Wednesday, February 22, 2023

SearchResearch Challenge (2/22/23): World's largest waterfall?

 I'm fascinated by all things aquatic... 

An actual waterfall (not synthetic). P/C Pexels.  

... so it's not a huge surprise that I would search for the world's largest waterfall, wondering if I could visit it sometime.  

But I have to admit that I was very surprised by the answer.  It was so surprising that I spent another hour looking into the world's largest waterfalls--Where are they? Why are they there? What causes them?  

My little bit of curiosity-driven research led me to a completely different understanding of waterfalls.  I bet it will do the same for you.  Can you find the answer to this week's Challenge? 

1. What is the world's largest waterfall?  (This is pretty simple.) 

2. Where is the world's second largest waterfall?  (This isn't so simple.)  

This Challenge can lead you into long digressions about deep ocean currents and edifying excursions into eddies of knowledge.  Enjoy the journey as you search for the answers! 

And be sure to let us know how you found the answers.  We all want to learn how you did it. 

Search on! 



  1. First question: Define largest.
    Second question: Define waterfall.

    1. Also... when. But for this Challenge, let's assume only current existing waterfalls. (e.g., Guariá Falls used to be the largest by volume, but it's now vastly reduced by dams, etc.)

    2. My first query was: [List of largest waterfalls]

      Lots of results, including Dana's database


      Depending on how you interpret these terms answer changes.

      Height & Volume. Also mentions a new category: The 10 most Instagrammed waterfalls around the world.

      Also searched for [Mexico waterfalls] & [ Mexico cascadas] What is the difference between cascada and catarata?

      2014: Las 10 Cascadas más Espectaculares de México

      [Diferencia catarata cascada]

      Iguazú, 275 waterfalls. Among other data.

      I think the most famous for me are: Niagara Falls, Iguazú and Agua Azul.

  2. Which brings me (us) to the World Waterfall Database...

  3. And yes this has caused a few additions to the bucket list. Although I don't think the one in the Denmark Strait is likely...

  4. Actual answers.
    Tallest. The thing in the Denmark Strait @ over 10,000'
    Tallest single drop: (in air, not underwater) Kerepakupai Merú in Venezuela @ 807meter.
    Current volume: Igna in Congo.
    Widest: Chutes de Khone, in Laos @ 10,700m.

  5. With [Today I learned about waterfalls]

    The tallest man-made waterfall in Europe, the Cascata Delle Marmore, can be found in Italy.

    Man made waterfalls?

    *According to sites like, there are actually up to 10 different classifications of a waterfall.

    1. Out of topic, however I think it's interesting.

      Today I learned about:


      Famous: JFK & San Antonio

      Thundersnow: Weather phenomenon

    2. Response to your first reply: Though I've never seen thunder snow, I have seen thunder sleet. I was outside on the porch watching sleet fall and recording it on my phone, when I heard a really loud boom of thunder. (It made me jump, plus I suspect that the lightning that caused it was no more than a couple hundred yards [meters] away from where I was.)

      At that point, the sleet got a lot heavier, plus I decided it was prudent to head back inside.

  6. The answer can depend on how one phrases the search and these are the approaches I used.
    If you search for list of waterfalls by height the link from Magazine Civitatis lists the ten tallest waterfalls in the world with Angel Falls in Venezuela being the tallest. But if one searches uses the tallest in their search one gets the link and the answer is Tugela Falls in Kwazulu Natal South Africa. But if you search largest waterfall one gets the following answer the world's largest waterfall lies beneath the Denmark Strait, which separates Iceland and Greenland. At the bottom of the strait are a series of cataracts that begin 2,000 feet under the strait's surface and plunge to a depth of 10,000 feet at the southern tip of Greenland—nearly a two-mile drop

  7. So, when I started this, I thought "this is easy," as I remembered that Angel Falls (Venezuela) was the world's tallest waterfall while Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe) was one of the world's largest (though I wasn't certain if it was the largest).

    Then, I did a search on it, and found it was a lot more complicated than I'd thought.

    * Search term: world's largest waterfall - said that the largest was an (apparently) unnamed waterfall in the Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland), which had a drop of 8,000 feet (or a bit more than 2400 meters). I honestly hadn't known that it was possible to have one under the ocean, though given it was NASA stating this I concluded it was so. I then thought about what I'd heard about how little was known about the ocean, and realized that there might be even larger ones under the sea, waiting to be discovered.
    * Search term: world's largest waterfall wikipedia - I saw there were different rankings of waterfalls, based on height and flowrate, plus I saw several individual waterfalls listed, such as Angel Falls (tallest uninterrupted waterfall, based on the snippet), Victoria Falls ( - it's the largest, based on both height and width), and Kaiateur Falls in Guyana ( - largest single-drop waterfall on Earth).

    Too, I found other entries that listed the biggest waterfalls in the world, based on height ( and flow rate ( However, when looking at the first one, I saw that Tugela Falls in South Africa was considered to be a taller one than Angel Falls, though there was controversy over this ( Too, the top one for the second entry was considered controversial (since it was uncertain whether or not it was a waterfall), the second was a series of rapids, while the third was seven cataracts. It even listed one further down (the Khone Phapheng Falls, on the Mekong in Laos) as being the widest (

    I'm not even getting into the role nationalism might well play, when it comes to listing the largest waterfall or the second-largest one.

    So, my answer to both questions is this: The answer depends on the parameters you use (tallest, widest, greatest flow rate, on land, undersea, etc.), along with where you get your information.

    (As a personal aside, this question is like asking what the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth is: It seems like a simple question, until you really dig into it and find out just how complicated it is.)

  8. is "what if" similar to "unintended consequences"? the unforeseen & unknowable? fwiw, there are 'new' waterfalls in SoCal…
    was it a story Steven heard?
    but with a Chicago accent…Williams

  9. My first thoughts on this (as Dana / others mentioned) is that the question is really imprecise. Abouto the only thing I think I could be sure about is the word "world" - so I'd not be looking for something spotted on Mars, for example that had once been a waterfall before Mars dried out. But "waterfall" - is that a continuous body of water that has no interruptions, or could it be a sequence of falls that in total was the largest. And what does "largest" mean. Largest - by total water volume flowing per minute? Largest by overall amount of water flowing - even if the volume flowing per minute was smaller. Or even "highest", "widest"..... The only thing I didn't consider is ancient waterfalls because the question was in the present tense. I also assumed the 2nd largest would use the same measure.

    Being lazy, I first tried ChatGPT - and that said "The world's largest waterfall, by volume of water, is the Angel Falls... The waterfall drops from a height of 979 meters (3,212 feet) and has an uninterrupted fall of 807 meters (2,648 feet)." and that the Victoria Falls were the 2nd largest. Except that (from prior experience) I don't always trust ChatGPT - and this gave height / width but not water volumes. So I did a search asking "list of world's largest waterfalls by volume" and pandora's box opened up.

    The first link (with the snippet) was from and that gave the Inga Falls with 910,000 cu ft / sec followed by the Chutes de Livingstone with 885,000 cu ft / sec. I'd heard of neither - both are in the DR Congo. The Victoria Falls came in at 17th with under a 20th of the volume and beaten by the Niagara Falls. The Angel falls weren't in the top 35. Wikipedia agreed with this ranking - but also gave Historic waterfalls (Guaira Falls in Brazil - although this has a flow rate of half the Inga so isn't in the running) and Prehistoric waterfalls - all three given were in the running (Gibraltar, Dry Falls of Columbia, and the Bosphorous - with the Gibraltar and Bosphorous being theoretical). was honest and why the question as posed was too simplistic 'Search for the largest waterfalls in the world and you won’t come away with a definitive answer. There are a couple of reasons for this.

    Firstly, it’s very difficult to accurately measure huge waterfalls as they’re dangerous and often almost impossible to access. Furthermore, there’s often debate about the start and end point for waterfalls, particularly shallower ones involving lots of rapids.

    Also, the term "biggest" can mean different things. It can be used to refer to the height, width, or volume (usually calculated by the amount of water that passes over the falls, measured in cubic feet, cubic meters, liters, or gallons per second).

    What’s more, lists of the world’s tallest waterfalls can vary because of differences in what’s actually being measured. Most waterfalls consist of several ‘drops’. Some lists look at the total decrease in elevation (total height), while others measure the longest single, uninterrupted drop. In this article, we’ll use the total height.' The article then gives the tallest fall (Angel) and widest (Khone Phapheng Falls in Laos) but the volumes are nothing like the Inga. gives the ones it things are the largest worth a visit - Victoria comes first, followed by the Angel (but not the Inga). gives Victoria as the first, followed by the Kongou Falls of Gabon. Again the flow rates are much smaller than the Inga.

  10. Comment continued: lists the tallest and widest with great pictures with the Inga listed as the 10th widest and the comment: "When you think of a waterfall, more often than not you imagine a large cliff overflowing with raging water. The first to appear on our list doesn't give you that image, but it is raging with water. As the 10th-widest waterfall, Inga Falls spans 3,000 feet in the lower Congo River. The water flows here at a rate of about 1.5 million cubic feet per second — for comparison, Niagara Falls averages 84,760." The picture shows something that's not that high but rushing with water. names the Iguazu falls on the Argentine-Brazil border. It's 13th by water flow but is made up of some 275 different cascades, falls, and is the world’s largest waterfall system.

    So there is no single answer - but I'll go with the Inga Falls because of one source that is usually seen as definitive: the Guiness Book of World Records that lists the Inga as the number 1. However explains why it may not be viewed as top by others - some view it as a series of rapids and not a true waterfall (and the pictures suggest this too). Maybe trying them out in a canoe or going over them in a barrel may be a good test - as long as you've tried the Niagara or Victoria this way first! The Guiness Book of Records refers to the World Waterfall Database (my first link) so that may also be viewed as the best adjudicator. (And Wikipedia also uses this).

    It's all open to the definition however.