1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > 19th Century Exploration. Work in India. Africa. South America. Humboldt.

(Part 41)

19th Century Exploration. Work in India. Africa. South America. Humboldt.

In treating here of the progress of geographical discovery in the present century, it is to those who prepare the last class of maps, to the pioneers -- the discoveries -- that we must mainly, though not exclusively, confine our attention. We propose to review the work of discoverers and explorers of the 19th century in two sections as regards time, -- first during the first thirty, and secondly during the last forty-eight years. The Royal Geographical Society was founded in 1830, and forms a landmark. In each period we shall take first the work done in Asia, then Africa, then America, then Australia, then Polynesia, and finally the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

At the beginning of the country British rule in India was extended over the plains of the Ganges almost to the Sutlej, an the attention of explorers was drawn to the mighty mass of the Himálayas. Captain Herbert, in 1818, attempted to give a general view of the physical character of this great range, and Moorcroft reached the Mansarowa lake, and the upper courses of the Indus and Sutlej; while Mr Manning, in 1811, was the only Englishman who ever visited Lassa [Lhasa], the capital of Tibet, The mission of Sir John Malcolm to Persia in 1808 led to much geographical work being achieved. On his staff was Macdonald Kinneir, who wrote a valuable memoir on the geography of Persia; while at the same time Lieutenant J. Macartney, under Mountstuart Elphinstone, was collecting materials for a map of Afghanistan. In 1810 Pottinger and Christie made an important journey through Baluchistan by different routes. Christie afterwards visiting Herat and Yezd; and in 1827 Mr Stirling of the Bengal Civil Service crossed the Hazárah mountains.

The close of the war in 1815 led to numerous efforts for the furtherance of geographical discovery, especially in Africa and the far north. In 1818 to 1820 Captain Lyon, R.N., and Mr Ritchie landed at Tripoli, and penetrated as far as Mourzouk; and this led to the more important expedition of Major Denham and Captain Clapperton, R.N., which was dispatched by the Government. They landed at Tripoli in 1823, and advanced into the interior as far as the east coast of Lake Tchad [Chad], of which they gave a most interesting account, obtaining latitudes by meridian altitudes and longitudes by lunar observations. Clapperton’s furthest point was at Saccatoo, westward of the lake, and here he was forced to turn back. But in 1825 he was again employed to explore the interior of Africa, and this time he started from the Atlantic side with his faithful servant Richard Lander. Landing in the Bight of Benin, he succeeded in reaching Saccatoo from the west side, thus completing a route form Tripoli on the Mediterranean to the coast of Guinea. But at Saccatoo the gallant sailor succumbed at last, dying on the 13th of April 1827. His faithful servant Lauder returned to the coast; and in 1830 he and his brother were employed to explore the course of the Niger or Quorra. They embarked on the river near Boosaa, passed through the Yorriba country, and came out at the mouth of the Nun.

The Admiralty also considered that a river of such magnitude as the Zaire or Congo ought to be explored. Captain Tuckey, R.N., was selected to conduct the Congo expedition, and received command of a steamer called the "Congo," with a crew of 49 officers and men. The expedition reached the mount of the great river on July 5, 1816, the proceeded up to the foot of the falls of Yellala, the farthest point hitherto reached. Captain Tuckey, with 15 of his party, landed on the north shore on the 14th of August; and, after traveling for about 40 miles over a hilly country, he reached the head of the falls and the banks of the upper river. He had explored the river for a distance of 280 miles from the sea. But death overtook the commander of the expedition and several officers, and the "Congo" returned in command of the master, Mr Fitzmaurice, after executing the survey from the foot of the falls to Embomma.

South America had produced two eminent physical geographer, namely, Caldas of Bogota and Unanue of Lima, before the scenery of the Orinoco and the Andres became familiar to Europe through the charming narratives of Humboldt. It was in 1799 that the great Prussian naturalist embarked at Coruña, and landed at Cumana on the coast of Venezuela. His observant eye and bright, produced pictures of the physical aspects of the regions he explored which are quite unequalled. What he said of George Foster is even more true of himself: "He depicted in pleasing colours the changing stages of vegetation, the relations of climate and articles of food in their influence on the civilization of mankind. All that can give truth, individuality, and distinctiveness to the delineation of exotic nature is united in his work." The Orinoco and Cassiquiari, the falls of Tequendama, the mountains of Quindiu, Chimborazo, and Quito, Cajamarca, and the upper Amazon, and the varied scenery of Mexico, are imprinted on the imagination with life-like form and colouring by this great master of description. His service to geography was far greater than that of any mere discoverer. Humboldt left the New World in 1804.

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