AMAZON RIVER                                                                                                                                

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AMAZON RIVER
AMAZON RIVER

The Amazon River is a massive, intricate water system weaving through one of the most vital and complex ecosystems in the world — the Amazon rainforest in South America. It is by far the mightiest river on Earth in terms of volume and width — reaching a span of nearly 30 miles (48 kilometers) in some parts during the rainy season. The river and its basin are home to many unique species of animals, trees and plants.

The Amazon River’s 4,000-mile (6,437 km) journey begins high in the Andes . These mountains act as a wall blocking the warm, moist air moving in from the east, resulting in heavy persistent rainfall that consistently feeds the Amazon’s headwaters. The river then makes its way east through thousands of miles of rainforests and lowlands until it empties into the Atlantic Ocean on the northeastern coast of Brazil. 

The Amazon River is a massive, intricate water system weaving through one of the most vital and complex ecosystems in the world — the Amazon rainforest in South America. It is by far the mightiest river on Earth in terms of volume and width — reaching a span of nearly 30 miles (48 kilometers) in some parts during the rainy season. The river and its basin are home to many unique species of animals, trees and plants.

During the dry season (June to November) the width of the Amazon River averages between 2 to 6 miles (3.2 to 9.6 km) depending on the area, and in the wet season (December through April) the width can reach up to 30 miles (48 kilometers). At the height of wet season, the current can travel more than 4 mph (6.4 km/h), according to the New World Encyclopedia. 

The river received its name from the Spanish soldier Francisco de Orellana, who is credited as the first European to explore the length of the river in 1541. He named it the Amazon after encountering and engaging in battles with female warriors who reminded him of the Amazons in Greek mythology. 

The Amazon River is home to more than 5,600 known species of fish, including 100 species of electric fish and up to 60 species of piranhas, according to Dorling Kindersley(opens in new tab) (DK). The arapaima or pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world (up to 15 feet or 4.6 meters long), also makes its home here. The Amazon River is intricately connected to the delicate ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest — the largest rainforest on Earth, covering approximately 80 percent of the Amazon River basin, according to NASA(opens in new tab). 

The Amazon rainforest is home to more than one-third of all known species in the world. It features remarkable complexity with as many as 100 arboreal species found on a single acre with few of these occurring more than once, according to Biology of Hevea Rubber. The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as the lungs of the Earth, as it acts as an enormous air machine, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing vast amounts of life-supporting oxygen. 

The rainforest features a unique layering system: the emergent layer, the canopy, the understory and the forest floor. The canopy is home to about 70-90 percent of life in the rainforest. The crowns of these trees form a tight continuous canopy about 60 to 90 feet (18.3 to 27.4 m) above ground, and can reach as high as 120 feet (36.6 m). The branches are covered with other plants (epiphytes) and tied together with vines. The canopy helps regulate temperature and humidity and is intricately connected to the region’s climate.

In this land of impassable jungles and limited roadways, the Amazon River is still a primary mode of transportation for many individuals, particularly the indigenous people.. River boats and ships commonly shuttle citizens, tourists and goods from one area of the Amazon to another.

But as the growing population continues to depend on the largely unsupervised river for transportation, it has exposed more people to an age-old terror — piracy. 

Although pirates have long been a scourge of remote waterways throughout history, the current population boom coupled with the rise of drug gangs and organized crime in the Amazon basin have led to more hijacking opportunities.

Many slower-moving riverboats are essentially sitting ducks for the faster boats often manned by heavily armed thieves. Ships are often seized after nightfall, and local governments and police forces are struggling to keep things under control.

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