Rivers (Extreme Earth) by Laurie Burnham

By Laurie Burnham

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In the modern era, numerous adventurers have tried to travel the Blue Nile by boat from Lake Tana to the sea. None have had an easy time of it. In 1972, for example, a four-man British team successfully navigated several white-water rapids that others had found impossible. But they quit the river after only 12 days, having been repeatedly attacked by crocodiles and gun-wielding Shifta bandits. Even as recently as 1999, a National Geographic Society expedition ran into numerous hazards, The Nile G 21 including crocodiles, armed militia, and multiple rapids that had to be portaged.

This cumulative affect accounts for the Amazon’s enormous watershed, technically called a drainage basin. The Amazon basin stays lush and damp year-round, fed by abundant rain. 4 m), though more rain falls from February to May (the rainy season) than from June to October (the dry season). Approximately 60 percent of the rain that falls enters the local at- The Amazon G 31 mosphere through transpiration (vapor loss from plants) and through direct evaporation. The other 40 percent comes from moisture-laden winds blowing inland from the Atlantic, in effect creating a mini–water cycle.

Rarely even does the waterway see rain. Yet the Nile manages to pass through the Sahara, where the Sun, heat, and aridity are intense and where evaporation rates are extremely high, without drying up. The Big Bend In the heart of the Sahara, not far from its confluence with the Atbara, the Nile does something surprising. It suddenly turns toward the southwest, as if falling over on itself, and flows some 185 miles (298 km) in the wrong direction before once again heading north toward the sea. This diversion takes the Nile 540 miles (869 km) out of its way.

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