The Boiling River of the Amazon

This week I learned: Boiling River, bottleless water, and endangered Chewbacca

This week I learned about a boiling river, bottleless water you can hold in your hand, and the lengths George Lucas went to to keep Chewbacca from getting shot.

A quick note before I get into the fun stuff: because life is getting busier for me, from next week I will be reducing my output to one post a week, on Thursdays. I’ll still be creating TWIL posts, because they’re both a lot of fun and a great way to get the creative juices flowing, but they will be posted on alternating weeks, with more serious posts in between.

From myth to reality: the Boiling River

As a child in Lima, Andrés Ruzo heard stories from his grandfather about the fabled lost city of gold – stories full of fantastical details that included a river so hot it could boil you alive.

Many years later, as a geophysical scientist, Ruzo decided to investigate whether such a thing could actually exist, hidden in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. The outside experts he consulted mostly dismissed the idea as mythical (and in one case told him to “stop asking stupid questions; it’s making you look bad.”), but Ruzo was able to make contact with shamans from the region, who invited him to come and see for himself.

It took an hour’s plane flight, a two-hour car ride, thirty minutes by motorised canoe and a further hour of hiking through the jungle, but Ruzo found what local tribes had known was there all along: the Boiling River of the Amazon. Parts of the river can reach up to 95°C, fuelled by water that seeped down deep into the Earth’s crust and been heated by geothermal energy, only to shoot back up to the surface at great speeds. Although the water is not technically at boiling point, it is well and truly hot enough to poach an egg – or kill an hapless animal in seconds.

Local tribes call the river Shanay-timpishka – which roughly translates as “boiled with the heat of the sun” – and consider it a place of great and potentially dangerous spiritual power, safely accessible only by their shamans.

Ruzo has became the first scientist granted permission to study the Boiling River – and now, he and two local shamanic communities are working together to try to conserve this unique river and the land around it from encroaching deforestation.

Original source: The Earth Story

More info: This River Kills Everything That Falls Into It

Ooho – the water you can carry without a bottle

Single-use plastic drink bottles are a huge contributor to the world’s waste. Around the world, consumers buy bottled drinks at a staggering rate of a million bottles per minute. In Australia every year, we buy more than 118,000 tonnes of plastic water and soft drink bottles, over 60% of which are thrown away rather than recycled. The average time it takes for a plastic bottle to completely biodegrade is 450 years, and in the meantime all that plastic waste is building up – in our landfill, in our waterways and oceans, in our wildlife, and even in our own bodies.

Now Skipping Rocks Lab in the UK has created portable water, completely bottle-free. The laboratory has created a new form of packaging, made from seaweed, that biodegrades in 4-6 weeks and is also completely edible. They claim their packaging production process takes nine times less energy and creates five times less carbon dioxide than PET plastic, and is even cheaper.

Their first product, a palm-sized water blob called Ooho, is currently available on limited release at events in the UK and US, but they are in the process of scaling up production to make Ooho a market-available product. Here’s hoping it gets there soon – not only does seaweed-based drink packaging have the potential to save millions of tonnes of plastic waste and millions of kilos of carbon pollution, it look like a heck of a lot of fun.

Original source: Scientists have created edible water

More info: This Invention Would Let You Eat Water Like a Giant Grape

Chewbacca protection detail

And finally, a little histrivia for fans of Star Wars and weird history. The filming of Return of the Jedi in 1982 included scenes set on the forest moon of Endor – a.k.a. the redwood forests of northern California. Not far from there, in 1967, another famous film had been shot: the one showing purported footage of Bigfoot in the wild.

Fifteen years later, the forests of northern California were still alive with Bigfoot hunters desperately hoping to capture the elusive cryptid, dead or alive. As a result, when George Lucas came to town, he had very real concerns for the safety of Peter Mayhew, the 7’3″ actor who played Chewbacca.

Mayhew was warned to stay on set – and any time he had a reason to leave the filming area still in costume, crew-members were dispatched to accompany him wearing high-vis vests, to keep him from being mistaken for the real deal.

The Chewbacca-Bigfoot connection has even inspired an unofficial Star Wars comic imagining a very different end to the story of Han Solo and Chewie.

Original source: Futility Closet ep. 191 – The Longest Flight

More info: The People Who Protect Chewbacca

Featured image: The Boiling River, used with permission from Andrés Ruzo
Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *