Rivers and Oceans: topic summary

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By John Davis

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The Nile and the Amazon are the world’s foremost rivers. The Nile is usually judged to be the longest at 6660km but the Amazon is not far behind. The Nile is made up of two parts, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, which join in Sudan before flowing north to the Mediterranean Sea. The Amazon flows through nine countries in South America. It provides some 20% of the ocean’s fresh water supply and, if islands and several other rivers are included, can be up to 300km wide at its mouth. Britain’s main rivers include the Thames, the Avon, the Tyne and the Mersey, while Europe is famous for the Seine, the Rhine and the Danube.

The source (start) of a river is usually a spring in hills or mountains. In its early stages it flows fast and cuts a V-shaped valley. There may be waterfalls here where water flows over ledges of hard rock. In its middle stages the river may wind or twist (called meandering) and there will be fertile, flat land on either side of it. A river flows into a lake or the sea at its mouth and this has resulted in many place names e.g. Axmouth, Exmouth, Weymouth and Yarmouth. If a river splits into a number of channels at its mouth this is called a delta. (It’s name comes from the Greek letter ‘d’ shaped like this Δ.)

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