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Alexander Howard
1343690.  Sun Mar 08, 2020 11:53 am Reply with quote

I came across a few disputes about "which the longest river in...."

In the world? Traditionally the Nile, but when the Amazon was found to be longer geographers soon moved the source of the White Nile from Lake Victoria to the head of one of the rivers which feeds the lake (which sounds like cheating). In North America the Mississippi was lengthened by adding on the Missouri and the Red Rock, which give it a more distant source, but surely you follow the largest stream up?

In the British Isles, the Shannon takes the prize by a few miles over the Severn, which beats the Thames by a few miles - but then if you add the Churn, which is still cheating, the Thames beats all.

Hang on though, the source is one thing, but where so it turn form the river to the sea? Is there a rule? All those three British rivers have mouths like funnels and you could choose any given point as the end. You could have a gentle riverboat trip and - ah, we didn't mean to go to sea (random Ramsome reference roughly rolled in).

In the Middle Ages there were several attempts to define where legally the river ends and the high seas begin: the lowest bridging point was one idea, but eventually the definition was "where the water is tidal", which means that on the Thames you are still at sea until Teddington, and on the Severn up as far as Gloucester. On the Great Ouse you are at sea to just above Downham Market, and suddenly are at sea again at Earith in Huntingdonshire, because the whole of the new Bedford River, a drainage cut between the two points, is tidal. (This is not so bizarre - the fenland is largely at or below sea level. A seal was found in the river by Earith a few years ago.)

1343710.  Sun Mar 08, 2020 4:51 pm Reply with quote

Alexander Howard wrote:
...... means that on the Thames you are still at sea until Teddington.......

Some years ago, having been wondering idly where the Thames ended and the sea began, I found myself having a roadside break for lunch somewhere near Southend (can't remember exactly where, but only a mile or two from Southend seafront) When I happened to notice a large obelisk-type thing announcng that it marked the point where the Port of London Authority took over responsibility for the wet stuff. That, I assumed, was where it became a river rather than the ocean.


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