South America is known to be the fourth largest of all the continents of the world. You can find the continent as the southern portion of the landmass of the Western Hemisphere. This landmass is generally referred to as the New World or the Americas. It is a triangular shaped continent that is quite compact with a broader northern side with the southern edge tapering to a point, known as the Cape Horn in Chile.
To the north and north-west of the continent is the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean is situated to the east, southeast, and northeast, and the Pacific Ocean lies to the west. The Isthmus of Panama joins the two continents of North America and South America. It is a land bridge that narrows down to about 50 miles or 80 kilometers at a point. The Drake Passage to the south of Cape Horn separates the continent of Antarctica from South America.
There are very few islands found around the continent. There are more of them towards the southern part. Here once can see the glaciated coastal archipelagos of Chile and Argentina. To the east of southern Argentina is the Falkland or Malvinas Islands. T the northern part, the long stretch of West Indies from Trinidad to Florida can be found. But, they are generally considered to be part of North America. There are other small oceanic islands off the coast of South America like Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The total area of the continent is around 6,878,000 square miles, or 17,814,000 square kilometers. This is roughly one eighth of the total land surface of the Earth. The greatest north-south extent of South America is 4,700 miles. This is the distance between Point Gallinas in Colombia to Cape Horn. The greatest east-west extent is 3,300 miles between Cape Branco in Brazil to Point Parinas in Peru. Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, which lies near the border with Chile, is the highest point in the continent and even the highest elevation in the while of the Western Hemisphere at a height of 22,831 feet or 6,959 meters above the sea level. The lowest point is the Valdes Peninsula on the south-eastern coast of Argentina. It lies at a depth of131 feet or 40 meters below the sea level. The continents coastline is exceptionally short when related to its area. It is just 15,800 miles in length.
The Americas have been named after the Italian Navigator Amerigo Vespucci. He was one of the earliest explorers of the new world. Earlier, America was used only for South America, but then the designation started to be applied for the landmass as a whole. Central America and Mexico share an Iberian heritage with almost all parts of the continent. As such, this region is called Latin America.
The world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, the Angel Falls in Venezuela, is located in this continent. The highest single drop waterfall is the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana. The Amazon is the largest river in terms of volume. The Andes is the longest mountain range, and he Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar place on earth. The Amazon Rainforest is known to be the largest rainforest. The highest capital city is La Paz in Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, and Puerto Toro in Chile is the world’s southern most permanently inhabited community.
Brazil is the largest country in the continent. It covers almost half of its land area and even population. All the remaining areas are divided in to three specific regions known as the Andean States, the Guianas, and the Southern Cone.
Largest Cities in South America
|3||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||12,043,000|
The Geological structure of the continent has two dissymmetric parts. A number of stable shields are found on the larger eastern portion. These shields form highland regions that are separated by large basins, including the Amazon basin. The Andes Mountains cover almost the entire western portion. They were formed as a result of the drift of the South American Plate towards the west. This forced the oceanic plate to the west under it. The Andes forms a gigantic backbone all along the Pacific coast of the continent. Large quantities of sediment washed down by the great rivers of the continent and their tributaries fill the basins located east of the Andes and between the eastern highlands.
There is no other continent on Earth that penetrates as far as South America, except Antarctica of course. The northern part of the continent extends to the north of the Equator. Around four-fifth of the continent is located within the tropics. It also reaches far south to the sub-Antarctic latitudes. Though most of the Andes lie between the tropics, they do experience extensive zones of temperate or cold climate around the Equator. This is a unique circumstance. There is a great range in the elevation, and this produces a complete diversity of climate and ecological zones. This is known to be on most prominent characteristic of the South American geography.
The natives of South America are known to have descended from some of the Asiatic people who migrated from Siberia to North America during the most recent ice age or the Wisconsin age. The arrival of the Europeans led to a few survivors among these people. Most of them succumbed to diseases or mixed up with the people of European and African origin. This happened around the 1500s. There are modern areas in some parts of the continent. They have been industrialized with modern cities. But, there are several rural areas where people still follow agriculture as their way of life. South America has abundant resources, mineral products and renewable resources. But, the economic development of the continent lags behind the other advanced industrial regions of the world. There have been several concerns recently, regarding the over exploitation of these resources.
The South Americans have a large cultural influence from their indigenous people, their historic connections with Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, and also from the large amounts of immigration from across the world. The nations in the continent have a variety of music. There are a lot of world popular forms and styles. Books and literature are also popular across the continent. The literature has to its name a lot of critical and popular acclaims in the different genres and styles.
The broad ethnic mix has given rise to all kinds of influences in the South American cuisine. They have African, Asian, South American Indian, and European tastes in them. Bahia in Brazil is well known for the West African style of cuisine. Wine is regularly consumed by the people from the countries of Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela. A brewed herb called mate is popular in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. The terere is the Paraguan version, which differs by the fact that it is served cold. In Chile and Peru, grapes are used to distil the liquor called Pisco. The cuisine of Peru has flavors from other cuisines like Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Andean, African, and Amazonic.
Tourism of South America is very important as a source of revenue for most of the countries of South America. They have a wide diversity of colorful and vibrant cities, foods, culture, and a number of stunning landscapes to attract tourists all the time. Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Fortaleza, Maceió, Recife, Olinda, Lake Titicaca, Medellín, Patagonia, Bogota, Lima, Florianópolis, Machu Picchu, the Amazon Rainforest, Isla Margarita, Natal, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Angel Falls, Nazca Lines, Cartagena and the Galápagos Islands are the most popular tourist locations in the continent.