A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone's Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries: And of the Discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa (1858-1864)

Part 7 out of 7

delightful process of resting, to appreciate which a man must have
gone through great exertions. In our case the muscles of the limbs
were as hard as boards, and not an ounce of fat existed on any part
of the body. We now had frequent showers; but, these being only the
earlier rains, the result on the rise of the river was but a few
inches. The effect of these rains on the surrounding scenery was
beautiful in the extreme. All trace of the dry season was soon
obliterated, and hills and mountains from base to summit were covered
with a mantle of living green. The sun passed us on his way south
without causing a flood, so all our hopes of a release were centred
on his return towards the Equator, when, as a rule, the waters of
inundation are made to flow. Up to this time the rains descended
simply to water the earth, fill the pools, and make ready for the
grand overflow for which we had still to wait six weeks. It is of no
use to conceal that we waited with much chagrin; for had we not been
forced to return from the highlands west of Nyassa we might have
visited Lake Bemba; but unavailing regrets are poor employment for
the mind; so we banished them to the best of our power.

About the middle of December, 1863, we were informed that Bishop
Mackenzie's successor, after spending a few months on the top of a
mountain about as high as Ben Nevis in Scotland, at the mouth of the
Shire, where there were few or no people to be taught, had determined
to leave the country. This unfortunate decision was communicated to
us at the same time that six of the boys reared by Bishop Mackenzie
were sent back into heathenism. The boys were taken to a place about
seven miles from the ship, but immediately found their way up to us.
We told them that if they wished to remain in the country they had
better so arrange at once, for we were soon to leave. The sequel
will show their choice.

As soon as the death of Bishop Mackenzie was known at the Cape, Dr.
Gray, the excellent Bishop there, proceeded at once to England, with
a view of securing an early appointment of another head to the
Mission, which in its origin owed so much to his zeal for the spread
of the gospel among the heathen, and whose interests he had
continually at heart. About the middle of 1862 we heard that Dr.
Gray's efforts had been successful, and that another clergyman would
soon take the place of our departed friend. This pleasing
intelligence was exceedingly cheering to the Missionaries, and
gratifying also to the members of the Expedition. About the
beginning of 1863 the new Bishop arrived at the mouth of the river in
a man-of-war, and after some delay proceeded inland. The Bishop of
the Cape had taken a voyage home at considerable inconvenience to
himself, for the sole object of promoting this Mission to the
heathen; and it was somehow expected that the man he would secure
would be an image of himself; and we must say, that whatever others,
from the representations that have gone abroad, may think of his
character, we invariably found Dr. Gray to be a true, warm-hearted
promoter of the welfare of his fellow-men; a man whose courage and
zeal have provoked very many to good works.

It was hoped that the presence of a new head to the Mission would
infuse new energy and life into the small band of Missionaries, whose
ranks had been thinned by death; and who, though discouraged by the
disasters which the slave war and famine had induced, and also
dispirited by the depressing influences of a low and unhealthy
position in the swampy Shire Valley, were yet bravely holding out
till the much-needed moral and material aid should arrive.

We believe that we are uttering the sentiments of many devout members
of different sections of Christians, when we say, it was a pity that
the Mission of the Universities was abandoned. The ground had been
consecrated in the truest sense by the lives of those brave men who
first occupied it. In bare justice to Bishop Mackenzie, who was the
first to fall, it must be said, that the repudiation of all he had
done, and the sudden abandonment of all that had cost so much life
and money to secure, was a serious line of conduct for one so
unversed in Missionary operations as his successor, to inaugurate.
It would have been no more than fair that Bishop Tozer, before
winding up the affairs of the Mission, should actually have examined
the highlands of the Upper Shire; he would thus have gratified the
associates of his predecessor, who believed that the highlands had
never had a fair trial, and he would have gained from personal
observation a more accurate knowledge of the country and the people
than he could possibly have become possessed of by information
gathered chiefly on the coast. With this examination, rather than
with a stay of a few months on the humid, dripping top of misty
Morambala, we should have felt much more satisfied.

In January, 1864, the natives all confidently asserted that at next
full moon the river would have its great and permanent flood. It had
several times risen as much as a foot, but fell again as suddenly.
It was curious that their observation coincided exactly with ours,
that the flood of inundation happens when the sun comes overhead on
his way back to the Equator. We mention this more minutely because,
from the observation of several years, we believe that in this way
the inundation of the Nile is to be explained. On the 19th the Shire
suddenly rose several feet, and we started at once; and stopping only
for a short time at Chibisa's to bid adieu to the Ajawa and Makololo,
who had been extremely useful to us of late in supplying maize and
fresh provisions, we hastened on our way to the ocean. In order to
keep a steerage way on the "Pioneer," we had to go quicker than the
stream, and unfortunately carried away her rudder in passing suddenly
round a bank. The delay required for the repairs prevented our
reaching Morambala till the 2nd of February.

The flood-water ran into a marsh some miles above the mountain, and
became as black as ink; and when it returned again to the river
emitted so strong an effluvium of sulphuretted hydrogen, that one
could not forget for an instant that the air was most offensive. The
natives said this stench did not produce disease. We spent one night
in it, and suffered no ill effects, though we fully expected an
attack of fever. Next morning every particle of white paint on both
ships was so deeply blackened, that it could not be cleaned by
scrubbing with soap and water. The brass was all turned to a bronze
colour, and even the iron and ropes had taken a new tint. This is an
additional proof that malaria and offensive effluvia are not always
companions. We did not suffer more from fever in the mangrove
swamps, where we inhaled so much of the heavy mousey smell that it
was distinguishable in the odour of our shirts and flannels, than we
did elsewhere.

We tarried in the foul and blackening emanations from the marsh
because we had agreed to receive on board about thirty poor orphan
boys and girls, and a few helpless widows whom Bishop Mackenzie had
attached to his Mission. All who were able to support themselves had
been encouraged by the Missionaries to do so by cultivating the
ground, and they now formed a little free community. But the boys
and girls who were only from seven to twelve years of age, and
orphans without any one to help them, could not be abandoned without
bringing odium on the English name. The effect of an outcry by some
persons in England, who knew nothing of the circumstances in which
Bishop Mackenzie was placed, and who certainly had not given up their
own right of appeal to the sword of the magistrate, was, that the new
head of the Mission had gone to extremes in the opposite direction
from his predecessor; not even protesting against the one monstrous
evil of the country, the slave-trade. We believed that we ought to
leave the English name in the same good repute among the natives that
we had found it; and in removing the poor creatures, who had lived
with Mackenzie as children with a father, to a land where the
education he began would be completed, we had the aid and sympathy of
the best of the Portuguese, and of the whole population. The
difference between shipping slaves and receiving these free orphans
struck us as they came on board. As soon as permission to embark was
given, the rush into the boat nearly swamped her--their eagerness to
be safe on the "Pioneer's" deck had to be repressed.

Bishop Tozer had already left for Quillimane when we took these
people and the last of the Universities' Missionaries on board and
proceeded to the Zambesi. It was in high flood. We have always
spoken of this river as if at its lowest, for fear lest we should
convey an exaggerated impression of its capabilities for navigation.
Instead of from five to fifteen feet, it was now from fifteen to
thirty feet, or more, deep. All the sandbanks and many of the
islands had disappeared, and before us rolled a river capable, as one
of our naval friends thought, of carrying a gunboat. Some of the
sandy islands are annually swept away, and the quantities of sand
carried down are prodigious.

The process by which a delta, extending eighty or one hundred miles
from the sea, has been formed may be seen going on at the present
day--the coarser particles of sand are driven out into the ocean,
just in the same way as we see they are over banks in the beds of
torrents. The finer portions are caught by the returning tide, and,
accumulating by successive ebbs and flows, become, with the decaying
vegetation, arrested by the mangrove roots. The influence of the
tide in bringing back the finer particles gives the sea near the
mouth of the Zambesi a clean and sandy bottom. This process has been
going on for ages, and as the delta has enlarged eastwards, the river
has always kept a channel for itself behind. Wherever we see an
island all sand, or with only one layer of mud in it, we know it is
one of recent formation, and that it may be swept away at any time by
a flood; while those islands which are all of mud are the more
ancient, having in fact existed ever since the time when the ebbing
and flowing tides originally formed them as parts of the delta. This
mud resists the action of the river wonderfully. It is a kind of
clay on which the eroding power of water has little effect. Were
maps made, showing which banks and which islands are liable to
erosion, it would go far to settle where the annual change of the
channel would take place; and, were a few stakes driven in year by
year to guide the water in its course, the river might be made of
considerable commercial value in the hands of any energetic European
nation. No canal or railway would ever be thought of for this part
of Africa. A few improvements would make the Zambesi a ready means
of transit for all the trade that, with a population thinned by
Portuguese slaving, will ever be developed in our day. Here there is
no instance on record of the natives flocking in thousands to the
colony, as they did at Natal, and even to the Arabs on Lake Nyassa.
This keeping aloof renders it unlikely that in Portuguese hands the
Zambesi will ever be of any more value to the world than it has been.

After a hurried visit to Senna, in order to settle with Major Sicard
and Senhor Ferrao for supplies we had drawn thence after the
depopulation of the Shire, we proceeded down to the Zambesi's mouth,
and were fortunate in meeting, on the 13th February, with H.M.S.
"Orestes." She was joined next day by H.M.S. "Ariel." The "Orestes"
took the "Pioneer," and the "Ariel" the "Lady Nyassa" in tow, for
Mosambique. On the 16th a circular storm proved the sea-going
qualities of the "Lady of the Lake;" for on this day a hurricane
struck the "Ariel," and drove her nearly backwards at a rate of six
knots. The towing hawser wound round her screw and stopped her
engines. No sooner had she recovered from this shock than she was
again taken aback on the other tack, and driven stem on towards the
"Lady Nyassa's" broadside. We who were on board the little vessel
saw no chance of escape unless the crew of the "Ariel" should think
of heaving ropes when the big ship went over us; but she glided past
our bow, and we breathed freely again. We had now an opportunity of
witnessing man-of-war seamanship. Captain Chapman, though his
engines were disabled, did not think of abandoning us in the heavy
gale, but crossed the bows of the "Lady Nyassa" again and again,
dropping a cask with a line by which to give us another hawser. We
might never have picked it up, had not a Krooman jumped overboard and
fastened a second line to the cask; and then we drew the hawser on
board, and were again in tow. During the whole time of the hurricane
the little vessel behaved admirably, and never shipped a single green
sea. When the "Ariel" pitched forwards we could see a large part of
her bottom, and when her stern went down we could see all her deck.
A boat, hung at her stern davits, was stove in by the waves. The
officers on board the "Ariel" thought that it was all over with us:
we imagined that they were suffering more than we were. Nautical men
may suppose that this was a serious storm only to landsmen; but the
"Orestes," which was once in sight, and at another time forty miles
off during the same gale, split eighteen sails; and the "Pioneer" had
to be lightened of parts of a sugar-mill she was carrying; her round-
house was washed away, and the cabin was frequently knee-deep in
water. When the "Orestes" came into Mosambique harbour nine days
after our arrival there, our vessel, not being anchored close to the
"Ariel," for we had run in under the lee of the fort, led to the
surmise on board the "Orestes" that we had gone to the bottom.
Captain Chapman and his officers pronounced the "Lady Nyassa" to be
the finest little sea-boat they had ever seen. She certainly was a
contrast to the "Ma-Robert," and did great credit to her builders,
Ted and Macgregor of Glasgow. We can but regret that she was not
employed on the Lake after which she was named, and for which she was
intended and was so well adapted.

What struck us most, during the trip from the Zambesi to Mosambique,
was the admirable way in which Captain Chapman handled the "Ariel" in
the heavy sea of the hurricane; the promptitude and skill with which,
when we had broken three hawsers, others were passed to us by the
rapid evolutions of a big ship round a little one; and the ready
appliance of means shown in cutting the hawser off the screw nine
feet under water with long chisels made for the occasion; a task
which it took three days to accomplish. Captain Chapman very kindly
invited us on board the "Ariel," and we accepted his hospitality
after the weather had moderated.

The little vessel was hauled through and against the huge seas with
such force that two hawsers measuring eleven inches each in
circumference parted. Many of the blows we received from the billows
made every plate quiver from stem to stern, and the motion was so
quick that we had to hold on continually to avoid being tossed from
one side to the other or into the sea. Ten of the late Bishop's
flock whom we had on board became so sick and helpless that do what
we could to aid them they were so very much in the way that the idea
broke in upon us, that the close packing resorted to by slavers is
one of the necessities of the traffic. If this is so, it would
account for the fact that even when the trade was legal the same
injurious custom was common, if not universal. If, instead of ten
such passengers, we had been carrying two hundred, with the wind
driving the rain and spray, as by night it did, nearly as hard as
hail against our faces, and nothing whatever to be seen to windward
but the occasional gleam of the crest of a wave, and no sound heard
save the whistling of the storm through the rigging, it would have
been absolutely necessary for the working of the ship and safety of
the whole that the live cargo should all have been stowed down below,
whatever might have been the consequences.

Having delivered the "Pioneer" over to the Navy, she was towed down
to the Cape by Captain Forsyth of the "Valorous," and after
examination it was declared that with repairs to the amount of 300
pounds she would be as serviceable as ever. Those of the Bishop's
flock whom we had on board were kindly allowed a passage to the Cape.
The boys went in the "Orestes," and we are glad of the opportunity to
record our heartfelt thanks to Captains Forsyth, Gardner, and Chapman
for rendering us, at various times, every aid in their power. Mr.
Waller went in the "Pioneer," and continued his generous services to
all connected with the Mission, whether white or black, till they
were no longer needed; and we must say that his conduct to them
throughout was truly noble, and worthy of the highest praise.

After beaching the "Lady Nyassa" at Caboceira, opposite the house of
a Portuguese gentleman well known to all Englishmen, Joao da Costa
Soares, we put in brine cocks, and cleaned and painted her bottom.
Mr. Soares appeared to us to have been very much vilified in a
publication in England a few years ago; our experience proved him to
be extremely kind and obliging. All the members of the Expedition
who passed Mosambique were unanimous in extolling his generosity and,
from the general testimony of English visitors in his favour, we very
much regret that his character was so grievously misrepresented. To
the authorities at Mosambique our thanks are also due for obliging
accommodation; and though we differ entirely from the Portuguese
officials as to the light in which we regard the slave-trade, we
trust our exposure of the system, in which unfortunately they are
engaged, will not be understood as indicating any want of kindly
feeling and good will to them personally. Senhor Canto e Castro, who
arrived at Mosambique two days after our departure to take the office
of Governor-General, was well known to us in Angola. We lived two
months in his house when he was Commandant of Golungo Alto; and,
knowing him thoroughly, believe that no better man could have been
selected for the office. We trust that his good principles may
enable him to withstand the temptations of his position; but we
should be sorry to have ours tried in a den of slave-traders with the
miserable pittance he receives for his support.

While at Mosambique, a species of Pedalia called by Mr. Soares
Dadeleira, and by the natives--from its resemblance to Gerzilin, or
sesamum--"wild sesamum," was shown to us, and is said to be well
known among native nurses as a very gentle and tasteless aperient for
children. A few leaves of it are stirred in a cup of cold water for
eight or nine seconds, and a couple of teaspoonfuls of the liquid
given as a dose. The leaves form a sort of mucilage in the water by
longer stirring, which is said to have diuretic properties besides.

On the 16th April we steamed out from Mosambique; and, the currents
being in our favour, in a week reached Zanzibar. Here we experienced
much hospitality from our countrymen, and especially from Dr. Seward,
then acting consul and political agent for Colonel Playfair.

Dr. Seward was very doubtful if we could reach Bombay before what is
called the break of the monsoon took place. This break occurs
usually between the end of May and the 12th of June. The wind still
blows from Africa to India, but with so much violence, and with such
a murky atmosphere, that few or no observations for position can be
taken. We were, however, at the time very anxious to dispose of the
"Lady Nyassa," and, the only market we could reach being Bombay, we
resolved to run the risk of getting there before the stormy period
commenced; and, after taking fourteen tons of coal on board, we
started on the 30th April from Zanzibar.

Our complement consisted of seven native Zambesians, two boys, and
four Europeans; namely, one stoker, one sailor, one carpenter, whose
names have been already mentioned, and Dr. Livingstone, as navigator.
The "Lady Nyassa" had shown herself to be a good sea-boat. The
natives had proved themselves capital sailors, though before
volunteering not one of them had ever seen the sea. They were not
picked men, but, on paying a dozen whom we had in our employment for
fifteen months, they were taken at random from several hundreds who
offered to accompany us. Their wages were ten shillings per mensem,
and it was curious to observe, that so eager were they to do their
duty, that only one of them lay down from sea-sickness during the
whole voyage. They took in and set sail very cleverly in a short
time, and would climb out along a boom, reeve a rope through the
block, and come back with the rope in their teeth, though at each
lurch the performer was dipped in the sea. The sailor and carpenter,
though anxious to do their utmost, had a week's severe illness each,
and were unfit for duty.

It is pleasant enough to take the wheel for an hour or two, or even
for a watch, but when it comes to be for every alternate four hours,
it is utterly wearisome. We set our black men to steer, showing them
which arm of the compass needle was to be kept towards the vessel's
head, and soon three of them could manage very well, and they only
needed watching. In going up the East Coast to take advantage of the
current of one hundred miles a day, we would fain have gone into the
Juba or Webbe River, the mouth of which is only 15 minutes south of
the line, but we were too shorthanded. We passed up to about ten
degrees north of the Equator, and then steamed out from the coast.
Here Maury's wind chart showed that the calm-belt had long been
passed, but we were in it still; and, instead of a current carrying
us north, we had a contrary current which bore us every day four
miles to the south. We steamed as long as we dared, knowing as we
did that we must use the engines on the coast of India.

After losing many days tossing on the silent sea, with innumerable
dolphins, flying-fish, and sharks around us, we had six days of
strong breezes, then calms again tried our patience; and the near
approach of that period, "the break of the monsoon," in which it was
believed no boat could live, made us sometimes think our epitaph
would be "Left Zanzibar on 30th April, 1864, and never more heard
of." At last, in the beginning of June, the chronometers showed that
we were near the Indian coast. The black men believed it was true
because we told them it was so, but only began to dance with joy when
they saw sea-weed and serpents floating past. These serpents are
peculiar to these parts, and are mentioned as poisonous in the
sailing directions. We ventured to predict that we should see land
next morning, and at midday the high coast hove in sight, wonderfully
like Africa before the rains begin. Then a haze covered all the
land, and a heavy swell beat towards it. A rock was seen, and a
latitude showed it to be the Choule rock. Making that a fresh
starting-point, we soon found the light-ship, and then the forest of
masts loomed through the haze in Bombay harbour. We had sailed over
2500 miles.


{1} A remedy composed of from six to eight grains of resin of jalap,
the same of rhubarb, and three each of calomel and quinine, made up
into four pills, with tincture of cardamoms, usually relieved all the
symptoms in five or six hours. Four pills are a full dose for a man-
-one will suffice for a woman. They received from our men the name
of "rousers," from their efficacy in rousing up even those most
prostrated. When their operation is delayed, a dessert-spoonful of
Epsom salts should be given. Quinine after or during the operation
of the pills, in large doses every two or three hours, until deafness
or cinchonism ensued, completed the cure. The only cases in which,
we found ourselves completely helpless, were those in which obstinate
vomiting ensued.

{2} The late Mr. Robson.

{3} In 1865, four years after these forebodings were penned, we
received intelligence that they had all come to pass. Sekeletu died
in the beginning of 1864--a civil war broke out about the succession
to the chieftainship; a large body of those opposed to the late
chief's uncle, Impololo, being regent, departed with their cattle to
Lake Ngami; an insurrection by the black tribes followed; Impololo
was slain, and the kingdom, of which, under an able sagacious
mission, a vast deal might have been made, has suffered the usual
fate of African conquests. That fate we deeply deplore; for,
whatever other faults the Makololo might justly be charged with, they
did not belong to the class who buy and sell each other, and the
tribes who have succeeded them do.

{4} It was with sorrow that we learned by a letter from Mr. Moffat,
in 1864, that poor Sekeletu was dead. As will be mentioned further
on, men were sent with us to bring up more medicine. They preferred
to remain on the Shire, and, as they were free men, we could do no
more than try and persuade them to hasten back to their chief with
iodine and other remedies. They took the parcel, but there being
only two real Makololo among them, these could neither return
themselves alone or force their attendants to leave a part of the
country where they were independent, and could support themselves
with ease. Sekeletu, however, lived long enough to receive and
acknowledge goods to the value of 50 pounds, sent, in lieu of those
which remained in Tette, by Robert Moffat, jun., since dead.

{5} A brother, we believe, of one who accompanied Burke and Willis in
the famous but unfortunate Australian Expedition.

{6} Genesis, chap. iii., verses 21 and 23, "make coats of skins, and
clothed them"--"sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the
ground" imply teaching. Vide Archbishop Whately's "History of
Religious Worship." John W. Parker, West Strand, London, 1849.

{7} "In 1854 the native church at Sierra-Leone undertook to pay for
their primary schools, and thereby effected a saving to the Church
Missionary Society of 800 pounds per annum. In 1861 the
contributions of this one section of native Christians had amounted
to upwards of 10,000 pounds."--"Manual of Church Missionary Society's
African Missions."


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