Exploration of Arabia: Carsten Niebuhr. Exploration of Africa: James Bruce.
Arabia received very careful attention, in the 18th century, from the Danish scientific mission, which included Carsten Niebuhr among its members. Niebuhr landed at Loheia, on the coast of Yemen, in December 1762,and went by land to Sana. All the other members of the mission died, and he proceeded from Mocha to Bombay. He then made a journey through Persia and Syria to Constantinople, returning to Copenhagen in 1767.
His invaluable work, the Description of Arabia, was published in 1772, and was followed in 1774-78 by two volumes of travels in Asia. The great traveller survived until 1815, when he died at the age of eighty-two.
James Bruce of Kinnaird, the contemporary of Niebuhr, was equally devoted to Eastern travel. After studying Arabic and Geez for some years, he went out as consul to Algiers, and resided there from 1762 to 1765, exploring and sketching the Roman ruins in Algiers and Tunis.
In 1765 he travelled by land from Tunis to Tripoli, and then took a passage for Candia, but was shipwrecked near Bengazi, and had to swim on shore. He eventually reached Candia, and, sailing thence to Sidon, traveled through Syria. In June 1768 he landed at Alexandria in the dress of an Arab, and soon afterwards we hear of hum at Jiddah, the port of Mecca, in the dress of a Turkish sailor.
He had resolved to attempt the discovery of the source of the Nile; and in 1769 he landed at Massowah, on the Abyssinian coast. He then penetrated to Axum and Gondar, and in November 1770 he reached the source of the Abai, then supposed to be the main stream of the Nile. He thus attained the great object of his ambition. Returning by the desert into Egypt, Bruce reached England in 1774, and settled once more at his old home at Kinnaird after an absence of ten years.
Urged by his old friend, Mr Daines Barrington, the great traveller at length published his Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768-73 (5 vols. 4to) in 1790.
Bruce, like many other conscientious and deserving explorers, was assailed by calumny and detraction. But every succeeding year has added to the high estimation in which his labours are held, and to the reverence with which his memory is cherished. He died at Kinnaird House, Stirlingshire, in 1794.
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