Stanley’s Second African Journey

On November 17th, 1874, when Henry Morton Stanley marched away from Bagamoyo on what was to be his greatest exploring achievement, he was retracing his own steps of 1871 along the well-worn caravan route used by Burton and Speke in 1857; by Speke and Grant in 1860, and, writes C.E. Hamshere, many Arab traders before them.

The objects of the Anglo-American Expedition, which Stanley led, jointly sponsored by the New York Herald and the London Daily Telegraph, were to complete the work of Livingstone, who had died during the previous year, and fill in the gaps in the discoveries of Speke and Grant.

Speke had proved that Lake Victoria was a source of the Nile, but he had not explored the great lake: was it one large lake or a series of lakes? Was there any connection between it and Lake Tanganyika? Did the Lualaba, which Livingstone had traced to its source in Lake Bangweolo, find its way to the Nile, the Niger, or the Congo, which had been traced only to the cataracts 170 miles from its mouth by Captain Tuckey in 1816? Livingstone believed that it joined the Nile.

And what happened to all the water in Lake Tanganyika? For it to remain fresh, there must be an outlet. These were the geographical problems that Stanley set out to solve. More specifically, he intended to circumnavigate and map the two great lakes, and trace the course of the Lualaba to its outfall in the sea.

For this purpose he took out with him a ten-oared boat, specially built of Spanish cedar by James Messenger of Teddington. Constructed in five sections for porterage over the 700 miles to Victoria Nyanza, the Lady Alice, as Stanley christened it, was 40 feet long, 6 feet wide and 30 inches deep.

Each section weighed 280 pounds and was supposed to be carried by four men; but a width of 6 feet proved too wide for a load on an African footpath and the sections had to be subdivided.

Out of twelve hundred applicants Stanley had chosen three companions: two brothers, Francis and Edward Pocock, both experienced boatmen, and Frederick Barker, an hotel clerk with no particular qualifications other than his enthusiasm.

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