Blue Nile

Blue Nile

The Blue Nile (Amharic: ዓባይ; transliterated: ʿAbbai, but pronounced "Abbai"; Arabic: النيل الأزرق; transliterated: an-Nīl al-Āzraq) is a river originating at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Sometimes in Ethiopia the river—especially the upper reaches—is called the Abbai.

The Abbai portion of the river is considered holy by many in Ethiopia, and is believed to be the Gihon river mentioned as flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. [Edward Ullendorff, "Ethiopia and the Bible" (Oxford: University Press for the British Academy, 1968), p. 2.] The Abay portion of the Blue Nile rises at Lake Tana and flows for some thirty kilometers before plunging over the Tis Issat Falls. The river then loops across northwest Ethiopia through a series of deep valleys and canyons into Sudan, by which point it is only known as the Blue Nile.

Although there are several feeder streams that flow into Lake Tana, the sacred source of the river is generally considered to be a small spring at Gish Abbai at an altitude of approximately 1800 m (5940 ft). The Blue Nile much later joins the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan and, as the Nile, flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria. The Blue Nile is so-called because during flood times the water current is so high, it changes color to an almost black; since in the local Sudanese language the word for black is also used for the color blue.

The distance from its source to its confluence is variously reported as 1460 and 1600 km (907 and 1000 mi). The uncertainty over its length might partially result from the fact that it flows through virtually impenetrable gorges cut in the Ethiopian highlands to a depth of some 1500 m (4950 ft)—a depth comparable to that of the Grand Canyon in the United States.

The Blue Nile flows generally south from Lake Tana and then west across Ethiopia and northwest into Sudan. Within 30 km (18.6 mi) of its source at Lake Tana, the river enters a canyon about 400 km long. This gorge is a tremendous obstacle for travel and communication from the north half of Ethiopia to the southern half. The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated at Tis Issat Falls, which are 45 m (148 ft) high, located about 40 km (25 mi) downstream of Lake Tana. Despite the hazards and obstacles of the river, on January 29, 2005 Canadian Les Jickling and New Zealander Mark Tanner reached the Mediterranean Sea after an epic 148 day journey becoming the first to have paddled the Blue Nile from source to sea.

The flow of the Blue Nile reaches maximum volume in the rainy season (from June to September), when it supplies about two thirds of the water of the Nile proper. The Blue Nile, along with that of the Atbara River to the north, which also flows out of the Ethiopian highlands, were responsible for the annual Nile floods that contributed to the fertility of the Nile Valley and the consequent rise of ancient Egyptian civilization and Egyptian Mythology. With the completion in 1970 of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, the Nile floods ended.

The Blue Nile is vital to the livelihood of Egypt. Though shorter than the White Nile, 56% of the water that reaches Egypt originates from the Blue Nile branch of the great river; when combined with the Atbara River, which also has its source in the Ethiopian Highlands, the figure rises to 90% of the water and 96% of transported sediment.The river is also an important resource for Sudan, where the Roseires and Sennar dams produce 80% of the country's power. These dams also help irrigate the Gezira Plain, which is most famous for its high quality cotton. The region also produces wheat, and animal feed crops.

European Exploration

It is generally believed that the first European to have seen the Blue Nile in Ethiopia was Pedro Paez, a Spanish Jesuit who traveled to the area in the early 1600s; however, John Bermudez provided the first description of the Tis Issat Falls in his memoirs (published in 1565), and a number of Europeans who lived in Ethiopia in the late 15th century like Pero da Covilhã could have seen the river before Paez.

Although a number of European explorers contemplated tracing the course of the Blue Nile from its confluence with the White Nile to Lake Tana, its gorge, which begins a few miles inside the Ethiopian border, has discouraged all attempts since Frédéric Cailliaud's attempt in 1821. The first serious attempt by a non-local to explore this reach of the river was undertaken by the American W.W. Macmillan in 1902, assisted by the Norwegian explorer B.H. Jenssen; Jenssen would proceed upriver from Khartoum while Macmillan sailed downstream from Lake Tana. However Jenssen's boats were blocked by the rapids at Famaka short of the Sudan-Ethiopian border, and Macmillan's boats were wrecked shortly after they had been launched. Macmilan encouraged Jenssen to try to sail upstream from Khartoum again in 1905, but he was forced to stop 300 miles short of Lake Tana. The British consul R E Cheesman managed to map the upper course of the Blue Nile between 1925-1933, but instead of following the course of the river and its impassible canyon, he mapped it from the highlands above, traveling some 5,000 miles by mule in the adjacent country. [Alan Moorehead, "The Blue Nile", revised edition (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 319f]

On April 28, 2004, geologist Pasquale Scaturro and his partner, kayaker and documentary filmmaker Gordon Brown, became the first people to navigate the Blue Nile. Though their expedition included a number of others, Brown and Scaturro were the only ones to remain on the expedition for the entire journey. They chronicled their adventure with an IMAX camera and two handheld video cams, sharing their story in the IMAX film "Mystery of the Nile" and in a book of the same title. [Richard Bangs and Pasquale Scaturro, "Mystery of the Nile". New York: New American Library, 2005] Despite this attempt, the team was forced to use outboard motors for most of their journey, and it was not until January 29, 2005, when Canadian Les Jickling and New Zealander Mark Tanner reached the Mediterranean Sea, that the river had been paddled for the first time under human power.

ee also

*List of rivers of Sudan
*White Nile


External links

* [ The Tana Project]
* [ The Blue Nile Falls]
* [ Rafting Down the Blue Nile]
* [ Paddling the Blue Nile]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Blue Nile — the Blue Nile one of the two rivers that form the River Nile. It starts in Ethiopia in East Africa, and flows north to Khartoum in Sudan, where it joins the White Nile …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Blue Nile — Blue′ Nile′ n. geg a river in E Africa, flowing NNW from Lake Tana in Ethiopia into the Nile at Khartoum: a tributary of the Nile. ab. 950 mi. (1530 km) long Compare Nile …   From formal English to slang

  • Blue Nile — see NILE …   English World dictionary

  • Blue Nile — Admin ASC 1 Code Orig. name Blue Nile Country and Admin Code SD.42 SD …   World countries Adminstrative division ASC I-II

  • Blue Nile — noun a headstream of the Nile; joins the White Nile at Khartoum to form the Nile • Instance Hypernyms: ↑headstream * * * a river in E Africa, flowing NNW from Lake Tana in Ethiopia into the Nile at Khartoum: a tributary of the Nile. ab. 950 mi.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Blue Nile — a river in E Africa, flowing NNW from Lake Tana in Ethiopia into the Nile at Khartoum: a tributary of the Nile. ab. 950 mi. (1530 km) long. Cf. Nile. * * * …   Universalium

  • Blue Nile — geographical name river 850 miles (1368 kilometers) Ethiopia & Sudan flowing from Lake Tana NNW into the Nile at Khartoum see Abay …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Blue Nile — tributary of the Nile river …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Blue Nile — /ˈblu naɪl/ (say blooh nuyl) noun → Nile2 (def. 2) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Blue Nile (disambiguation) — Blue Nile may refer to: * Blue Nile, a river in Ethiopia and Sudan * Blue Nile (state), a state in Sudan that is part of the Blue Nile region. See States of Sudan. * The Blue Nile, a Scottish band * Blue Nile Inc., an online jewelry retailer …   Wikipedia

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