The Albert N'Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile
Sir Samuel White Baker

Part 9 out of 9

towards Old England.

We arrived at Berber, the spot from which we had started upwards of four
years ago for our Atbara expedition. Here we were most hospitably
received by Monsieur and Madame Laffargue, a French gentleman and his
charming wife, who had for many years been residents in the Soudan. It
is with feelings of gratitude that I express my thanks to all Frenchmen
that I have met in those wild countries, for courtesies and attention,
that were appreciated by me like unexpected flowers in a desert. I can
only hope that Frenchmen may, when in need, receive the same kindness
from my countrymen, when travelling in lands far distant from LA BELLE

I determined upon the Red Sea route to Egypt, instead of passing the
horrible Korosko desert during the hot month of August. After some delay
I procured camels, and started east for Souakim, from whence I hoped to
procure a steamer to Suez.

This route from Berber is not the usual caravan road: the country was in
rather a disturbed state, owing to the mutiny of all the black troops in
the Egyptian service in the Taka province; and the Hadendowa Arabs, who
are at no time the best of their race, were very excited. The first
eight days' journey are devoid of water, except at two stations, the
route being desert. Our party consisted of my wife, Richarn, Achmet, and
Zeneb; the latter was a six-foot girl of the Dinka tribe, with whom
Richarn had fallen in love and married during our sojourn at Khartoum.

Zeneb was a good girl, rather pretty, as strong as a giraffe, and a good
cook; a very valuable acquisition for Richarn. Her husband, who had been
my faithful follower, was now a rich man, being the owner of thirty
napoleons, the balance of his wages. Achmet was an Egyptian servant,
whom I had recently engaged in Khartoum. I had also offered a Swiss
missionary the protection of our party.

One day, during the heat of noon, after a long march in the burning sun
through a treeless desert, we descried a solitary tree in the distance,
to which we hurried as to a friend. Upon arrival, we found its shade
occupied by a number of Hadendowa Arabs. Dismounting from our camels, we
requested them to move and to give place for our party--as a tree upon
the desert is like a well of water, to be shared by every traveller. Far
from giving the desired place, they most insolently refused to allow us
to share the tree. Upon Richarn attempting to take possession, he was
rudely pushed on one side, and an Arab drew his knife. Achmet had a
coorbatch (hippopotamus whip) in his hand, that he had used on his
camel; the act of raising this to threaten the Arab who had drawn his
knife was the signal for hostilities. Out flashed the broadswords from
their sheaths! and the headman of the party aimed a well-intended cut at
my head. Parrying the cut with my sun umbrella, I returned with a quick
thrust directly in the mouth, the point of the peaceful weapon
penetrating to his throat with such force that he fell upon his back.
Almost at the same moment I had to parry another cut from one of the
crowd that smashed my umbrella completely, and left me with my remaining
weapons, a stout Turkish pipe-stick about four feet long, and my fist.
Parrying with the stick, thrusting in return at the face, and hitting
sharp with the left hand, I managed to keep three or four of the party
on and off upon their backs, receiving a slight cut with a sword upon my
left arm in countering a blow which just grazed me as I knocked down the
owner, and disarmed him. My wife picked up the sword, as I had no time
to stoop, and she stood well at bay with her newly-acquired weapon that
a disarmed Arab wished to wrest from her, but dared not close with the
naked blade. I had had the fight all my own way, as, being beneath the
tree (the boughs of which were very near the ground), the Arabs, who do
not understand the use of the point, were unable to use their swords, as
their intended cuts were intercepted by the branches. Vigorous thrusting
and straight hitting cleared the tree, and the party were scattered
right and left, followed up by Richarn and Achmet, armed with
double-barrelled rifles. I was determined to disarm the whole party, if
possible. One of the Arabs, armed with a lance, rushed up to attack
Richarn from behind; but Zeneb was of the warlike Dinka tribe, and
having armed herself with the hard wood handle of the axe, she went into
the row like "Joan of Arc," and hastening to the rescue of Richarn, she
gave the Arab such a whack upon the head that she knocked him down on
the spot, and seizing his lance she disarmed him. Thus armed, she rushed
into the thickest of the fray.

"Bravo, Zeneb!" I could not help shouting. Seizing a thick. stick that
had been dropped by one of the Arabs, I called Richarn and our little
party together, and attacking the few Arabs who still offered
resistance, they were immediately knocked down and disarmed. The leader
of the party, who had been the first to draw his sword and had received
a mouthful of umbrella, had not moved from the spot where he fell, but
amused himself with coughing and spitting. I now ordered him to be
bound, and threatened to tie him to my camel's tail and lead him a
prisoner to the Governor of Souakim, unless he called all those of his
party who had run away. They were now standing at a distance in the
desert, and I insisted upon the delivery of their weapons. Being
thoroughly beaten and cowed, he conferred with those whom we had taken
prisoners, and the affair ended by all the arms being delivered up. We
counted six swords, eleven lances, and a heap of knives, the number of
which I forget.

I ordered the entire party to stand in a line; and I gave them their
choice, whether the ringleaders would receive a flogging from me, or
whether I should tie them to the tails of camels and lead them to the
Turkish Governor of Souakim? They immediately chose the former; and,
calling them from the rank, I ordered them to lie down on the ground to
receive punishment.

They submitted like dogs; Richarn and Achmet stood over them with their
whips, ready for the word. At this moment an old white-headed Arab of my
caravan came to me: kneeling down, he stroked my beard with his dirty
hands, and implored pardon for the offenders. Thoroughly understanding
the Arab character, I replied, "They are miserable sons of dogs, and
their swords are like the feathers of a fowl; they deserve flogging, but
when a white head asks for pardon, it should be granted. God is
merciful, and we are all his children." Thus was the affair ended to the
satisfaction of our side. I broke all the lances into fragments upon a
rock,--ordered Zeneb to make a fire with the wood of the handles, to
boil some coffee; and tying the swords into a bundle, we packed the
lance-heads and knives in a basket, with the understanding that they
should be delivered to their owners on our arrival at the last well,
after which point there would be water on the route every day. From that
place, there would be no fear of our camels being stolen, and of our
being deserted in the desert.

On arrival at the well a few days later, I delivered the weapons to
their owners as promised, they having followed our party. Souakim is
about 275 miles from the Nile at Berber. At Kokreb, about half-way, we
entered the chain of mountains that extends from Suez parallel with the
Red Sea to the south; many portions of this chain are four or five
thousand feet above the sea-level. The mountains were exceedingly
beautiful, their precipitous sides of barren rock exhibiting superb
strata of red and grey granite, with vast masses of exquisite red and
green porphyry. Many hills were of basalt, so black, that during an
entire day's journey the face of the country appeared like a vast desert
of coal, in broken hills and blocks strewed over the surface of the
ground. Kokreb was a lovely oasis beneath the high mountains, with a
forest of low mimosas in full leaf, and a stream running from the
mountains, the produce of a recent storm. Throughout this country there
are no rivers that should be noticed on a map, as the torrents are
merely the effects of violent storms, which, falling upon the mountains
several times during the rainy season from June to the end of August
tear their boisterous way along their stony course and dry up in a few
hours, becoming exhausted in the sand of the deserts. For some days our
course lay along a deep ravine between stupendous cliffs; this was the
bed of a torrent, that, after heavy storms, flowed through the
mountains, inclining to the east; in this were pools of most beautifully
clear water. In many places the nooks among the cliffs were fringed with
lovely green trees. It was extraordinary to observe the activity of the
camels in climbing the most difficult passes, and in picking their way
among the rocks and stones that obstructed the route. In many places
camels might be seen grazing upon the green mimosa bushes, that growing
among the rocks high upon the mountains had tempted the animals into
places that I should not have believed they could have reached.

After a journey of twenty-four days from the Nile at Berber, we emerged
from the mountain-pass, and from the elevated embouchure we obtained a
sudden and most welcome view of the Red Sea. We now quickly descended:
the heat increased every hour; and after a long day's march, we slept
within a few miles of Souakim. On the following morning we entered the

Souakim is a considerable town; the houses are all built of coral. The
principal dwellings, and the custom house and Government offices are
situated on an island in the harbour. We were received with much
attention by the Governor, Moomtazze Bey, who very kindly offered us a
house. The heat was frightful, the thermometer 115 degrees F and in some
houses 120 degrees F.

There is no doubt that Souakim should be the port for all exports and
imports for the Soudan provinces. Were a line of steamers established
from Suez, to call regularly at Souakim, at a moderate freight, it would
become a most prosperous town, as the geographical position marks it as
the nucleus for all trade with the interior. At present there is no
regularity: the only steamers that touch at Souakim are those belonging
to the Abdul Azziz Company, who trade between Suez and Jedda. Although
advertised for distinct periods, they only visit Souakim when they think
proper, and their rates are most exorbitant.

There was no steamer upon our arrival. After waiting in intense heat for
about a fortnight, the Egyptian thirty-two gun steam frigate,
Ibralaimeya, arrived with a regiment of Egyptian troops, under Giaffer
Pasha, to quell the mutiny of the black troops at Kassala, twenty days'
march in the interior. The General Giaffer Pasha, and Mustapha Bey the
captain of the frigate, gave us an entertainment on board in English
style, in honour of the completion of the Nile discovery. Giaffer Pasha
most kindly placed the frigate at our disposal to convey us to Suez, and
both he and Mustapha Bey endeavoured in every way to accommodate us. For
their extreme courtesy I take this opportunity of making my

Orders for sailing had been received, but suddenly a steamer was
signalled as arriving: this was a transport, with troops. As she was to
return immediately to Suez, I preferred the dirty transport rather than
incur a further delay. We started from Souakim, and after five days'
voyage we arrived at Suez. Landing from the steamer, I once more found
myself in an English hotel. The spacious inner court was arranged as an
open conservatory; in this was a bar for refreshments, and "Allsopp's
Pale Ale" on draught, with an ice accompaniment. What an Elysium! The
beds had SHEETS and PILLOW-CASES! neither of which had I possessed for

The hotel was thronged with passengers to India, with rosy, blooming
English ladies, and crowds of my own countrymen. I felt inclined to talk
to everybody. Never was I so in love with my own countrymen and women;
but they (I mean the ladies) all had large balls of hair at the backs of
their heads! What an extraordinary change! I called Richarn, my pet
savage from the heart of Africa, to admire them. "Now, Richarn, look at
them!" I said. "What do you think of the English ladies? eh, Richarn?
Are they not lovely?"

"Wah Illahi!" exclaimed the astonished Richarn, "they are beautiful!
What hair! They are not like the negro savages, who work other people's
hair into their own heads; theirs is all real--all their own--how

"Yes, Richarn," I replied, "ALL THEIR OWN!" This was my first
introduction to the "chignon."

We arrived at Cairo, and I established Richarn and his wife in a
comfortable situation, as private servants to Mr. Zech, the master of
Sheppard's Hotel. The character I gave him was one that I trust has done
him service: he had shown an extraordinary amount of moral courage in
totally reforming from his original habit of drinking. I left my old
servant with a heart too full to say good-bye; a warm squeeze of his
rough, but honest black hand, and the whistle of the train sounded,--we
were off!

I had left Richarn, and none remained of my people. The past appeared
like a dream-the rushing sound of the train renewed ideas of
civilization. Had I really come from the Nile Sources? It was no dream.
A witness sat before me; a face still young, but bronzed like an Arab by
years of exposure to a burning sun; haggard and worn with toil and
sickness, and shaded with cares, happily now past; the devoted companion
of my pilgrimage, to whom I owed success and life--my wife.

I had received letters from England, that had been waiting at the
British Consulate;--the first I opened informed me, that the Royal
Geographical Society had awarded me the Victoria Gold Medal, at a time
when they were unaware whether I was alive or dead, and when the success
of my expedition was unknown. This appreciation of my exertions was the
warmest welcome that I could have received on my first entrance into
civilization after so many years of savagedom: it rendered the
completion of the Nile Sources doubly grateful, as I had fulfilled the
expectations that the Geographical Society had so generously expressed
by the presentation of their medal Before my task was done.



Tarrangolle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2047
Obbo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3480
Shoggo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3770
Asua River . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2619
Shooa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3619
Rionga's Island . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3685
Karuma, below falls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3737
Karuma, south of falls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3796
South of Karuma, at river level. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3794
M'rooli, river level, junction of Kafoor . . . . . . . . . . . 3796
West of M'rooli, on road to Albert lake . . . . . . . . . . . 4291
Land above lake, east cliff . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 4117
Albert N'yanza, lake level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2448
Shooa Moru, island of Patooan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2918
Gondokoro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 1636

The above heights will be found to differ considerably from those given
by Mr. Baker in his letter written from Khartoum in May, 1865, and
published in the TIMES newspaper in June. This arises from Mr. Baker
having corrected his observations, whilst in the interior of Africa,
from what have since proved erroneous data: the above are the correct
computations of the same observations.

DETERMINING HEIGHTS. By Staff-Commander C. George,
Curator of Maps, Royal Geographical Society.

This thermometer was one of the three supplied by the Royal Geographical
Society to Consul Petherick, in 1861, and was made by Mr. Casella.

At Gondokoro, in March, 1862, it was lent to Mr. Baker, who made all his
observations with it, and brought it back safe: it has, therefore, been
in use about 4 and 3/4 years.

On November 9th, 1865, Mr. Baker returned it to the Royal Geographical
Society, and it was immediately taken to Mr. Casella, who tested its
accuracy by trying its boiling-point, in nearly the same manner as Mr.
Baker had made his observations. The result by two independent observers
was that the boiling-point had increased in its reading by 0 degree
point 75 in 4 and 3/4 years, or 0 degree point 172 yearly.

On November 23d the thermometer was again tested by Mr. Baker at the Kew
Observatory. The observation was made under the same conditions as those
near the Albert N'yanza, as nearly as it was possible to make it. (By
immersion in boiling water.) The result gave the thermometer 0 degree
point 80 too much at the boiling-point.

The readings of the thermometer have, therefore, been TOO MUCH; and by
REDUCING the readings, it ELEVATES all positions at which observations
were made.

Table No. 1.--In this Table the error obtained at Kew Observatory has
been treated like that of a chronometer, the error being assumed
increasing and regular.

Table No. 2 is to correct the height, computed by Mr. Dunkin, using the
quantity taken from Table No. 1.

Table No. 3 is the final result of the observations for height,
corrected for instrumental error.

TABLE No. 1.

Table for Increased Reading of Thermometer, using 0 degrees 80 as the
Result of Observations for its Error.

Month. 1861. 1862. 1863. 1864. 1865.
January. . . -- 0'143 0'314 0'487 0'659
February . . -- '157 '328 '501 '673
March . . . 0'000 '172 '344 '516 '688
April . . . '014 '186 '358 '530 '702
May . . . . '028 '200 '372 '544 '716
June . . . . '043 '214 '387 '559 '730
July . . . . '057 '228 '401 '573 '744
August . . . '071 '243 '415 '587 '758
September . . '086 '257 '430 '602 '772
October . , . '100 '271 '444 '616 '786
November . . '114 '285 '458 '630 0'800
December . . 0'129 0'300 0'473 0'645 --

TABLE No. 2.

At the elevation of 3,500 feet, 1 Degrees equals about 520 feet, from
which the following--

Degrees Feet. Degrees Feet Degrees Feet.
1'0 . . . 520 '7 . . . 364 '3 . . . 156
'9 . . . 468 '6 . . . 312 '25 . . . 130
'8 . . . 416 '5 . . . 260 '2 . . . 104
'75. . . 390 '4 . . . 208 '1 . . . 52


Back to Full Books