Water sommeli-what?!

This week, we’re delving into the mysterious job role of water sommelier. Yes, you heard correctly, a sommelier for water. Usually a sommelier is a wine professional, who specialises in all elements of wine service and taste, as well as which wine suits specified food, a water sommelier does the same job… but for water! It takes years to qualify as a water sommelier and, frankly, we’re too lazy, but we asked a water sommelier to give us the basics of water tasting, and this is what they told us…

Continue reading “Water sommeli-what?!”

The Way of Tea : Part Two

Japanese house

The Way of Tea is a two part blog series on the Japanese tea ceremony.


We hope you enjoyed part one of your sneak peek into the world of the Japanese tea ceremony. In today’s blog, we’ll be delving even further, and discussing how the ceremony itself unfolds. The ceremony varies according to many factors including; the day, the time, and the venue. The ceremony that we’ll be discussing today occurs during the sunken hearth section of the year (winter), and would occur in a purpose built teahouse.

Arriving

Bench
Fig 1. A waiting bench for guests

The guests arrive at the teahouse and enter a little waiting room where they leave their belongings, and put on special traditional Japanese socks, known as tabi (You can find out more about tabi here). Guests are served a cup of barley or Kombu tea, and are led to an outdoor bench to await their hosts.
The host arrives, and the guests and host silently bow to one another. The guests will then cleanse their hands and mouths in a stone basin, which is known as a tsukubai.

Entering the tearoom

Japanese tea implements
Fig 2. Japanese tea equipment

Before entering the tearoom, guests take off their shoes and enter through a small door, known as a nijiri-guchi. When in the tearoom, guests view the tea tools and equipment, and are seated in order of prestige. When all guests are seated, the door is closed loudly. The noise summons the host, who welcomes each guest and answers any questions they may have about the ceremony or the equipment.

The meal

Traditional Japanese tea room
Fig 3. Traditional Japanese tea room

A charcoal fire is set up in the hearth, and guests are served a meal of many courses accompanied with sake. After this meal, guests eat a ‘wagashi’ sweet. Following this, there is an intermission called ‘nakadachi’, in which the guests return to the waiting room. Whilst they wait, the host cleans the tea room, sets a flower arrangement, and opens the shutters within the room,

Drinking the tea

Japanese tea equipment
Fig 4. Japanese tea equipment

A bell or gong is sounded, which summons the guests to return to the tearoom. The host will ritually cleanse each of the utensils and arrange them in a specific manner. The host will then prepare the tea and bow to the first guest, who will return the movement. The guest will then bow to the next guest, and take a small tip of tea. The guest will compliment the quality of the tea, wipe the rim, and pass the bowl on. Each guest will repeat these motions until all have drunk tea, the equipment is cleaned, and the host will leave the tearoom.

After the tea

Bowl of tea
Fig 5. Matcha tea

The fire is rekindled, which symbolises a switch from the formal to the casual. The host returns to the tea room with confectionary and thin tea, and a smoking set. The guests can have casual discussions and socialise during this portion of the ceremony. Once the thin tea is drunk, the host re-cleanses the equipment, and allows the guests to examine each piece. The host will gather the equipment and tidy it away. They will then bow from the door, signalling that the ceremony has reached it’s conclusion.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into the beautiful chanoyu ceremony. Have you ever been to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The Way of Tea: Part One

Bowl of matcha tea
Fig 1. Bowl of Japanese tea


The Way of Tea is a two part blog series on the Japanese tea ceremony.


Now I’m sure you know that here at The Water Cooler Today, we are big coffee drinkers. However, what you may not be aware of, is that we love a good cup of tea. This week we have been investigating ‘The Way of Tea’, or Chanoyu, as it is known in Japan. Chanoyu refers to the Japanese ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha tea, a powdered green tea. Today we will be discussing the symbolism and history of this beautiful ceremony.

The history

The history of tea ceremonies in Japan dates back to the 9th century, when the Buddhist monk, Eichu, visited China. On his return to Japan, he prepared and served Sencha tea to Emperor Saga in 815. It evidently went down a storm, and Japanese nobles began to drink more and more tea.
Tea hut
Fig 2. Traditional Japanese building
Towards the end of the 12th century, a style of preparation called ‘tencha’ was introduced to Japan by a monk called Eisai. Tencha involves powdered tea and hot water being whisked together in a bowl. It was popularised in Buddhist rituals within monasteries. By the 13th century, tea drinking had become a status symbol – particularly among the warrior class in Japan, who would even host tea drinking parties. Maybe we should be hosting a few of these ourselves!
By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread across all sectors of society in Japan. A tea master named Takeno Joo introduced the concept of ichi-go ichi-e. This philosophy states that each meeting should be highly valued, as it will never and can never happen again.

The symbolism

Tea room
Fig 3. Traditional Japanese tea room

The Way of Tea is deeply meaningful and intertwined with Zen Buddhism. There are two main principles within all Japanese tea ceremonies – Sabi and Wabi. The Wabi principle refers to the inner and spiritual experiences of human lives. When performing a tea ceremony the Wabi principle is shown in quiet and sober refinement. Simple, plain instruments and environments are used to reflect this. In contrast, the Sabi principle refers to the outer, material elements of life. To observe the principle of Sabi in a ceremony, you must consider emptiness as a key to spiritual awakening.

The seasons and, in particular, the changing of the seasons is very important to tea ceremonies. Tea practitioners divide the year into two seasons; the sunken hearth half (November-April), and the brazier half (May – October). The ceremony changes according to the season you find yourself within, with specified utensils.

Formality

Bowl of green tea
Fig 4. Bowl of matcha tea
The Way of Tea changes, like most things, according to formality level. If you are having an informal tea gathering, known in Japan as a ‘chakai’, you will simply serve thin tea alongside confections, and possibly a small meal. A more formal tea gathering is known as a ‘chaji’. It generally includes a full meal (kaiseki), thick and thin tea, and confections. You need stamina to get through a chaji ceremony – as it lasts for up to four hours!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into the beautiful chanoyu ceremony. Next blog we’ll be discussing the ceremony itself. Have you ever been to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The A-Z of Water: D & E


There’s no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There’s lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

We helped you B-lieve in the power of language, by C-ing even more water words last week (we’re sorry, we have a pun problem). This week we’re bringing you our favourite D and E water words.

Dam: (Geography) Artificial barrier or obstruction which impounds or diverts water

Dap: (Language) To dip lightly or quickly into water
Dessication: (Geology) Loss of water from pore spaces of sediments
Dew: (Language) Tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces overnight

Divining rod: (Geology) Forked branch or stick believed to indicate subterranean water

Doldrums: (Geography) A region of ocean near the equator

Dowser: (Geology) Person using a divining rod

Drawdown: (Hydrology) Lowering of the surface of a body of water by releasing water

Duct: (Geography) A tube or passage in a building or machine for air or liquid

Eagre: (Hydrology) A high, often dangerous, wave

Embankment: (Geography) Material raised above the natural surface of the land used to contain, divert, or store water

Englacial: (Geology) Located or occurring within a glacier

Eupotamic: (Biology) Thriving in both flowing and still fresh waters

Eutrophic: (Hydrology) Water that is rich in nutrients

Evapotranspiration: (Biology) Evaporation of liquid plus transpiration from plants

We hope you’ve enjoyed this dap into water words, and it hasn’t left you in the doldrums. Have we missed your favourite? Let us know what it is!

The A-Z of water: A


There’s no way around it, water can be a complex area to know. There’s lots of keywords and terms bandied about by experts, that even we find confusing on occasion! To this end, we will be bringing you the A-Z of water terms, bringing you the secret, technical, and quirky language connected to H20.

In the words of the great Julie Andrews, ‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’, today, we’ll be covering the A words!

Accretion  (Hydrology) The process of accumulation by flowing water

Adfluvial: (Natural science) Migrating between lakes and rivers or streams

Aedile: (History) Elected official of Ancient Rome who supervised the water supply

Aerate: (Chemical) To supply or charge a liquid or body of water with gas

Alluvial: (Hydrology) Process/materials association with transportation or deposition by running water

Alluvion: (Hydrology) The flow of water against a shore or bank

Altum Mare: (History) A term used in old English law referring to the high or deep sea

Anabranch: (Geology) A diverging branch of a river, which then re-enters the main stream

Aneroid: (Chemical) Not using liquid

Anhydrous: (Chemical) Without water

Aquaduct: (Construction) Pipe/channel that transports water from a remote source

Aquanaut: (Hydrology) A person trained to live in underwater installations

Aquifier: (Geology) Soil or rock that stores/ transmits water

Aquifuse: (Geology) Formation that can’t store/transmit water

Arroyo: (Geology) A water carved channel or gully in a dry country

Asperse: (Language) To sprinkle

Attenuation: (Hydrology) The diversion or slowing of the flow of water

There you have it, our A’s of water. Which is your favourite water A word? We’re loving ‘alluvion’!

The history of sparkling water: What’s behind the bubbles?

Carbonated water



Sparkling, carbonated, fizzy, soda. Whatever you want to call it, we all know the fizzy sensation that comes with drinking a glass of the stuff, or as my friend calls it, ‘the fizzy burn’. What you might not know, is how we worked out how to make this refreshment.

Other drinks have been fizzy for far longer than water, many alcoholic beverages, such as beer and hampagne, have been carbonated through the fermentation process for centuries. Records show a chap called Christopher Merret created sparkling wine for the first time in 1662 (We are all very grateful to Christopher for this, I’m sure!).

When it comes to fizzy water, we have to send our gratitude to Joseph Priestly. In 1767, Priestly suspended a bowl of water over a beer vat in a brewery in Leeds, and dripped sulphuric acid onto chalk over the top, he discovered that this infused the water with carbon dioxide. In 1772, he released a paper describing this process as, ‘Impregnating water with fixed air’, and sparkling water was born.

Carbonated water
Super fizzy sparkling water

In the late eighteenth century, Johann Jacob Schweppe (recognise the name?) developed the first practical process to mass manufacture carbonated mineral water in Geneva based on Joseph Priestly’s research, finding the Schweppes Company in 1783. It eventually became popular in the UK, with King William IV even favouring the fizzy refreshment.

The introduction of carbonated water into mainstream society fundamentally changed the way that people drank. Previously, alcohol had been drunk straight, with no mixers or dilution. Post introduction, people began mixing their spirits with this carbonated water, and thus making it more socially acceptable to drink alcohol.

The sparkling water drank in those days probably tasted a little different than we are used to today. Many chemicals were added to the drinks to act as preservatives. In fact, up until World War 2, carbonated water was known as, ‘Soda water’, in the USA, due to the sodium salts it tended to contained. This is why Americans still refer to fizzy drinks as ‘soda’ today.

Water in religion

Water holds special significance in many cultures and religions, primarily due to its cleansing, life-giving properties. Believers of various religions use water in ritual washing to purify themselves, both literally and spiritually, in preparation for worship or contemplation. 
Water is widely regarded as one of the basic elements, along with fire, earth, air, and sometimes space, which has led to it being considered all over the world as the sacred foundation of all life.
Sacred texts such as the Qur’an, Bible, and Vedas are full of imagery that uses water, the abundance or lack of it, to explain and symbolise spiritual health and blessings.  Floods, rains, storms, waves, aridity and drought feature heavily, and carry particular relevance for cultures living in harsh desert climates, for whom water is the essential, precious resource.
Creation
The belief that water is the source of life, and point of origin and creation, is shared by many religions. The Hindu text Rig-Veda describes how ‘in the beginning everything was like the sea and without light.’ Water precedes the creation of life and light, and initiates the process, as the creator god Brahma was born from the water (jal). 
The Bible’s account offers a similar picture: ‘The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.’ The spirit of God was said to hover over the waters before the creation of anything else.  
In the Qur’an, it says that every living thing was made from water, which existed before anything else as the seat of God: ‘And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and his Throne was upon water.’
The Native American Hurons tell that in the beginning there was only one water and the water animals that lived in it. A divine woman fell from the sky and animals dove down to fetch earth to make her some land to live on.
Ceremonies and Washing Rituals
Many ceremonies in Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and countless others involve water in some way. Believers are often immersed, sprinkled, or washed in pure water before participation in marriage, death, birth, and affirmations of faith, among others.
For many, bathing a newborn baby is an important ritual. Hindus practice different ceremonies for birth, depending on the region. One involves washing the child in milk and water from the sacred river Ganges to purify and cleanse sins from its past lives. Christians believe baptising or christening a baby welcomes them into the church family and washes away original sin. 
In Sikhism, believers have an Amrit ceremony when they are old enough to commit to their faith. Sweet water stirred with a double-edged sword is drunk and sprinkled on the hair and eyes.
Washing is an important part of everyday prayer for Muslim, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Jewish and Hindu worshippers, who cleanse themselves of pollution and impurity before offering their devotion.
Wudu is the essential washing of hands, arms, face, ears nose, head, and feet that Muslims must perform before Salaat. It must be repeated if an action is carried out that nullifies Wudu, such as passing gas, urination, bleeding, natural discharge, and deep sleep. 
Purification called Harae is necessary before a Shinto worshipper can bring an offering to the Kami, revered gods that inhabit natural spaces, like mountains, trees and rocks. Waterfalls are sacred, and to stand under one is a cleansing ritual.
Concerns of purity are central to Zoroastrianism, and the ritual of padyab-kusti is carried out to cleanse minor pollutions. More serious pollutions such as touching a dead body require a nine day baresnum ceremony, involving priests’ assistance in prayer and washing.   
The Torah outlines the need for believers to wash their hands and feet in ‘living water’, which can be in a sea, river, spring, or special bath called a mitveh, before approaching God. 
Hindu temples are built near a water source so that one can bathe before entering the place of worship, and carry out Sodhana purifications. Pilgrimage sites are often found on riverbanks, especially as the point where rivers converge is regarded as sacred. Water is involved in all ceremonies in Hinduism.
Water can sometimes not be such a prominent feature in Buddhist practices, as it is believed that ritual practices pose a distraction from the goal of spiritual enlightenment. However, yonchap are water offerings in Tibetan homes that can encourage one to give with an open heart. 
In Buddhist funerals, there is a tradition of pouring water into a bowl near the deceased, so that it overflows. Monks may recite the words: ‘As the rains fill the rivers and overflow into the ocean, so likewise may what is given here reach the departed.’
Sacred water sites
Many religions have bodies of water or related sites that are historically or spiritually significant, and can be popular sites for pilgrims to visit.

  • There are seven rivers in India that are considered sacred, and seen as maternal, life-giving female deities: Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri. 
  • The most famous river is the Ganges, believed to be the most sacred river in India. Millions travel to the Ganges to wash, be cleansed and healed. Some Hindus see the Ganges as a crucial site of pilgrimage, and believe that a life is incomplete without bathing in the river at least once. Families often keep a vial of water from the Ganges in the home.
  • The Well of Zamzam is a site of pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where Muslims go to drink the sacred water. It is believed that the well is a miracle source of water, which sprung up to quench the thirst of Ishmael, son of Abraham, thousands of years ago. The well lies 20m east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam, and is visited as part of the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages. 
  • Many Christians consider the Sea of Galilee to be a special place of pilgrimage, as this is the region around which Jesus’ ministry centred. The river Jordan is particularly visited as the site where Jesus baptised and was himself baptised by John.
  • Lake Titicaca in the Andes is a sacred site for Inca people as, according to ancient myths, the sun first emerged from this lake and blessed it.
  • Cenotes, or natural pits of water, are important in Mayan culture, thought to offer access to the watery underworld. Chichén Itzá is the most famous cenote, and one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.

This is only a brief overview of the religious weight of water. There is much more to be said and gained from learning about how cultures revere water in diverse traditions.

Hydraulis: The water-powered keyboard

The water organ, also known as a hydraulis, is thought to be the world’s first keyboard instrument, and oldest pipe organ. The name ‘Hydraulis’ comes from the Greek for water, ‘hydra’, and pipe, ‘aulos’.

An engineer from the 3rd century BC, Ctesibius of Alexandria, is credited with its invention. It is highly unusual for us to know the name and identity of the inventor of such an ancient object, since for many instruments all that it known is that they were believed to have divine or mythical creators.

The ancient hydraulis was played by hand, and the sound was controlled by the player pressing lightly on balanced keys or sliders. This is in contrast to the Renaissance pipe organ, which played automatically with the flow of water.

The organ is driven by water, which enters a wind chamber (camera aeolis) from above through a pipe. Air is introduced via a side pipe, compressed and driven upwards into a wind trunk or chest. This is used to blow the pipes, while two diaphragms or ‘splash-plates’ shield the pipes from water spray.

In some designs, the water comes out of the wind chamber and powers a water wheel, which drives a cylinder. A tap above the instrument must be opened for the instrument to run, and it will continue to play until the tap is closed.

These diagrams show the workings of the hydraulis (via realize.be)

The player would pump from point A, on the left diagram, forcing air through pipe D. Valves ensure the air does not flow backwards. The water pressure pushes air up through pipe J, and into the wind chest.

On the right, we see a close-up of a pipe. The player plays the key at A, which moves the glider C, allowing pressurised air to escape through the pipe when D and E align. F is a quill that dictates the end of the note by closing the gap.

The mechanics of water organs are discussed in various ancient sources: in writings by Ctesibius himself and Philo of Byzantium from the 3rd century BC; accounts by Vitruvius, a Roman engineer, architect and author of De Architectura, from around 20 AD; and those by Hero of Alexandria, from around the year 62 AD. 

Depictions of the instrument have been found in mosaics, paintings, as well as on coins, and even oil lamps. These have helped historians piece together what the hydraulis looked like, and when and where it might have been played.

These oil lamps were made in the shape of water organs, and can be found in museums at Copenhagen and Carthage today. (via realize.be)

A coin featuring a water organ, dating from the time of Nero. (via realize.be)

It appears the water organ was widely used for outdoor entertainment, at public events and festivals, probably because of the loud, deep sound it produces.

The mechanisms of the water organ were discovered with the help of partial remains, such as those found in Budapest in 1931, which were inscribed with the date 228 AD. Although most of the instrument had decomposed over time, the metal mechanism was still intact. From this, a working replica was built, which can be seen in the Aquincum Museum in Budapest today. The museum is named after the ancient ancestor of Budapest, a Roman city called Aquincum.

The reconstructed hydraulis in action (via virtusantiqua.ro)

Another important relic was uncovered in 1992 by archaeologists in the Greek city of Dion, which was an ancient Macedonian city near Mount Olympus. They believe they have recovered fragments of a hydraulis from the 1st century BC. A working replica was completed by the European Cultural Centre of Delphi in 1999, which is on display in the Museum of Dion, along with the fragments.

The fragments of a first century BC water organ at the Museum of Dion. (via fineartamerica.com) 

Very little is known about what kind of music was played on these ancient instruments, but it is amazing that the low, penetrating sound of the pipes can be recreated for us to hear thousands of years after its invention.


A journey into the history of the Thames

Image Source: londoniscool.com
‘The St Lawrence is water, the Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames is liquid history.’
These words were spoken by MP, John Burns in 1929, and point to the richness of the history surrounding London’s most famous meandering river.
The Thames is 215 miles (346 km) long, and is the longest river in England, and the second longest in the UK, following the Severn.
Despite its fame, there is still doubt as to the exact location of the river’s source. It is usually cited as Thames Head, near the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire, but Trewsbury Mead nearby has been recognised officially as the source by such authorities as The Environment Agency and map-makers The Ordnance Survey. 
Others are adamant that the source is found around eleven miles north of Thames Head in Seven Springs. Anyway, it begins its journey somewhere in that vicinity, even though we might disagree on the exact point.

The name Thames probably came from the Celtic name for the river ‘Tamesas’, recorded in Latin by the Romans as ‘Tamesis’. It is thought to mean ‘dark’. When in London, it is referred to most commonly as ‘the river’, as in ‘south of the river’.
The river we now know as the Thames began its story millions of years ago, as a tributary of the Rhine. This was before Britain separated from the European landmass and became an island.


10,000 years ago, the Thames flowed a lot faster and was around ten times bigger than at present. Its high speed, apparently pushed on by ice sheets melting from a Great Ice Age, allowed the river to shift its course, and it began to flow through the Chiltern Hills, past a site known as the Goring Gap. Over the next 7000 years, its pace slowed down, and experts think that the Thames has had its familiar, meandering form for around 3000 years.
The north side of the river was likely the first place to be settled by ancient Britons, and would become the site of the Port of London, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was the busiest port in the world. The Britons identified the point, near where London Bridge stands today, as a good trading route, as it allowed access to deep water while being near a shallow river ford. 
Around 50 AD, the Romans invaded Britain and built, among other structures, a garrison and the first bridge across the Thames. The trading settlement that grew around the bridge became known as Londinium. The port and bridge were rebuilt several times over the next thousand years, notably damaged during Boudicca’s revolt against the Romans, by the plundering Viking raiders before the arrival of Alfred the Great, by Elthered and Olaf’s recapturing of the city in 1014, and more recently the bombings of WW2. The bridge also suffered under the elements, including a terrible tornado in 1091, and destructive fires in 1212, 1381 and 1633.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Alfred the Great took over control of London and its valuable port in 886, and the Anglo-Saxons drove out the Vikings, moving the city into a prosperous era of trade.
The riverbanks were built up with many beautiful structures: monasteries at Chertsey and Abingdon, abbeys like Dorchester and Westminster (commissioned by Edward the Confessor), and even royal palaces. King Cnut built his palace where the Houses of Parliament stand today. So much so that the Thames was referred to as the ‘string’ that joined these gorgeous pearls together.
In the 16th century, London gained prominence as a centre of shipbuilding and repair, and by 1576, the port was the busiest in all the world. New docks had to be built over the next decades and centuries to accommodate the bustling trading, including the East India Dock, Millwall Dock, and the Royal Albert Dock, all completed during the 19th century.
The Thames was crucial for transporting trade, but it also had the important function of transporting people to safety when disaster threatened the lives of citizens. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed most of the centre of commerce, the City of London (as opposed to the City of Westminster, where the government was based). The fire is said to have started in a bakery on Pudding Lane and spread quickly, devouring the timber buildings of the old City. In the space of four days, around 13,200 houses were destroyed and over 100,000 people became homeless. Thames ferrymen played a vital role in rowing Londoners to safety during this fire, and other fires that raged in the city.
In more recent history, the Thames and the London docks were a key target in Second World War bombing from 1939 until late 1941.The Port was badly damaged, suffering nearly 900 missiles, countless incendiary bombs and many other attacks.  
Image Source: annefrankguide.net
The late 1940s and early 50s were years of post-war reconstruction on the Thames, and by the mid-60s, trade at the port was back to its former heights. The year 1964 was a record-breaking year for the London docks, with 61 million tonnes of traded goods passing through. However this level did not last, as containerisation in the latter part of the 60s meant a severe decline in dock use. The containers introduced were effective at holding vast quantities of cargo, but the roll on/roll off method it used put many dock workers out of a job.
In 1983, major work on the Thames Barrier in Woolwich was finished. The £500 million project is now one of the most recognisable shapes on the river.
Today, we can see evidence of the amount of regeneration on the Thames, which has been transformed by business, leisure, and education facilities, as well as plenty of housing projects. The development of Canary Wharf, the Docklands Light Railway and the Excel Centre are just a few examples. The Thames is still home to some of the UK’s busiest ports, boasting over 70 operational wharves.

Fun facts

Back in smellier times, before Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s sewage system was introduced in 1865, London’s waste was dumped in the Thames. On one famous occasion in 1858, the stench was so choking that Parliament was actually suspended, while they all went home and thought about how to fix the sewage problem.
Before the 19th century, the Thames used to freeze over completely, and ‘Frost Fairs’ were held on the ice. Londoners danced and drank at the final frost fair in 1814, after which the river flowed too quickly for it to freeze.
The Thames is home to around 119 different species of fish. Other inhabitants of the river include otters, eels and river vole. Jellied eel is a traditional East London dish.

Numerous artists have historically drawn upon the river for their creative endeavours, including French Impressionist Claude Monet, who painted the Thames three times. ‘The Thames below Westminster’ is the most well-known of these. Kenneth Grahame, author of the classic children’s book Wind in the Willows, lived near the Thames and is said to have been inspired by the river when working on the story.

The wettest places on earth

Approximately 71% of our planet’s surface is covered by water, constantly subjected to the heat of the sun (at least during daytime). This results in a lot of water vapour, and as the old saying goes, what goes up must come down. Many variables affect this process including; geographical features, air pressure, temperature and wind speed, creating some truly extreme climates.

If everything lines up just right, or wrong, depending on your point of view, you can get rainy seasons that make the average monsoon look like drizzle. So, where exactly are the most rain-drenched locations on Earth?
Emei Shan, China
Average annual rainfall: 8,169mm
Img source: visitourchina.com
Located in the Sichuan Province of China, Emei Shan is home to Mount Emei, the tallest of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism. The lay of the land forces the clouds to form into two distinct layers as part of a local phenomenon known as the ‘Cloud Sea’, which generates a massive amount of rainfall.
Kukui, Hawaii (US)
Average annual rainfall: 9,293mm
Img source: elavation.maplogs.com
This incredible location on the island of Maui, Hawaii is now considered to be a nature reserve. Home to a volcanic peak which rises over 5700 feet above sea level, the fallout from the eruption of said volcano also created the breath-taking Lao Valley. The Maui Land and Pineapple Company, which monitors the preserve, typically only allow scientists to venture into the region.
Mt. Waialeale, Hawaii (US)
Average annual rainfall: 9,763mm
Img source: feel-planet.com
With a name that literally translates to ‘overflowing water’, Mt. Waialeale fully deserves the number 8 spot on this list. The abundance of rainfall results in the slopes of the mountain maintaining an incredibly slick surface, poising both a challenge and a significant risk to hikers. The sheer volume of rain is believed to be due to the mountains conical shape and elevation.
Big Bog, Hawaii (US)
Average annual rainfall: 10,272mm
Img source: wikipedia.org
Situated within the Haleakala National Park, reaching Big Bog requires a helicopter trip or a two-day hike, but Hawaii’s rainiest region is a popular tourist spot nonetheless. Thanks to its remote location, the lands in and around Big Bog are truly beautiful, protected as they are from many outside influences.
Debundscha, Cameroon
Average annual rainfall: 10,299mm
Img source: wikipedia.org
A small coastal village sitting at the foot of Mount Cameroon, Debundscha’s weather patterns are in stark contrast to much of the nation and continent on the whole. Coastal winds bring with them a lot of moisture, which is trapped as heavy cloud by the looming mountain. The result? Vast amounts of rainfall on a regular basis.
San Antonio de Ureca, Equatorial Guinea
Average annual rainfall: 10,450mm
Img source: flickr.com / Jose Cosme
Multiple ocean moisture patterns combine around this small village on the south coast of Bioko Island, generating a volume of rainfall that is wildly inconsistent with its position just above the equator. Bioko Island is in fact relatively close to the previous entry on this list, Debundscha, and the same coastal winds likely have an impact on both locations’ weather.
Cropp River, New Zealand
Average annual rainfall: 11,516mm
Img source: wikipedia.org
At only nine kilometres long, Cropp River has a startling impact on the local weather. The region is the rainiest in all off Australasia and Oceania, with the mountainous terrain contributing to the build-up of precipitation. Although this list is ranked according to average rainfall, earning Cropp River the number 4 spot with a figure of 11,516mm, between October 1997 and October 1998 a staggering 18,413mm fell upon the region.
Tutunendo, Colombia
Average annual rainfall: 11,770mm
Img source: travelincousins.com
This small village in North-Western Colombia has the misfortune of experiencing two rainy seasons per year; even its dry season tends to experience around twenty days of rain per month. With that in mind, it is understandable why every home in the area includes a waterproof lining to make conditions bearable. The nearby city of Quibdo has the distinction of being the wettest large city in the world.
Cherrapunji, India
Average annual rainfall: 11,777mm
Img source: wikimedia.org
The residents of Cherrapunji have to cope with a truly bizarre and extreme climate. During the dry season, water shortages are common as no rain falls for months on end; during the rainy season, when the monsoons hit, it’s a very different story. Despite being ranked as the second wettest place on Earth, Cherrapunji holds the records for the most rainfall in both a single year (26,471mm) and a single month (9,300mm), earning both in 1861. The area is famous for its bridges weaved out of still living roots, which have carried people over steep valleys for hundreds of years.
Mawsynram, India
Average annual rainfall: 11,871mm
Img source: theatlantic.com
Located only 10 miles from Cherrapunji, debate still rages between the two close neighbours over the title of the ‘world’s wettest location’, as the difference is only an average of 94mm. Like Cherrapunji, Mawsynram rarely sees a dry day during the monsoon season; local residents are even forced to line their roofs with grass to dampen the constant noise of rainfall. Researches attribute the excessive rainfall to the proximity of the Bay of Bengal.