“Dr Livingstone, I Presume?”

Henry Stanley

New York Herald/July 15, 1872

The HERALD expedition, upon leaving Unyanyembe, intended to make Ujiji the end of the second stage, then to march to Manyema, whither Livingstone had gone in 1869; then, if he had gone down the Congo, to go after and overtake him, or, if he was dead, as was often reported to me, to seek his grave and satisfy myself of its identity, and to take the bones home in proper cases. Fortunately, as this telegram will prove, the expedition has no such mournful task to perform, but what it did perform was far more meritorious, in my opinion.

Instead of going west along a well known road the NEW YORK HERALD expedition struck into regions very little known and traveled by Arabs. For ten days it journeyed south as if bound for Western Urori, during which time many deserted and the Englishman had been sent back as perfectly useless. Crossing Ukonongo westward we traveled until we entered Kawendi, an entirely new country. After supplying the men of the expedition with ten days’ provisions we plunged into the wilderness and went north, from which we did not emerge until we had sighted the Malagarazi River. Here, after already dodging and escaping from four wars, which make the country dangerous to travelers, we were confronted with hostilities waged by Sultan Nzogera against Lokanda Mira, another Sultan of Uvinza, which was a most serious inconvenience to me — nay, it well nigh ruined the expedition. After paying heavy tribute to Nzogera and crossing the Malagarazi River, we might have reached Ujiji without further trouble had there been no war. But this war compelled me to adopt the Uhha route — one always avoided by Arabs. It was almost as bad as if I had gone straight into the middle of their battlefield. While not yet half-way through Uhha, which in its entire length is only two good-days’ journey, I had been mulcted of half the available property of the expedition, and had, as often as the tribute was imposed, been in danger of open rupture owing to the insolence of the Uhha chiefs. Had I continued on this road the expedition might possibly have arrived at Ujiji with a month’s provisions left.

Our resolve was taken. At midnight we left the Mutware’s village, with guns loaded, and left the road, plunging into the low jungle, and, travelling parallel to the road westward, marched twenty-five miles without halting. We then cooked and rested, and at night again marched all night until we had crossed Uhha and had arrived in Ukaranga safely. Two marches more, and we were entering the suburbs of Ujiji, firing away our guns as only exuberant heroes do, to the intense astonishment of the Arabs of Ujiji, who turned out en masse to know what it meant.

Among those who came to question us were the servants of Dr. Livingstone, who shortly ran ahead in haste to inform him that an Englishman was coming; “Sure, sure,” he was an Englishman, they said, though the American flag was in the front, held aloft by the stout arms of my gigantic Kirangoze. We entered slowly, the immense number of people who had collected about us impeding rapid progress. As we advanced the crowd became larger and more mingled with the chief Arabs, and the noise of firing and shouting became deafening. Suddenly the firing and hubbub ceased; the van of the expedition had halted.

Passing from the rear of it to the front I saw a knot of Arabs, and, in the centre, in striking contrast to their sunburnt faces, was a pale-looking and gray-bearded white man, in a navy cap, with a faded gold band about it, and red woollen jacket. This white man was Dr. David Livingstone, the hero traveler, the object of the search.

It was the dignity that a white man and leader of an expedition ought to possess that prevented me from running to shake hands with the venerable traveler; but when I first caught sight of him — the man with whose book on Africa I was first made acquainted when a boy — so far away from civilization, it was very tempting.

False pride and the presence of the grave-looking Arab dignitaries of Ujiji restrained me and suggested to me to say, with a shake of the hand,

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

“Yes,” was the answer, with a kind smile.

Together we turned toward his house. We took seats on goatskins spread over the mud floor of his veranda. Conversation began, it would be difficult to say about what — the topics changed so rapidly; but shortly I found myself acting the part of a newspaper — I had five years of news to give him.

Our first day was passed in eating so voraciously and talking so fast, and about such manifold subjects, that it is difficult to say which we did most. But it is certain that, before retiring, he asserted his belief that I had brought new life to him; he already felt stronger and better. That night he read the packet of letters which I had brought him, the reading of which he had deferred for that time. Some days after my arrival at Ujiji I elicited from him the following story of his travels and sufferings and discoveries for the last five years :

Dr. Livingstone’s expedition left Zanzibar in March, 1866. On the 7th of April he left the sea coast with an expedition consisting of twelve Sepoys, nine Johanna men, seven liberated slaves and two Zambezi men — in all thirty men. He also had with him six camels, three buffaloes, two mules and three donkeys. The expedition traveled up the left bank of the Rovuma River, a route teeming with difficulties. The dense jungles which barred their way required great labor with the axes before they could proceed, which retarded very much the progress of the expedition. Soon after leaving the coast Dr. Livingstone was made aware of the unwillingness of the Sepoys and Johanna men to march into the interior. Their murmurings and complaints grew louder day by day. Hoping that he might be induced to return the Sepoys and Johanna men so abused the animals that in a short time not one was left alive. This plan not succeeding they set about poisoning the minds of the simple natives towards the Doctor by circulating the most mischievous and false reports concerning his character and intentions. As this might possibly become dangerous the Doctor resolved to discharge the Sepoys, and accordingly sent them back to the sea coast, with a sufficiency of cloth to purchase food on their return.

The first of his troubles began with these men. A more worthless crew as escort it would be impossible to conceive. After suffering considerably from hunger during the transit of a wide extent of unoccupied country after leaving the Rovuma River, the Doctor and his party arrived in the country of a Mhiyow chief on the 18th of July, 1866. Desertion of faithless men, in the meanwhile, had greatly thinned his party. Early in August, 1866, Dr. Livingstone and what remained of his expedition arrived at Mponda’s, a chief of a tribe of Wahiyow, living near the Nyassa lake.

Here Wakotani — one of the “nice honorable fellows” of Mr. Horace Waller — a protege of the Doctor, insisted upon his discharge, alleging as an excuse, which the Doctor subsequently found to be false, that he had seen his brother. He also claimed Mponda’s chief wife as his sister. After delivering himself of many more falsehoods Wakotani was given by the Doctor in charge of Mponda until his “big brother” should call for him.

This ingrate — released from slavery and educated at the Nassick School, Bombay, at the sole charge of the Doctor — perceiving his  application for a discharge to be successful, endeavored to persuade Chumah, another protege, to go with him, in order, as the Doctor believes, to enslave him. Upon Chumah consulting the Doctor, he was strongly advised not to put himself in the power of Wakotani.

From Mponda’s the Doctor proceeded to the heel of the Nyassa, to the village of a Babisa chief, who required medicine for a skin disease. To treat the malady he stopped at this place two days. While stopping here a half-caste Arab arrived at the same place from the western shore of Lake Nyassa, who reported that he had been plundered by a band of the Ma Zitu at a place which the Doctor and Musa, the chief of his Johanna men, knew perfectly was at least one hundred and fifty miles north-northwest, or twenty days’ march from the village. This Musa is he who manufactured that wonderful tale of murder which so startled all friends of the Doctor. During the Zambezi expedition Musa had visited this place, where the Arab reported himself robbed, in company of the Doctor. To the news which the Arab imparted Musa was an eager listener, and lost no time in conveying it to the Doctor. The Doctor coolly asked him if he believed, to which Musa answered that he did believe every word, for the Arab had told “true, true.” The Doctor said he did not; and after explaining to him his reasons, he suggested to Musa that they should go and consult the Babisa chief, for if any one should know if the story was true, he should. The Babisa chief denounced the Arab as “a liar” when consulted. But Musa broke out with, “No, no, Doctor, I no want to go to Ma Zitu; I no want Ma Zitu to kill me; I want to see my father, my mother, my child in Johanna. I no want Ma Zitu kill me.” Musa’s words are here reported ipsissima verba. To this outburst the Doctor replied, “I don’t want the Ma Zitu to kill me either, but since you are afraid of them, I promise to go west until we are far past the beat of the Ma Zitu.” Musa was not satisfied with this promise of the Doctor, for he said in the same dolorous tone: “If we had 200 guns with us I would go; but our small party, they will come by night and kill us all.” The Doctor repeated his promise, but to no purpose. When he turned his face westward, Musa and the Johanna escort heartlessly deserted him. Hence the fabrication of the Livingstone murder tale to hide the fact of their desertion and to obtain their wages. Livingstone’s party was very small now; he had sent back the worthless and maudlin Sepoys; the Johanna men had deserted him in a body, and Wakotani had been discharged. He was obliged to seek aid from the natives. He engaged them as carriers, and as they had never been tampered with or betrayed by the slave traders he managed exceedingly well. From this country, which he left in the beginning of December, 1866, he entered on a northern course, where the Ma Zitu had swept the land clean of provisions, and where the expedition suffered the most pinching hunger.

Added to this, desertions continued, which in one or two instances caused a loss of almost all his clothes and cooking utensils and dishes. Though misfortunes constantly dogged the footsteps of the expedition, it struggled on and traversed the countries of the Babisa, Bobemba, Banlungu, Barungu, besides the country of Londa, where lives the famous King Cazembe.

Cazembe and his Queen received him kindly and showed every disposition to assist him, and it was he who gave the information about Lake Bangweolo (which he called “Large Water”) to the Doctor. Near Cazembe’s the Doctor had crossed a fine stream called the Chambezi. But he relied too much upon the correctness of Portuguese information, and paid not much attention to it at the time, believing it to be, as Portuguese travelers stated, but the headwaters of the great Zambezi, and having no connection with the great river of Egypt, of which he was now in search. This excessive reliance upon the veracity of Portuguese travelers and traders misled him very much, and caused him double work, plunging him into a labyrinth of errors and discoveries, making the whole country and intricate system of rivers and lakes clear to him only after repeating his journeys many times.

From the beginning of 1867 to the middle of March, 1869, he says he was mostly engaged in correcting the errors of Portuguese travelers. The Portuguese when writing or speaking of the Chambezi invariably called it “our own Zambezi,” or the Zambezi that flows through the Portuguese possessions of the Mozambique. Over and over again he had to traverse the countries around Londa like an uneasy spirit; over and over again he asked the same questions from the different people whom he met, until he was obliged to desist lest they might say — “The man is mad; he has water on the brain.”

These tedious travels have established, first, that the Chambezi is a totally distinct river from the Portuguese Zambezi; second, that the Chambezi, starting from about latitude 11° south, is none other than the headwaters of the Nile itself, thus giving the wonderful river a length of over 2,600 miles of direct latitude.

During this series of journeys which he made in these latitudes he came to a lake lying northeast from Cazembe’s. The natives called it Liemba, or Luwemba, from a country of that name which bordered it on the southeast. Livingstone discovered it to be an extensive heel, or rather foot, of the Tanganyika. By his map the southern part of the Tanganyika resembles the southern part of Italy in con- figuration. The extremity of the Tanganyika south reaches to 8 deg. 42 sec. south latitude, thus giving the lake a length of 323 geographical miles, or seventy-three miles longer than Captains Burton and Speke described it.

From the Tanganyika he crossed Marungu and came in sight of Lake Moero. Tracing this lake, which is about sixty miles in length, to its southern extremity he found a river entering it from that direction. Following the Luapula north, as this river was called, he found it issued from the great lake of Bangweolo, which is as large in superficial area as the Tanganyika. The most important feeder of this lake is the Chambezi. Fie had traced the Chambezi running north through three degrees of latitude. It could not, then, be the Zambezi.

He returned to King Cazembe, thence to Ujiji, whence he dated those letters to the London Geographical Society, under whose auspices he travels, which, though the outside world still doubted that the traveler was alive, fully satisfied the minds of the members of that society. The way in which Musa left the Doctor and what the Doctor was doing all the time the world thought him dead has now been told as Dr. Livingstone told your correspondent. But his experiences, his troubles, his sufferings in mind, body and estate — how Arabs conspired against him, his men robbed him, false Moslems betrayed him — how he was detained by inundations, by scanty means to cross rivers and lagoons, by wars between Arabs and natives from the beginning of 1867 to the middle of March, 1869, when he arrived at Ujiji — no one will be better able to relate than himself.

After resting at Ujiji he thought of exploring the head of the Tan- ganyika and ascertaining whether this lake had any connection, or whether the river Rusizi was an influent or an affluent; but the avarice of the Wajiji, which would have deprived him of most of his cloth, prevented him. At the end of June, 1869, he set off by way of Uguhha for his last series of explorations.

Fifteen days’ march brought him to Manyema, a virgin country, but lately known to the Arabs even. On the threshold of great dis- coveries he was laid up six months from ulcers in the feet. When recovered he set off northerly, and came to a broad lacustrine river called Lualaba, which flowed northward, westward, and in some places southward in a most confusing way. The river was from one to three miles broad. Following it northerly he discovered Lake Kamolondo, in latitude 6 deg. 30 min. south. He traced the river southward to Lake Moero, where he saw it issue out of this lake through an enormous and deep chasm in the mountains. Satisfied that this Lualaba was the Chambezi which entered Bangweolo, or the Luapula which entered Moero, he retraced his steps northward, to Lake Kamolondo. He came to a river flowing from the west called the Locki, or Lomami, which issued from a large lake called Chebungo, situated to the south-southwest from Kamolondo. To this Lake Chebungo Dr. Livingstone gave the name Lake Lincoln, after President Abraham Lincoln, whose sad fate the civilized world lamented.  To the memory of the American President, whose labors in behalf of the black race won his entire sympathy and approval, the great traveler has contributed a monument more durable than brass, iron, or stone.

Still working his way north, bit by bit, against several and varied difficulties, along the Lualaba’s crooked course as far as latitude 4° south, he heard of another large lake situated to the north, in the same central line of drainage as the four other lakes; but here he was compelled to turn back to Ujiji. Against this compulsion his iron will and indomitable energy fought in vain; his men had mutinied and absolutely refused to budge a step, and to Ujiji he was obliged to return, a baffled, sick and weary and destitute man. It was in this state your correspondent met him only eighteen days after his arrival. So far had the traveler gone north that he was at the beginning of the final and certain end. Six hundred miles of watershed had been examined carefully. At the beginning of the seventh hundred the false slaves sent to him from the British Consul at Zanzibar, and who were to him as escort, rose up against him, saying in their determined actions, “Thus far you shall go, and not one step further.”

That this remarkable river (the Lualaba) is the Nile and none other no one doubts, but this one little blank — this one little link — who will fill it up? How will imagination fill up the void? In this blank, north of latitude four degrees south, is a lake, it was reported to Dr. Livingstone — may it not be Piaggia’s lake?  — out of which Petherick’s branch issues into the Bahr Ghazal and the White Nile. He has followed this river from eleven degrees south to four degrees south — that is, through seven degrees of latitude, or 420 geographical miles. It only wanted 180 miles more — this is the length of the undiscovered link — and the Nile, which had baffled oracles and sages, kings and emperors, had been revealed throughout its length.

According to Livingstone two things yet remain before the Nile sources can be said to be discovered. First — He has heard of the existence of four fountains, two of which give birth to a river flowing north, which is the Lualaba, and two to a river flowing south into inner Ethiopia, which is the Zambezi, thus verifying the statement which the Secretary of the Goddess Minerva at Sais made to Herodotus over two thousand years ago. He has heard of them repeatedly and has been several times within a fortnight’s march from them, but something always interposed to prevent him going to see them. These fountains require to be seen. Second — Remains the link above described to be explored. The stories which the Doctor relates of the two immense countries through which the great river runs read like fable. The most southerly is called Rua; the northern is called Manyema by the Arabs and Manuema by the natives, who are cannibals. He tells of ivory being so cheap that twenty-five cents* worth of copper will purchase a large tusk, worth $120 at Zanzibar. He tells of ivory being turned into doorposts and eave stanchions by the cannibals; of skillful manufactures of fine grass cloth, rivaling that of India; of a people so nearly approaching to white people and so extremely handsome that they eclipse anything ever seen in Africa; and from this fact supposes them to be descendants of the ancient Egyptians, or of some of the lost tribes of Israel; he tells of copper mines at Katanga which have been worked for ages, of docile and friendly peoples who up to this time have lived buried in the lap of barbarism, ignorant that there lived on earth a race so cruel and callous as the Arabs who have come among them, rudely awaking them out of their sleep with the thunder of gunpowder, to kidnap, rob and murder them without restraint, 33 and of many other things he tells, some details of which will follow this telegram.

The Doctor arrived at Ujiji on the 16th of October, the HERALD expedition on the 3d of November, 34 eighteen days later, and, as if guided by the hand of Providence, not a month too late nor a month too soon. He was sick and he was destitute, and help came in time. He had returned to Ujiji only to find himself robbed of everything by the very man to whom the British Consulate had entrusted his goods. This man, called Shereef, had sold them all off for ivory, and had feasted on the little stock of luxuries sent to the Doctor by his friends.

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