Greatest European Explorer of Africa 1795-1850

Who is your favourite?

  • Gordon Laing

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • George Francis Lyon

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Dixon Denham and Hugh Clapperton

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    8

Bismarck

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
2,847
rangiora
Who is your favourite?

Mungo Park - first to plot the course of the Niger River 1795-7, 1805-6
Rene Caille - first European to return from Timbuktoo 1827-8
Richard and John Lander - discovered the Niger River flowed into the Bight of Biafra 1825-8
Gordon Laing - first European to reach Timbuktoo 1825-6
George Francis Lyon - first European to cross the Libyan desert north to south 1818
Heinrich Bath - completed most extensive survey of central africa to date 1849-50
Dixon Denham and Hugh Clapperton - first Europeans to reach lake Chad 1822-5
 

Bismarck

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
2,847
rangiora
Mungo Park and Heinrich Bath are my two favourites, Park for being the first and Bath for being the best, but they were all remarkable in their own way. Special mention should be made of Rene Caille, who reached Timbuktoo from Tripoli only by posing as a muslim.

Park gave us the first description of 'mumbo jumbo':
On the 7th I departed from Konjour, and slept at a village called Malla, (or Mallaing) and on the 8th about noon I arrived at Kolor, a considerable town; near the entrance into which I observed, hanging upon a tree, a sort of masquerade habit, made of the bark of trees, which I was told on inquiry belonged to MUMBO JUMBO. This is a strange bugbear, common to all the Mandingo towns, and much employed by the Pagan natives in keeping their women in subjection; for as the Kafirs are not restricted in the number of their wives, every one marries as many as he can conveniently maintain; and as it frequently happens that the ladies disagree among themselves, family quarrels sometimes rise to such a height, that the authority of the husband can no longer preserve peace in his household. In such cases, the interposition of Mumbo Jumbo is called in, and is always decisive.

This strange minister of justice, (who is supposed to be either the husband himself, or some person instructed by him,) disguised in the dress that has been mentioned, and armed with the rod of public authority, announces his coming (whenever his services are required) by loud and dismal screams in the woods near the town. He begins the pantomime at the approach of night; and as soon as it is dark he enters the town, and proceeds to the Bentang, at which all the inhabitants immediately assemble.

It may easily be supposed that this exhibition is not much relished by the women; for, as the person in disguise is entirely unknown to them, every married female suspects that the visit may possibly be intended for herself; but they dare not refuse to appear when they are summoned; and the ceremony commences with songs and dances, which continue till midnight, about which time Mumbo fixes on the offender. This unfortunate victim being thereupon immediately seized, is stripped naked, tied to a post, and severely scourged, with Mumbo's rod, amidst the shouts and derision of the whole assembly; and it is remarkable, that the rest of the women are the loudest in their exclamations on this occasion against their unhappy sister. Daylight puts an end to this indecent and unmanly revel.
 

jehosafats

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
2,088
...
Leo Africanus is my favorite. From the list you provided, I'd say Bath. He had some interesting things to say about Kanem-Bornu.
 

Bismarck

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
2,847
rangiora
I voted for Mungo Park's as well. To see why, check out the interactive map I made based on his book Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa. It is a fantastic story of exploration, being captured as a slave by Arabs, cruelty, escape, starvation, surviving and kindness. And, each location in the map is quoted and page-referenced to the book.

That's awesome! I have tried to plot his course on modern maps using his diaries as a guide, but quickly lose my way as names change, or places no longer exist.
 

PragmaticStatistic

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
2,060
Florida
That's awesome! I have tried to plot his course on modern maps using his diaries as a guide, but quickly lose my way as names change, or places no longer exist.
I too had found myself lost several times. The only way I found to find my way was to jump ahead several times and find a description that fit a geographical feature. This can only be done using both the satellite mode and terrain mode in Google Map. Satellite mode shows details that the terrain mode does not, and the terrain mode shows details the satellite mode cannot.

Finding location #24-Nayemow due to its location on the river bank helped greatly. I then was able to understand that he left the main trade route at #5-Jindley. At #11-Kolor he picked up the trade route again until he reaches #29-Sammee. Then understanding that he had to go around a what appears to be a swamp north #38-Fessurah and a war in the area put him back on the trade route going north. I found the area where he was captured by the Arabs fairly easy once I understood the back and forth nature of it.

However once I reached #45-Jarra for the second time, I was lost again. The location #69-Sansanding was a blessing because it was one of a few cities that still had the same name and it gave me a direction to aim for. Finding the locations in between was a matter of finding gathering places in the desert where dirt trade routes met. When I found the tree Parks described on July 5th in Google Maps Panoramio option I knew I was going in the right direction and had estimated his rate of travel correctly.



5 July 1796 - “Having accomplished this, from a large pool of rain water, I sought for an open place, with a single tree in the midst, under which I made my bed for the night. I was disturbed by some wolves towards morning, which induced me to set forward a little before day; and having passed a small village called Wassalita; I came about ten o’clock July 5th to a Negro town called Wawra, which properly belongs to Kaarta, but was at this time tributary to Mansong King of Bambarra.”
Once he found the Messina river it became easy to track him again. But, his return travel to the southwest relied heavily on understanding the terrain in terrain mode. Finding #81-Koba near a large lake helped to fill in the area in the return travel where no findable trade route exists.

If you want to learn how to find hard to find locations such as these, read my blog article "How I found ambiguous locations in Google Maps."