1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > Exploration of Africa

(Part 1)


Ancient Geography of Africa

This vast continent, though associated from the dawn of civilization with traditions and mysteries of the most stimulating kind, has remained until recently one of the least known, and, both commercially and politically, one of the least important of the great divisions of the globe. The knowledge of Africa possessed by the ancients was very limited, owing principally to its physical construction. The great desert, which in a broad belt stretches quite across the continent, forbade every attempt to pass it until the introduction of the camel by the Arabs. The want of any known great river, except the Nile, that might conduct into the interior, contributed to confine the Greek and roman colonists to the habitatble belt along the northern coast. The Phoenicians are known to have formed establishments on the northern coast of Africa at a very early period of history, probably not less than 3000 years ago; and the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses dates as far back as the year B.C. 525. we may consider, therefore, the coasts of Egypt, of the red Sea, and of the Mediterranean, to have been settled and well known to the ancient asiatics, who were constantly passing the narrow isthmus which divided their country from Africa and led them immediately from parched deserts into a fertile valley, watered by a magnificent river. But whether they wetre much or little acquainted with the western coast, which bounds the Atlantic, and the eastern coast, washed by the Indian Ocean, is a question that exercised the research and ingenuity of the ablest scholars and geographers, and has not yet been satisfactorily answered.

Ancient Exploration of Western Coast of Africa

This question being one of curiosity rather than utility, we shall only state the case, and the results of the several inquiries, without entering into the merits of the arguments advanced by the different parties. We are told by Herodotus, that Necho, king of Egypt, sent out an expedition under the command of certain Phoenician seamen, for the purpose of circumnavigating Africa; and that, on their return, they asserted that they had accomplished this undertaking. Few of the ancient writers give credit to the story; but, among the moderns, the Abbe Paris and Montesquieu have contended that this voyage was actually performed. Isaac Vossius and D'Anville have strong doubts; and dr Vincent and M. Gosselin maintain that such an expedition, at such a period, exceeds all the means and resources of navigation, then in its infancy. Last of all comes Major Rennel, who, in his elucidation of the geography of Herodotus, has done more than all the rest in clearing away the doubts of history; and he argues the possibility of such a voyage, from the construction of their ships, with flat bottoms and low masts, enabling them to keep close to the land, and to discover and enter into all the creeks and harbours which any part of the coast might present. At all events, one thing is evident: if such an expedition ever circumnavigated the African continent, the fruits of it have nearly, if not entirely, perished.

About half a century after this supposed expedition, the account half a century after this supposed expedition, the account of another voyage, down the western coast, is contained in the Periplus of Hanno, which has also called forth many learned and elaborated discussion among modern geographers, some of whom would carry Hanno to the Bight of Benin, others only to Sherbro Sound or the river Nun in lat. 28
° N.

Ancient Exploration of the Eastern Coast of Africa

The extent to which ancient discovery proceeded along the eastern coast of Africa, had divided the opinion of the learned nearly as much as its progress on the western coast. Delisle Huet, and Bochart made the discovery of the coast to extend as far south as Mozambique and Madagascar. D'Anville could trace such discovery no farther than to Cape Delgado; and M. Gosselin contends that the ancients never proceeded down the coast beyond Brava. But Dr Vincent, who has entered more profoundly into the subject than any of his predecessors, and brought a great fund of learning to bear on the question, in his Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, has with great plausibility extended these boundaries to Mozambique and to the island of Madagascar.

Egypt, under the Ptolemies, the great patrons of science and promoters of discovery, possessing the advantage of the only great river which falls from the African continent into the Mediterranean, made no progress beyond its ancient boundaries; and though the Romans, who subsequently possessed Egypt, penetrated beyond the limits of their own dependencies, they extended their discoveries no further than Fezzan in one direction, and, at a later period, beyond Nubia as far as Abyssinia, and the regions of the Upper Nile.

Carthaginian Exploration of Africa

We know nothing of the progress made by the Carthaginians in the discovery of Interior Africa; but although it has been asserted that their merchants had reached the banks of the interior river, which we call the Kawara or Niger, they have left nothing on record that will warrant such a supposition. The story told by Herodotus, of some Nasamonians crossing the desert, and arriving at a large river, can only be applicable to some western arm of the Nile.

Arab Exploration of Africa

The people from whom we derive the first information concerning the interior of Northern Africa are the Arabs, who, by means of the camel, were able to penetrate across the great desert to the very centre of the continent, and along the two coasts as far as the Senegal and the Gambia on the west, and to Sofala on the east. On this latter coast they not only explored to an extent far beyond any supposed limits of ancient discovery, but planted colonies at Sofala, Mombas, Melinda, and at various other places.

Portuguese Navigators

The 15th century produced a new era in maritime discovery. The voyages of the Portuguese were the first to give anything like an accurate outline of the two coasts, and to complete the circumnavigation of Africa. The discovery of America and the West islands gave rise to that horrid traffic in African Negroes, which has since been suppressed; but this traffic has been the means of acquiring a more extended and accurate knowledge of that part of the coast which lies between the rivers Senegal and the Cameroons, as well as of the manners and character of the people who inhabit this extended line of coast.

English and French Settlements

With the English and French settlements in Africa began a systematic survey of the coast, and portions of the interior.

African Association

The uncertainty and confusion that prevailed in the geography of the interior of Africa induced a few learned and scientific individuals to form themselves into an association for promoting the exploration of Inner Africa. This society was formed in London in 1788, and under its auspices important additions were made to the geography of Africa by Houghton, Mungo Park, Hornemann, and Burckhardt. Repeated failures, however, at length discouraged the association from engaging other missionaries, and it subsequently merged in the Royal Geographical Society in 1831.

African Discoveries in the 19th Century

During the last sixty years more has been done to make us acquainted with the geography of Africa than during the whole of the 1700 previous years, since Ptolemy, taken together. With Mungo Park, strictly speaking, commences the era of unceasing endeavours to explore the interior.

Mungo Park

Mungo Park proceeded in 1795 from the river Gambia on the west coast, to the Joliba (commonly called Niger, traced this river as far as the town of Silla, explored the intervening countries, determined the southern confines of the Sahara, and returned in 1797. in 1805 this adventurous traveller embarked on a second journey in the same regions, for the purpose of descending down the river Joliba to its mouth. This journey added little to the discoveries already made, and cost the traveller his life. He is ascertained to have passed Timbuktu, and to have reached Boussa, where he was killed by the natives.

Dr Lacerda

In 1798 Dr Lacerda, a scientific Portuguese traveller, who had already acquired fame through his journeys in Brazil, made the first great journey in South-Eastern Africa, inland from Mozambique, and reached the capital of the African king, known as the Cazembe, in whose country he died.


Hornemann, in 1796-98, penetrated from Cairo to Murzuk, and transmitted from that place valuable information respecting the countries to the south, especially Bornu. He then proceeded in that direction, but it is supposed that he soon afterwards perished, as no accounts of his further progress have ever reached Europe. The first actual crossing of the continent that has been recorded was accomplished between the years 1802 and 1806, by two Pombeiros or mercantile traders in the employment of the Portuguese, who passed from Angola eastward through the territories of the Muata Hianvo and the Cazembe, to the possessions on the Zambeze.

Captain Tuckey

In 1816 an expedition was sent out by the English Government, under the command of captain Tuckey, to the river Congo, which was at that time believed to be the lower course of the Joliba. This was a disastrous undertaking, and the geographical additions were but slight, the river having been ascended a distance of only 280 miles.

Lyon and Ritchie

In 1819 Lyon and Ritchie penetrated from Tripoli to Murzuk, and a little distance beyond that place.

Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney

In 1822 Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney set forth from Tripoli in the same direction, crossed the Great Desert, and reached, on the 4th February 1823, the great lake Tsad or Chad. The surrounding countries were explored as far as Sakatu in the west, and Mandara in the south. This journey was altogether one of the most successful and important into the Interior. Oudney died in Bornu, but Clapperton undertook a second journey from the coast of Guinea, crossed the Kawara, and arrived at Sakatu at which place he also died. His servant, Richard Lander, returned to England, after having explored a part of the adjoining regions.


Major Laing succeeded in reaching Timbuktu from Tripoli, but was murdered on his return in the desert.


In 1827 and 1828 Caillié set out from the Rio Nunez on the western coast, reached Timbuktu, and returned from that place through the Great Desert to Marocco. A second Portuguese journey was undertaken in 1830 from Mozambique to the Cazembe's dominions, and Major Montiero, the leader of the expedition, more fortunate than his predecessor Dr Lacerda, was enabled to complete a map of the country traversed, and to bring back a complete account of this portion of the interior.

1839 Africa map image

This map of Africa, dated 1839, shows the large areas of uncharted territory as at that date.


The termination of the Joliba, Kawara, or Niger, remained in obscurity till 1830, when it was ascertained by Lander and his brother, who succeeded in tracing the river from Yaouri down to its mouth. They embarked on a second expedition, which sailed in 1832, for the purpose of ascending the Kawara as far as Timbuktu. But only Rabba was reached, and the general results of the expedition were most disastrous.

The great Niger expedition, similar to the foregoing, consisted of three steam-vessels, and was dispatched by the Government in 1841, under Captain Trotter. It proved a failure, and resulted in a melancholy loss of life.


In the region between the Kawara and the coast, Mr. Duncan, one of the survivors of the Niger expedition, made some additions to our geographical knowledge by his journey to Adafoodia, in 1845-46. This enterprising traveller met with an untimely death in a second attempt in the same region for the purpose of reaching. Timbuktu.

East African Travellers

The preceding journeys were confined chiefly to the northern and western portions of the continent. A much greater number of travellers explored the regions drained by the Nile, the salubrity of which, particularly of Abyssinia, is so infinitely greater than that of Western Africa, that among the many explorers of the former, a very small proportion have died as compared with the immense loss of life in Western Africa. Among the most distinguished of the earlier east African travellers are Bruce (1768-73), Browne (1793), who reached Darfur, Burckhardt (1814), Cailliaud (1819), and more recently Rüppel (1824-25), Russegger (1837), D'Abbadie (1838-44), Beke (1840-44), D'Arnaud and Werne on the White Nile (1840-42), and Brun Rollet (1845).

South African Travellers

Though the Dutch settlement in South Africa was founded as early as 1650, not much information of the interior of that portion of the continent was gained till the end of the 18th century, when a series of journeys was commenced by Sparrmann, and followed up by Vaillant, Barrow, Trotter, Somerville, Lichtenstein, Burchell (1812), Campbell, Thomson, Smith, Alexander (1836-37), and Harris.

Mombas Mission

A station of the Church Missionary Society was established near Mombas, in about 4o S. lat. On the east coast of Africa, in 1845, and the zealous missionaries in charge of it began to make exploring journeys into the interior. Thus, early in 1849, the Rev. Mr. Rebmann discovered the great snow-clad mountain of Kilima-njaro, rising on the edge of the inland plateau; and his companion, Dr Krapf, taking a more northerly route, came in sight of a second huge mountain named Kenia, also snow-clad, though directly beneath the equator. frequent reports reached these missionaries of vast lakes in the interior beyond the mountains they had discovered, and the information awakened a great interest in this region at home.

James Richardson. Dr Barth.

About this time an embassy, for the purpose of concluding commercial treaties with the chiefs of Northern Africa, as far as Lake Chad, by which the legitimate trade of these countries should be extended and the system of slavery abolished, was originated by Mr. James Richardson, who left England for this purpose in 1849, accompanied by Drs Barth and Overweg. The expedition had already almost reached the scene of its labours when Richardson died; Overweg also fell a victim to his exertions, but Dr. Barth continued his explorations till 1856. During this time he traversed in many directions almost the whole of the northern Soudan, completing a series of journeys which must always remain most conspicuous in North African travel, and upon which we are still dependent for the greater part of our knowledge of the central Negro states.

Dr Livingstone (Lake Ngami)

In the summer of 1849, Dr Livingstone, who, as an agent of the London Missionary Society, had laboured and traveled in the countries immediately north of the Cape Colony since 1840, began those remarkable journeys in the interior of Southern Africa, which have continued until the present time, and have given to him the first place among Africa discoverers. The finding of Lake Ngami, the central point of the continental drainage of South Africa, was the great discovery of the first year.


Two journeys from the west coast now claim attention. in 1846 a Portuguese trader named Graça succeeded in again reaching the country of the south African potentate, named the Muata Yanvo, from Angola; he was followed by a Hungarian named Ladislaus Magyar, who explored the central country in various directions from 1847 to 1851.

Livingstone (the Zambese)

Between 1851 and 1853 Livingstone made two journeys northward from his station in the land of the Bechuanas, and was the first European to embark upon the upper course of the Zambeze. From the Makololo country, in the central part of the river basin, he now led a party of natives westwards up-stream to the water-parting of the continent at the little Lake Dilolo, and thence to the western slope, reaching the Portuguese coast at Loanda in 1854.


During 1851 Galton explored a part of the south-western country inhabited by the Damaras and Ovampo, from Walfisch Bay to a point in lat. 17
° 58' S., and long. 21° E., determining accurately a number of positions in this region. On the south-east, also, Gassiot made an interesting journey from Port Natal north-westward through the mountains to the river Limpopo.

Silva Porto

Two most remarkable journeys across the whole continent now follow in order; the one, made by Silva Porto, a Portuguese trader, who leaving Benguela in 1853, took an eastward route, parallel to but considerably northward of the Zambeze, over perfectly unknown country. He then rounded the southern end of the Lake Nyassa (afterwards explored by Livingstone), and made his way across the east coast-land to the mouth of the Rovuma river, having spent a year and two months in his tedious march.

Livingstone (Victoria Falls)

The other was executed by Livingstone, who in returning (1855-56) by a somewhat more northerly route than that traveled over in going westward to Loanda, descended the Zambeze to its mouth at Quilimane, discovering the wonderful Victoria falls of the river on his way.


In 1856 an important addition was made to the more exact geography of Africa, in a survey of the greater part of the course of the Orange river, by Mr Moffat, a son of the veteran South African missionary.

Hahn and Rath. Bastian. Du Chaillu.

The following year was one of great activity in African exploration. Damara Land, in the south-west, was traversed by Messrs Hahn and Rath as far as the southern limit of the Portuguese territory at the Cunene river; Dr Bastian was exploring the interior of Congo and Angola, and Du Chaillu had begun his first journey in the forest country of the Fan tribes on the equatorial west coast.

Burton and Speke

Under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society, Captains Burton and speke, already distinguished by their perilous journey to Harar, a trading centre in the Somali and Gala country of the east African promontory, set out from Zanzibar, to ascertai the truth about the great inland lakes which had been reported by the Mombas missionaries. Their most successful journey (1857-59) resulted in the discovery of Lake Tanganyika, in a deep basin, between 3
° and 8° S. lat., and of the southern portion of a perhaps greater lake northward, supposed by Speke, its discoverer, to be the head reservoir of the Nile.

Livingstone and Kirk (the Shire)

In a new journey in the Zambeze region in 1859, Dr Livingstone, accompanied by Dr Kirk, traced the Shire river, a northern tributary of the Zambeze, to its outflow from the Nyassa, the most southerly of the great African chain of fresh lakes.

Explorers of the White Nile. Duveyrier.

About this time also several travellers (Petherick (1858), Lejean, Miani, the Poncets, Antinori, Debono, Peney) were adding much to the existing knowledge of the Upper white Nile from the Egyptian side; and in the north the Algerian Sahara was being explored by the French scientific traveller Duveyrier.

Speke and Grant

In 1860 Captain Speke, anxious to extend knowledge of the great inland reservoirs which has been discovered in his former journey, and to connect them with the known countries to northward, accompanied by Captain Grant, again left Zanzibar. Reaching a point on the north-western shores of the great lake which he had previously made known, and which he now named the Victoria Nyanza, the traveller thence traced the outflowing river to the White Nile at Gondokoro, thus completing a great link in the chain of African discoveries, which binds the country known from the east coast to that explored from the side of Egypt.

Livingstone (Lake Nyassa)

Meanwhile Dr Livingstone had endeavoured to find a way to his newly-discovered Lake Nyassa from the mouth of the Rovuma, a large river which flows to the Indian Ocean near Cape Delgado, and which was also reported to take its rise in this lake, but the river proved to be unnavigable beyond a point not far from the sea. He returned then (in 1861) to the Shire river; and, carrying a boat past its rapids, launched out to explore the whole length of Lake Nyassa.

Rohlfs (Marocco). Von Decken.

A series of important journeys by Gerhard Rohlfs had now (1861) begun in Marocco and in the Maroccan Sahara; and on the equatorial east coast region, Baron von der Decken had extended Rebmann's information in the region of the snowy mountain Kilima-njaro.


In the south the artist Baines had crossed the Kalahari Desert from damara Land to the falls of the Zambeze. In 1862 Petherick made an important journey of exploration in the Nile region west of Gondokoro.

Baker (Albert Lake). Du Chaillu. Von Decken.

The year 1864 was marked by the discovery of a second great reservoir lake of the Nile, near the latitude of the Victoria Nyassa, by Baker, pushing southward from Gondokoro. This lake the discoverer named the Albert Nyanza. During this year also, Rohlfs extended his travels from Marocco to the oasis of Tuat, thence making his way to Ghadames and Tripoli; in Western Africa, the officers of the French marine stationed at the Gaboon explored the delta region of the great Ogowai river; and Du Chaillu, in a second journey (1864-65), entered the gorilla country of Ashango, south of this river; whilst, on the east coast, Baron von der Decken attempted the navigation of the Juba, but was destined to fall a martyr to the jealousies of the Galla and Somali tribes, whose territories the river divides.

Rohlfs (across northern Africa)

After a short stay at Tripoli, the traveller Rohlfs again turned southward, and in a journey which lasted from 1865 to 1867, crossed the whole northern continent-first reaching Lake Chad by almost the same route as that formerly taken by Barth, and thence striking south-westward by a new path to the Bight of Benin.

Wakefield and New

In 1866 some progress was made in discovery in the west, by the navigation of the Ogowai river by Walker, for 200 miles from its mouth. Hahn and Rath also extended their exploration of Damara Land. On the eastern side Messrs Wakefield and New, the successors of Krapf and Rebmann in the Mobas Mission, made numerous short journeys in the Galla country, and the former collected very valuable native information respecting the countries lying between this coast-land and the great lakes of the Nile basin.


In this year also Dr. Livingstone had again entered the Rovuma river, beginning that greatest of all his journeys from which he has not yet (1873) returned, and the outline of which we shall notice further on.

Mauch. Abyssinian expedition.

Still farther south, in 1866-67, the discovery of gold in the mountains between the Zambeze and Limpopo rivers, by the pioneer Mauch, gave great impetus to exploration in this part of the continent. The years 1867-68 brought the memorable Abyssinian campaign, and the accurate records kept of the line of march on the high land from Massowah to Magdala formed a most valuable contribution to African geography.

Schweinfurth. Baker's Egyptian expedition.

Most important in the following years (1869-71) were the researches of the botanist, Dr Schweinfurth, in the region of the complicated network of tributaries received by the white Nile west of Gondokoro, during which he passed the water-parting of the Nile basin in this direction, and came into a new area of drainage, possibly belonging to the system of Lake Chad; and the outsetting of a great Egyptian military expedition (1869) by Sir Samuel Baker, for the purpose of exploration of the Upper Nile and of the extermination of slave traffic on the river, and to plant Egyptian military posts in the regions visited.

Livingstone (Lake Liemba, Lakes Moero and Bangweolo, Manyuema, the Lualaba)

The letters received from time to time in this country from Dr. Livingstone enable us to trace roughly his movements from 1866 to the present time as follows: - Arriving from Bombay, on the East African coast, near the mouth of the Rovuma, he passed up the course of this river to the confluence of its main tributary branches, one coming from the north-west, the other from south-west. Following the latter arm, the traveller appears to have gone round the southern end of the Lake Nyassa, and, marching then in a north-westerly direction, he crossed the head waters of the Aruangoa tributary of the Zambeze, near the track of Lacerda, in the previous century; ascending a high land, he came upon a portion of the Chambeze river, belonging to a different basin, and continuing in a north-westerly direction, discovered Lake Liemba, a southern extension of Lake Tanganyika, in April 1867. Thence he turned to the Cazembe's town, and in journeys northward and southward from this point, made known the two great lakes, Moero (Sept. 1867), and Bangweolo or Bemba (July 1868), which form part of a new system, connected by the Chambeze (also named the Luapula and Lualaba) river in a basin south and west of that of the Tanganyika. In 1869 Livingstone had made his way to Ujiji, Burton's halting-place, on the eastern shore of the Tanganyika. Hence, crossing the lake, he penetrated the dense tropical forests and swamps of Manyuema country, in the heart of the southern portion of the continent, and during 1870-71 traced the vast river (Lualaba) flowing out of the Lake Moero, in its north and westerly course, to a second, and then a third great expansion-Lake Kamalondo the one, and the other a still invisited body of water lying in about 3
° S. lat., and 25° or 26° E. long; also learning, by native report, that the Lualaba (which is in all probability the upper course of the mighty Congo river) received a great tributary from south-westward. This south-western arm also expands into a vast lake, which Livingstone has named, in anticipation, Lake Lincoln.

Though the untruth of a report of Linvingstone's death. Near the Nyassa, had been proved by an expedition sent out on his track by the Geographical Society of London in 1867, yet at the time of his Manyuema journey, the probable fate of the great traveller, from whom no news had come out of Africa for more than two years, became a matter of the greatest anxiety among all classes in Europe and America. This led to a special mission for Dr Livingstone's aid, generously fitted out at the cost of the proprietor of an American newspaper.


Stanley, the leader of this expedition, made a bold march from Zanzibar to Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, and was fortunate in meeting the great traveller there, returning Manyuema, broken down by the severity of the task which he had accomplished, and in need of everything. A boat voyage round the northern end of Tanganyika, undertaken in the latter part of 1871 by Livingstone and Stanley together, proved that this great lake has no apparent outlet in a northerly direction, and leaves the question of its drainage in considerable doubt.

Recruited in health, and supplied with stores and followers, Livignstone is believed to have started afresh from Unyanyembre, a point midway in the route from Zanzibar to Ujiji, where he parted with Stanley, in autumn of 1872, to carry out a projected journey, in which he will clear up all doubts respecting the ultimate direction of the great Lualaba river.

Sir Samuel Baker

Of the expeditions which have been progressing in Africa contemporaneously with these later journeys of Dr Livingstone, that of Sir Samuel Baker is perhaps the most important, though its story has until now been one of almost continuous hardship and disaster. Up to the middle of the year 1870, at which time the expedition, consisting of upwards of 1500 men, with numerous vessels, had safely reached a point on the Nile in 9° 26' N. lat., all appears to have gone well; but beyond this the passages of the river had become choked with overgrowth of vegetation, and each yard of advance had to be cut through this living barrier; disease broke out among the troops, and the expedition was reduced to the greatest straits. In the end, however, it appears to have been completely successful, and s before Sir Samuel Baker's return to Egypt in 1873, the whole country, as far south as the equator, had been taken possession of in the name of Egypt, and several garrisons had been planted to maintain the hold.

Recent South African researches

Knowledge of the rich country between the Transvaal Republic and the Zambeze has extended with wonderful rapidity, through the exertions of the pioneers Mauch, Mohr, Baines, Elton, and St Vincent Erskine, so that this region has now almost passed out of the category of lands in which geographical discoveries can be made. A point of great interest in the progress of the exploration of this country was the discovery by Mauch, in 1871, of the ruins of an ancient city or fortress, named Zimbaoe, certainly not of African construction, about 200 miles due west from Sofala, in lat. 20
° 15' S., long. 30° 45' E., through which it has been sought to identify this region with the Ophir of Scripture. The finding, in 1869, of rich diamond fields in the upper valley of the Orange river, and in that of its tributary the Vaal, caused a rush of emigration to these districts, and tended still further to develop this portion of Africa.


North African exploration is also vigorously progressing. In the west, during 1869, Winwood Reade made a journey from Sierra Leone to the head of the Niger, and from 1867 onwards M. Munzinger, consul at Massowa, has greatly extended our knowledge of Northern Abyssinia.

Dr Nachtigal

A notable journey of exploration in the Sahara remains to be mentioned. In 1869 Dr Nachtigal was appointed to carry presents from the King of Prussia to the Sultan of Bornu, on Lake Chad, in acknowledgement of that potentate's aid to former travellers. Besides accomplishing this mission, this explorer has added very considerably to our knowledge of the Eastern Sahara by investigating the central mountainous country of Tibesti, hitherto only known by report; and in more recent journeys, still being continued, he has proved the existence of an outflowing river from Lake Chad, which has hitherto been believed to be a terminal lake, the freshness of its waters having on this account appeared an anomaly in physical geography.

The Royal Geographical Society's Expedition of 1872

With the double purpose of affording support to Dr Livingstone, and of adding to the geography of Euqatorial Africa, two expeditions were fitted out by the Royal Geographical Society in 1872. one of these, led by Lieut. Cameron, was planned to follow the footsteps of Livingstone in his present journey from the eastern side, entering the country by the ordinary trade route from Zanzibar towards the Tanganyika. This expedition started from Zanzibar early in 1873, under the auspices of Sir Bartle Frere's mission, and has now made considerable progress towards the interior. The other, named the "Livingstone congo expedition," under Lieuts. Grandy, is to pass from the west coast to the interior, by following the river Congo, which is almost without doubt the lower course of the great Lualaba river, about to be further explored by Dr Livingstone coming to it from the eastern side. The latest accounts from this expedition are also in the highest degree favourable, and an advanced of upwards of 150 miles has already been made from Loanda. A new expedition, under the leadership of the indefatigable traveller Rohlfs, is now in preparation, and is destined to explore the unknown portions of the Libyan desert.

Thus the exploration of the great continent is slowly advancing year by year, but with earnest unceasing progress. As yet the only portions of Africa of which we possess any approach to an accurate topographical knowledge are, the Cape Colony and Natal under British rule in the south, the French colony of Algeria, the Portuguese possession of Angola, and Egypt and Tunis, dependent on the Turkish empire, in the north.

Throughout the rest of the continent, a network of routes accomplished by travellers gives in most parts the great outline of its features; where these lines interlace more closely, as in the South African Republics, and in Abyssinia, the general aspect of the land is now so well known as to preclude the possibility of any important geographical discovery there; elsewhere, however, the gaps between the tracks are wider. In the vast inhospitable region of the Sahara there are great areas still unknown to civilized man, and the equatorial region of dense forests in Central Africa is still one of the greatest terrae incognitae of the globe.

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