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May 5, 2009

How the World’s Most Spectacular Waterfalls Get Their Names

Posted by : admin
Filed under : General Green
The stories behind the names of the earth’s most stunning misty curtains.

1. Salto Angel

Angel Falls, with a total height of 3,212 feet is the world’s highest waterfall as well as the highest single drop. The Penom tribe in Venezuela called it Parakupa-vena or Kerepakupai merú meaning “waterfall of the deepest place”. Ernesto de Santa Cruz discovered the falls in 1910 but it was named after Pilot James “Jimmy” Angel being the first westerner to view it and made it known to the world as a result of the discoverer’s October 1937 plane landing on Auyan-tepui in search for McCracken’s lost river of gold.

2. Catarata de Gocta

This two drop waterfall has been known for centuries by the Chachapoyas in Peru but its existence was only made public after an expedition in 2005 by German Stefan Ziemendorff with a group of Peruvian explorers. The total height was measured at 2,531 feet making it one of the world’s tallest waterfalls.

Gocta Waterfalls was named after an ancient Chachapoyan village situated deep into one of the many blind valleys the locals inhabited between 800 and 1400 AD. Report has it that the stunningly beautiful waterfall remained unknown to outsiders because the natives feared the curse of a beautiful blond maiden who lived in its waters if the fall’s location is revealed.

3. Salto de Iguacu

This magnificent display of waterfalls in the border between Argentina and Brazil stretches for 2.7 kilometers and plunges 269 feet through its 275 falls into the Iguacu River. Iguazu Fall’s name comes from the Guarani or Tupi word meaning “great water.” Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful native girl, who fled with her mortal lover in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river creating the waterfalls, condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.

4. Kaieteur Falls

Its unique combination of great height and volume earned it the distinction of having the “largest single drop” (not to be confused with Angel’s “tallest drop”) waterfall. It’s about five times the height of Niagara and about twice higher than Victoria Falls.

Kaieteur is named after Central Guyana Patamona tribal chief named “Kai,” who sacrificed himself by canoeing over the falls to please the great spirit Makonaima to save his people from a savage tribe who were raiding their land. The word “Teur” means “falls” in their dialect. Direct descendants of Chief Kai and members of the Patamona tribe still live in the villages of Chepanau, located on the border of Kaieteur National Park, a three hour ride upriver from the falls by speed boat.

5. Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls, which comprises of three spectacular leaps totaling 1,904 feet, is the highest waterfall in New Zealand. Part of its impressive beauty is due to the leaping action of the water from the two main ledges on the mountain wall. It was named after its discoverer Donald Sutherland who found the falls in search of a new route to Lake Wakatipu.

6. Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The indigenous name Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “the smoke that thunders” is officially used in Zambia while Zimbabwe uses the name Victoria Falls. With a width of 1.7 kilometers and a height of 108 meters it’s reported to be the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Catholic missionaries who lived in this part of Africa in the 16th century were believed to have known about the falls existence, but it was first made known to the outside world by David Livingstone in 1855 and named it after Queen Victoria of England.

7. Yosemite Falls

With a total height of 2,390 feet, this is the highest waterfall in North America and the seventh in the world. The falls is a major attraction in Yosemite National Park in California, USA. Yosemite literally means “those who kill” (Yos, “to kill,” the modifier e, “one who,” and the plural suffix –meti). The Yosemite tribes were composed of renegades from multiple tribes and were referred to as killers by the surrounding tribes who feared them.

8. Niagara Falls

The most powerful waterfalls in North America lie on the border between the Canadian Province of Ontario and the US State of New York. They are known for their beauty and as valuable source for hydroelectric power. There are many versions as to how the waterfalls got their names. One theory says that the name Niagara originates from the Native American word “Ongniaahra” meaning “thundering water” or “thunders of water.” Another version mentioned that it is derived from the name given to the natives living in the area who are described as being called “Niagagarega.”

credited to scienceray.com and flickr users: backpackerben, morrissey, wemaisquoi, fhsu, sara_joachim, robinh00d, mandj98

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