The mighty Amazon River defines South America, twisting and turning its way through a host of countries, and supporting an incredible wildlife array. The name conjures up thoughts of mystique, danger, and power, but the hugely popular boat tours up and down the river also showcase the incredible beauty of the waterway.
So, to celebrate the Amazon River which contributes 20% of the world’s freshwater into oceans (there’s a bonus fact, straight off the bat), we’ve compiled 20 amazing facts about the waterway.
1 – It’s the largest river in the world. That’s in terms of water volume, despite it not being the longest (that title belongs to the Nile). The Amazon River pumps 200,000 litres of fresh water into the ocean every single second!
2 – It’s still pretty long though. Most scientists agree it’s roughly 4,000 miles.
3 – It starts in the Andean Mountains. Although there are some disputes about the Amazon River’s actual start point, there’s no doubt it starts in Peru’s Andes Mountain. But, there’s a long way for it to go, because…
4 – The Amazon River and its tributaries travel through ten different countries. After Peru, the river heads through and along Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Brazil, and Bolivia. That’s quite the journey.
5 – Amazingly, the river used to flow in the opposite direction. In an amazing testament to nature finding its way, the river’s former flow was interrupted by the emergence of the Andean Mountains 15 million years ago. The river had a little think, and found a different route, emptying out into the Atlantic.
6- It has pink dolphins! One of only four species of river dolphins in the world, the Amazon River Dolphin has been enjoying the South American freshwater for 18 million years!
7 – There are also piranhas though. Native to South America, and commonly found in the Amazon Basin, this is one of the few places you’ll find the little swimming munchers in the world.
8 – Fear not though, South American Piranhas are not as dangerous and deadly as Hollywood would have you believe. They are opportunistic feeders and natural scavengers whose diet mainly consists of fins ripped from the tails of laser fish so they’re not likely to come and strip a dangling foot to the bone – despite what you might have seen on a cartoon!
9 – And, that’s not all. It’s thought that as much as 30% of the different flora and fauna species on Earth can be found in and around the Amazon River. Macaws, spiders, snakes, sloths and about 400 amphibians all call the Amazon home.
10 – It can be very quiet. There are few permanent settlements on the banks of the Amazon River, so a tour down the river can mean you won’t see another person for hours at a time!
11 – There are no permanent bridges. Absolutely mind-blowing to think that to get across, you’ll need a boat. Wow.
12 – There’s a second Amazon River underneath the one we all know and love. The Hamza River is a few miles underground and follows the Amazon’s path.
13 – It’s named after a mythical gang of Greek warrior women. The Amazons were known for touring and plundering the Black Sea. The first European explorer, Francisco de Orellana, to chance upon the river, decided this was a fitting name, and so the Amazon River was born.
14 – However it used to be known as the Marañón River, and the Peruvian stretch still goes by this name!
15 – The world’s greatest distance swimmer, Martin Strel, is the only man to swim the length of the Amazon River.
16 – A massive coral reef was found in the Amazon Delta in 2016. Although the system was thought to have existed as early as the mid-1900s, it wasn’t until recently that definitive proof was found!
17 – A lot of the Amazon River’s water ends up around the Caribbean Islands. The Caribbean Current around the Amazon’s basin shifts tonnes of the water up to the Caribbean Islands, and is thought to raise the sea level by as much as 3cm!
18 – There are hundreds of indigenous tribes who live around the Amazon River. It’s thought that some have never had contact with the outside world, and there could be others yet to be discovered!
19 – Desert sand from the Sahara blows all the way from Africa to the Amazon River, providing some of the essential minerals the ecosystem needs!
20 – The whole ecosystem of the river is incredibly important to the environment. The plant life supported by the river draws huge quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and pumps out oxygen. In short, protect the Amazon River at all costs!
So, there you have it, 20 amazing facts about the Amazon River. Not sure you can get the time off work or school to head over to South America anytime soon? We’ve got the next best thing at Deep Sea World, our brand-new Amazon River exhibit! Come and see it for yourself.