• Germany's news in English
 

Rhine River 90km shorter than everyone thinks

The Local · 27 Mar 2010, 12:35

Published: 27 Mar 2010 12:35 GMT+01:00

Schoolchildren across Germany and the world have learned since the 1930s that the Rhine is 1,320 km long– but it seems that was wrong according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung paper on Saturday.

“We also have the number 1,320 in our publications, although we put a big question mark against that internally,” Alfred Hommes, spokesman for the federal institute for hydrology, told the paper.

He said a meeting of the commission for the hydrology of the Rhine area would meet next month and commission a check of the real length – and then probably make an official apology.

The error was uncovered by Bruno Kremer who told the Süddeutsche Zeitung he had been working on a report on the ecological aspects of Germany’s most famous river when he realised the length he had learned at school, was wrong.

“To make my report complete, I wanted to mention the length of the river,” he said.

“I noticed that in books from the first half of the 20th century, the Rhine was said to be shorter than it is now – its length was then given as around 1,230 kilometres. Modern lexicons and many publications of governmental authorities now say it is 1,320 kilometres.

“So I kept looking and checked more than 50 different references. They were split between these two lengths. I could not accept that.”

He said he then went to the source of the problem and checked that in Koblenz there is the kilometre stone 0, and then west of the Hook of Holland, where the Rhine enters the sea, there is the stone 1036.

He then added the length of Lake Constance and the Swiss share of the river, examining the newest maps he could find. His total came to 1,233 kilometres, which would seem to be pretty close.

“We checked it out and came to 1,232 kilometres,” said Ankie Pannekoek, spokeswoman for the Dutch government hydrology office.

“Until now we have concentrated on the Rhine between Lake Constance and the estuary which must be why the mistake was not noticed.”

It seems a simple mistake swapping numbers around was made during the 1930s, the Süddeutsche Zeitung suggests – noting that the lexica Brockhaus of 1903, Herder of 1907 and Meyer of 1909 all have 1,230 kilometres.

But in the Knaurs lexicon of 1932 the numbers are turned around making the river 1,320 kilometres long - and that number was taken by the Brockhaus book of 1933, and accepted ever since.

The Rhine Museum in Koblenz has corrected its numbers, said museum head Rainer Doetsch, while Brockhaus publishers has said it will alter its entry on the Rhine length in the next edition. School books will also be changed, the paper says.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:02 March 27, 2010 by gtappend
I bet this will be a question on WWM in a few weeks!
16:58 March 27, 2010 by Prufrock2010
And this factoid is important because...?

I wonder how much money the government spent on the research to arrive at this stunning conclusion.

Peschvogel will tell you that it's irrelevant because in a couple of generations there won't be a Rhine River, so who cares?
18:41 March 27, 2010 by wood artist
Wait! Somebody stole 90km of the Rhine? Jeebus, is nothing safe anymore? Where were the security people? These guys were apparently more skilled than the gang that did the poker tournament heist. Imagine stealing that much river and nobody noticed. Wouldn't some barge tug have run aground when they went too far?

Seriously, I'll bet there's a lot of these things around. Somebody published a number and, right or wrong, that became THE number that everyone uses. GPS units regularly send you to streets that don't exist, simply because somebody planned a right-of-way there but never built anything.

wa
21:33 March 27, 2010 by dbert4
The Rhein used to snake throught Germany, one can still see the former route with Google Earth. Thorugh and nature and mans efforts it is none essentially a straight river.

Although this is an interesting fact......so what, it's not really news.
23:33 March 27, 2010 by William Thirteen
size doesn't matter...
00:48 March 28, 2010 by Davey-jo
Apparently the more accurately you measure something the longer it gets. So the answer to this is to measure the river with a school ruler and hey presto you get your 90k back!
01:24 March 28, 2010 by peschvogel
Typisch...Just like the German man who thinks his is longer but its actually shorter....Sclimm
05:14 March 28, 2010 by piper1
Global Warming has shrung the thing!..

No other explanation !
05:40 March 28, 2010 by Eagle1
Slow day at the Local.
07:15 March 28, 2010 by wood artist
peschvogel

Usually I think you're a bit off the wall, but this time? That's really pretty good.

wa
15:29 March 29, 2010 by binthere222
I will give back the 90 KM now.

What is the geophysical definition of a river? It is a flowing body of water which is not subject to intermittent or seasonal disappearance. Intervening bodies of water, such as lake Konstanz, only add to the length as the river continues to it's origin. Commercial navigability is only one of the indicators of the presence of a river, not the sole definition.

Using this definition, the origin of the Rhein extends approximately 90 KM further to the Southwest of Lake Konstanz to the small town at the foot of the Austrian Alps, "Schroken".

It is also worthwhile noting that to that point, the river is used as a geopolitical border between states, is the main tributary to lake Konstanz and is also a geophysical barrier, three other characteristics of a river. It is as well the southwestern continuation of the Rhein river from lake Zonstanz to it's riparian origin.

Therefore, if the proper definition is observed, approximately 90 KM is further added to the length of the Rhein river.
16:35 March 29, 2010 by chimpansi
Could this be bcz of CERN?? Probably few mini-black holes were formed when they ran it first time. May be the planet is shrinking due to that!! 90Km loss is significant. Remember reading a petition to CERN named "Honey I shrunk the earth".

Guess at this rate Earth will shrink to size of a moon soon!!

Oh my, I'm scared!! :)
20:41 April 1, 2010 by nickel
Is it possible that this somehow could be caused by the Bush administration? Obama tells me that everything is George Bush's fault so I was just wondering maybe he had something to do with this obvious shrinkage of your vital national waterway.
Today's headlines
German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay
Anti-refugee demonstrators carry a sign accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of being a "traitor to the nation" this week in Heidenau. Photo: DPA

German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay

21 hours ago

Update: A German court on Friday night reinstated a ban on rallies in an eastern town hit by violent anti-migrant protests, overturning an earlier decision that found the restriction to be "illegal".

Footballers gone wild
Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village
Tegernsee is a famous beauty sport. Photo: DPA

Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village

16 hours ago

Villagers in the picturesque Bavarian region of Tegernsee are bristling at World Cup-winning Germany goalkeeper and Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer's plan to build a huge glass villa on the shores of their beautiful lake.

Interview
'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'
Canadian composer and performer Owen Pallett. Photo: Brian Vu

'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'

16 hours ago

The Local speaks with Oscar-nominated Canadian musician Owen Pallett about performing at legendary Berlin club Berghain - and just why the world's artists are so fascinated with the German capital.

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match
Liverpool's Emre can has been called up to the Germany squad to face Scotland and Poland. Photo: DPA

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match

17 hours ago

Liverpool's uncapped defender Emre Can was on Friday called up to the Germany squad for the world champions' forthcoming key Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Scotland.

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears
How will life for Brits in Germany change if the Brexit happens? Photo: DPA

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears

20 hours ago

Greece is the talk of the town this year. But in 2016, it will be Britain questioning its EU membership. The referendum outcome could be life altering for many Brits living in Germany.

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000
An 87-year-old pensioner found the cash in the bin. Photo: DPA

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000

18 hours ago

After throwing away €12,000 this week, a landlord in North Rhine-Westfalia thought he'd made one of the most expensive blunders of his life. But the money made it home safely, police said on Friday – and all thanks to an honest pensioner.

Elite cops' hazing ritual: eat ice cream off thighs
A Cologne SEK unit on deployment in 2013. Photo: DPA

Elite cops' hazing ritual: eat ice cream off thighs

21 hours ago

Officers from Cologne's elite Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK) police unit should be punished for hazing practices they inflicted on new members, an official in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) said on Thursday.

Knut autopsy could help human disease sufferers
Knut died in front of visitors at Berlin Zoo in 2011. Photo: DPA

Knut autopsy could help human disease sufferers

22 hours ago

Four years after Berlin's celebrity polar bear Knut died, a neuroscientist has discovered the cause of death - an autoimmune disorder which affected his brain.

Army buys in new guns to replace defective G36
A German soldier armed with a G36 rifle during training exercises in Poland. Photo: DPA

Army buys in new guns to replace defective G36

22 hours ago

Some German soldiers will be carrying different weapons within a year as the Defence Ministry scrambles to replace standard rifle which loses accuracy under hot temperatures.

Climate change
Sweltering summer has climatologists sweating
Dried out soil in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Sweltering summer has climatologists sweating

23 hours ago

Heat over 40 degrees, weeks without rain, sudden storms and flash floods – in the summer of 2015 Germany experienced all these things. Are these extremes set to become the norm?

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Weekend of anti-refugee violence shocks Germany
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,058
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd