29th May 2024

River Thames was labelled for its prominent role in 2012 London Olympics


Who can forget the iconic footballer David Beckham zooming up the River Thames in a speedboat carrying the Olympic torch? This would not have been possible during the 1850s when the river used to stink primarily due to human contamination. A letter written by the eminent scientist Michael Faraday regarding his travel by boat along the river, to the editor of The Times, bears testimony to this fact. An excerpt from the letter regarding the opacity of the otherwise supposed to be transparent water is as under:

‘The whole of the river was an opaque pale brown fluid. In order to test the degree of opacity I tore up some white cards into pieces, moistened them so as to make them sink easily below the surface, and then dropped some of these pieces into the water at every pier the boat came to, before they had sunk an inch below the surface they were indistinguishable, though the sun shone brightly at the time; and when the pieces fell edgeways the lower part was hidden from sight before the upper part was underwater.’ So the River Thames which played a prominent role in 2012 London Olympics was labeled as The Great Stink during the 1850s.

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