This description appeared in the July 1903 issue of National Geographic Magazine following the death of Paul Belloni Du Chaillu on April 30 of that year. He was the first European to bring back proof of the existence of gorillas. In one of his writings, he described a first-hand, face-to-face encounter with a bull gorilla, and here is a real description of the "victory cry of the bull ape" or at least a challenging cry:
[NOTE: The following article appeared in The National Geographic Magazine in the July 1903 issue: Volume 14, Number 7, pages 282-285. It was made available by the generosity of Dr. Lew M. Begley of Mesquite, TX, who has one of the largest collections of The National Geographic Magazine in the world. It was scanned from an original issue of the magazine. I tried to retain the original formatting and therefore have indicated in italicized brackets the original page breaks – Kenneth W. Fuchs (Thandar), December 1999]
PAUL DU CHAILLU
PAUL BELLONI DU CHAILLU, who died at St Petersburg April 30, was born in New Orleans July 31, 1835. His birthplace was thus the same city to which Stanley nearly twenty years later drifted as a cabinboy, to be befriended and adopted by the merchant Stanley. Little is known of Du Chaillu's ancestors, except that they were of one of the old French Huguenot families that had settled in Louisiana. His father, a man of considerable means, was engaged in the West African trade and owned a “factory” or trading depot on the Gaboon coast, a few miles north of the Equator. Paul as a boy accompanied his father to Africa and lived for three or four years on the coast. He was a bright, enterprising youngster, who spent most of his time talking with the natives, hearing their stories and learning their dialects and ways of thinking and living. He liked better to listen to the stories of the native traders than to learn the business of his father. It was this personal knowledge of the native which enabled him afterward to travel for thousands of miles in the interior without being obliged to kill a single native.
About 1853 his father took him back to the United States, but the wild tales the boy had heard had fascinated him and excited him to find out how much was true of what the seacoast natives said of the cannibals, pygmies, wildmen or gorillas, and other marvels of the Great Forest. No white man had previously penetrated more than a few miles into the interior along this part of the coast.
In the fall of 1856 he sailed from New York in a three-masted schooner and was landed at Gaboon in December. The following three and one-half years he passed exploring a section of Africa stretching from Gaboon 320 miles inland and 250 miles north and south. On his return to New York in 1859 he wrote the story of his discoveries, which was published by Harper & Brothers in 1861 under the title of “Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa; with Accounts of the Manners and Cus- [p. 283] toms of the People, and of the Chase of the Gorilla, Crocodile, Leopard, Elephant, Hippopotamus, and other Animals. By Paul B. Du Chaillu, with Map and Illustrations. Harper & Bros., 1861.” In his preface he states:
“I traveled – always on foot, and unaccompanied by other white men – about 8,000 miles. I shot, stuffed, and brought home over 2,000 birds, of which more than 60 are new species, and I killed upwards of 1,000 quadrupeds, of which 200 were stuffed and brought home, with more than 60 hitherto unknown to science. I suffered fifty attacks of the African fever, taking, to cure myself, more than fourteen ounces of quinine. Of famine, long-continued exposures to the heavy tropical rains, and attacks of ferocious ants and venomous flies, it is not worth while to speak.
“My two most severe and trying tasks were the transportation of my numerous specimens to the seashore and the keeping of a daily journal, both of which involved more painful care than I like even to think of.”
In the book he told of gorilla, of which he had brought back the first specimens and which he had been the first white man to see and hunt; of the fierce cannibal tribes, the Fans, who filed their teeth to keep them sharp; of the ravages of the Baskouay ants, which marched in dense columns miles in length, and who were marshalled by officers and generals; of hunting elephants with pitfalls; of a new variety of snake, less than four feet long and six and eight inches thick, which lies in the open places in the woods and whose bite is instantaneous death, and of many other equally wonderful sights.
The book was greeted with shouts of laughter and derision from one end of the American continent to the other. Mr and Mrs and Miss Gorilla was the common jest, and the name Du Chaillu became a byword for a fanciful storyteller. Du Chaillu was only 26 when his first book was published. He was unable to answer satisfactorily the storm [p. 284] of questions hurled at him; consequently nobody believed him, except Harper and Brothers in the United States and the Royal Geographical Society in England, both of whom valiantly and vigorously defended his truthfulness.
In 1863-`65 Du Chaillu made a second journey of exploration to Africa, the narrative of which appeared in 1867 as “A Journey through Ashango Land.” This time he discovered the pygmies of the Dark Forest, but his descriptions of the little people were likewise received with incredulity. With this journey his explorations in Africa ended.
Gradually each of Du Chaillu's discoveries was confirmed by later explorers – by Schweinfürth, Stanley, Sir Harry Johnston, and others. Many years ago they were all verified; but the name Du Chaillu none the less still remains to most Americans that of a romance. In a certain sense Du Chaillu is himself responsible for this feeling, for all his descriptions are so vivid and are so thrillingly told that the reader feels he is reading a work of pure invention, rather than a narrative of actual experience.
His famous description of the first gorilla shot
by a white man is worth quoting:
“Suddenly, as we were yet creeping along, in a silence which made a heavy breath seem loud and distinct, the woods were at once filled with the tremendous barking roar of the gorilla.
“Then the underbrush swayed rapidly just ahead,
and presently before us stood an immense male gorilla. He had gone through
the jungle on his all-fours; but when lie saw our party he erected himself
and looked us boldly in the face. He stood about a dozen yards from us,
and was a sight I think I shall never forget. Nearly six feet high (he
proved four inches shorter), with immense body, huge chest, and great muscular
arms, with fiercely-glaring, large, deep gray eyes, and a hellish expression
of face, which seemed to me like some nightmare vision: thus stood before
us this king of the African forest.
“He was not afraid of us. He stood there, and beat his breast with his huge fists till it resounded like an immense bass-drum, which is their mode of offering defiance; meantime giving vent to roar after roar.
“The roar of the gorilla is the most singular and awful noise heard in these African woods. It begins with a sharp bark, like an angry dog; then glides into a deep bass roll, which literally and closely resembles the roll of distant thunder along the sky, for which I have sometimes been tempted to take it where I did not see the animal. So deep is it that it seems to proceed less from the mouth and throat than from the deep chest and vast paunch.
“His eyes began to flash fiercer fire as we stood motionless on the defensive, and the crest of short hair which stands on his forehead began to twitch rapidly up and down, while his powerful fangs were shown as he again sent forth a thunderous roar. And now truly he reminded me of nothing but some hellish dream creature – a being of that hideous order, half-man, half beast – which we find pictured by old artists in some representations of the infernal regions. He advanced a few steps, then stopped to utter that hideous roar again; advanced again, and finally stopped when at a distance of about six yards from us. And here, just as he began another of his roars, beating his breast in rage, we fired and killed him.”
In later years Du Chaillu traveled extensively in Sweden, Norway, Lapland, Finland, and other countries. He was the originator of the phrases “Land of the Midnight Sun” and “Land of the Long Night.” In 1889 he published “The Viking Age,” his most ambitious work, the result of many years of special research. He published his first book for young people in 1868, called [p. 285] “Stories of the Gorilla Country.” This was followed by many other similar books.
Mr Du Chaillu had many friends among the members,
of the National Geographic Society. His last public address in the United
States was before the National Geographic Society, April 12, 1901, on the
occasion of a farewell reception tendered him by the Society on the eve
of his departure for Russia. His first lecture on his return was to have
been before the National Geographic Society.
[NOTE: This article was made available by the generosity of Dr. Lew M. Begley of Mesquite, TX, who has one of the largest collections of The National Geographic Magazine in the world. It was scanned from the original 1889 magazine. I tried to retain the original formatting and therefore have indicated in italicized brackets the original page breaks. Of special interest to me and all devoted fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs is the reference on page 116 to “the lion and zebra, elephant and tiger.” – Kenneth W. Fuchs (Thandar), December, 1999.]