Angel Falls Location Facts Venezuela South America

Angel Falls Location Facts Venezuela South America

One of the most satisfying ways of achieving greatness must be to stumble across it while you are searching for something else – take Christopher Columbus and the New World, for instance, or Vasco da Gama and India. Another such was Jimmy Angel, an American ex-World War I pilot and wanderer.

In 1935 Angel was quartering the vast Venezuelan plateau of Auyan Tepui – Devil’s Mountain – in search of a river. An old prospector had introduced him to it and its dazzlingly high gold content some years before, and he had been trying to find it again ever since. Looking down from his biplane, Angel saw stream after stream tumbling over the edge of the plateau to be lost in the rainforest below. Then, turning the corner of a towering rocky buttress, he froze at the controls.

Angel Falls

From high above, almost in the clouds, an entire river poured out of the summit of the dark pink edge of the escarpment, falling past him to crash into the valley far below with a roar that overwhelmed the noise of his engine. Driving down, he knew, even then, that he had discovered the mightiest cataract in the world.

Angel Falls

Back in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, he met two mountain explorers, Gustavo Heny and Felix Cardona, in his story and volunteered to fly them in from his base camp below Auyan Tepui. While Cardona manned the radio at the base, Angel, with his wife Marie and Heny, took off to find a landing place on the plateau.

Angel Falls

They chose a spot that turned out to be a bog, and although no one was hurt there was no chance of the plane flying them out again. The terrain was atrocious – yawning gullies and fissures eroded into the plateau over millennia and covered with close-knit forest. To reach the top of the falls was impossible, and besides, the party immediately, and besides, the party’s immediate problem was to extricate themselves from their predicament. Miraculously, they did so, turning up tattered and starving at the base camp two weeks later, after hope for their safety has been abandoned.

Angel Falls

Angel and his companion had, however, solved the problem of the falls’ water supply. The cracks and ravines of the plateau – 300sq miles (770sq km) in extent – collect an enormous rainfall of 300in (7620mm) a year, throwing it down the cataract to feed the River Churun, a tributary of the Carrao.

Angel Falls

Angel’s claim to have found the highest waterfall in the world was not confirmed until 1949, when an expedition led by Ruth Robertson, an American ex-war correspondent, ventured up the canyon of the Churun in motorised canoes. Moonlight illuminated her first glimpse of the fails – a long sliver of silver knifing through an orange glow.

Angel Falls

Instruments set up in the following days showed the waterfall; height to be 3212ft (979m), nearly 18 times higher than Niagara Falls, Its flow, However, is by no means constant. In the wet season, spray exploding from the foot of the falls drenches the forest for a wide area. But in the dry season, the diminished flow may dissolve into mist before it reaches the river. This reveals an enormous amphitheatre around the falls, carved out over millions of years by the water’s abrasive hammering.

Angel Falls

Jimmy Angel had earned his place in atlases and record books, though it has been said that a rubber gatherer named Ernesto Sanchez La Cruz was the first outsider to see the falls, in 1910. And, of course, the local people had always known of them. When Jimmy was killed in an air crash in 1956, his ashes were scattered over the falls named after him. His aircraft, extracted from its lofty eyrie, now has no honoured place in the Ciudad Bolivar Museum.

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