The Source Of The Nile

By | October 11, 2019

test article image
Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

To Europeans of the 19th century, one of the great puzzles was over where the great Nile River, the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles, began. This puzzle was solved in the mid-nineteenth century in a series of bold explorations that ended in destroyed reputations and slander.

test article image
Map of the Nile. Source: (Wikipedia)

The Nile River has been well documented since ancient days. It was known to be formed at the confluence of two rivers at Khartoum, Sudan and from there flowed north into Egypt. Yet ancient explorers found it impossible, due to geography and hostile native peoples, to explore either the White Nile to the west or the Blue Nile to the east.

The Blue Nile, being the shorter river extending into the highlands of Ethiopia, daunted explorers because of its large gorge just inside the Ethiopian border. However, by the late 16th and early 17th century, Portuguese explorers and Jesuits missionaries had managed to penetrate deep enough to reach the river’s source, Lake Tana. The first documented record of finding the source of the Blue Nile was by the Jesuit missionary Pedro Páez on April 21, 1613. It is important to note that other Portuguese in Ethiopia may have seen Lake Tana before Páez, but it is unrecorded.