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The Nile

Nature volume 139, page 351 (27 February 1937) | Download Citation



IN this book a famous biographer has attempted to give a description of the course of the Nile from its sources to the sea as if it were the life-history of a person. In it the reader with no firsthand knowledge will find much interesting information about the topography, vegetation, human and animal life, and history of the Nile basin, and may think that he is reading an authoritative work by one who has seriously studied the river and travelled extensively in its basin. If, however, he is sufficiently interested to pursue the subject further and refers to standard works, his confidence in the author will be badly shaken by the many mistakes which he will discover. The book is written in flowery language, and the reader will become very weary of the personality device and its meaningless symbolism before he comes to the end. The first portion of the book is concerned with the great Lakes Victoria and Albert and the surrounding country in which the White Nile has its sources. Some of the information produced about the region is a little surprising, as for example the natural bridge at Nimule, “such as hardly another river on earth possesses in this form, consisting of rank water plants, so strong that it bears the elephant from one bank to the other, and so powerfully rooted that when floods have destroyed it, it closes up again of itself”. Nobody else has ever reported this bridge, and as an elephant weighs five tons or more, the rank water plants must have been considerable trees. Some of the remarks about evaporation are equally strange, for the author says: “As Lake Victoria is not three hundred feet deep, so that more water evaporates than is received, this constant diminution, as we shall see later, presents the Nile engineers with a very grave problem.” This is an example of the lack of knowledge of the elements of natural science displayed in the book and of the inaccuracies which are of frequent occurrence. Lake Victoria has not progressively diminished in volume in the forty years over which records extend, though, like other large lakes, it has fluctuated with the variations of the rainfall.

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