both aquatic and land based, the river and rainforest make for a unique pair, with several endemic species found within them both.