Posts Tagged ‘Richard Burton’

The mystery was solved a century later. There were no fountains as Herodotus first proposed. With the satellite photography we know that the Nile bubbles from the ground high in the mountains of Burundi, half way between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. In their own way Burton, Speke and Livingstone were partially correct.

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Burton and Speke attempted this time with a smaller team of porters, to find the source for the second time in the spring of 1857. As leader Burton made decision to start further south. They just put ashore just north of of the port of Bagamoyo. Their trek of eight-hundred miles through swamps, savannah and forest took them to Ujiji, on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Their going was slow what with porters who were paid in advance deserting them steadily and having to pay exorbitant sums demanded at every turn by chiefs of tribes that controlled the route. They suspected the strangers who were not ivory traders or in pursuit of any enterprise they had known before. Water was scarce and shade a luxury. Burton and Speke were sick more often and yet they covered some 600 miles to reach the village of Tabora.
Although the Arabs had preceded them by two generations their interest in Central Africa were strictly as slave and ivory hunters. On the way to Yombo, Burton was struck by malaria and it brought paralysis to his legs. He was carried in a hammock slung on poles. Doggedly they made out to the Lake Tanganyika. He let Speke who still could see explore the lake and report. But he was the first European to discover Tanganaika. He also had intuitively hit upon the altitude and his reading from a crude bath thermometer was 1850 against the correct figure 2,534. Not until 1875 would he learn that what he discovered was the source not of the Nile but of the mighty Congo. Later on realizing his error he would quote Livingstone,”Who would care to risk being put into a cannibal pot , and be converted into blackman for anything less than the grand old Nile?”
(to be continued).

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