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Seine
France Paris Pont Royal 01.JPG
The Seine flowing under Pont Royal in central Paris.
Origin Burgundy
Mouth The English Channel
(Bay of the Seine at Le Havre)
49°26′5″N 0°7′3″E / 49.43472°N 0.1175°E / 49.43472; 0.1175 (English Channel-Seine)Coordinates: 49°26′5″N 0°7′3″E / 49.43472°N 0.1175°E / 49.43472; 0.1175 (English Channel-Seine)
Basin countries France
Length 776 km (482 mi)
Source elevation 471 m (1,550 ft)
Avg. discharge 500 m3/s (18,000 cu ft/s)
Basin area 78,650 km2 (30,370 sq mi)
The Seine, which rises near Dijon in northern France, flows through Paris and into the English Channel.

The Seine (French pronunciation: [la sɛn]) is a slow-flowing major river and commercial waterway within the regions of Île-de-France and Haute-Normandie in France and famous as a romantic backdrop in photographs of Paris, France. It is also a tourist attraction, with excursion boats offering sightseeing tours of the Rive Droite and Rive Gauche within the city of Paris. It terminates in the Bay of the Seine region of the English Channel and is navigable by ocean-going vessels for about ten percent of its length, as far as Rouen, 120 km (75 miles) from the sea, while over sixty percent of its length, as far as Burgundy near the Swiss Alps, is negotiable by commercial riverboats and nearly its whole length is available for recreational boating.

There are 37 bridges over the River Seine just within Paris and dozens more spanning the river outside of the city. Examples in Paris include the Pont Louis-Philippe and Pont Neuf, the later which dates back to 1607. Outside of the city, examples include the Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, which links Le Havre to Honfleur.

Contents

Origin of the name

The name "Seine" comes from the Latin Sequana, a Latinisation of the Gaulish (Celtic) Sicauna, which is argued to mean "sacred river". Some have argued that Sicauna is cognate to the name of Saône River, though an argued relationship to the River Shannon in Ireland is unlikely, given the very different forms of the two; Gaelic an tSiona, dative Sionainn is rather from Prehistoric Irish *Sinona. Another proposal has it that Sequana is the Latin version of Gaulish Issicauna Lower-Icauna, which would be the diminutive of Icauna, which was the Gaulish name of the Yonne River. Some believe the ancient Gauls considered the Seine to be a tributary of the Yonne, which indeed presents a greater average discharge than the Seine (the river flowing through Paris would be called Yonne if the standard rules of geography were applied).

Some identify the river Sikanos, origin (according to Thucydides) of the Sicanoi of Sikelia (Sicily), with the river Sequana (Seine).[1]

Further downstream in what is now Normandy, the Seine, the second longest river in France, was known as Rodo, or Roto, which is a traditional Celtic name for rivers, and is also the stem of the Rhône River (see Rhône article for further explanations). This is proved by the name of Rouen, which was Rotomagos in Gaulish, meaning "Roto-field/plain" (magos in Gaulish), whose meaning evolved into "market of the Roto".

Navigation

The Seine is dredged and oceangoing vessels can dock at Rouen, 120 km (75 miles) from the sea. Commercial riverboats can use the river from Bar-sur-Seine, 560 km (350 miles) to its mouth. At Paris, there are 37 bridges.The river is only 24 metres (80 feet) above sea level, 446 km (277 miles) from its mouth, making it slow flowing and thus easily navigable. It is 776 km (486 miles) long and flows into the Atlantic Ocean from the continent.

The tidal section of the river, from Le Havre to well beyond Rouen, is followed by a canalized section with four large multiple locks until the mouth of the Oise river at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Then two more multiple locks at Bougival / Chatou and at Suresnes lift the vessels to the level of the river in Paris, where the mouth of the Marne River is located. Upstream from Paris seven more locks ensure navigation to Saint Mammès (where the Loing mouth is situated). Through an eighth lock the river Yonne is reached at Montereau-Fault-Yonne. From the mouth of the Yonne, larger ships can continue upstream the Seine till Nogent-sur-Seine. From there on, the river is only navigable by small craft. All navigation ends abruptly at Marcilly-sur-Seine, where the ancient Canal de la Haute Seine used to allow vessels to continue all the way to Troyes. This canal has been abandoned for many years now.[2]

The average depth of the Seine today at Paris is about eight metres. Until locks were installed to artificially raise the level in the 1800s, however, the river was much shallower within the city most of the time, and consisted only of a small channel of continuous flow bordered by sandy banks (depicted in many illustrations of the period). Today depth is tightly controlled and the entire width of the river between the built-up banks on either side is normally filled with water. The average flow of the river is very low, only a few cubic metres per second but much higher flows are possible during periods of heavy runoff. Special reservoirs upstream help to maintain a constant level for the river through the city, but during periods of extreme runoff significant increases in river level may or may not occur.

A very severe period of high water in January 1910 produced extensive flooding throughout the city. The Seine again rose to threatening levels in 1924, 1955, 1982 and 1999-2000.[3] After a first-level flood alert in 2003, about 100,000 works of art were moved out of Paris, the largest relocation of art since World War II. Much of the art in Paris is kept in underground storage rooms that would be flooded.[4] A 2002 report by the French government stated the worst-case Seine flood scenario would cost 10 billion Euros, cut telephone service for a million Parisians, leaving 200,000 without electricity and 100,000 without gas.[5]

Panoramic view of the Seine in Paris with St-Michel bridge on the left and Notre-Dame cathedral to the right.

Watershed

The basin area is 78,910 square kilometres[6], 2 percent of which is forest and 78 percent cultivated land. In addition to Paris, three other cities with a population over 100,000 are in the Seine watershed—Le Havre, Rouen, and Rheims—with an urban growth rate of 0.2 percent.[7] The population density is 201 per square kilometre.

Water quality

Periodically the sewerage systems of Paris experience a failure known as sanitary sewer overflow, often in periods of high rainfall. Under these conditions untreated sewage has been discharged into the Seine.[8] The resulting oxygen deficit is principally caused by allochthonous bacteria larger than one micron in size. The specific activity of these sewage bacteria is typically three to four times greater than that of the autochthonous (background) bacterial population. The pH level of the Seine at Pont Neuf has been measured to be 8.46.[9]

In 2009, it was announced that Atlantic salmon had returned to the Seine[10]

History

The Seine and Eiffel Tower
The Seine near the Invalides bridge
A walkway along the Right Bank near the Tuileries

Legend has it that after Jeanne d'Arc (better known as "Joan of Arc") was burned at the stake in 1431, her ashes were thrown into the Seine, though counter-claims persist to the present-day.[11]

According to his will, Napoleon, who died in 1821, wished to be buried on the banks of the Seine. His request was not granted.

In January 1910, the Seine flooded 20 feet above normal, drowning streets throughout the city of Paris and sending thousands of Parisians fleeing to emergency shelters. The 1910 Great Flood of Paris was the worst the city had seen since 1658 when the water reached only a few centimetres higher.[12]

Until the 1930s, a towing system using a chain on the bed of the river existed to facilitate movement of barges upriver.

The Seine River was one of the original objectives of Operation Overlord in 1944. The Allies' intention was to reach the Seine by D+90 (i.e., 90 days after D-Day). That objective was met. An anticipated assault crossing of the river never materialized as German resistance in France crumbled by early September 1944. However, the First Canadian Army did encounter resistance immediately west of the Seine and fighting occurred in the Forêt de la Londe as Allied troops attempted to cut off the escape across the river of parts of the German 7th Army in the closing phases of the Battle of Normandy.

Some of the victims of the Paris massacre of 1961 drowned in the Seine after being thrown off from the Pont Saint-Michel and other locations in Paris.

Dredging in the 1960s mostly eliminated tidal bores on the river, known as “le mascaret.”

In 1991, the banks of the Seine in Paris—the Rive Gauche and Rive Droite—were added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in Europe.[13]

The river is a popular site for suicides and the disposal of bodies of murder victims.[14] In 2007, 55 bodies were retrieved from its waters; in February 2008, the body of supermodel-turned-activist Katoucha Niane was found there.[14]

Carl Fredrik Hill, Seine-Landschaft bei Bois-Le-Roi (Seine Landscape in Bois-Le-Roi) (1877)
George Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886) is set on an island in the Seine.

During the 19th and the 20th centuries, the Seine has inspired many painters including:




In arts and popular culture

  • In Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, Jean Valjean escapes from the sewers on the banks of the Seine. Waiting there is Inspector Javert, who regretfully allows him to escape. Javert, contemplating what he had just done, decides to throw himself to his death in the river.
  • According to legend, the death mask of a young woman's body pulled from the Seine has inspired several 20th century artists, including Vladimir Nabokov and Rainer Maria Rilke.
  • David Lanz wrote a piano solo piece entitled Leaves on the Seine in his album, Nightfall.
  • Down In The Seine is a song from The Style Council's album Our Favourite Shop
  • This river appears in Call of Duty 3 as a multiplayer map, named Seine river.
  • The Decemberists have a song on their "Castaways and Cutouts" album titled, "The Legionnaire's Lament", which entails a legionnaire longing to return to France and the "sweetly sleeping sweeping of the Seine".
  • of Montreal have a song called "Sink the Seine".
  • in Down and Out in Paris and London, novellist George Orwell in his semi-autobiography was down on his luck with no money to buy food and becomes desperately hungry. He and his Boris tried to fish dace in river Seine but was unsuccessful. He commented many years later that the fish became very cunning after the Siege of Paris, which why it was futile exercise to try to catch them.
  • ABBA has a song, Our Last Summer with the lyrics saying 'walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain'
  • There is a joke which centers on the Seine, which goes, "If you jump off a Paris bridge, you're in Seine!" with the word insane replaced with in-Seine.

The distinctive face of Resusci Anne was based on L'Inconnue de la Seine, the death mask of an unidentified young woman reputedly drowned in the Seine River around the late 1880s.

References

  1. ^ THE SCOTTISH REVIEW, vol XIX (Jan-Apr 1892), p. 33
  2. ^ "NoorderSoft Waterways Database". http://www.noordersoft.com/indexen.html.  
  3. ^ Seine River Basin, United Nations Environment Programme Department of Early Warning and Assessment (accessed 5 June 2007
  4. ^ "Fearing a Big Flood, Paris Moves Art" by Alan Riding, The New York Times, February 19, 2003
  5. ^ "Paris flood warning" by Rory Mulholland, BBC News, 25 January 2002
  6. ^ World Resources Institute
  7. ^ ibid.
  8. ^ Martin Seidl, The fate of organic matter in river Seine after a combined sewer overflow, ENPC - University Paris Val de Marne Paris XII (France), 1997, 181 pp.
  9. ^ Hogan, C Michael, Water quality of fresh water bodies in France, Lumina Press, Aberdeen 2006
  10. ^ Radio France Internationale - Atlantic salmon return to River Seine
  11. ^ In February 2006 a team of forensic scientists announced the beginning of a six-month study to assess relics from a museum at Chinon and reputed to be the remains of Jeanne d'Arc. In an April 4, 2007 article from Nature, the investigators reported their conclusion that the relics from Chinon came from an Egyptian mummy and a cat.
  12. ^ See Jeffrey H. Jackson, Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
  13. ^ Paris, Banks of the Seine, the World Heritage Site entry from the UNESCO website
  14. ^ a b Supermodel Katoucha Niane found dead from The Daily Telegraph

See also

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