Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The "discovery" of Victoria Falls

On the 17th of November 1855, David Livingstone arrived at the falls the local called "Mosi O Tunya" and was presented with the sight that has taken many-a-breath away. There has been much conjecture if he was, indeed, the first European to visit the Falls but one thing is certain, he cannot have "discovered" them since there is ample evidence of human habitation of the area, in form of stone tools, dating back over a million years and I am sure that some of these folk had noticed the waterfall prior to his arrival! The falls were first marked on a map as early as the 1840's when László Magyar, a "Hungarian cartographer", traveled through these parts. It seems certain that he never visited the Falls himself, though he retains the distinction of "put them on the map" for the first time. Other contenders for the title include  Chapman, the trader who first introduced Livingstone to the Makololo in 1848. Chapman had traveled to Linyanti several times to trade for Ivory but he had been a busy man and had no time for sight seeing trips to distant waterfalls, a fact he bitterly regretted to the end of his days. The only other creditable claimant was a colorful rouge named Serpa Pinto, a slave trader of Portuguese extraction who viewed the area of Western Zambia as his personal fiefdom, so much so, that when the boarder was agreed and this area fell under British domain he decided to kill himself in protest. Presumably under the influence of some fairly strong liquor, he strapped himself to a keg of gun powder and lit it on fire intending to blow himself up in spectacular fashion. Since black powder burns but does not explode he ended up with third degree burns over most of his body and died two days later in hospital, presumably in a great deal of pain. None of these claims are credible for one simple reason- anyone that viewed this waterfall for the first time would have to tell the world of their beauty and magnificence, that is the only possible human reaction to seeing them and thats exactly what David Livingstone did!

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