A new element was injected into the dispute between the Amazon, in Brazil, and the Nile, in Egypt, over which is the world’s largest river: the conclusions of the Pan-Amazon Project, developed by five scientists from the Remote Sensing Division of the Brazilian National Space Research Institute (INPE).
Using satellite images furnished by the US space agency NASA, they created a universal method for measuring riverbed lengths.
"We measured the Amazon and the Nile. There are final analyses still to be done. But we are already able to affirm that the former is approximately 40 to 50 kilometers longer than the latter," the coordinator of the study, the geologist, Paulo Martini, told Radiobrás, Brazil’s state news agency.
"We don’t want to provoke controversies with anybody; we just want to help discover new truths about the world."
In school geography texts, children all over the world learn that the Nile, in Africa, is the world’s longest river, at 6,670 kilometers. By the INPE’s measurements, its length is approximately 6,610 kilometers.
"We still need to complete this analysis, because there is a debate about exactly where in Lake Victoria, in Uganda, the river originates. Just to say that it is in the lake is not enough, because Victoria extends for 300 kilometers," Martini explained.
The method developed by the scientists considers that the riverbed begins in its most distant source, not its most copious. Therefore, the Amazon originates not in the Marañon River, as specialized publications claim, but in the Ucayalli River, which is, in turn, fed by the Apurimac spring.
"Both places are in the Andes mountain range, in Peru. But the Apurimac spring is closer to the Pacific Ocean," Martini pointed out.
He argued that, to avoid confusion, the Apurimac spring, the Ucayalli River, and the Solimões River should be called the Amazon – this name currently applies only to the part downstream from where the Solimões merges with the Negro River, in Manaus.
According to the official data reported by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the Amazon River is 6,570 kilometers long. The INPE study establishes the length to be 6,627 or 6,992 kilometers, depending upon which turns of the river are considered part of the main riverbed.
"We will present the data to the IBGE. They will decide whether to alter the official length," Martini said.
According to the scientist, the presentation is expected to take place in July, when the scientists also plan to undertake an expedition to the Andes.
Their measurement of the Nile and Amazon rivers has been going on for six months.