Rivers have been instrumental in shaping the world's history. Most ancient civilizations have sprung up and flourished around the largest rivers. Not only this, rivers have seen empires rise and fall, battles won and lost. Who doesn't enjoy the sight of a river in its full flow? Thousands of gallons of water piercing through the land and rushing towards the sea sums up one of mother nature's amazing creations. However, which is the longest out of them? Is it our own Mississippi or the Amazon in Brazil? Is it the Brahmaputra or the Yangtze in Asia?
The largest river in the world is worked out by the size of its drainage area and the river's average discharge (m3/s). In both these parameters, the Amazon river of South America is way ahead of any other river and so it is the largest by a long way. However, when it comes to the longest river in the world, we purely take into consideration the length. For this, first the mouth (delta) and the source farthest from the mouth of the river is identified, and the distance between the two, simply gives the length of the river. And on this scale the Amazon, measuring 3,980 miles, falls a close second to the African river Nile.
Nile - Some Interesting Facts
The river Nile in Africa is the world's longest river. It spans a mammoth journey of 4,132 miles before the mouth meets the Mediterranean sea in the form of a huge delta in Egypt. Any big river typically has many tributaries which makes measuring the distance quite difficult. Fortunately, Nile has only two tributaries - the White Nile originating in Rwanda and the Blue Nile having its source in Ethiopia - both meeting at Khartoum, Sudan.
Lake Victoria, in Uganda, was earlier considered to be the source of the Nile. It was later established that a few feeder rivers to the lake are of considerable size and out of those the most distant stream would be considered as the ultimate source of the Nile. This was traced to a stream that emerges from Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda which is considered as the source. Nile is called by many names from its start in Rwanda to the delta in Egypt. After it leaves lake Victoria, it is known as Victoria Nile. After 500 km, it passes through Lake Albert on the border of Uganda with Congo, where it is called Albert Nile till it crosses into Sudan. The river is called Bahr al Jabal (river of mountain) in Sudan, till it reaches a Lake No. Henceforth the Nile is called Bahr al Abyad or the White Nile. It is called so because of the white clay suspended in its waters. At Khartoum, the capital of Sudan the White Nile meets Nile's second largest tributary, the blue Nile.
The Blue Nile originates from Lake Tana in the east African country of Ethiopia. The upper reaches of Blue Nile is called Abbay in Ethiopia. Here, it is considered a holy river by many inhabitants. They believe it to be the river Gihon, which flows out of Garden of Eden as mentioned in Genesis 2. This tributary flows 870 miles before meeting the White Nile in Khartoum to give rise to the River Nile. Even though, the blue Nile is shorter, it contributes to about 59% of the water in the Nile.
There is a tremendous historical significance associated with the Nile. The great Egyptian civilization prospered and flourished with the Nile as the lifeline of its growth. As the aridness of the Sahara desert worsened, the people from these areas are presumed to have migrated to the banks of Nile since the stone age and settled and developed as a society as agriculture, and trade flourished.
Coming back to the length, the Amazon and Nile rivers have fought a long drawn battle for the title. However, it was in the middle of the 20th century that a composite survey earned Nile a pole position by a small margin. Although, these two rivers are always mentioned whenever the reference of the longest or the largest river arises, there are several other big rivers which have tremendous historical and ecological importance. Many civilizations have not only thrived here, but have now grown into one of the most thickly populated areas on the planet. Here's a list of the top ten rivers by length:
|1.||Nile||North western Africa||4,132||Mediterranean Sea|
|2.||Amazon||South America||3,980||Atlantic Ocean|
|3.||Mississippi-Missouri||United States of America||3,710||Gulf of Mexico|
|4.||Chang Jiang (Yangtze)||China||3,602||East China Sea|
|5.||Ob-Irtysh||Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China||3,459||Gulf of Ob|
|5.||Huang Ho (yellow)||China||2,900||Bohai Sea|
|7.||Yenisei||Russia, Mongolia||2,800||Kara Sea|
|8.||Amur - Argun||Russia, China, and Mongolia||2,795||Sea of Okhotsk|
|9.||Niger||Central and western Africa||2,758||Gulf of Guinea|
|10.||Zaire (Congo)||D R Congo||2,716||Atlantic Ocean|
This gives a complete account of Nile, the longest river in the world till date, and how important it is for the sustainability of the desert torn and some of the poorest countries of the world.