March 17, 2024 at 9:41 am

Here’s Why Scientists Still Can’t Find The Source Of The River Nile

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

The earth has changed so much over human history. Parts of it look nothing like they used to, while other places might not be quite so effective.

The Nile river has been around as long as anything else, but despite that, researchers still struggle to pinpoint its original source.

There is a simple, if not complete, answer – or answers, as it were. The Blue Nile from Ethiopia contributes 2/3 of all the discharge from the Nile, and the White Nile from the African Great Lakes and beyond contributes the rest.

Humans have been looking for the head of the Nile since at least the Romans, which makes it all the more of a baffling mystery. In Latin, “to search for the head of the Nile” is an idiom used to refer to a mad or unattainable endeavor.

Source: Wikimedia/A.Savin

The Romans failed to solve the mystery, despite a lengthy expedition into the unknown around 61CE.

The Ancient Egyptians were interested in making their own attempts, which makes sense because the Nile was the source of their civilization. They traced the river as far as Khartoum, in Sudan, and believed the Blue Nile to be the river’s only source.

There is no evidence they ever looked further or discovered how the White Nile comes into play.

Source: Wikimedia/Public Domain

The White Nile is why Lake Victoria – Africa’s largest lake by area – is often assumed to be the Nile’s main source. That said, adventurer Sir Christopher Ondaatje pointed out in 2016 that Lake Victoria is actually a reservoir fed by other rivers.

He also claims to have verified that the White Nile does know flow directly out of Lake Albert (fed by the waters of Lake Victoria), but from the Kagera and Semliki Rivers instead.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Emma Lind

Those two rivers stem from the Rwenzori Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“The Rwenzoris are just as important a source of Nile water as is Lake Victoria.”

Which is all to say, the mystery remains unsolved.

If you ask me, it’s nice to have at least one enduring mystery around – keeps things interesting.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium