CRF Blog

Explorers of the Nile

by Bill Hayes

In Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure, Tim Jeal looks at the years in the middle of the 19th century when Victorian explorers risked all to find the source of the Nile River.

From the New York Times Book Review:

In the early 1870s in what is now Zambia, David Livingstone, the greatest of all Victorian explorers, led several expeditions in search of the source of the Nile. At times, he could barely walk, ulcers having chewed through the “muscle, tendon and bone” of his feet. Riddled with malaria, plagued with piles and weakened by pneumonia, he had pulled out several of his rotting teeth using strong thread and a heavy pistol. He had been attacked by roasting heat, pouring rain, tick fever, hostile slavers and leeches “as close as smallpox.” By 1873, he had an excruciatingly painful blood clot in his intestine the size of a fist. In this extremity of suffering, he found time to appreciate the “sweet” voice of a tree frog, but it is another entry in his diary — of truly towering understatement — that most perfectly sums up the wry fortitude of men like Livingstone: “It is not all pleasure this exploration.” [more]