The river Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt in antiquity, but for Egyptians, Romans and Greeks alike, the source of the Nile was considered to be the ultimate mystery.
The River Nile is normally measured at being the world’s longest river at 4160 miles in length. This measurement though comes about because the true source of the Nile has now been discovered. It has though taken thousands of years to discover this source, and it was only a hundred and fifty years ago that explorers finally managed to get close to this source. In antiquity an expedition to try and find the source was out of the question. The first European explorer generally credited with finding the source of the Nile is said to have been John Hanning Speke when he proclaimed in 1858 that Lake Victoria, which he had discovered, was the true source of the Nile.
To understand what the source of the Nile River is though it has to be recognised that the Nile itself is made up of more than one river, it indeed has numerous tributaries. The two major tributaries are the Blue Nile and the White Nile, whilst there is also the Albert Nile, and smaller rivers, some of which no longer exist.
The Blue Nile has its source at Laka Tana in the upper reaches of the Ethiopian Highlands. It is actually the Blue Nile that has been responsible for the fertility of the Nile as it passes through Egypt. The sediments gathered in Ethiopia causing this fertility.
The Nile River may once have been far longer than it is today, and there is evidence to suggest that once a river flowed from Lake Tanganyika to join up with Albert Nile. The Albert Nile is the part of the White Nile that flows from Lake Albert up to Khartoum. This would have made the Nile an additional 900 miles longer, although this route was blocked many thousands of years ago.
The true source of the Nile is said to be the source of the White Nile, as this makes the river longer. The White and Blue Niles join near to Khartoum, but the source of the White Nile is hundreds of miles further upriver. John Hanning Speke made the assertion that Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile, but it was only when Henry Morton Stanley travelled around the lake that Ripon Falls was named as the starting point of the Nile River.
There are though many smaller rivers that flow into Lake Victoria, and so the actual source of the Nile River is now named as the Kagera River, the Kagera River having its headwaters in Burundi.
The source of the Nile River is now normally named as the Kagera River, and yet the romantics still proclaim Lake Victoria as the source.