Geographical Heroes: Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Morton Stanley was often written about for his mission to find David Livingstone in Africa, however, Stanley himself led several subsequent expeditions which earned him a knighthood and made substantial contributions to the charting and subsequent colonization of the continent. In 1869 the editor of the New York Herald asked Stanley to go on a search for the  missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone, who was last heard of in Central Africa investigating the source of the river Nile. However, rather than head straight into the heart of Africa, Stanley travelled via Egypt (where he covered the opening of the Suez canal(, the Crmea (where he reported on the ar), Baghdad and India. Finally, in 1871 he arrived in Zanzibar.

Image: Wikimedia

Image: Wikimedia

Hearing reports of a man who fitted Livingstone’s description on the east shore of Lake Tanganyika, he assembled an army of porters, guides, hunters and pack animals and began the journey inland. It was 236 days and 700 miles late that he finally found Livingstone in Ujiji, greeting him with the famous words: “Dr. Livingstone I presume?”

Image: RGS

Image: RGS

He spent some months exploring the southern end of the lake with Living stone before returning to write his account: How I Found Livingstone (which is free at the minute on the Kindle should you want to read it). The book has all the heroic and wild ingredients that appealed to the imagination of Victorian England and became hugely popular.

How I found Livingstone

Stanley took inspiration from Livingstone and his taste for adventure and wanted to complete the exploration of Central Africa.  In 1874 he travelled to Zanzibar, where he set out to chart the regions great lakes. He circumnavigated Victoria Nyanza (Lake Victoria), and in doing so confirming the John Hanning Speke was right to claim it was a major Nile source, and carried on west across the continent, tracing the Congo river down to its mouth.

Stanley led many other expeditions, including those in the Congo between 1880-1885 he sought suitable colonies for Leopold II of Belgium. His last expedition, was a relief mission to the Governor of Southern Sudan’s Equatorial province. The expedition made some important discoveries such as the link between Lakes Albert and Edward, and the extent of Ruwenzori mountains. The mystery of the sources of the Nile had become closer to being solved. In 1882, Stanley settled in England, and served in the House of Commons from 1895 and was knighted in 1899. Another fine example of an early explorer who changed the way we saw the world, in particular, Africa.

If you’d like to find out more about this explorer I would highly recommend Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer by Tim Jeal.

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