African Association. Mungo Park. Francisco de Lacerda.
Before the death of Bruce an African Association was formed, in 1788, for collecting information respecting the interior of that continent, with Major Rennell and Sir Joseph Banks as leading members, and Bryan Edwards as secretary. The association first employed a Mr Ledyard to cross Africa from east to west on the parallel at the Niger, and Mr Lucas to cross the Sahara to Fezzan. Ledyard, who had previously made a most extraordinary journey into Siberia, died at Cairo in 1788. Lucas went from Tripoli to Mesurata, obtained some information respecting Fezzan, and returned in 1789.
One of the chief problems the Association wished to solve was that of the existence and course of the river Niger, which Maxwell believed to be identical with the Congo.
Mungo Park, then an assistant surgeon of an Indiaman, volunteered his services, which were accepted by the Association, and in 1795 he arrived at the English factory of Pisania, 200m miles up the Gambia. Leaving this station in December he reached Ludamar, where a Moorish chief imprisoned him until the following July. He then crossed a mountainous tract to a Mandingo town called Kamalia. Quite destitute, and suffering from fever, he remained there for several months, but finally found his way back to Pisania, and returned to England.
The interesting narrative of his adventures, with a geographical memoir by Rennell, was published in 1799.
Five years afterwards be accepted an offer from the Government to command an expedition into the interior of Africa, the plan being to cross from the Gambia to the Niger, and descend the latter river to the sea. Park left the factory of Pisania, on the Gambia, on the 4th of May 1805, accompanied by Lieutenant Martyn and 35 soldiers, besides guides. All died but four during the rainy season, and the rest, including Mungo Park, perished in a rapid on the Niger, having been attacked from the shore by order of a chief who thought he had not received suitable presents. Park was only thirty-five at the time of his death. The details respecting the fate of the ill-fated explorer and his party were obtained from the guide.
While the English were at work in the direction of the Niger, the Portuguese were not unmindful of their old exploring fame. In 1798 Dr Lacerda, an accomplished astronomer, was appointed to command a scientific expedition of discovery to the north of the Zambesi. He started in July, crossed the Muchenja Mountains, and reached the capital of the Cazembe, where he died of fever. Dr Lacerda left a valuable record of his adventurous journey; but with Mungo Park and Lacerda the history of African exploration in the 18th century closes.
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