Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Geography: The Congo basin

Having started near Antarctica at Kerguelen, then moving far north to Svalbard,  I decided to hit the middle of the earth.  My eyes scanned for a few moments before the large, green area of the Congo leapt-out.

I am amazed at the earth and its differences.  The far cold south and north are filled with information of things within scarcity, of how humanity has carved out some existence (sometimes failed) within near unendurable climates.  Barren, desperate places, but beautiful to the eye, fill my images.google.com searches.  Brilliant-white peaks, and unforgiving arctic oceans juxtaposed to remote satellite stations and international vaults are now compared with the most lush, green and vibrant landscape one could ever imagine on earth.

The Congo Basin is vast, and as much as Kerguelen is described as "one of the most remote places on earth," so has The Congo, relatedly, hidden its mysteries, even until present times.

It is called "The Heart of Africa" and "The Second Lung of The Earth" (The Amazon being the other).

It is vast.  It is practically half the size of the lower 48 states.  Yet this is mostly untamed, unexplored jungle, filled with huge marshes and some of the most uncrossable river in the world: The Great Congo River.  It is the deepest river in the world.

It is the place where died "Dr. Livingston" (yes, of the, "Dr. Livingston I presume" fame).  He called The Congo River, "that horrible river."

At The Congo's southeast corner lies 1/6th of all the fresh water in the world in Lake Tanganyika.  It is called, "an inland ocean" and described as more ocean than lake, with large waves crashing its shores.  It is the 2nd deepest and the largest fresh water lake in the world.  Divers compare the fish in it to deep ocean fish.

The fauna of The Congo are vast in number and variety.  One type of antelope lives only there, in the marsh, some 15,000 of them.  Ancient lung fish evolved some 300 million years ago, that can fall into suspended animation during even years of drought are there.  Then there are the elephants, gorillas and big cats.  And then there is poaching....

And there is the constant deforestation....

The Congo is filled also with human misery and great political upheaval.  Warlords control large sections of it, and legitimate governments are forced to make pacts with them to maintain power.   The United Nations keeps a perpetual presence in The Congo.

And it is both one of the most wealthiest places in the world, and one of the most poor at the same time.  The poverty of The Congo is some of the worst on the planet, with people earning as little as 35 cents a day, in mines said to drive one mad.  Child labor is ubiquitous and other human exploitation.  The individual earning so very little produces gold, that in short order is sold for many magnitudes of money later in European markets.  The gold and diamonds buried within The Congo are estimated to be wroth $23 trillion (that's trillion) dollars.  Yet, due to the lack of infrastructure, governmental stability and general in-cohesion of the people living in there, these vast reserves of mineral wealth go untouched and managed and mostly exploited (illegal mining is as rife as poaching).

And so I continue learning about The Congo.

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