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This Real-Life Indiana Jones Quest Will Attempt to Measure the Amazon River 

For decades, experts and explorers have disagreed on which river is the longest in the world. The two candidates are the Nile and the Amazon. To finally settle the debate, a bold expedition to measure the Amazon has been planned for 2024.

Only about 10 people are known to have traveled the full length of the Amazon—a great feat for real-life explorers who idolize fictional characters like Indiana Jones.

An international team of explorers will embark from the source of the Amazon River in April of 2024. They will then travel by a boat powered by solar and pedal power from the Peruvian Andes across 4,350 miles, passing Colombia and Brazil to reach the river’s end, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. 

Project coordinator and film producer Yuri Sanada plans to make a documentary about the expedition, and it is backed by international investors such as The Explorers Club and the Harvard map collection.

The Amazon is the largest river in the world by volume, discharging more water than the Nile, but is it the longest?

Amazon River, Image by Ricardo Lima

The Amazon River has long been fabled as an extremely dangerous place, full of predators. The explorers will travel by horse, boat, and rafts and risk encounters with anacondas, alligators, jaguars, and dangerous insects and fish, but coordinator and Brazilian explorer Sanada admitted he’s more afraid of “drug traffickers and illegal miners.”

The 2024 expedition group is hoping for armed escorts in the most dangerous parts of the river, and their boats will have bulletproof cabins.

Perhaps the most famous explorer, Indiana Jones himself, has also explored the fabled river. In The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jones was captured by Soviet Special Forces near Nazca, Peru. He was brought to Iquitos and continued by ship on the Amazon River to Ilha Aramacá and on to a jungle camp.

The Amazon River featured in Oxley’s riddle, described by a combination of the ideograms for “horizon” and “snake,” meaning “great snake,” referring to the shape and greatness of the river. With the upcoming release of the new film Indian Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the thirst for epic adventure is certainly ripe.

Half of the real-life 2024 Amazon expedition crew will be guided by Contos via white-water rafting, and the other half will go on horseback with French explorer Celine Cousteau, a descendant of legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Sanada and two other explorers will travel in solar canoes with sensors to measure distance for the longest part of the journey.

Nile River, Image by Westend61

For decades, the world’s longest river has been a matter of opinion instead of fact, with a lack of consensus on where the Amazon River actually begins.

The Encyclopedia Britannica gives the length of the Nile as 4,132 miles and the Amazon as 3,977 miles. The Guinness Book of World Records claims the Nile is the longest with an asterisk, stating “which [river] is longer is more a matter of definition than simple measurement.”

Much of the disagreement in measurements has to do with the river’s starting point. Encyclopedia Britannica measures the Amazon’s starting point from the Apurimac River in Peru.

Though Sanada says the main objective of the quest is to map the river and document the biodiversity in the Amazon, the measurements they take will hopefully clear up this long-standing debate once and for all.

Which river will prevail as the longest river in the world? Make a guess in the comments.

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