The world has long recognized Africa’s Nile as the longest river on Earth, according to Encyclopedia Britannica and Guinness World Records. However, a daring expedition set to kick off in April 2024 along the Amazon River may soon disrupt this well-established belief.
An international team of researchers and explorers is gearing up for a 7,000-kilometer journey, aimed at solving one of the most intriguing mysteries of the natural world. This ambitious endeavor revolves around a single, yet colossal question: Where does the Amazon River truly originate? While conventional wisdom points to the Apurimac River in southern Peru as its source, a growing body of scientists, including James “Rocky” Contos, 51, asserts that the Mantaro River in northern Peru might be the real starting point.
The focal point of this expedition lies in the heart of a profound geographical debate—identifying the Amazon’s true headwaters. For years, scholars and researchers have unanimously recognized the Apurimac River as the Amazon’s source. However, a dissenting chorus of scientists has emerged, challenging this prevailing theory. Among them, James “Rocky” Contos stands as a prominent advocate for the Mantaro River, situated in the northern reaches of Peru.
This groundbreaking journey will chart the course of the Amazon River as it winds its way through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. Departing from the newly identified source in the Peruvian Andes, the Mantaro River, the expedition will commence with the treacherous task of navigating the Mantaro’s rapids, led by the intrepid James Contos. Once the team reaches the confluence with the Ene River, they will transition to three specially designed solar- and pedal-powered boats, which will carry them along the Amazon’s sprawling path to the Atlantic Ocean, tracing the Brazilian coast.
This monumental expedition aims to provide concrete evidence to resolve the enduring mystery of the Amazon’s true source. By undertaking this extraordinary journey, the team hopes to shed light on the river’s origin and definitively establish whether it is the Apurimac or the Mantaro River that holds the title of the Amazon’s starting point.
Contos, who has spent decades exploring the Amazon and conducting research on its geography, is confident in his assertion that the Mantaro River is the genuine source. His claim challenges the well-entrenched belief in the Apurimac’s primacy as the Amazon’s headwaters. The expedition’s mission goes beyond mere exploration; it seeks to gather concrete scientific data and measurements that will conclusively answer the age-old question.
The expedition, however, doesn’t conclude with the voyage from the Mantaro River to the Atlantic Ocean. In early 2025, a secondary expedition is scheduled to begin from the traditional source of the Amazon, the Apurimac River in Peru. This segment of the mission provides a unique opportunity for a second set of measurements and observations. Notably, it will also feature the participation of French explorer Celine Cousteau, the granddaughter of the renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. She will embark on a horseback journey along the riverbanks, contributing her expertise and insights to the ongoing quest for the Amazon’s true origins.
The controversy surrounding the Amazon’s source has deep historical roots. For years, the Apurimac River has held sway as the widely accepted starting point of the Amazon. However, with advances in technology and exploration, the debate has gained fresh momentum.
Supporters of the Mantaro River theory argue that it originates further north in the Andes Mountains and thus has a greater claim to being the Amazon’s true source. The Mantaro River’s source lies at an elevation of approximately 5,300 meters (17,400 feet) above sea level, adding to the intrigue of this expedition. While the Apurimac River is indeed a major tributary, the Mantaro’s elevation makes it a compelling contender for the title of the longest river.
Beyond the quest for bragging rights, the expedition has profound scientific implications. The Amazon River is a vital part of Earth’s ecosystem, influencing climate, biodiversity, and water resources across South America and beyond. Accurately determining its true source is crucial for understanding its hydrological and ecological impact. The expedition aims to collect data on water flow, geography, and ecosystem dynamics, contributing valuable insights to the scientific community.