The world’s longest underground river, discovered recently in the Amazon Basin in Brazil, has been named Rio Hamza (River Hamza) after Kerala-born scientist Valliya M Hamza, who led the team that found the river.
The river runs 4 km underground and is 6,000 km long — the same length as the Amazon. Like the Amazon, the world’s second-longest river, Hamza also drains out in the Atlantic.
“I was not keen on giving the river my name but my colleagues and students insisted on naming it after me,” Hamza, 71, an emeritus professor at the University of Sao Paulo, who is also involved with the department of geo-physics at Brazil’s National Observatory, said.
He is visiting his village in Kozhikode (north Kerala) with his Brazilian wife after 10 years.
Hailing from a middle-class family, Hamza, who graduated from Devagiri College in Kozhikode, did his post-graduation from Victoria College, Palakkad. He got his doctorate in geo-physics from Canada. “From a young age, I was interested in knowing more about what was happening under earth. Geo-physics was a relatively new subject those days.”
“Initially, I was keen on going to the US. Then, in 1974, a friend sent me a ticket to visit Brazil. It really changed my life as I decided to stay back,” he said. “Brazilian petrol giant Petrobras has been extracting oil from the Amazon region since the 1970s. It recorded temperature variations in the crude, but did not analyse these variations. It was only interested in the oil. When I came to know about this, I realised that these temperature variations could be caused only by the presence of massive volumes of sub-surface water,” said Hamza.
In 1990, he encouraged his student Elizabeth T Pimentel, to take up the matter as her research project and helped her over the next 20 years in discovering the river.