The distribution of lakes over continents has been addressed by geographers since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the last great lakes were explored by explorers and scientists in Africa only 100 years ago: Lake Malawi (C. Boccaro, 1616; D. Livingstone, 1850), Lake Tanganyika (R.F. Burton, J.H. Speke, 1858), Lake Victoria (J.H. Speke, 1858), Lake Albert (S. Baker, 1864), Lake Edward (H. Stanley, 1875), and Lake Rudolf now Turkana (S. Teleki and von Höhnel, 1888). In other continents, lake exploration was achieved earlier: Great Slave Lake was named by S. Hearne in 1771 and Great Salt Lake was named by J. Bridger and E. Provost in 1824 (Encyclopedia Britannica 1962). In South America, some maps of the early nineteenth century still present a huge mythic lake in the upper Branco, the Rio Negro tributary originating from the Guyana Shield. In Asia, all great lakes of central Asia, such as IssykKul and Hovsgol, have been known to Chinese and Russian scholars for a long time, whereas the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea had already been described by Greek historians. Lake Kivu (2370km2) was the last of the major lakes to be “discovered” by von Götzen in 1894.


Total Dissolve Solid Great Lake Lake Area Crater Lake Glacial Lake 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Meybeck
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géologie AppliquéeUniversité de Paris 6Paris Cedex 05France

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