The Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world with an amazing height of over 300o feet. The waterfall is on the Kerep River called Kerepacupai or the Gauja River which ultimately meets a tributary of Carrao River called the River Churun. Angel Falls is one of the topmost tourist attractions in Venezuela. The trip to the Angel Falls is a very tough and daunting task.
The Angel Falls are located in an isolated forest. Canaima camp is the starting point for river trips to the base of the Angel Falls which requires a flight from Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolívar. From December to March is the dry season during which there is less water. Therefore, river trips are under taken from June to December, when the rivers are deep enough for the wooden “curiaras” of the Pemon guides.
The official height of the falls was calculated in a survey conducted by American journalist Ruth Robertson on May 13, 1949. The first known attempt to climb the cliff was made in 1968 but the expedition failed because of slippery rock. In 1969 a second attempt was made but it again failed due to scarcity of water. So, finally the first climb to the top of the cliff was successfully done on January 13, 1971. The climbers took nine and a half days to climb and another one and a half days to descend.
History has it that an aviator from United States of America named Jimmie Angel became the first person to fly over these falls and hence the waterfall got its name ever since the mid twentieth century commenced. Jimmie Angel flew over the waterfall on November 16, 1933 on a flight. He is said to have been searching for a valuable bed of ore. He returned on October 9, 1937 while he was flying his Flamingo monoplane. He is said to have been trying to land his plane but its wheels sunk deep in the marshes, prevented him from doing so and the plane got damaged on the top of Auyan-tepui. At that time, he was accompanied by two people apart from his wife, Marie who all together began to make their way beck to the ground on foot. The journey was a daunting task that took them eleven days. The news of this adventure and safe return were hugely publicized and the name of the waterfall Salto Angel was published for the first time on a map of Vanazuela in December, 1939. He died on July 2, 1960 and his ashes were let to flow into these falls. The name of the falls in Spain, Salto Angel has also got its name from Jimmie Angel’s name.
President Hugo Chavez proposed to revert back to the original name of the waterfalls as Kerepakupai Vena which means waterfall of the deepest place. He felt that Angel Falls were a national heritage and had been always there long before Jimmie Angel arrived there. Thus, in 2009 he expressed his wish to let the nation’s falls bear an indigenous name rather than be named after a foreigner but the change of name was never carried out officially.
Historians claim that the first ever European to visit the Angel falls was a Spanish governor and explorer, Fernando de Berrio who first went to these falls in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The surprising thing is that the broken and damaged plane of Jimmie Angel remained on the top of Auyan-tepui for the next three decades after which it was recovered by a helicopter and placed in the Aviation Museum of Maracay. It currently stands on the front of the airport at Ciudad Bolivar.
The first ever European person recorded to have officially reached the base of the Angel Falls alone was a Latvian explorer Aleksandrs Laime, called Alejandro Laime by the natives of the Pemon tribe who reached the falls in 1946. He was the first person to reach the upper side of Angel Falls in 1950. He climbed on the back side where the slope was not vertical. Not only this, he also reached Jimmie Angel’s crashed plane 18 years after the unfortunate landing had occurred.
On the independence day of Latvia on November 18, 1955 he announced the name of the stream after a Latvian river Gaujao. In 1955 this name was officially registered in National Cartographic Institution of Venezuela called Direccion de Cartografia Nacional.
In recent times, the name believed to have been given by the Pemon tribe, Kerep has begun to be used as well though there are no convincing evidence that the indigenous Pemon people had named the local streams. In fact, the Auyan-tepui was thought to be a dangerous place and was therefore not frequented by the people of the tribe.
Angel Falls is located just on the edge of the mountain Auyantepui in Spain’s Canaima National Park. It has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.