Exploring Lake Tanganyika

Henry Stanley

New York Herald/July 15, 1872

Ujiji, Lake Tanganyika

December 23, 1871

A few days after the arrival of the HERALD expedition at Ujiji, I asked the Doctor if he had explored the head of the Tanganyika. He said he had not, “he had not thought it of so much importance as the central line of drainage; besides, when he had proposed to do it, before leaving for Manyema, the Wajiji had shown such a disposition to fleece him that he had desisted from the attempt.”

Your correspondent then explained to him what great importance was attached to the lake by geographers, as stated in the newspapers, and suggested to him that it were better, seeing that he was about to leave for Unyanyembe, and that something might occur in the meanwhile to hinder him from ever visiting it, to take advantage of the offer I made of putting myself, men and effects of the expedition at his service for the purpose of exploring the northern head of the Tanganyika. He at once accepted the offer, and, like a hero, lost no time in starting.

On the 20th of November Dr. Livingstone and your correspondent, with twenty picked men of the HERALD Expedition Corps, started. Despite the assertion of Arabs that the Warundi were dangerous and would not let us pass, we hugged their coast closely, and when fatigued boldly encamped in their country. Once only were we obliged to fly — and this was at dead of night — from a large party which we knew to be surrounding us on the landside. We got to the boat safely, and we might have punished them severely had the Doctor been so disposed. Once also we were stoned, but we paid no heed to them and kept on our way along their coast until we arrived at Mokamba’s, one of the chiefs of Usige.

Mokamba was at war with a neighboring chief, who lived on the left bank of the Rusizi. That did not deter us, and we crossed the head of the Tanganyika to Mugihewah, governed by Ruhinga, brother of Mokamba.

Mugihewah is a tract of country on the right bank of the Rusizi, extending to the lake. With Mokamba and Ruhinga we became most intimate; they proved to be sociable, good-natured chiefs, and gave most valuable information concerning the countries lying to the north of Usige; and if their information is correct, Sir Samuel Baker will be obliged to curtail the ambitious dimensions of his lake by one degree, if not more. A Mgwana, living at Mokamba’s, on the eastern shore of the lake, had informed us that the River Rusizi certainly flowed out of the lake, and after joining the Kitangule emptied into the Lake N’yanza (Victoria).

When we entered Ruhinga’s territory of Mugihewah, we found ourselves but 300 yards from the river about which a great deal has been said and written. At Unanyembe I was told that the Rusizi was an affluent. At Ujiji all Arabs but one united in saying the same thing, and within ten miles of the Rusizi a freedman of Zanzibar swore it was an affluent.

On the morning of the eleventh day of our departure from Ujiji, we were rowed towards the river. We came to a long narrow bay, fringed on all sides with tall, dense reeds and swarming with crocodiles, and soon came to the mouth of the Rusizi. As soon as we had entered the river all doubt vanished before the strong, turbid flood against which we had to contend in the ascent. After about ten minutes we entered what seemed a lagoon, but which was the result of a late inundation. About an hour higher up the river began to be confined to its proper banks, and is about thirty yards broad, but very shallow.

Two days higher up Ruhinga told us the Rusizi was joined by the Loanda, coming from the northwest. There could be no mistake then. Dr. Livingstone and myself had ascended it, had felt the force of the strong inflowing current — the Rusizi was an influent, as much so as the Malagarazi, the Liuche and Rugufu, but with its banks full it can only be considered as ranking third among the rivers flowing into the Tanganyika. Though rapid it is extremely shallow; it has three mouths, up which an ordinary ship’s boat loaded might in vain attempt to ascend. Burton and Speke, though they ascended to within six hours’ journey by canoe from the Rusizi, were compelled to turn back by the cowardice of the boatmen. Had they ascended to Mreuta’s capital, they could easily have seen the head of the lake. Usige is but a district of Urundi, governed by several small chiefs, who owe obedience to Mwezi, the great King of Urundi.

We spent nine days at the head of the Tanganyika exploring the islands and many bays that indent its shores. In returning to Ujiji we coasted along the west side of the Tanganyika, as far as the country of the Wasansi, whom we had to leave on no amicable terms, owing to their hostility to Arabs, and arrived at Ujiji on the 18th of December, having been absent twenty-eight days.

Though the Rusizi River can no longer be a subject of curiosity to geographers — and we are certain that there is no connection between the Tanganyika and Baker’s Lake, or the Albert N’yanza — it is not yet certain that there is no connection between the Tanganyika and the Nile River. The western coast has not all been explored; and there is reason to suppose that a river runs out of the Tanganyika through the deep caverns of Kabogo Mountain, far under ground and out on the western side of Kabogo into the Lualaba, or the Nile. Livingstone has seen the river about forty miles or so west of Kabogo (about forty yards broad at that place), but he does not know that it runs out of the mountain. This is one of the many things which he has yet to examine.

(Source: “Stanley’s Despatches to the New York Herald,” Archive.org)