Remarkable People

ID #5274

David Livingstone 4 Exploration.

After the Kolobeng mission was closed in 1852-56, Livingstone explored the northern interior and was the first European to see Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") which he renamed Victoria Falls. He later wrote, "Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."

Despite repeated attempts, central and southern Africa had not been crossed by Europeans because of malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness prevalent in the interior as well as opposition by powerful chiefs and tribes. Livingstone was the first Westerner to journey across southern Africa – from Luanda in Angola to Quelimane near the mouth of the Zambezi in Mozambique in 1854–56. He was able to reassure chiefs that he was not a threat because he traveled light. On most of his journeys he traveled with few servants and porters, bartering for supplies along the way and with few guns for protection. He preached Christianity but did not force the message on unwilling ears.

Livingstone was a proponent of trade and the establishment of Christian missions in Central Africa. His motto, inscribed in the base of his statue at Victoria Falls, was "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization." He believed the key to achieving these goals was navigation of the Zambezi River. He returned to Britain to try to garner support for his ideas, and to publish a book on his travels.
Believing he had a calling for exploration rather than mission work and was encouraged by British response to his discoveries. He resigned from the London Missionary Society in 1857 after they demanded that he do more evangelizing and less exploring. With help from the Royal Geographical Society, he was appointed Her Majesty's Consul for the East Coast of Africa. The British Government agreed to fund and he returned as head of a Zambezi Expedition. Unfortunately it turned out to be impassible past the Cahora Bassa rapids, a series of cataracts and rapids Livingstone had failed to explore on earlier travels.

The expedition lasted from March 1858 until 1864. Livingstone was said to be an inept leader and incapable of managing a large-scale project. He was also said to be secretive, self righteous, moody and intolerant of criticism. This severely strained the expedition and led to his physician, John Kirk, to later record: "I can come to no conclusion other than that Dr. Livingstone is out of his mind and a most unsafe leader". Thomas Baines was dismissed from the expedition on charges, which he vigorously denied, of theft. The expedition was the first to reach Lake Malawi, which he explored it in a four-oared gig. In 1862 they returned to the coast to await the arrival of a steam boat designed to sail on Lake Malawi. Mary Livingstone, who by now was an alcoholic, arrived with the boat. She died of malaria in April 1862 and Livingstone continued his explorations. Attempts to navigate the Ruvuma River failed because of fouling of the paddle wheels by bodies thrown into the river by slave traders, and Livingstone's assistants gradually either died or left him. At this point he uttered his famous quote, "I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward." He returned home in 1864 after the government ordered the recall of the expedition because of increasing costs and failure to find a navigable route into the interior. The Zambezi Expedition was castigated as a failure and Livingstone experienced difficulty raising funds to further explore Africa. Nevertheless, scientists John Kirk, Charles Meller, and Richard Thornton contributed collections of botanic, ecological, geological and ethnographic material to institutions in the United Kingdom.

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:34
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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