New Nile Source Adds Distance to World's Longest River

At the end of an 80-day exploration, the three-man team comprising a Briton and two New Zealanders, arrived Friday at a spot in the Nyungwe Forest, where a trickle of water springs from a muddy hole that they said was the source of Rukarara River, the Nile's furthest tributary.

A view of the Nile

The accepted length of the Nile is normally given as 6,611 kilometres (4,132 miles).

"We've measured the river for the first time and found it to be 6,718 kilometres (4,174 miles) long," said Neil McGrigor from Britain.

McGrigor explained that the 100-kilometre difference is accounted for by the crossing of the Sudd swamp in southern Sudan being longer than anticipated and by the meanders of the Kagera river in Tanzania and Rwanda as well as the final stretch of the Rukarara leading to the source.

The Rukarara is a tributary of the Kagera river which drains into Lake Victoria, widely known as the Nile's source although the exact point where the Nile starts has been the subject of dispute.

Armed with century-old colonial maps and satellite images, the team kicked off their expedition in September at Rosetta near the city of Alexandria on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

The team was accompanied by Egyptian police to the demilitarized zone before the Sudanese border, but could not keep pace with their catamarans.

River conditions got worse in the Sudd, world's biggest swamp, in southern Sudan.

Faced with three separate channels and no indication on which one to take, the group, on the advice of local people, decided to navigate through the one where water currents were more stable.

"It is four-metre high papyrus for 1,000 kilometres. You can't see anything," McGrigor said.

"Southern Sudan was always my biggest concern. That was the big question mark, whether we could get through southern Sudan," said Cam McLeay, a team member from New Zealand.

On the 53rd day in November, the trio was forced to interrupt their expedition after they came under a rebel attack by insurgents of Uganda's notorious Lord Ressistance Army in the country's northern region.

However, it was further south in Uganda that the trip turned awry when unknown gunmen opened fire on the group, killing one and injuring three others.

"As a result of that we decided to delay the expedition until March," McLeay said.

It has generally been accepted that the Nile has its source in Lake Victoria that straddles Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and which is fed by several rivers, one of which is Kagera, of which the Rukarara is an indirect tributary.

At the end of the 19th century, Richard Kandt, a German explorer, found what he said was a source of the Nile in Rwanda's Nyungwe Forest, some 15 kilometres from the source discovered by the Ascend the Nile team last Friday.

Source: AFP

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