Thursday, November 21, 2013

David Livingstone 1858- 1863

The British government agreed to back Livingstone's dream, to return to Africa and use the Zambezi River to open up the interior to trade, so he arrived at the mouth of the Zambezi in 1858, at the head of the most ambitious undertaking in the annuals of african exploration- The Zambezi Expedition. This endeavor would run for 5 years but in spit of having spent over 100 000 pounds of the British tax payers money, they would never made it more than 300 miles up the river. Here their progress was blocked by  Cahora Basa gorge, a section Livingstone had bypassed on his earlier journey for had he known what lay in store for them there, he would never have undertaken this adventure. Entering the gorge for the first time on foot these men found an awe-inspiring place, hemmed in by towering rock wall's that constricted the river into a seemingly endless series of wild cataracts, some of them over 30 feet high. These men were equipped with a paddle steamer that on a good day, with a following wind, had a top speed of 8 knots- there was simply no way this vessel was going to go up that river! 

Livingstone's companions figured this out in about 5 minuets which begs the question- why did it take him 5 years to arrive at the same conclusion? The answer is, he was so determined to succeed that he has decided that if the Zambezi will not suit his purpose, they will simply have to search for a body of water that will! So they would explored the Shiri, Rovuma and Rufiji Rivers and eventually ended up on Lake Nyasa itself, desperately searching for a navigable water way that will serve as a highway to the interior…but there isn't one. Eventually the British government figured this out and recalled the expedition but not before the press back home had turned on Livingstone, heaping blame on him for the failure of the expedition and accusing him of intentionally misleading the public. As a consequence of this, by the time he arrived back in England in 1864, his reputation was severally compromised and his future looked bleak but the truth is the expedition had not been a complete failure. Certainly they had failed in their primary objective but they had done much useful geographical work and also discovered that the slave trade in East Africa was not dying out as it was in most parts of the continent, but was in fact alive and well and growing like a cancer. Livingstone is mortified by what they have uncovered and returned to Britain on a one man crusade to put an end to the genocide that was unfolding in Africa-  the stage is now set for a titanic clash between the Missionary Explorer and the Arab Slavers for the soul of Africa!

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