South America is the fourth but the largest continent on Earth. Its Northern shores are washed by the warm waters of the Caribbean sea, and the extreme southern tip of the island of Tierra del Fuego, divided between Argentina and Chile, lies in a cold, stormy Atlantic ocean. On the continent presents a great diversity of landscapes and climatic zones. Hot dusty steppe of the pampas stretch through the cattle country of Argentina and Uruguay. In the West tower of the mighty Andes, with cool fertile valleys, where coffee grows. Hot tacama desert of Northern Chile is one of the driest places on the planet. In Brazil, in the Amazon basin, the stretch impassable green jungle. There are in South America and vast lakes, and tall waterfalls, and rocky Islands.
The most humid of the continents. High mountains causes a variety of climates, the presence of altitudinal zonation. Equatorial zone occupies the Amazonian lowlands and the North-West coast. In the tropical zone of the Eastern part is influenced by the trade winds, on the coast of a lot of rainfall (2,000 mm), the difference in summer and winter, t minor. In the interior the rainfall is considerably less (1000-500 mm). The Pacific coast is under the influence of the cold Peru current. Here is one of the driest places in the world (the Atacama desert).
Subtropical zone. The Eastern part is humid subtropical, coast of the Pacific ocean – dry subtropics of the Mediterranean type, with dry and hot summers and mild, wet winters.
Americaplay the South watershed of the continent is located in the Andes, but the boundary does not always correspond to the highest ridges. Most of the runoff from the mainland sent to Atlantic ocean, it flows the largest river of South America. To the basin of the Pacific ocean are only a relatively small streams that originate in the Western part of the Andes. The main power source of the rivers of South America — rainfall. Ice nutrition is important only in the South of the Andes; the role of snow supply is negligible.
In connection with limited distribution in South America drylands only a small portion of the surface region is devoid of the peripheral runoff. This southern Gran Chaco, inland plateaus of the Andes, the basin of the Atacama and Central areas of the Pacific coast.
Hydrological regime of most of the rivers of South America is determined by the amount of rainfall and pronounced seasonality of rainfall. Only for the Equatorial regions and the far South-West is characterized by variable precipitation.
Lake in South America few. The main genetic groups of lakes of the continent — tectonic, glacial, volcanic, lagoon. Small glacial and volcanic lakes exist in different parts of the Andes. The largest glacial and glacial-tectonic lakes are concentrated in the West of the Southern Andes.
The largest lake of the continent — lake Titicaca — located on the Andean plateau at a height of over 3,800 metres, on the border between Peru and Bolivia. Its area is 8300 km², and the maximum depth is 281 m. On the banks of the lake are terraces, testifying to repeated lowering of its level. The lake has a drain in another, more shallow tectonic lake Poopo.. The water in the freshwater lake Titicaca and Poopo. strongly saline.
The existence of South America Europeans became known after swimming H. Columbus in 1498, discovered the Islands of Trinidad and Margarita, explored the stretch of coast from the Delta of the river Orinoco to the Peninsula of Paria. In 15-16 centuries the greatest contribution to the study of the continent was made by the Spanish expeditions. In 1499-1500 Spanish Conquistador A. Ojeda led an expedition to the Northern coast of South America, which reached the coast in the area of the modern Guiana, and following in the North-Western direction, examined the coast from 5-6° Yu. W. to the Gulf of Venezuela. Later Ojeda explored the Northern coast of Colombia and founded the fortress, marking the beginning of Spanish conquests on the continent. Completed the survey of the Northern coast of South America by the Spanish traveler R. Bastidas, who in 1501 explored the mouth of the river Magdalena, and reached the Gulf of Uraba. Expedition V. Pinson, D. Lepe, continuing to move South along the Atlantic coast of South America, in 1500 opened one of the arms of the Delta of the Amazon river, explored the coast of Brazil to 10° Yu. W. H. Solis went further South (up to 35° Yu. n.) and opened the Gulf of La Plata, the lower reaches of the largest rivers Uruguay and Parana. In 1520, F. Magellan explored the Patagonian coast, then walked to the Pacific ocean through the Strait later named after him, completing the study of the Atlantic coast.
In 1522-58 he had explored the Pacific coast of South America. F. Pizarro went along the shores of the Pacific ocean to 8° Yu. W. in 1531-33. he conquered Peru, ransacking and destroying the Inca and founded the City of Kings (later called Lima). Later in 1535-52, Spanish conquistadors Almagro and D. P. Valdivia went down along the coast to 40° Yu. W.
Study intracontinental areas stimulated by the legends about the hypothetical “country of gold” El Dorado, in search of a Spanish expedition which D. Ordaz, P. Heredia and others in 1529-46 crossed in different directions of the North-Western Andes, trace the flow of many rivers. Agents of the German bankers A. Ehinger, N. Federman, etc., were examined, mainly northeast of the continent, the headwaters of the Orinoco river. In 1541 the unit of F. Orellana for the first time crossed the continent in its widest part, tracing the middle and lower reaches of the Amazon river; S. Cabot, P. Mendoza, and others in 1527-48 passed through the major rivers of the basin, the paraná — Paraguay.
The extreme southern point of the continent — Cape horn — was discovered by the Dutch explorers Lemaire and J. W. Schouten in 1616. English Navigator D. Davis in 1592 discovered “virgin Land”, suggesting that it represents a single dry land; only in 1690 D. strong has shown that it consists of many Islands and called them the Falkland Islands.
In 16-18 centuries the Portuguese troops métis-mamrukov, conducting aggressive campaigns in search of gold and jewels, repeatedly crossed the Brazilian highlands and followed the course of many tributaries of the Amazon. In the study these areas were also attended by Jesuit missionaries.