I’ll reveal a boring fact about myself. I like statistics. In a previous blog, ‘Welcome to Amazonia’, I disclosed I’m also a fan of the world’s greatest river, the Amazon. These truths are linked, because my fascination with the South American icon is tied to my awe of its incredible facts and figures. As you’re aware, the region is central to my debut action-thriller, ‘Eight’. It provides the setting, but this is cursory. Its contribution runs far deeper.
‘Eight’ was originally titled ‘The Jungle’. This was a working title, sure, but it reflected my mindset. This beautiful yet dangerous environment was to me, a character, and in a sense, the central character. It’s a character with many secrets, revelations it gives up over the course of the story – at times, reluctantly – much like the evolution of any human character. It has its own arc.
It’s a complex character.
In ‘Welcome to Amazonia’ I touched on a few of these complexities, the traits that make this character so dark and terrifying, so vibrant and awe-inspiring. Even if what follows is already known to you, I’m sure you won’t mind revisiting.
So what’s the big deal?
The Amazon River begins high in the Peruvian Andes as a tiny stream on a mountain called Nevado Mismi. By journey’s end, it will have snaked eastward across the South American continent for more than 6,400km, emptying, finally, into the Atlantic Ocean.
Of the world’s rivers, only the Nile is longer. But carrying more than 60 times as much water, the Amazon is easily the world’s largest.
In places, it is so wide it is impossible to see the opposite bank with the naked eye, stretching for tens of kilometres across. It can run as deep as 124 metres. At its mouth, it is more than 350 km wide, and discharges into the ocean with such force that freshwater can be found 160 km offshore.
So huge is this amazing river, it has more than 1,000 tributaries. One of these, the Madeira, is the world’s longest, more than twice the length of the Mississippi.
The Amazon and its tributaries drain an area almost as large as the USA; half the South American land mass. This region, the Amazon basin, carries a fifth of the world’s freshwater.
Two-thirds of the basin lies within Brazil, the remainder in eight other countries.
It is the greatest river system on the planet.
And within this basin, home to the world’s greatest river, lies a vast, tropical rainforest no less impressive when it comes to statistics, or reputation.
Straddling the Equator, the Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. It is certainly the largest, comprising a third of the remaining rainforest on Earth.
It is the most biodiverse, species-rich region on the planet.
It contains one fifth of the world’s total species of higher plants.
It is home to more than 1,500 species of birds, and 3,000 different species of fish are known to live in its rivers.
Scientists believe as many as several million different insect species may be found there.
Befittingly, Amazonia is the home of one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, the biggest spider, the heaviest snake, the biggest rodent, and some of the tallest trees.
It is so thinly populated, so dense, so vast that incredibly, Stone Age tribes, many of which have never laid eyes upon white people, live to this day, uncontacted, deep within its jungles.
The list goes on.
Mind-blowing, isn’t it? Considering much of Amazonia remains, to this day, wholly unexplored, you have to wonder what else this character is hiding.
I know I do.