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Thursday, 10 January 2013

All rivers run down to the sea...

Recently, I was talking to someone when the conversation led them to state that "all rivers run down to the sea". This seems to be a widely held belief here in England and I suspect that it is something learnt at school, I certainly recall being taught this.

I took me some time to convince the individual that while it might be true in England (and I'm not even sure of this), and even that the majority of rivers flow to the sea, it is not the case that all rives flow down to the sea. One thing that they insisted on before abandoning this belief was an example, luckily I know of one.

It was while travelling in Kyrgyzstan that I saw a river for the first time that did not flow to the sea. The River Chuy is one of several in Kyrgyzstan that flows into Kazakhstan where it eventually disappears in the steppe.

Earlier today I was reading The Motion Paradox (by Joseph Mazur) which included a quote from King James Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:7
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
It seems likely to me that this is the source of the mistaken belief about where rivers end up!