The Amazon River ( Portuguese: Amazonas; Spanish: Amazonas) in South America is the second longest river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined (not including Madeira and Rio Negro, which are tributaries of the Amazon). The Amazon, which has the largest drainage basin in the world, about 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world's total river flow.
In its upper stretches, above the confluence of the Negro River, the Amazon is called Solimões in Brazil; however, in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, the river is generally called the Amazon downstream from the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers in Peru. The Ucayali-Apurímac river system is considered the main source of the Amazon.
Riverboat at the Amazon river
The width of the Amazon varies between 1.6 and 10 kilometres (1.0 and 6.2 mi) at low stage, but expands during the wet season to 48 kilometres (30 mi) or more. The river enters the Atlantic Ocean in a broad estuary about 240 kilometres (150 mi) wide. The mouth of the main stem is 80 kilometres (50 mi). Because of its vast dimensions, it is sometimes called The River Sea. At no point is the Amazon crossed by a bridge. This is not because of its huge dimensions; in fact, for most of its length (which is 4,080 miles), the Amazon's width is well within the capability of modern engineers to bridge. However, the bulk of the river flows through tropical rainforest, where there are few roads or cities, limiting the need for crossings.
The origin of the Amazon River at Nevado Mismi marked only by a wooden cross
More than one-third of all species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest, a giant tropical forest and river basin with an area that stretches more than 5,400,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi). It is the richest tropical forest in the world in terms of biodiversity. There are over 2,100 species of fish currently recognized in the Amazon Basin, with more being discovered every year.
While debate as to whether the Amazon or the Nile is the world's longest river has gone on for many years, the historic consensus of geographic authorities has been to regard the Amazon as the second longest river in the world, with the Nile being the longest. However, the Amazon has been measured by different geographers as being anywhere between 6,259 and 6,800 kilometres (3,889 and 4,200 mi) long. It is often said to be "at least" 6,400 kilometres (4,000 mi) long. The Nile is reported to be anywhere from 5,499 to 6,690 kilometres (3,417 to 4,160 mi). Often it is said to be "about" 6,650 kilometres (4,130 mi) long. There are many factors that can affect these measurements.
A study by Brazilian scientists concluded that the Amazon is actually longer than the Nile. Using Nevado Mismi, which in 2001 was labeled by the National Geographic Society as the Amazon's source, these scientists made new calculations of the Amazon's length. They calculated the Amazon's length as 6,992 kilometres (4,345 mi). Using the same techniques they calculated the length of the Nile as 6,853 kilometres (4,258 mi), which is longer than previous estimates but still shorter than the Amazon. They made it possible by measuring the Amazon downstream to the beginning of the tidal estuary of Canal do Sul and then, after a sharp turn back, following tidal canals surrounding the isle of Marajó and finally including the marine Waters of the Río Pará bay in its entire length. Guido Gelli, director of science at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), told the Brazilian TV network Globo in June 2007 that it could be considered as a fact that the Amazon was the longest river in the world. However, other geographers have had access to the same data since 2001, and a consensus has yet to emerge to support the claims of these Brazilian scientists. As of 2010 the length of both the Amazon and the Nile remains open to interpretation and continued debate.
Scientists have discovered the longest underground river in the world, in Brazil, running for a length of 6,000 km at a depth of nearly 4 km. It flows from the Andean foothills to the Atlantic coast in a nearly west-to-east direction like the Amazon River. The discovery was made public at a recent meeting of the Brazilian Geophysical Society in Rio de Janeiro. The river ‘Hamza,' named after the discoverer, an Indian-born scientist Valiya Mannathal Hamza who is working with the National Observatory at Rio, makes it the first and geologically unusual instance of a twin-river system flowing at different levels of the earth's crust in Brazil. If the slowing down of certain seismic waves caused by the damp spot helped uncover the underground ocean, the unusual temperature variation with depth measured in 241 inactive oil wells helped locate the subterranean river. Except for the flow direction, the Amazon and the Hamza have very different characteristics. The most obvious ones are their width and flow speed. While the former is 1 km to 100 km wide, the latter is 200 km to 400 km in width. But the flow speed is five meters per second in the Amazon and less than a millimeter per second speed in the Hamza.
Several geological factors have played a vital role in the formation and existence of these subterranean water bodies. The underground ocean, discovered in 2007, has been formed when the plate carrying the Pacific Ocean bottom gets dragged and ends up under the continental plate. Water at such depths would normally escape upwards but the unusual conditions that exist along the eastern Pacific Rim allow the moisture to remain intact. In the case of the Hamza, the porous and permeable sedimentary rocks behave as conduits for the water to sink to greater depths. East-west trending faults and the karst topography present along the northern border of the Amazon basin may have some role in supplying water to the river. If the impermeable rocks stop the vertical flow, the west to east gradient of the topography directs it to flow towards the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the Hamza, the 153 km-long underground river in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and the 8.2 km-long Cabayugan River in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines have come into being thanks to the karst topography. Water in these places drills its way downward by dissolving the carbonate rock to form an extensive underground river system.
Satellite image of mouths of Amazon river in Brazil
And here is short film about Amazon