"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 41, Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?, Part Three

The Africa Journals

Chapter 41
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?
Part Three

I had intended to have gone into Africa incognito. But the fact that a white man, even an American, was about to enter Africa was soon known all over Zanzibar.—Henry Morton Stanley

John Rowlands was on a roll.   Well, as fast a roll as 200 porters, each carrying 70 lbs. loads, numerous pack animals, and wretched conditions would allow.   The caravan was so large, Rowlands split it into several sections, sending them on ahead while he brought up the rear.


Rowlands had been kicking around most of his life, as well as been kicked around.   Born in 1841 as the offspring of the town prostitute and the local drunk, the notation of “bastard” on his birth records had plagued him.  He lived with his grandfather for five years until the old man died, and then through subterfuge was abandoned at a poorhouse where were encountered the abusive horrors of overcrowding and little supervision.

At 17, Rowlands signed on as a cabin boy on a ship headed to the United States, then found himself seasick and high in the rigging, tending to the sails during the worst weather of the season.  He jumped ship in New Orleans, and eventually enlisted in the Confederate Army just in time for the Battle of Shiloh, where 10,000 men died in less than 24 hours.  He was taken prisoner during his second day on battlefield and placed in a Union POW camp.  

Two months of that was all Rowlands could take and he enlisted in the Union Army.   He was discharged after 18 days because of extreme illness.   Then he found employment in the Union Navy as a ship’s clerk.   He deserted and went west to cover the Indian Wars for a newspaper service.

He talked his way into a job as a reporter for the New York Herald, then the top newspaper of 11 in New York City. Now, tramping through the mud and heat of Africa, Rowlands was on a secret mission for that paper.

Better yet, he was putting his personal demons behind him while leading this expedition into Central Africa.  He was sure his cover story of being a journalist writing a travel story was accepted in Zanzibar, where he provisioned this mass caravan, though many there wondered about the enormous amount of supplies he had purchased.

Not only was his cover story false, so was Rowlands himself.  Yes, he’d been born John Rowlands, but not in the United States as he’d led people to believe.   He had been born in Wales.  After working for a man who mentored him in Louisiana, Rowlands adopted the man’s name as his own.  He was now Henry Stanley, journalist and explorer.

Stanley was heading for the village of Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, where he believed he might find the missing Dr. David Livingstone.  The doctor had made arrangement before leaving England to have resupply shipments sent to Ujiji, and Stanley figured he’d either find the doctor there or find out about his whereabouts.

Malaria, dysentery, smallpox, warring tribes, deserting porters, theft of supplies, nothing would deter Stanley from his obsession.   His largest worry was that he would learn Livingstone was either not in Ujiji or was dead.

And so he pushed onward, through horrendous swamps and arid stretches, pausing only when he was sick, not when any of his hired men were sick.   He was also finding that he liked the feeling of power over men, often administered with a whip.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Meanwhile, down at Tern Lake

It's definitely spring and the summer folk are arriving daily.

Female merganser

Barrow's Goldeneye


Male merganser

Female Merganser  

Mallard drake

Camera shy mallards

Magpies harassing juvenile bald eagle

Eagle seeking other location.

The gull in the upper right objects to the eagle's choice of location.

Seagulls are chasing away the eagle.   They were too far away for my 200mm zoom lens.

Barrow's Goldeneye

Black-billed magpie

See the white line in the foreground?   That's the fog line on the main highway of the Kenai peninsula.

Mallard drake

Mallard hen and swans

Mallard drake

The swans are pulling up vegetation from the lake bottom.   The ducks are there to enjoy the free  floating leftovers

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 40, Dr. Livingstone, I Presume? Part Two

The Africa Journals

Chapter 40
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?
Part 2

A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain…
—Alexander Pope, A Little Learning

Time has erased how and when I first heard the story of Stanley and Livingstone meeting up in the dense jungles of Africa.   I suspect it was reading The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, but I’m not sure. 

Whatever its delivery system, I know it was not accompanied with photographs, film, or television, because the image that’s been in my head for at least a half century was created entirely by my imagination.  It involves two men, wearing pith hats, using machetes to whack their way through a bamboo forest, and then suddenly coming upon each other in mid-whack.  

Whereupon Stanley doffs his pith hat and says, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Except, that isn’t the way it happened.   Not at all, not at all, not at all.

That old image involving pith hats, machetes, and a bamboo forest still lurks in my head.   Now, thanks to Russell Gammon and Martin Dugard, it has been pushed aside by a new image, one burnished by the African sun, painted with the vibrant colors of that country, and populated with its great beasts.

Russell Gammon


Livingstone was missing.   He’d not been heard from for several years.  Apparently the Dark Continent had swallowed him and stories ran rampant.  He was rumored to be held captive; he was reported to be dead by porters who claimed they saw him struck in the spine with an axe.

His many admirers in England were anxious for any news of the medical missionary who had captured their imaginations with his exploits in Africa.   They pressed the government to send a rescue caravan to find him.

Livingstone, that is Dr. David Livingstone, was a national hero in England and highly regarded for his exploration of the unknown interior of Africa.  He was on his third trip, this time to find the source of the Nile River, the longest river on earth.  This was the paramount goal in the mid- 1800s, the grail of exploration.

Born into poverty in 1813 in Glasgow, Scotland, he was the second of seven children.  While still a child, he worked 14 hour shifts in cotton mills.  He put himself through medical school, then entered the London Missionary Society seminary.  Sent to southern Africa in 1840 to set up missions, dispense religion and medicine, he found exploring much to his liking.

Discovering Lake Nagami, 1849.     From Princeton's Livnigstone collection.

Already, he’d walked across the unmapped interior of Africa from east to west, surviving the diseases, warrior tribes, and predatory animals in the country.  An attack by a lion had broken his arm.   He set it and stitched up the wounds himself, without anesthesia, but it left him with a crooked arm.   Now in his mid-fifties, Livingstone suffered from malaria and dysentery.   He was traveling in areas known to be inhabited by cannibals.   All this, and more, in a country where the average life expectancy of a white man was six months.

Sketch from Uncommon Christian Ministries.

It was during these travels that he witnessed the horrors of the slave trade in the country. 

Africans captured by Africans to be sold as slaves.

Arab slavers raided village after village, capturing men, women, and children and selling them into slavery.   The Portuguese purchased captives from Africans who had captured other Africans, and  sent them to northern Arabia, India, Persia and China.   The Arabs also purchased Africa-captured slaves and sold them in northern Africa and Turkey.   Slaves from eastern Africa went to India, Persia, and Arabia.

Arabs raiding village for slaves.   Based on drawing by H.H. Johnson for a London newspaper.

From the Portuguese stronghold in eastern Africa, slaves went to England, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and France.  Those captured in western Africa went to America, the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, and Europe.   A cholera epidemic in Zanzibar decimated the population, including the cheap labor slaves, and now, during Livingstone’s trek, slaving was a lucrative trade. 

Massive Arab slaving caravans numbering into the hundreds roamed the continent and they were well aware of Dr. David Livingstone.   They came across him regularly, occasionally carrying his letters to the coast for shipment to England.   Sometimes, they destroyed his missives, knowing they contained his written evidence of their slave practices.

Slavery appalled Livingstone.   While he was still in England, he had mounted a campaign to stop slavery, speaking publicly and often.

Now, the great explorer was missing.