With a width that can even reach 30 km between one bank and another, the Amazon River has an average flow rate ten times greater than that of the Missippi and forty times that of the Rhine.
Pinzon was the Spanish navigator who in 1500 first sighted the mouths of the Amazon River.
In 1541 his compatriot Orellana, who left Quito, decided to take the easy route offered by the river, to enter the heart of the dense forest called the Brazilian mata.
Along his way he met some tribes of Indios with long hair and, thinking that they were wild warriors, he called them Amazons, inspired by an ancient legend.
For this reason the river was called the Amazon River.
In 1637, the Portuguese Pedro Tesceira went up the river, inaugurating a civilization that often proved to be disadvantageous for the original inhabitants of the place.
From that moment the Amazon River, a vital communication route for the region known as the Amazon, was known all over the world, attracting the attention of many scholars who were deeply fascinated by it.
With its 6300 km the Amazon River is in third place in the world in length, after the Mississippi-Missouri and the Nile, while the size of its basin corresponds to about twenty times the surface of the Italian peninsula.
Its water flow is certainly the largest in the world, ten times greater than that of Mississippi.
Originating from the meeting, upstream of Iquitos, of two Peruvian rivers, the Ucauali and the Maranon, the Amazon River follows a path from west to east, heading towards the Atlantic Ocean and draining a basin almost entirely between 5 ° north latitude and 10 ° south latitude.
Among the largest waterways in the world, the Amazon River is a typical intertropical river, whose basin presents the physical homogeneity of a vast basin invaded by the virgin forest, called the Brazilian "Green Hell".Recommended readings
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The forest and the river represent the two essential characteristics of the Amazon, where the average temperature is constant, settling on about 27 ° centigrade, with very slight thermal excursions.
From this constancy of the equatorial climate derive the abundant rainfall, also distributed proportionally during the year and on the whole surface.
River or arm of the sea?
Already 3 km wide at the Peruvian border, the river reaches 30 km in length in Belem, after passing a bottleneck in Obidos, at the point where the Brazilian shield approaches that of Guyana.
Upstream of the shrinkage, the depth reaches 130 meters compared to an average variable between 30 and 80 meters.
With little slope for most of its course, the Amazon River widens or divides into numerous minor branches, feeding the lakes of the flooded area and insinuating itself into the lush vegetation of the tunnel forest that winds between the various branches.
The plants with higher height are concentrated in the terras firmes, more distant from the river, in a position that is never flooded.
The waters are called "black" when they are clear and correspond to those of the tributaries that flow far from the river in the terras firmes.
Instead, the muddy waters of the river itself and the paranas of the varzea, rich in Brazilian chestnuts and hevee, are called "white".
The forest constitutes the great wealth of the Amazon, while the river represents its axis of communication, being easily navigable to Iquitos and with a high concentration of inhabitants along its banks.
Since the past, the numerous arms of the Amazonian river network have been furrowed by indigenous fishing boats, which were joined in the seventeenth century with flat-bottomed rowboats, used by the chestnut and latex pickers, which opened a passage in the floating vegetation.
With the beginning of colonization, larger boats made their appearance, including steamboats, of which the most characteristic were the Gaiola and the Vaticanos with two smokestacks, which owed its name to the night lighting it was equipped with.
At one time these boats were used to transport merchants or hawkers who brought various objects and alcohol to the heart of the forest through the igarapes, to the most disadvantaged camps of Indios or gatherers.
Now they are also used for growing tourism, started from Manaus, the city where Indios live, latex collectors and lovers of this wild region.
Along the river, Juta plantations were born in the varzea, while corn, tobacco and cocoa are grown in the terras firmes and in the surroundings of Belem.
The Amazon River has preserved over time a practically uncontaminated natural environment.