STANLEY'S narrative in the preceding chapters shows that he
entered the Dark Continent from the mouth of the Congo on the
west coast, sailed up that river and finally entered its tributary,
the Aruwimi. There he established a station and proceeded over-
land with the object of reaching Wadelai, where Emin Pasha was sup-
posed to be located. A reference to the -map of Central Africa, which
the reader has already had an opportunity of scanning, will show the
route that he took after Jeaving the river Aruwimi. It was in this part
of the journey especially that the greatest obstacles and dangers were
encountered. From the following narrative, related with all of Mr.
Stanley's masterly power, it seems surprising that any persons con-
nected with the expedition escaped with their lives. The bold ex-
plorers were beset by every kind of difficulty and peril. Death thinned
the ranks of the party, starvation threatened them, and it was only
with the greatest perseverance and courage, combined with painful
privations, that the final object was attained. Mr. Stanley's account is as
Until we penetrated and marched through it, this region was entirely
unexplored and untrodden by either white or Arab. AThe difficulties
consisted of creepers ranging from one-eighth inch to fifteen inches in
diameter, swinging across the path in bowlines or loops, sometimes
massed and twisted together ; also of a low dense bush, occupying the
sites of old clearings, which had to be carved through before a passage
was possible, Where years had elapsed since the clearings had been
abandoned, we found a young forest and the spaces between the trees
choked with climbing plants, vegetable creepers and tall plants. This
kind had to be tunnelled through before an inch of progress could be
made. The region traversed by us is probably the most extensive
forest region in all Africa, a region, moreover, resembling in many
respects the tropical forest region of South America.
While in England, considering the best routes open to the Nyanza
(Albert), I thought I was very liberal in allowing myself two weeks'
march to cross the forest region lying between the Congo and the grass
land, but you may imagine our feelings when month after month saw us
marching, tearing, plowing, cutting through that same continuous forest.
It took us one hundred and sixty days before we could say, " Thank
God, we are out of the darkness at last." At one time we were all
whites and blacks almost " done up." September, October, and half of
that month of November, 1887, will not be forgotten by us.
Battling- with Death.
October will be specially memorable to us for the sufferings we
endured. Our officers are heartily sick of the forest, but the loyal
blacks, a band of one hundred and thirty, followed me once again into
the wild, trackless forest, with its hundreds of inconveniences, to assist
their comrades of the rear column. Try and imagine some of these
mconveniences. Take a thick Scottish copse, dripping with rain ;
imagine this copse to be a mere undergrowth, nourished under the
impenetrable shades of ancient trees, ranging from one hundred to one
hundred and eighty feet high ; briers and thorns abundant ; lazy creeks,
meandering through the depths of the jungle, and sometimes a deep
affluent of a great river. Imagine this forest and jungle in all stages of
decay and growth old trees falling, leaning perilously over, fallen pros-
trate ; ants and insects of all kinds, sizes, and colors murmuring around;
monkeys and chimpanzees above, queer noises of birds and animals,
crashes in the jungle as troops of elephants rush away; dwarfs with
poisoned arrows securely hidden behind some buttress or in some dark
recess ; strong brown-bodied aborigines with terribly sharp spears, stand-
ing poised, still as dead stumps; rain pattering down on you every other
day in the year; an impure atmosphere, with its dread consequences,
fever and dysentery ; gloom throughout the day, and darkness almost
palpable throughout the night; and then, if you will imagine such a
forest extending the entire distance from Plymouth to Peterhead, you
will have a fair idea of some of the inconveniences endured by us from
June 28th to December 5th, 1887, and from June ist, 1888, to the present
date, to continue again from the present date till about December loth,
1888, when I hope to say a last farewell to the Congo Forest.
A Desolate Wilderness.
Now that we have gone through and through this forest region, I
only feel a surprise that I did not give a greater latitude to my ideas
respecting its extent ; for had we thought of it, it is only what might
have been deduced from our knowledge of the great sources of moisture
necessary to supply the forest with the requisite sap and vitality. Think
of the large extent of the South Atlantic Ocean, whose vapors are blown
during nine months of the year in this direction. Think of the broad
Congo, varying from one to sixteen miles wide, which has a stretch of
one thousand four hundred miles, supplying another immeasurable quan-
tity of moisture, to be distilled into rain, and mist, and dew, over this
insatiable forest ; and then another six hundred miles of the Aruwimi or
Ituri itself, and then you will cease to wonder that there are about one
hundred and fifty days of rain every year in this region, and that the
Congo Forest covers such a wide area.
Until we set foot on the grass land, something like fifty miles west of
the Albert Nyanza, we saw nothing that looked like a smile, or a kind
thought, or a moral sensation. The aborigines are wild, utterly savage,
and incorrigibly vindictive. The dwarfs called Wambutti are worse
still, far worse. Animal life is likewise so wild and shy that no sport is
to be enjoyed. The gloom of the forest is perpetual. The face of the
river, reflecting its blaclj walls of vegetation, is dark and sombre. The
sky one-half of the time every day resembles a winter sky in England ;
the face of Nature and life is fixed and joyless. If the sun charges
through the black clouds enveloping it and a kindly wind brushes the
masses of vapor below the horizon, and the bright light reveals our sur-
roundings, it is only to tantalize us with a short-lived vision of brilliancy
and beauty of verdure.
Light at Last!
Emerging from the forest, finally, we all became enraptured. Like a
captive unfettered and set free, we rejoiced at sight of the blue cope of
heaven, and freely bathed in the warm sunshine, and aches and gloomy
thoughts and unwholesome ideas were banished. You have heard how
the London citizen, after months of devotion to business in the gaseous
atmosphere in that great city, falls into raptures at sight of the green
fields and hedges, meadows and trees, and how his emotions, crowding
on his dazed senses, are indescribable. Indeed, I have seen a Derby day
once, and I fancied then that I only saw madmen, for great, bearded,
hoary-headed fellows, though well dressed enough, behaved in a most
idiotic fashion, amazing me quite. Well, on this 5th of December we
became suddenly smitten with madness in the same manner. Had you
seen us you would have thought we had lost our senses, or that
"Legion " had entered and taken possession of us. We raced with our
loads over a wide, unfenced field (like an English park for the softness of
its grass), and herds of buffalo, eland, roan antelope, stood on either hand
with pointed ears and wide eyes, wondering at the sudden wave of human
beings, yelling with joy, as they issued out of the dark depths of the forest.
A Leprous Outcast.
On the confines of this forest, near a village which was rich in sugar
cane, ripe bananas, tobacco, Indian corn, and other productions of abo-
riginal husbandry, we came across an ancient woman lying asleep. I
believe she was a leper and an outcast, but she was undoubtedly ugly,
vicious, and old; and, being old, she was obstinate. I practised all kinds
of seductive arts to get her to do something besides crossly mumbling,
but of no avail. Curiosity having drawn toward us about a hundred of
our people, she fastened fixed eyes on one young fellow (smooth-faced
and good-looking), and smiled. I caused him to sit near her, and she
became voluble enough beauty and youth had tamed the " beast." From
her talk we learned that there was a powerful tribe, called the Banzanza,
with a great king, to the northeast of our camp, of whom we might be
well afraid, as the people were as numerous as grass. Had we learned
this ten days earlier, I might have become anxious for the result, but it
now only drew a contemptuous smile from the people, for each one, since
he had seen the grass land and evidences of meat, had been transformed
into a hero.
We poured out on the plain a frantic multitude, but after an hour or
two we became an orderly column. Into the emptied villages of the open
country we proceeded, to regale ourselves on melon, rich-flavored bananas
and plantains, and great pots full of wine. The fowls, unaware of the
presence of a hungry mob, were knocked down, plucked, roasted, or
boiled ; the goats, meditatively browsing, or chewing the cud, were sud-
denly seized and decapitated, and the grateful aroma of roast meat grati-
fied our senses. An abundance, a prodigal abundance, of good things,
had awaited our eruption into the grass land. Every village was well
stocked with provisions, and even luxuries long denied to us. Under
such fare the men became most robust, diseases healed as if by magic,
the weak became strong, and there was not a goee-goee or chicken-heart left.
Only the Babusesse, near the main Ituri, were tempted to resist the invasion.
A Great River.
The main Ituri, at the distance of six hundred and eighty miles from
its mouth, is one hundred and twenty-five yards wide, nine feet deep, and
has a current of three knots. It appears to run parallel with the Nyanza.
Near that group of cones and hills affectionately named Mount Schwein-
furth, Mount Junker, and Mount Speke, I would place its highest source.
Draw three or four respectable streams draining into it from the crest of
the plateau overlooking the Albert Nyanza, and two or three respectable
streams flowing into it from northwesterly, let the main stream flow
southwest to near north latitude 1°,give it a bow-like form north latitude
1° to north latitude 1° 50', then let it flow with curves and bends down
to north latitude 1° 17' near Yambunya, and you have a sketch of the
course of the Aruwimi, or Ituri, from the highest source down to its
mouth, and the length of this Congo tributary will be eight hundred
miles. We have traveled on it and along its banks for six hundred and
eighty miles ; on our first march to the Nyanza for one hundred and
flfty-six miles along its banks or near its vicinity ; we returned to obtain
our boat from Kilonga-Longa's ; then we conveyed the boat to the
Nyanza for as many miles again ; for four hundred and eighty miles we
traversed its flanks or voyaged on its waters to hunt up the rear column
of the expedition ; for as many miles we must retrace our steps to the
Albert Nyanza for the third time. You will, therefore, agree with me
that we have sufficient knowledge of this river for all practical purposes.
On the 25th of May, 1888, Emin Pasha's Soudanese were drawn up in
line to salute the advancing column as it marched in file toward the Ituri
River from the Nyanza. Half an hour after we parted. I was musing
as I walked of the Pasha and his steamer when my gun-bearer cried out,
" See, sir, what a big mountain ; it is covered with salt !" I gazed in
the direction he pointed out, and there sure enough
"Some blue peaks in the distance rose,
And white against the cold white sky
Shone out the crowning snows : "
or, rather, to be sure, a blue mountain of prodigious height and mass.
This, then, said I, must be the Ruwenzori, which the natives said had
something white, like the rrietal of my lamp, on the top.
I should estimate its distance to be quite fifty miles from where we
stood. Whether it is Mount Gordon Bennett or not I am uncertain.
Against the supposition is the fact that I saw no snow on the latter in
1876, that its shape is vastly different, and that Ruwenzori is a little too
far west for the position I gave of Gordon Bennett, and I doubt that
Gordon Bennett Mount, if its latitude is correct, could be seen from a
distance of eighty geographical miles in an atmosphere not very remark-
able for its clearness. I should say that the snow line seemed to be
about one thousand feet from the summit. There is plenty of room for
both Ruwenzori and Gordon Bennett in the intervening space between
Beatrice Gulf and the Albert Nyanza.
At the south and southwest of the Albert Nyanza there is no mystery.
A century (or perhaps more) ago, the lake must have been some twelve
or fifteen miles longer, and considerably broader opposite Mbakovia thart
it is now. With the wearing away of reefs obstructing the Nile below
Wadelai, the lake has rapidly receded, and is still doing so to the aston-
ment of the Pasha (Emin), who first saw Lake Albert seven or eight
years. For, he says, " islands that were near the west shore have now
become headlands occupied by our stations and native villages."
Across the lake from Nyamsassie to Mbakovia, its color indicates
great shallowness, being brown and muddy like that of a river flowing
through alluvial soil. Some of this must, of course, be due to the Sem-
liki River, but while on board the Khedive steamer from Nyamsassie to
Nsabi, I noticed that the pole of the sounding-man at the bow constantly
touched from a mile to a mile and a half from shore. Near the south-
end the steamer has to anchor about five miles from shore.
At the southwest end, the plain rises from the edge of the lake one
foot in one hundred and eighty feet. The plain of the south end rises at
the same rate for about ten miles. A slight change then takes place as
the eastern and western walls of the table-land draw nearer, and dcbris
from their slopes, washed by rains and swept by strong winds, humus of
grass and thorn forest, have added to its height above the lake.
Natives say that south of this the plain slopes steeply to the level of the
uplands. A shoulder of the western wall prevented us from verifying,
this, and still beyond must be left until we take our journey homeward.-
I look upon this country lying between the Albert Nj-anza and the
lake discovered by me in 1876 as promising curious revelations. Up to
this moment I am not certain to which river the last lake belongs
whether to the Nile or the Congo. I believe to the latter, but what I am
sure of is that it has no connection with the Albert Nyanza.
HORRORS OF STANLEY'S MARCH.
INTRODUCTION :: CONTENTS
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL and SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All other Original Work ©1996-2017 by William Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.