New York Herald/December 24, 1874
Nov. 12, 1874
The expedition which bears the above title [the Herald and Telegraph Expedition for the Exploration of the Nile Sources] is about to commence its long journey into the heart of unexplored Africa, but before embarking on board the fleet of dhows which are anchored nearby waiting for us, I wish to employ a few hours in giving you some information respecting its organization, present intentions and prospects.
Acquainted but too well with the dangers, the sicknesses, the troubles and annoyances which I shall have presently to encounter, since the burden of responsibility of the conduct of this expedition rests on myself alone, I must confess to a slight feeling of joy at the prospect of immediate departure for the interior. I feel elated at the fact that I have been selected as the commander of this expedition, for the very fact of my selection argues that there is a being in existence something similar to me in form and appearance; and that this being who once was very much doubted has sufficient integrity and honesty to be chosen to repeat his journey to Africa. Though I had very many reasons for not undertaking a second journey to Africa I was conscious that by the acceptance of this command I would compel those who doubted that I had discovered Livingstone at Ujiji to confess themselves in error; and the member of the Royal Geographical Society who called me a “charlatan” to retract the libel. The few months I had spent in Ashantee with the British troops had not materially injured my health; at the same time they had not contributed much to establish that which had been impaired during my search after Livingstone. But without considering the wisdom of the proceeding or my powers to accomplish the duty I was preparing to perform, I sailed from England in command of the Daily Telegraph and NEW YORK HERALD expedition, with the paramount idea in me that if I lived to return with good results my unjust enemies would be silenced forever. So much for myself and my hopes.
Soon after the Daily Telegraph’s publication of the fact that a new expedition was about to proceed to Africa under my command I became the recipient of some hundreds of letters from volunteers who desired to assist and advise me in my undertaking. It would be no exaggeration to state that these applicants for position in this expedition considerably exceeded 1,200 in number. Probably 700 of them were natives of Great Britain, 300 were natives of America and the balance might be distributed equally between France and Germany. Three of these volunteers were generals, five were colonels, several scores were captains and lieutenants in the army; about fifty applications came from officers in the navy, while the rest were civilians in various professions and walks of life, ranging from the civil engineer high in his profession and proficient in all acquirements, to the Liverpool cotton porter and New York boarding house runner, who desired to see Africa, “having visited almost all parts of the world.” The army and navy officers who applied were evidently gentlemen in earnest, far better qualified, perhaps, than I was for the post of commander; but, judging from their letters, I must confess that the majority of the civilians who applied for situations were madmen, and that the rest were fools, who knew nothing of what they boasted they could do. It may be that I use very harsh terms, but I speak the truth; and, as the applicants shall be nameless, I do no harm. The unblushing falsehoods of these nameless applicants naturally disgusted me; there were few of them who did not declare on their honor that they were up to every “dodge,” had seen everything and knew everything. One madman proposed that I should take a balloon with me; another a flying ship; another proposed that he and I should go alone, disguised as negroes, and unarmed; another desired me to take a tramway with me and a small locomotive, of which he would be the engineer; another proposed that I should endeavor to establish an empire in Africa, which was a very easy thing to do, as he had read “Kaloolah,” “Ned Gray,” and “My Kalulu,” and knew “all about it;” while one, still more insane than any, suggested to me that, instead of taking guns and ammunition, and paying tribute to “nigger” chiefs, I should poison them off hand. The Frenchmen and Germans were mainly commissioners of hotels, who, like the idiots I imagine them to be by their letters, volunteered to interpret for me at the various hotels I should happen to stop at in Africa. They were rich in recommendations, and could speak seven languages; they were all prime travelers, and the only merit they possessed in my eyes was that they knew how to cook a “bef-tek” on occasion. To all these applicants I was naturally mutely impregnable; but I may as well inform them all though your columns that I have with me three young Englishmen with whom I have every reason to believe I shall be perfectly satisfied, and that I bid them all a regretful farewell.
I never knew how many kind friends I could number until I was about to sail from England. The White Star line treated me in the most princely fashion; gave me free passages to America and back. The Peninsular and Oriental Company and the British India, through their courteous agents, showered courtesy after courtesy on me. Testimonials from hundreds of gentlemen were thrust on me, and invitations to dinner and parties and to “spend a month or so in the country” were so numerous that if I could have availed myself of them in succession years must elapse before any hotel need charge a penny to my account. But, though my preparations for the journey monopolized my time and prevented me from doing anything more than declining with thanks these manifold kindnesses, my numerous friends must believe that I am none the less grateful. I departed from England August 15, loaded with good wishes, keepsakes, photographs, favors of all kinds, prouder of the knowledge that I had more friends than enemies than any prince or potentate can be of his throne or power.
At Aden I met my white assistants, whom I had despatched from England, via Southampton, in charge of the dogs. The young Englishmen had quite got over all melancholy feelings, and were in prime spirits, though they entertained a doubt that, if Central Africa was as hot as Aden, whether they should enjoy it very much. On my assuring them that they need fear nothing on the score of heat in Africa, they expressed themselves as relieved from their greatest fear. On the British India steamer Euphrates I was delighted to find that the Pocock brothers possessed several qualifications beyond those of sobriety, civility and industry. I discovered that they were capital singers and musicians having belonged to some choir in their native town, where they were much esteemed.
The delightful weather we experienced between Aden and Zanzibar was most grateful after the intense heat of Steamer Point, and we consequently arrived at Zanzibar on the 22d of September, almost as fresh and as robust as when we left England. The next morning after I landed some of my old friends of the former expedition heard of my arrival, and it was very gratifying to me to see the pleasure they manifested to one who had been so stern to them on certain occasions, when naught but sternness of the most extreme kind would have enabled me to overmaster a disposition they sometimes betrayed to be sullenly disobedient and mutinous. But they remembered, as well as I did, that though I was merciless when they were disposed to be wicked, I was as kind and as partial to them as Livingstone was when all went fair and well; and they knew that, when the rewards were distributed, that those who had behaved themselves as true men were not forgotten. The report that I had come was soon bruited through the length and breadth of the island, and Livingstone’s and my old dusky comrades gathered quickly about my good host, Mr. Sparhawk’s, house, to pay their respects to me, and of course to receive heshimeh, or presents, with which, fortunately, I had provided myself before leaving England.
Here was Ulimengo, the incorrigible joker and hunter of the Search Expedition, with his mouth expanding gratefully on this day at the sight of a gold ring which encircled one of his thick black fingers, and a silver chain, which held an ornament, and hung down his broad and superb chest; and Rojab, who narrowly escaped destruction for immersing Livingstone’s six years’ journal in the muddy waters of the Mukondokwa, with his ebony face lighted up with the most extreme good will towards myself for my munificent gift; and Manwa Sera also, the redoubtable ambassador of Speke and my most faithful messenger, who had once braved a march of 600 miles with his companion Sarmine in my service, and Livingstone’s most faithful captain on his last journey; he was speechless with gratitude because I had suspended a splendid jet necklace to his neck and encircled one of his fingers with a huge seal ring, which to his mind was a sight to see and enjoy.
Nor was the now historical Mabruki Speke — styled by Captain Burton “Mabruki the Bull-headed” — who has each time distinguished himself with white men as a hawk-eyed guardian of their property and interests — nor was Mabruki, I say, less enraptured with his presents than his fellows; while the courtly, valiant, faithful Chowpereh — the man of manifold virtues, the indomitable and sturdy Chowpereh — was as pleased as any with the silver dagger and gold bracelet and earrings which fell to his share.
His wife, whom I had purchased from the eternally wandering slave gang, and released from the harsh cold iron collar which encircled her neck, and whom I had bestowed upon Chowpereh as a free woman for wife, was, I discovered the happy mother of a fine little boy, a little tiny Chowpereh, who I hope will grow up to lead future expeditions to Africa, and be as loyal to white men as his good father has proved himself. Besides bestowing presents on the wife and child, Chowpereh, having heard that I had brought a wondrous store of medicine, entreated me that I should secure his son during his absence with me in Africa against any visitation of the smallpox, which I hope I have done by vaccination.
Two or three days after my arrival a deputation of the “Faithfuls” came to me to learn my intentions and purposes. I informed them that I was about to make a much longer journey into Africa than formerly, and into very different countries from any that I had ever been into before, and I proceeded to sketch out to the astonished men an outline of the prospective journey. They were all seated on the ground before me, tailor fashion, eyes and ears interested, and keen to see and hear every word of my broken Kisawahili. As country after country was mentioned, of which they had hitherto but dimly heard, and river after river, lake after lake named, all of which I hoped, with their aid, to explore carefully and thoroughly, various ejaculations, expressive of emotions of wonder, joy and a little alarm, broke from their lips, but when I concluded each man drew a long breath, and almost simultaneously they uttered, in their own language, “Ah, fellows, this is a journey worthy to be called a journey!”
“But, master,” said they, with some anxiety, “this long journey will take years to travel — six, nine or ten years.”
“Nonsense,” said I. “Six, nine or ten years! What can you be thinking of? It takes the Arabs nearly three years to go to Ujiji, it is true, but I was only sixteen months from Zanzibar to Ujiji and back to the sea. Is it not true?”
“Ay, true,” answered they.
“Very well. And I tell you, further, that there is not enough money in this world to pay me for stopping in Africa ten, nine, or even six years. I have not come here to live in Africa. I have come here simply to see these rivers and lakes, and after I have seen them to return home.”
“Ah, but you know the big master (Livingstone) said he was only going for two years, and you know that he was, altogether, nine years.”
That is true enough. Nevertheless, you know what I did before, and what I am likely to do again, if all goes well.”
“Yes, we remember that you are very hot, and you did drive us until our feet were sore and we were ready to drop from fatigue. Wallah! but there never was such a journey as that from Unyanyembe home! No Arab or white man came from Unyanyembe in so short a time as you did. It was nothing but throw away this thing and that, and go on, go on, go on, all the time. Aye, master, that is true.”
“Well, is it likely, then, when I marched so quick before that I am likely to be slow now? Am I much older now than I was then? Am I less strong? Do I not know what a journey is now? When I first started from Zanzibar to Ujiji I allowed the guide to show me the way; but when we came back who showed you the way? Was it not I, by means of that little compass which could not lie like the guide?”
“Aye, true master; true, every word.”
“Very well, then, finish these foolish words of yours and go and get me 300 good men like yourselves, and when we get away from Bagamoyo I will show you whether I have forgotten how to travel.”
“Ay, Wallah, my master;” and, in the words of the Old Testament, “they forthwith arose, and went as they were commanded.”
The result of our polite “talk” or “palaver” was witnessed shortly when the doors and gates of the Bertram Agency and former Consulate were thronged by volunteers, who were of all shades of blackness, and who hailed from almost every African tribe known. Wahiyow, Wabena, Wagindo, Wanyamwezi, Wagogo, Waseguhha, Wasagara, Wahehe, Somali, Wagalla, Wanyassa, Wadirigo, and a score of other tribes, had their representatives, and each day added to the number, until I had barely time to do anything more than strive, with calmness and well practised patience, to elicit from them information as to who they were, what they had been doing and whom they had served. The brave fellows who had accompanied Livingstone on his last journey, or myself, of course, had the preference, because they knew me, and fewer words were wanted to strike a bargain. Forty-seven of those who accompanied Livingstone on his last journey answered to their names, and two hundred strangers, in whose fidelity I was willing to risk my reputation as a traveler and nearly £1,000 sterling in advanced wages, were finally enlisted and sworn as escort and servants. Many of them will naturally prove recusants and malcontents, braggarts, cowards and runaways; but it cannot be helped; I have done all that I am able to do in providing against desertion and rascality. Where there is such a large number of wild people it would be absurd to hope that they will all be faithful and loyal to the trust and confidence reposed in them, or, that a large expedition can be conducted thousands of miles without great loss.
The enlistment of the escort and preparations for the expedition were temporarily stopped during our exploration of the Rufiji River, but on our return these were resumed with all vigor and despatch. After the men, the armed escort and porters were secured, I devoted myself to examine the barter goods which were necessary to procure sustenance in the far interior. I discovered, contrary to my expectations (for Mr. Clements Markham, Secretary to the Geographical Society, had published the statement that these goods had risen in price since my departure from Zanzibar), that the barter goods were one per cent and in some instances two per cent cheaper than they were purchasable formerly. Bales of American sheeting that cost me $93.75 in 1871 I was now enabled to buy for $87.50 per bale, while the sami-sami beads, that formerly cost $13 the frahsilah, now cost but $9.75. This was very much in my favor; and after much consultation with the lately returned leaders of caravans upon the present prevailing fashion of beads and cloth among the distant tribes, I ordered the necessary stock of both, which, when piled up in portable bales and sacks, present quite an imposing and somewhat formidable pile.
If cloth and beads and wire are cheaper than they were two years ago the hire of pagazis or porters is double. In 1871 and 1872 I employed Wanyamwezi and Wanguana at the rate of $2.50 per month each man; the same class of persons now obtain $5 per month, and with some people I have had great difficulty to procure them at this pay, for they held out bravely for a week for $7 and $8 per month. There must have been no lack of money, and somewhat inordinate liberality among those English gentlemen of the Cameron Expedition, 17 to have risen the hire of such men to double the former rate they were accustomed to. I hear that several of these men engaged with Cameron for $7 and $8 per month, which, if true, only shows too plainly how the money has been expended. If each white traveler who intends penetrating Africa commits himself to such an injudicious proceeding as to double the rate of hire to which the pagazis and Wanguana escort are accustomed, it will soon be impossible for any gentlemen, unless those commissioned by a rich and generous government, to dare the venture. A moment’s reflection on the expense which this liberality entails on him would show the traveler the unwisdom of liberality to strange men whom he knows nothing of previous to his journey. The time to be liberal is after the return, when the best men can be discriminated from the worst, the very good from the indifferently good and the steadily loyal fellows from the deserters. At such a time the reward is often considered to be as good as the wages, and should the traveler require them again at some future period his judicious distribution of rewards will be found to have been remembered to his advantage. It has grown to be a custom now for servants, porters and escort to receive at least four months’ pay in advance. Before starting from Bagamoyo I expect that the expedition will number 400 men. Each of these men, previous to his marching, will have received £4 pay in advance, either in money or in cloth. The most prudent ask that their advance be given them in cloth. Those who have money require three days to spend it in debauchery and rioting, in purchasing wives, while a few of the staid married men, who have children, will provide stores for their families.
On the morning of the fourth day, when the bugle sounds for the march, I need not be surprised if I find it a difficult task to muster the people together and that hours will be employed in hunting the laggards up and driving them on to our first camp, and very probably I shall find that at least fifteen or so have absented themselves altogether. This, of course, will be annoying, but it is well that I know that it is a probable thing and that I am in a measure prepared for such desertion. On the second day of the march I shall probably find myself minus ten more, which also will be annoying and exceedingly trying to the patience I have bottled up for the emergency. For several days longer there will be constant desertion by twos, threes and fours, but the losses will have to be borne and remedied somehow; and finally disease will break out, the result of their mad three days’ debauchery, to be succeeded by smallpox, ulcerous sores, dysentery and fever and other diseases. And about this time, too, the white men will begin to suffer from strange languor of body and feverish pulse, and these, despite the rapidly diminishing force of carriers, will have to be transported on the shoulders of porters or on the backs of such asses as may be strong enough for such work. And the future of the expedition depends upon the way we shall be able to weather this stormy period; for the outlook at about this time will be sad indeed. Just think what a mournful jest a special correspondent of a rival newspaper might make of the Daily Telegraph and NEW YORK HERALD expedition at this time, say three short weeks from the coast! The magnificent caravan which started from the sea 400 strong, armed to the teeth, comfortable, well laden and rich, each armed man strong, healthy, well chosen, his skin shining like brown satin, eyes all aglow with pride and excitement, strong in his Snider rifle and twenty rounds of cartridges, his axe and knives; twelve stately, tall guides, tricked out in crimson joho and long plumes, heading the procession, which is nearly a mile long, while brazen trumpets blow and blare through the forest, awakening the deep woods with their sounds and animating every soul to the highest pitch of hope. Ah! this was a scene worth seeing. But three weeks from now how different will be the greatly diminished caravan. Scores will have deserted, the strong will have become weak, the robust sick, the leader will be ready to despair and to wish that he had never ventured a second time into the sea of mishaps and troubles which beset the traveler in Africa! These are my anticipations, which are none of the brightest, you will allow. However, when the soldier has donned his helmet it is too late to deplore the folly which induced him to enlist.
Among other things which I convey with me on this expedition to make our work as thorough as possible is a large pontoon named the Livingstone. A traveler having experience of the difficulties which prevent efficient exploration is not likely to enter Africa without being provided with almost every requisite likely to remove the great obstacles which lack of means of ferriage presents. After I had accepted the command of this second expedition I began to devise and invent the most portable kind of floating expedient or vehicle to transport baggage and men across streams and lakes to render me independent of the native chiefs. I thought of everything I had seen likely to suit my purpose. Zinc tubes, such as the Engineer Department conveyed to the Prah in the late Ashantee war; canvas boats, such as Marcy, in his Prairie Traveller , recommends; the devices and expedients suggested in Art of Travel, india rubber boats, Irish wicker boats, &c., but everything I thought of that previous travellers had experimented with were objected to by me on account of their weight and insufficient floating power. It is one of the most interesting things in African travel, among chains of lakes and numerous large rivers, to resolve the problem of navigating these waters safely and expeditiously without subjecting an expedition to the caprice and extortion of an ignorant savage chief or entailing upon yourself heavy expense for porterage. As no carts or wagons can be employed in conveying boats or zinc pontoons through the one foot-wide paths, which are the channels of overland trade in Central Africa, zinc pontoons were not to be thought of. A zinc tube, eighteen inches in diameter and eight feet long, would form a good load for the strongest porter; but fancy the number of tubes of this zinc required to convey across a lake fifty miles wide a force of 300 men and about nine tons of baggage and material of an expedition. And what kind of a boat can transport such a number and weight across a stormy lake, such as we could carry with us, at a moderately rapid rate of travel, a distance of from 1,000 to 2,000 miles?
After much anxious deliberation and ruin of much paper I sketched out a series of inflatable pontoon tubes, to be two feet in diameter and eight feet long, to be laid transversely, resting on three separate keels and securely lashed to them with two separate triangular compartments of the same depth, eight feet at the base, which should form the bow and stern of the inflatable boat. Over these several sections three lengthy poles were to be laid which should be lashed between each transverse tube to the three keels underneath. Above these upper poles laid lengthwise were to be bamboo poles, laid transversely, upon which the passengers and baggage might rest, without danger of foundering. After the design was fully matured the next thing to do was to find a manufacturer intelligent enough to comprehend what was required, and as J. C. Cording of Piccadilly, London, had a good reputation among travellers, I tried him, and after a very few moments’ conversation with the foreman of the shop I was delighted to find that he perfectly understood what unusually strong material was requisite, and every part and portion of the design. I need only add that within a month I had in my possession the several parts and sections of this peculiar floating craft, beautifully and strongly made, in as complete and efficient order as would please the most fastidious traveler. All these several sections, when put in the scales, weighted 300 pounds, which, divided into portable loads of sixty pounds each, require but five men to carry the entire craft. No material can possibly equal this. If the strong, thick india rubber cloth is punctured or rent Cording has supplied me with the material to repair it, and if all turns out as well with it as I strongly anticipate and hope it will, it must, of course, prove invaluable to me.
But an explorer needs something else, some other form of floatable structure, to be able to produce results worthy of a supreme effort at penetrating the unknown parts of Africa. He must have a boat with him with which he may be enabled to circumnavigate lakes and penetrate long distances up and down rivers with a small and efficient body of men, while the main body is encamped at some suitable and healthy site. And what kind of a boat can be invented for the traveler such as he can carry thousands of miles, through bush and jungle and heat and damp and rain, without impairing its usefulness or causing him to regard it as an incumbrance? After various plans and designs I could think of nothing better than a light cedar boat, something after the manner and style of the Okonaga (Canada) cedar boat, but larger and of greater capacity. These Canadian boats are generally thirty feet in length and from five to six feet in width. They are extremely light and portable, and when near rapids are taken ashore and easily hoisted on the shoulders of six men and taken to smooth waters again. But a boat of this kind, though portable for short distances in Canada, would have to be constructed differently to be carried along the crooked narrow paths of African jungles. They would require to be built in watertight sections, each section light enough to be carried by two men without distressing the bearers. Mr. James Messenger, of Teddington, near London, has a well-deserved reputation for building superb river boats, and while enjoying a Sunday near Hampton, witnessing the various specimens of his skill and workmanship, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Messenger would suit me. I had an interview with this gentleman, and I laid my plans before him. I soon discovered that I was in the presence of a master workman, by the intelligent way he followed my explanations, though it was evident that he had not the slightest idea what an African jungle path was like. He understood what I meant by “portability,” but his ideas of “portability” of anything naturally suggested it on a broad highway, an English turnpike road, or at the utmost a path over treeless fields or commons. I doubt if even now the gentleman understands the horrors of a jungle path, with its intricate and never-ending crooked curves, beset on each side by a depth and intensity of vegetation through which we must struggle, and twist, and contort our bodies that we may pass through with our burdens, while the perspiration which streams from our brows almost blinds us, and causes us to grope and stumble and halt, like so many blind puppies, in that sickly, dull twilight which reigns there. To convey anything very large, or wide, or high, or long, is out of the question through such a tangle and under such circumstances; and I must assume to myself the credit of having endeavored to describe such a locality as vividly as my powers would enable me to the boat-builder. Mr. Messenger accepted the contract to build a boat of light, well seasoned cedar, 40 feet in length and 6 feet in width, in five sections, each section of which was not to exceed more than 120 pounds in weight. I saw the boat after it was constructed, and before it was sawn up into sections, and her beautiful lines and the skilled workmanship lavished on her elicited at once from me unqualified praise and approbation. Before departing from his yard I suggested to Mr. Messenger that he should weigh her as she stood, and divide her, if he found her of greater weight than he or I anticipated, into sections not exceeding 120 pounds in weight.
This boat, completed and packed with care, followed me to Zanzibar by the next mail. When I opened the packages a perfect marvel of boat architecture was revealed; every bolt and nut worked perfect and free, and everyone who saw the sections admired them. In a transport of joy I ordered the weighing scales to be rigged up, and each section weighed carefully. Four of the sections weighed 280 pounds avoirdupois, and one section weighed 310 pounds! The utter impossibility of rectifying this mistake in a place like Zanzibar made me despair at first, and I thought the best thing to do was to ship her back to England, and present her, with my compliments, to Mr. Messenger; but, upon inquiring for a carpenter, a young shipwright called Ferris was introduced to me and recommended for his intelligence. I exhibited the beautiful but totally unmanageable boat, and told him that in her present state she was useless to me and to everybody else, because she was too heavy and cumbersome and that I could not carry her if I were paid £5 per mile for doing so, and that time was short with me. I desired him to cut her down six inches, and subdivide each section, and to complete the work within two weeks, for that was the utmost time I could give him. To effect these improvements the two after sections had to be condemned, which would curtail the length considerably, and of course, mar her beauty.
I can now congratulate myself (good Mr. Ferris having completed his work to my entire satisfaction) on possessing a boat which I can carry any distance without distressing the porters, with twelve men, rowing ten oars and two short paddles, and able to sail over any lake in Central Africa. I ought to state here that I do not blame Mr. Messenger for the mistake of sending me such unmanageable sections so much as I blame myself for not stopping over another month in England to watch the construction of such a novelty as this kind of boat must necessarily be to a Thames boat builder.
As this expedition is for a different purpose to the former one with which I discovered Livingstone, I am well provided with the usual scientific instruments which travellers who intend to bring home results that will gratify scientific societies take with them. I have chronometers, sextants, artificial horizons, compasses, beam and prismatic; pedometers, aneroid barometers and thermometers; nautical almanacs for three years, hand leads and 1,000 fathoms sounding line, with a very complete little reel, mathematical instruments, a planisphere and a complete and most excellent photographic apparatus, and large stock of dry plates. I have also half a dozen good timepieces, silver and gold, blank charts and every paraphernalia and apparatus necessary to bring home such results as will suit the most captious critic.
The East Coast of Africa, from the mouth of the Juba River to the mouth of the Rovuma, possesses hundreds of good starting points for the unexplored interior; but the best, for many reasons, is Bagamoyo. The present expedition is such a large and costly one, and promises so far to be the best organized and best equipped of any that ever left the seacoast of East Africa for the purpose of exploration, that it would have been a great pity if it were wrecked or ruined just as it began to set out to fulfil its mission. To guard against the possibility of a total collapse I have, after much deliberation, decided to start from Bagamoyo, and proceed some distance along the well known caravan path, so as to give confidence to my men, and withdraw them as much as possible from the to desert, and then plunge northward into the Masai land — a country as yet untrod by white men, and of the state of which the best informed of us are totally ignorant. It will be a risky undertaking, but not half so dangerous as starting for that country from some unknown seaport.
My present intention is, then, to make my way westward to the Victoria Nyanza and ascertain whether Speke’s or Livingstone’s hypothesis is the correct one — whether the Victoria Nyanza consists of one lake or five lakes. All the most important localities will be fixed by astronomical observations, and whether the Victoria Lake consists of one or many lakes we shall discover by complete circumnavigation. When this work is finished I intend to visit Metesa or Rumanika, and then cross over to the Lake Albert Nyanza, and endeavor to ascertain how far Baker is correct in his bold hypothesis concerning its length and breadth. On this lake I expect to meet Gordon and his party, by whom I hope to be able to send my first reports of my travels and discoveries since leaving the Unyanyembe caravan road.
Beyond this point the whole appears to me so vague and vast that it is impossible to state at this period what I shall try to do next. Whether Gordon circumnavigates the Albert or not, I shall most certainly do so if I reach it, and discover every detail about it to the best of my ability; but what I shall do afterwards will be best told after the circumnavigation of the Albert Nyanza.
What I may discover along this lengthy march I cannot at present imagine. I shall be equally pleased to corroborate either Speke’s or Livingstone’s hypothesis by actual personal observation and diligent exploration. I confess to you I have no bias either way. I would just as soon have the Victoria Lake one vast sheet of water as I would have it distributed among five insignificant lakelets; and I am quite ready to corroborate Baker’s dream of a connection between the Tanganyika and the Albert, as I am to disprove it, if I find after its exploration that he is incorrect. I have no prejudice either way. Sir Samuel Baker’s grand lake, however, is in more danger from Gordon than it is from me; for Gordon ought to be able, if all has gone well with him, to give the results of his decision long, aye, many months, before I can possibly reach the lake. It is fortunate for me that Gordon will be able to visit the Albert before I will, for Baker is so tenacious of his opinions that I fear it would be mere weariness of spirit to attempt to convince him that he was wrong; for which reason I should much prefer to be enabled to prove that his hypothetical sketch map of the Albert Nyanza is correct.
You may rest assured that as I journey along I shall avail myself of every opportunity to send my despatches to the coast, but after I leave the Unyanyembe road the first news you will receive from me will be, I hope, via the Nile.
(Source: “Stanley’s Despatches to the New York Herald,” Archive.org)