Río de la Plata

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Río de la Plata
River Plate, La Plata River
Rio de la Plata BA 2.JPG
NASA photo of the Río de la Plata looking from northwest to southeast. Buenos Aires is visible on the right side near the Paraná River delta. River sediments turn the water brown to the vicinity of Montevideo, visible on the left coast.
Name origin: Spanish, "river of silver"
Countries Argentina, Uruguay
Tributaries
 - left Uruguay River, San Juan River, Santa Lucía River
 - right Paraná River, Luján River, Salado River
Cities La Plata, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, San Fernando, San Isidro, Vicente López, Avellaneda, Quilmes, Berazategui, Hudson, Punta Lara, Atalaya, San Clemente del Tuyú, Ciudad del Plata, Ciudad de la Costa, Colonia del Sacramento
Source confluence of Paraná and Uruguay Rivers
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 34°0′5″S 58°23′37″W / 34.00139°S 58.39361°W / -34.00139; -58.39361 [1]
Mouth Atlantic Ocean
 - location Argentine Sea, Argentina & Uruguay
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 35°40′S 55°47′W / 35.667°S 55.783°W / -35.667; -55.783Coordinates: 35°40′S 55°47′W / 35.667°S 55.783°W / -35.667; -55.783 [2]
Length 290 km (180 mi) [3] 4,876 km including the Paraná
Width 220 km (137 mi) [4]
Basin 3,170,000 km2 (1,224,000 sq mi) [5]
Discharge for mouth
 - average 22,000 m3/s (777,000 cu ft/s) [3]
Map of the Río de la Plata basin, showing the Río de la Plata at the mouths of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, near Buenos Aires
Map of the Río de la Plata, showing cities in Argentina and Uruguay

The Río de la Plata (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈriːo ðe la ˈplata], River of Silver) — rendered River Plate in British English and the Commonwealth and La Plata River (occasionally Plata River) in other English-speaking countries — is the river and estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay and the Paraná rivers. It forms a funnel-shaped indentation on the southeastern coastline of South America, about 290 kilometres (180 mi) long.

The Río de la Plata widens from about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) at the inner part to about 220 kilometres (140 mi) at its mouth.[4] It forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay, with the major ports and capital cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo on its western and northern shores, respectively. The coasts of La Plata are the most densely populated areas of Argentina and Uruguay.[3]

Geography[edit]

The Río de la Plata begins at the confluence of the Uruguay and Paraná rivers at Punta Gorda, Colonia and flows eastward into the South Atlantic Ocean. No clear physical boundary marks the river's eastern end; the International Hydrographic Organization defines the eastern boundary of the Río de la Plata as "a line joining Punta del Este, Uruguay and Cabo San Antonio, Argentina".[2]

Though it is generally spoken of as a river, the Río de la Plata is considered by some geographers to be a gulf or marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean.[4][3] For those who regard it as a river it is the widest in the world, with a maximum width of about 220 kilometres (140 mi) and a total surface area of about 35,000 square kilometres (14,000 sq mi).[3]

A submerged shoal, the Barra del Indio, divides the Río de la Plata into an inner freshwater riverine area and an outer brackish estuarine area.[6] The river's discharge is strong enough to prevent saltwater from penetrating to the inner portion.[7] The shoal is located approximately between Montevideo and Punta Piedras (the northwest end of Samborombón Bay). The depth of the inner fluvial zone is between about 1 to 5 metres (3.3 to 16.4 ft). It is about 180 kilometres (110 mi) long and up to 80 kilometres (50 mi) wide. The depth of the outer estuary zone increases from 5 to 25 metres (16 to 82 ft).[6]

Hydrology[edit]

The Río de la Plata behaves as an estuary in which freshwater and seawater mix. The freshwater comes principally from the Paraná River (one of the world's longest rivers and La Plata's main tributary) as well as from the Uruguay River and other smaller streams. Currents in the Río de la Plata are dominated by tides reaching to its sources and beyond, into the Uruguay and Paraná rivers.[4] Both rivers are tidally influenced for about 190 kilometres (120 mi).[3] The tidal ranges in the Río de la Plata are small, but its great width allows for a tidal prism important enough to dominate the flow regime despite the huge discharge received from the tributary rivers.

The river is a salt wedge estuary in which saltwater, being more dense than freshwater, penetrates into the estuary in a layer below the freshwater, which floats on the surface. Salinity fronts, or haloclines, form at the bottom and on the surface, where fresh and brackish waters meet. The salinity fronts are also pycnoclines due to the water density discontinuities. They play an important role in the reproductive processes of fish species.[6]

Drainage basin[edit]

Satellite image of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers emptying into the Río de la Plata. Due to the relatively calm surface of the estuary and the angle of the Sun relative to the satellite, the current of the river flowing out into the Atlantic is visible.

The Río de la Plata's drainage basin (sometimes called the Platine basin or Platine region)[8][9] is the 3,170,000-square-kilometre (1,220,000 sq mi)[3] hydrographical area that drains to the Río de la Plata. It includes areas of southeastern Bolivia, southern and central Brazil, the entire country of Paraguay, most of Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Making up about one fourth of the continent's surface, it is the second largest drainage basin in South America (after the Amazon basin) and one of the largest in the world.[10]

Tributaries[edit]

The main rivers of the La Plata basin are the Paraná River, the Paraguay River (the Paraná's main tributary), and the Uruguay River.[11]

The Paraná River's main tributaries include the Paranaíba River, Grande River, Tietê River, Paranapanema River, Iguazu River, Paraguay River, and the Salado River, after which it ends in the large Paraná Delta. The Paraguay River flows through the Pantanal wetland, after which its main tributaries include the Pilcomayo River and the Bermejo River, before it ends in the Paraná. The Uruguay's main tributaries include the Pelotas River, Canoas River, Ibicuí River, and the Río Negro. Anther significant tributary to the Río de la Plata is the Salado del Sur River.

History[edit]

Discovery of the Río de la Plata by Juan Díaz de Solís. He would be attacked and killed by Charrúas later.

Early exploration[edit]

The Río de la Plata was first explored by the Portuguese in 1512–13.[12][13] The Spanish first explored it in 1516, when the navigator Juan Díaz de Solís traversed it during his search for a passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, calling it the Mar Dulce, or "freshwater sea."[3] The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan briefly explored the estuary in 1520 before his expedition continued its circumnavigation,[3] and in 1521 Cristóvão Jacques also explored the Plate River estuary and ascended the Parana River for the first time, entering it for about 23 leagues (around 140 km) to near the present city of Rosario.[14] The area was also visited by Francis Drake's fleet in early 1578, in the early stages of his circumnavigation.[15]

Explorer Sebastian Cabot made a detailed study of the river and its tributaries and gave it its modern name. He explored the Paraná and Uruguay rivers between 1526 and 1529, ascending the Paraná as far as the present-day city of Asunción, and also explored up the Paraguay River. Cabot acquired silver trinkets trading with the Guaraní near today's Asunción, and these objects gave rise to the name Río de la Plata, "river of silver".[3]

The first European colony was the city of Buenos Aires, founded by Pedro de Mendoza on 2 February 1536. This settlement, however, was quickly abandoned; the failure to establish a settlement on the estuary led to explorations upriver and the founding of Asunción in 1537. Buenos Aires was subsequently refounded by Juan de Garay on 11 June 1580.[3]

Colonial period[edit]

The city of Buenos Aires sits along the southern coast of the Río de la Plata.

During the colonial era the Río de la Plata was largely neglected by the Spanish Empire until the 1760s, when Portugal and Britain threatened to expand into the estuary.[3] The Spanish Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was created in 1776. In 1806 and 1807 the river was the scene of an important British invasion that aimed to occupy the area.

Revolutionary period[edit]

Conflict in the region intensified after the independence of the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the first quarter of the 19th century. Interests in the territories and the navigation rights over the Platine region played a major role in many armed conflicts throughout the century, including the Argentine civil wars, the Cisplatine and Platine wars, and the Paraguayan War.[3] The river was blockaded by extra-regional powers 1838–1840 and 1845–1850.

Battle of the River Plate[edit]

In the first naval battle of the Second World War the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was engaged by the Royal Navy (RN) cruisers, HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles[16] off the estuary of the River Plate in December 1939. The German ship retired up the estuary with a crippled fuel system and put into port at Montevideo. A few days later, rather than fight outgunned, she was scuttled in the estuary. This engagement was part of the early Battle of the Atlantic.

Etymology[edit]

The English name "River Plate" is not, as sometimes thought, a mistranslation, as "plate" was used extensively as a noun for "silver" or "gold" from the 12th century onwards, especially in Early Modern English[17] and the estuary has been known as the River Plate or Plate River in English since at least the time of Francis Drake.[18] A modern translation of the Spanish Río de la Plata is "Silver River", referring not to color but to the riches of the fabled Sierra de la Plata thought to lie upstream.

The English version of the name served as an inspiration for one of Argentina's most important football clubs, Club Atlético River Plate.

Fauna[edit]

The Río de la Plata is a habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle, green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, the rare La Plata dolphin, and many species of fish.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Río Paraná Guazú at GEOnet Names Server (main distributary of the Río Paraná)
  2. ^ a b "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Río de la Plata". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Fossati, Monica; Ismael Piedra-Cueva. "Salinity Simulations of the Rio de la Plata" (PDF). International Conference on Estuaries and Coasts. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Raúl A. Guerrero; et al. (June 1997). "Physical oceanography of the Río de la Plata Estuary, Argentina". Continental Shelf Research 17 (7): 727–742. doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(96)00061-1. 
  6. ^ a b c Seeliger, Ulrich; Kjerfve, Björn (2001). Coastal Marine Ecosystems of Latin America. Springer. pp. 185–204. ISBN 978-3-540-67228-9. 
  7. ^ Cabreira, A.G.; Madirolas, A.; Alvarez Colombo, G.; Acha, E.M.; Mianzan, H.W. (2006). "Acoustic study of the Río de la Plata estuarine front". ICES Journal of Marine Science 63 (9): 1718–1725. doi:10.1016/j.icesjms.2006.04.026. ISSN 1095-9289. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Whigham, Thomas. 2002. The Paraguayan War: Causes and Early Conduct, v. 1. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, p. 5. ISBN 978-0-8032-4786-4
  9. ^ e.g., Scheina, Robert L. 2003. Latin America's Wars: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791–1899, v. 1. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's, Inc., p. 313. ISBN 978-1-5748-8450-0
  10. ^ Raúl A. Guerrero; et al. (June 1997). "Physical oceanography of the Río de la Plata Estuary, Argentina". Continental Shelf Research 17 (7): 727–742. doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(96)00061-1. 
  11. ^ Seeliger, Ulrich; Kjerfve, Björn (2001). Coastal Marine Ecosystems of Latin America. Springer. pp. 185–204. ISBN 978-3-540-67228-9. 
  12. ^ Viana 1994, p. 254.
  13. ^ Bethell 1987, p. 64.
  14. ^ John/Silva, Harold/Maria Beatriz Nizza da (1992). Nova História da Expansão Portuguesa (direcção de Joel Serrão e A. H. de Oliveira Marques)- O Império Luso-brasileiro (1500-1620), vol. VI. Lisboa: Editorial Presença. pp. 114–170. 
  15. ^ Kelsey, Harry (2000). Sir Francis Drake: The Queen's Pirate. Yale University Press. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0-300-08463-4. 
  16. ^ (The Achilles was part of the New Zealand Division)
  17. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, online version.
  18. ^ Sir Francis Drake’s Famous Voyage Round the World; A Narrative by Francis Pretty, one of Drake's Gentlemen at Arms

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]