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Congo River
Sunrise near Mossaka (Congo).JPG
The Congo River near Mossaka
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
Basin countries Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda
Length 4,700 km (2,920 mi)
Avg. discharge 41,800 m3 (1,480,000 cu ft) per second
Basin area 3,680,000 km2 (1,420,000 sq mi)

The Congo River (also known as the Zaire River) is the largest river in Western Central Africa. Its overall length of 4,700 km (2,920 mi) makes it the second longest in Africa (after the Nile).

Contents

Background

Satellite picture of Brazzaville, Kinshasa and the Malebo Pool of the Congo River.

The river and its tributaries flow through the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rain forest area in the world, second only to the Amazon Rainforest in South America. The river also has the second-largest flow in the world, behind the Amazon; the second-largest drainage basin of any river, again trailing the Amazon; and is the deepest river in the world, at depths greater than 230 m (750 ft).[1][2] Its drainage basin is slightly larger than that of the Mississippi. Because large sections of the river basin lie above and below the Equator, its flow is stable, as there is always at least one river experiencing a rainy season.[3] The Congo gets its name from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo which inhabited the lands at the mouth of the river. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, both countries lying along the river's banks, are named after it. Between 1971 and 1997 the government of then-Zaire called it the Zaire River.

The Congo river at Maluku.

The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru, which feed the Lualaba River, which then becomes the Congo below Boyoma Falls. The Chambeshi River in Zambia is generally taken as the source of the Congo in line with the accepted practice worldwide of using the longest tributary, as with the Nile River.

The Congo flows generally northwards from Kisangani just below the Boyoma falls, then gradually bends southwestwards, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville) and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool, where the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), running by Matadi and Boma, and into the sea at the small town of Muanda. Due to its flow through some of the highest canyons, it has recently been discovered that the Congo River is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of 230 m (750 ft).[4][2]

The Congo River Basin is one of the distinct physiographic sections of the larger Mid-African province, which in turn is part of the larger African massive physiographic division.

Economic importance

The beginning of the Livingstone Falls near Kinshasa.

Although the Livingstone Falls prevent access from the sea, nearly the entire Congo is readily navigable in sections, especially between Kinshasa and Kisangani. Large river steamers worked the river until quite recently. The Congo River still is a lifeline in a land without roads or railways.[5]

Hydroelectric power

Railways now bypass the three major falls, and much of the trade of central Africa passes along the river, including copper, palm oil (as kernels), sugar, coffee, and cotton. The river is also potentially valuable for hydroelectric power, and the Inga Dams below Pool Malebo are first to exploit the river.

In February 2005, South Africa's state-owned power company, Eskom, announced a proposal to increase the capacity of the Inga dramatically through improvements and the construction of a new hydroelectric dam. The project would bring the maximum output of the facility to 40 GW, twice that of China's Three Gorges Dam.[6]

Tributaries

Sorted in order from the mouth heading upstream.

Course and Drainage basin of the Congo River with countries marked
Course and Drainage basin of the Congo River with topography shading.

Literature

Although not explicitly cited, the Congo River is the location of Joseph Conrad's 1902 novel Heart of Darkness.

The Congo River is featured in a chapter of Michael Crichton's novel Congo (published in 1980), as well as the feature film of the same name, though it is not mentioned by name in the film.

The Congo is also mentioned in Langston Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

Silence, A Fable is a radio drama adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story written in 1837 and set in Libya, "by the borders of the river Zaire".

Redmond O"Hanlon (British) has a travelogue recently published by Penguin Books under the title of "Congo Journey".

The Congo River and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the scenario for the 2007 book "Blood River" by journalist Tim Butcher, based on his intrepid travels up and down Africa's second longest river. "Blood River" was shortlisted for the 2008 British Book Awards.

See also

References

  1. ^ "[Fish of the Congo]". Explorer. National Geographic Channel. 2009.
  2. ^ a b Dickman, Kyle (2009-11-03). "Evolution in the Deepest River in the World". Science & Nature. Smithsonian Magazine. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Evolution-in-the-Deepest-River-in-the-World.html. 
  3. ^ The Congo River
  4. ^ The Congo Project, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
  5. ^ See, for instance, Thierry Michel's film Congo River
  6. ^ "Could a $50bn plan to tame this mighty river bring electricity to all of Africa?". World news (The Guardian). http://www.guardian.co.uk/congo/story/0,12292,1425023,00.html. 

External links

Coordinates: 6°04′45″S 12°27′00″E / 6.07917°S 12.45°E / -6.07917; 12.45

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Simple English

Congo River
Congo River near Maluku
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
Basin countries Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Angola Zambia, Tanzania
Length 4,700 km (2,922 mi)
Avg. discharge 41,800 m³/s (1,476,376 ft³/s)
Basin area 3,6170,000 km² (1,420,848 mi²)

The Congo River (also known as Zaire River) is the largest river in Western Central Africa. Its overall length of 4,700 km (2,922 miles) makes it the second longest in Africa (after the Nile). The river and its tributaries flow through the second largest rain forest area in the world,[1] second only to the Amazon Rainforest in South America. The river also has the second-largest flow in the world, behind the Amazon, and the second-largest watershed of any river, again trailing the Amazon; its watershed is a little larger than that of the Mississippi River. Because large parts of the river basin sit above and below the equator, its flow is very good, as there is always at least one river having a rainy season.[2] The Congo gets its name from the old Kingdom of Kongo which made their home in the lands at the mouth of the river. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, both countries sitting along the river's banks, are named after it. From 1971 to 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was called Zaire and its government called the river the Zaire River.

The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru, which feed the Lualaba River. This then becomes the Congo below Boyoma Falls. The Chambeshi River in Zambia is usually taken as the source of the Congo because of the accepted practice worldwide of using the longest tributary, as with the Nile River. [[File:|thumb|left|300px|The river running through Democratic Republic of the Congo]] The Congo flows mostly west from Kisangani just below the falls, then slowly bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville) and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool, where the river narrows and falls through a few cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), running by Matadi and Boma, and into the sea at the small town of Muanda.

Contents

History of exploration

The mouth of the Congo was visited by Europeans in 1482, by the Portuguese Diogo Cão, and in 1816, by a British exploration under James Kingston Tuckey that went up the river as far as Isangila. Henry Morton Stanley was the first European to travel along the whole river.

Economic importance

Although the Livingstone Falls stop water coming in from the sea, almost all of the Congo is navigable in parts, especially between Kinshasa and Kisangani. Railways now cross the three major falls, and much of the trade of central Africa passes along the river, including copper, palm oil, sugar, coffee, and cotton. The river can also be valuable for hydroelectric power, and the Inga Dams below Pool Malebo are some of the first dams built.

In February of 2005, South Africa's power company owned by the state, Eskom, said that they had a proposal to increase the holding amount of the Inga a lot through improvements and the building of a new hydroelectric dam. The project would bring the highest output of the dam to 40 GW, twice that of China's Three Gorges Dam. [3]

Geological history

In the Mesozoic period before the continental drift opened the South Atlantic Ocean, the Congo was the upper part of a river about 12,000 km (7,500 miles) long that flowed west across the parts of Gondwanaland, now called Africa and South America.

Tributaries

Listed from down a river, to up a river:

  • Inkisi
  • Nzadi
  • Nsele (south side of Pool Malebo)
  • Bombo
  • Kasai (between Fimi and Congo, known as Kwa)
  • Fimi
  • Lukenie
  • Kwango
  • Sankuru
  • Likouala
  • Sangha
  • Ubangi
  • Giri
  • Uele
  • Mbomou
  • Luvua
  • Luapula

Literature

Though it is not easily known, it was the location of a book by Joseph Conrad

References

  1. The Rainforest Foundation (2006-06-21). "A fresh step towards the first indigenous rights law in Republic of Congo". http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/s-News?fcpage=News&offset=6. 
  2. http://rainforests.mongabay.com/congo/congo_river.html
  3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/congo/story/0,12292,1425023,00.html

Some reading

  • Tim Butcher: Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, 2007. ISBN 0-7011-7981-3
  • H. Winternitz, East Along the Equator: A Journey up the Congo and into Zaire (1987)

Other websites


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