Among the Sudanese - James Bruce
Bruce reached the source of the Blue Nile in 1771, a century before the search for the source of the White Nile became headline news. His descriptions of the cruelties and orgies at Gondar, the Ethiopian capital, were greeted with disbelief; so was his account of the Sudanese rulers, and their queens, at Sennar. He was later shown to be an accurate observer as well as the eighteenth century's most intrepid traveller.
Not the Source of the Nile - Richard Francis Burton
In Burton a brilliant mind and dauntless physique were matched with a restless spirit and a deeply troubled soul to produce the most complex of characters. Contemptuous of other mortals, including Speke, his companion and rival, he found solace only in the extremities of erudition and adventure.
A Glimpse of Lake Victoria - John Hanning Speke
In July 1858, while returning from Lake Tanganyika with Burton, Speke made a solo excursion to the north in search of an even larger lake reported by an Arab informant. Although partially blind and unable to ascertain its extent, he named this lake "Victoria" and boldly declared it the long sought source of the White Nile.
The Reservoir of the Nile - Samuel White Baker
Amongst professional explorers and big game hunters, none was as successful as Baker. A bluff and plausible figure, wealthy and resourceful, he conducted his explorations on the grand scale, invariably reached his goal and invariably reaped the rewards.
Last Days - David Livingstone
Livingstone was nurtured in poverty and religious fervour. He reached southern Africa as a missionary doctor but, more suited to solitary exploration, edged north in a series of pioneering journeys into the interior.
Encounters on the Upper Congo - Henry Morton Stanley
Stanley made his name as an explorer by tracking down Livingstone in 1871. But obscure Welsh origins, plus the adoption of US citizenship and professional journalism, did not endear him to London's geographical establishment. His response was to out-travel all contemporaries, beginning with the first ever coast-to-coast crossing of equatorial Africa.
A Novice at Large - Joseph Thomson
Barely twenty and just out of Edinburgh University, Thompson was unexpectedly employed on the Royal Geographical Society's 1878 expedition to the Central African lakes. Unlike Burton he admired Africans; unlike Stanley he would not fight them. His motto - "he who goes slowly, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far" - was never more seriously tested that when, just six weeks inland from Dar es Salaam, his first expedition lost Keith Johnston, its leader and Thompson's only European companion.
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John Keay (Author)
John Keay is the author of twenty books, all factual, mostly historical, and largely to do with Asia, exploration or Scotland. His first book stayed in print for thirty years; many others have become classics. A full-time author since 1973, he has...