Samuel Baker

Sir Samuel Baker,and the Sources of the Nile


Of  late years the Lake Regions of Central Africa have offered a fertile and attractive field to the explorer.  The interest of the public in African discovery, which had for some time been dormant, was revived in 1849, by the achievements of Dr. Livingstone, who, starting from the south, crossed the tropic of Capricorn, and penetrated to the shores of Lake Ngami.  In 1853 to 1856 the same great traveller traced the course of the river Leeambye or Zambési, and traversed the entire breadth of the “black continent” from Angola on the west coast to Zanzibar on the east.  In 1865 he resumed his labours, striking into the very heart of Africa, with the view of tracing out the Sources of the Nile, and entering into a fertile country, the resources of which he found to be capable of immense development.  For the first two or three years of his absence his letters and despatches reached England with some degree of regularity, but at length a veil of silence fell across his path, and it began to be feared that he, like other explorers, had fallen a victim to his enthusiasm.  An expedition in search of the missing traveller was equipped by Mr. Gordon Bennett, proprietor of the New York Herald, in 1871, and placed in charge of Mr. Henry M. Stanley, who had the good fortune to find Livingstone at Ujiji, near Unyanyembé, on the 10th of November.  He remained with him until the 14th of March, 1872, when he returned to England with his diary and other documents.  Dr. Livingstone at this time reported that, in his belief, the Nile springs up about six hundred miles to the south of the southernmost point of Lake Victoria Nyanza.  In November, 1872, a relief or auxiliary expedition, under Lieutenant V. Lovett Cameron, started from Zanzibar; but in October, 1873, while at Unyanyembé, its leader received the intelligence of Livingstone's death, which had taken place at Ujiji, and soon afterwards the corpse arrived in charge of his faithful followers.  Cameron then took up the work of exploration, and in spite of immense difficulties, great mental and physical suffering, and obstacles of every kind, he made his way to Lake Tanganyika, thence to Nyangwé, and after identifying the Lualaba with the Kongo, struck to the southward, and passing through regions hitherto unexplored, struck the west coast at Benguela.  As a result of his observations, Lieutenant Cameron thus sketches the river system of Africa:—

“The basin of the Nile is probably bounded on the south-west by the watershed reached by Dr. Schweinfurth; on the south of the Albert Nyanza, by the high lands between that lake and the Tanganyika, whence the watershed pursues a tortuous course to Unyanyembé (where, I believe, the basins of the Nile, Kongo, and Lufiji approach each other), and then follows a wave of high land running east till it turns up northwards along the landward slopes of the mountains dividing the littoral from the interior.  Passing by Mounts Kilima Njaro and Kenia, it extends to the mountains of Abyssinia, where the sources of the Blue Nile were discovered by Bruce [1770], and so on to the parched plains bordering the Red Sea, where no rains ever fall.  The western boundary of the Nile basin is, of course, the eastern portion of the desert.

“The basins of the Niger and the Ogowai cannot yet be defined with any degree of exactitude, and the northern boundary of the basin of the Kongo has still to be traced.

“The Zambési drains that portion of the continent south of the Kongo system, and north of the Kalahari desert and the Limpopo, the northern boundary of the Transvaal Republic; some of its affluents reaching to within two hundred and fifty miles of the west coast.

“The mighty Kongo, king of all the African rivers, and second only to the Amazon (and perhaps to the Yang-tse-Kiang) in the volume of its waters, occupies a belt of the continent lying on both sides of the equator, but most probably the larger area belongs to the southern hemisphere.  Many of its affluents fork into those of the Zambési on a level tableland, where the watershed is so tortuous that it is hard to trace it, and where, during the rainy season, floods extend right across between the head-waters of the two streams.

“The Kelli, discovered by Dr. Schweinfurth, may possibly prove to be the Lowa, reported to me as a large affluent of the Lualaba [or Kongo] to the west of Nyangwé; or, if not an affluent of the Lualaba, it most probably flows either to the Ogowai or the Tchadda, an affluent of the Niger.”

In 1874 another expedition of discovery was fitted out, at the joint expense of the proprietors of the London Daily Telegraph  and the New York Herald, and Mr. H. M. Stanley was appointed to the command.  In 1875 he reached Lake Victoria Nyanza, and through the good offices of Mtesa, King of Uganda, obtained a flotilla of canoes, with which he circumnavigated the lake.  It proved to be the largest basin of fresh water in the world, occupying the immense area of sixty thousand square miles.  Mr. Stanley next pushed on to Lake Albert Nyanza; afterwards circumnavigated the northern half of Lake Tanganyika; struck westward to the Lualaba at Nyangwé (1876), and thence descended the Lualaba as far as the Isangila Falls (June, 1877), whence he crossed the country to Kalinda, on the west coast.


But we must now return to 1857, when Captains Burton and Speke, under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society of London, started from Zanzibar to explore the inland lacustrine region; and discovered, to the south of the equator, Lake Tanganyika, which they partially explored in a couple of canoes.  Captain Burton being taken ill, Speke pushed on to the north alone, and discovered the immense basin now known as the Victoria Nyanza, which he immediately conceived to be the great reservoir and head-waters of the Nile.  To ascertain the truth of this supposition, he started again from the east coast in October, 1860, accompanied by Captain Grant; crossed the great equatorial table-land of the interior; reached the Victoria Nyanza; skirted its shores until they discovered its main outlet, which proved to be the Nile, and then traced the course of the famous river to Gondokoro, whence, by way of Assouan, Thebes, and Cairo, they proceeded to Alexandria.  Their well-directed energy had to a great extent solved the geographical problem of ages, and dispelled the cloud-land in which the Nile springs had so long been hidden:—

“The mystery of old Nile was solved; brave men
   Had through the lion-haunted inland past,
Dared all the perils of desert, gorge, and glen,
   Found the far Source at last.”

With heroic patience they had accomplished on foot their journey of thirteen hundred miles, and shown that the parent stream of the Nile, even in its earliest course a considerable river, was fed by the vast reservoir of the “Victorian Sea.”  What remained to be discovered was the feeders of this vast basin, and which among them was indeed the primary source of the Nile.  Some fresher light was thrown on the subject by Sir Samuel Baker,[369] who, with his wife, underwent some remarkable experiences in Central Africa, and earned a right to be included among our Heroes of Travel.  Let us now follow him “through scorching deserts and thirsty sands; through swamp and jungle and interminable morass; through difficulties, fatigues, and sickness,” until we stand with him on that high cliff where the great prize burst upon his view, and he saw before him one of the chief sources of the Nile in the Luta N'zige, or Albert Lake.


Accompanied by his courageous and devoted wife, who insisted upon sharing his labours and his perils, he sailed up the Nile from Cairo on the 15th of April, 1861.  In twenty-six days they arrived at Kousko, whence they crossed the Nubian desert, so as to cut off the western bend of the river, touching it again at Aboù Hamed.  Eight days more and they reached Berber, where they remained until the 11th of June.  A year was spent in exploring the Abyssinian frontier and the Abyssinian tributaries of the Nile; and the travellers made their appearance at Khartûm on the 11th of June, 1862.  Khartûm is a densely populated, unclean, and pestiferous town, in lat. 15° 29′, at the junction point of the White and Blue Nile; it is the capital of the Soudan, and the seat of a governor-general.  Twenty years ago it was also the centre of a cruel and desolating slave-trade, but the exertions of Sir Samuel Baker and Colonel Gordon have done much to lessen its proportions.

Having engaged a Nile boat, or dahabeeyah, and two larger noggens or sailing barges, with an escort of forty armed men, and forty sailors, and accumulated four months' supplies of provisions, Sir Samuel set sail from Khartûm on the 18th of December, 1862.  On Christmas Day he was slowly ascending the river, the banks of which were fringed with immense forests.  These trees are the soont (Acacia Arabica ), which produce an excellent tannin; the fruit is used for that purpose, and yields a rich brown dye.  The straight smooth trunks are thirty-five feet high, and about eighteen inches in diameter.  When in full foliage they look well from a distance, but on a closer approach the forest is seen to be a desolate swamp, completely overflowed; “a mass of fallen dead trees protruding from the stagnant waters, a solitary crane perched here and there upon the rotten boughs; floating water-plants massed together, and forming green swimming islands, hitched generally among the sunken trunks and branches; sometimes slowly descending with the sluggish stream, bearing, spectre-like, storks thus voyaging on nature's rafts to freer lands unknown.”  This kind of scenery—depressing enough, no doubt—continues for a considerable distance, and so long as it lasts deprives the Nile of that romance with which it has been invested by the imagination of poets.  There is neither beauty nor interest in it; and one is surprised to see the low flat banks studded with populous villages.  The flooded plains, however, afford abundant pasture for the herds of the Shillooks, who in their choice of a locality are governed by considerations of utility, and not by the principles of æstheticism.

The junction of the Sobat takes place in lat. 9° 21′.  This tributary, at the point of confluence, is a hundred and twenty yards broad, and flows at the rate of two miles and a half per hour.  Still the Nile valley presents the same characteristics—broad tracts of marsh and grasses; dull, monotonous levels, unrelieved by any vividness of colour.  After receiving the Bahr-el-Ghazal, the White Nile turns abruptly to the south-east, and winds upward through a flat country, which, in the rainy season, is resolved into a system of extensive lakes.  Its highway is half choked with floating vegetation, which nurtures innumerable clouds of mosquitoes.  The people on its banks belong to the Nuehr tribe; the women pierce the upper lip, and wear an ornament about four inches long, of beads upon a iron wire, which projects like the horn of a rhinoceros.  The men are both tall and robust, and armed with lances.  They carry pipes that will hold nearly a quarter of a pound of tobacco; when the supply of “the weed” fails, they substitute charcoal.

The monotony of the voyage was broken one day by the appearance of a hippopotamus close to Sir Samuel's boat.  He was about half grown, and in an instant a score of men jumped into the water to seize him.  The captain caught him by the hind-leg; and then the crowd rushed in, and, with ropes thrown from the vessel, slipped nooses over his head.  A grand struggle ensued, but as it seemed likely to result in a victory for the hippopotamus, Sir Samuel slew him with a rifle ball.  The Arab seamen, who have an extraordinary appetite, like the old school-men, for the most trivial arguments, observing that the animal had been “bullied” and scarred by some other and stronger hippopotamus, plunged into a fierce contention on the point whether he had been misused by his father or his mother.  As they could not agree, they referred the question to the arbitration of Sir Samuel, who pacified both parties by the felicitous suggestion that perhaps it was his uncle!  They set to work at once with willing vigour to cut up the ill-treated hippopotamus, which proved to be as fat as butter, and made most excellent soup.

Continuing their “up-river” course, the voyagers came to the country of the Kegtah tribe.  Such savages as they saw were equally uncivilized and emaciated.  The young women wore no clothing, except a small piece of dressed hide across the shoulders; the men, instead of the hide, assumed a leopard-skin.  There was greater appearance of intelligence in the termites, or white ant, than in these poor half-starved wretches.  The white-ant hills here rise like castle-towers above the water of the marshes.  Their inmates build them ten feet high in the dry season, and when the rains come, live high and dry in the upper stories.  Humanity, meanwhile, sickens in the stagnant swamp, and lingers out a miserable existence.  The Bohr and Aliab tribes are a degree higher in the scale of civilization, but the Shir go beyond them.  They are armed with well-made ebony clubs, two lances, a bow and arrows; they carry upon their backs a neatly made miniature stool, along with an immense pipe.  The females are not absolutely naked; they wear small lappets of tanned leather as broad as the hand; at the back of the belt which supports this apron is a tail, depending to the lower portions of the thighs—a tail of finely cut strips of leather, which has probably given rise to the Arab report that a tribe in Central Africa had tails like horses.  The huts here, and all along the Nile, are circular, with entrances so low that the inmates creep in and out on hands and knees.  The men decorate their heads with tufts of cock's feathers; their favourite attitude,when standing, is on one leg, while leaning on a spear, the uplifted leg reposing on the inside of the other knee.

All the White Nile tribes are quick to collect their harvest of the lotus, or water-lily, seed, which they grind into flour, and make into a kind of porridge.  The seed-pod of the white lotus resembles an unblown artichoke, and contains a number of light red grains about the size of the mustard-seed, but in shape like those of the poppy, and like them in flavour.  The ripe pods are strung upon reeds about four feet long, formed into large bundles, and carried from the river to the villages, to be dried in the sun, and stored away until wanted.

The 1st of February was a “white day” in the voyagers' calendar, for on that day the scenery of the river underwent a welcome improvement.  The marshes gave place to dry ground; the well-wooded banks rose four feet above the water level; the thickly populated country bloomed like an orchard.  At Gondokoro the picture was fresh and pleasant, with a distant view of high mountains, and neat villages nestling under the shade of evergreen trees.  Gondokoro is not a town, but merely a station of the ivory traders, and for ten months of the year is almost a solitude.  Its climate is hot and unhealthy.  Sir Samuel Baker did not meet with a friendly reception.  The men who profited by the slave-trade regarded him with suspicion; they believed he had come to watch their doings, and report them to the world.  Their hostility, however, did not disturb his composure, and he amused himself in riding about the neighbourhood, and studying the place and its inhabitants.  He admired the exquisite cleanliness of the native dwellings, which almost rose to the standard of the famous village of Brock.  Each house was enclosed by a hedge of the impenetrable euphorbia, and the area within was neatly plastered with a cement of ashes, cow-dung, and sand.  Upon this well-kept surface stood one or more huts, surrounded by granaries of neat wicker-work, thatched, resting upon raised platforms.  The huts are built with projecting roofs for the sake of shade, and the entrance is not more than two feet high.  On the death of a member of the family, he is buried in the yard, his resting-place being indicated by a pole crowned by a bunch of cock's feathers, and ornamented with a few ox-horns and skulls.  Each man carries with him, wherever he goes, his weapons, pipe, and stool, the whole (except the stool) being held between his legs when he is standing.  The Gondokoro natives belong to the Bari tribe: the men are well grown; the women are not prepossessing, with good features, and no sign of negro blood, except the woolly hair.  They tattoo themselves on stomach, sides, and back, and anoint their persons with a peculiar red clay, abounding in oxide of iron.  Their principal weapon is the bow and arrow; the arrow they steep in the juice of euphorbia and other poisonous plants.

At the secret instigation of the slave-traders, Sir Samuel Baker's escort broke out into open mutiny, declaring that they had not meat enough, and demanding leave to carry off the oxen of the natives.  The ringleader, an Arab, was so violent that Sir Samuel ordered him to receive twenty-five lashes.  The vakeel, Saati, advanced to seize him, when many of the men rushed to his rescue; and Sir Samuel was compelled to interfere.  The Arab then rushed at his employer; but Sir Samuel knocked him back into the middle of the crowd, caught him by the throat, and called to the vakeel for a rope to bind him; but in an instant all the mutineers sprang forward to his assistance.  How the affair would have ended seems doubtful; but as the fray took place within ten yards of the boat, Lady Baker, who was ill with fever in the cabin, witnessed the whole of it, and seeing her husband surrounded, rushed out, forced her way into the middle of the crowd, and called on some of the least mutinous to assist.  For a moment the crowd wavered, and Sir Samuel seized the opportunity to shout to the drummer-boy to beat the drum.  Immediately, the drum beat, and in his loudest tones Sir Samuel ordered the men to “fall in.”  The instinct of discipline prevailed: two-thirds of the men fell in, and formed in line, while the others retreated with the ringleader, declaring he was badly hurt.  Then Sir Samuel insisted upon their all forming in line, and upon the ringleader being brought forward.  At this critical moment, Lady Baker, with true feminine tact, implored her husband to forgive the man if he kissed his hand and begged for pardon.  The men were completely conquered by this generosity, and called on their ringleader to apologize, and that all would be right.  Thus the affair ended; but Sir Samuel rightly foresaw in it the promise of future troubles.  According to the custom of the White Nile, the men had five months' wages in advance; he had therefore no control over them; yet he and his wife were about to penetrate into the midst of a probably hostile native population, with an escort on whose faithfulness no reliance could be placed.

On the 15th of February, Captains Speke and Grant arrived at Gondokoro, from the Victoria Nyanza, and the meeting between them and Sir Samuel was necessarily very cordial.  The information they communicated had a material effect upon his plans.  He found that they had been unable to complete the actual exploration of the Nile—that a most important portion remained to be determined.  It appears that in lat. 2° 17′ N. they had crossed the Nile, after tracking it from the Victoria Lake; that the river then turned suddenly to the west, and that they did not touch it again until they arrived in lat. 3° 32′ N., when it was then flowing from the west-south-west.  The natives, and Kamrasi, King of Unyoro, had assured them that the Nile from the Victoria Nyanza, which they had crossed in lat. 2° 17′ N., flowed westward for several days' journey, and at length fell into a large lake called the Luta N'zige (“Dead Locust”); that this lake came from the south, and that the Nile, on entering its northern extremity, almost immediately made its exit, and as a navigable river continued its course to the north through the Koshi and Madi countries.  Circumstances prevented Speke and Grant from pushing their explorations as far as the Luta N'zige; and the question that remained to be answered was, What was the exact position of this lake in the basin of the Nile? what was its relation to the great river?

This question Sir Samuel Baker resolved upon settling.  Speke and Grant sailed from Gondokoro, homeward bound, on the 26th, and he immediately began to prepare for his journey to the Luta N'zige.  His preparations were delayed, however, by the mutinous conduct of his escort, and the obstacles thrown in his path by the nefarious ivory-traders and slave-hunters; and it was the 26th of March before he was able to effect a start.  Then, with his escort reduced in number to fifteen men, with two faithful servants, Richard and the boy Saat, and a heavily loaded caravan of camels and donkeys, with Lady Baker mounted on a good strong Abyssinian hunter, Tétel (“Hartebeest”), and Sir Samuel himself on his horse Filfil (“Pepper”), and the British flag waving proudly above the cortége, they left Gondokoro, and began their march into Central Africa.

The country was park-like, but dried up by the hot weather.  The soil was sandy, but firm, and numerous evergreen trees enlivened the landscape, which was further animated by clusters of villages, each surrounded by a fence of euphorbia.  It varied greatly in character as the travellers advanced; sometimes presenting a magnificent forest, sometimes a dense jungle, sometimes a labyrinth of ravines, through which the caravan made its way with difficulty.  The view of the valley of Tollogo was exceedingly picturesque.  An abrupt granite wall rose on the east side to a height of about a thousand feet; from this perpendicular cliff huge blocks had fallen, strewing the bottom with a confused mass of fragments, among which the natives had built their village.  A slow stream wound its way in the hollow, which was nowhere more than half a mile wide, in the shade of numerous fig trees.  At Ellyria Sir Samuel narrowly escaped a hostile encounter with an ivory-trader's party, but through the firmness and skilfulness of himself and his wife, not only was it avoided, but friendly relations were established with its leader.  No supplies, however, could be procured from the natives, whose character Sir Samuel paints in the darkest colours.  Of the village of Wakkala he gives a pleasant description.  The soil was very rich, and the ground being protected from the burning sun by the large trees, there was a wealth of luscious grass; while the good pasturage, the extensive forest, and a plentiful supply of water insured a not less plentiful supply of wild animals—antelopes in numerous varieties, rhinoceros, buffaloes, elephants, and giraffes.  The next town was Latomé, where the traveller's presence of mind and courage were tested by another mutiny; but again he succeeded in defeating the intentions of the insurgents, and reducing them to obedience.

Along the foot of the Lafut mountains, which attain a general elevation of six to seven thousand feet, the travellers pursued their way.  Desertions reduced their escort by five men, but they abated not their high hopes or spirit of daring enterprise.  They duly arrived at Tarangdlé, famous for its fine trees—the chief settlement of the Latookas, a fine, frank, and warlike race, who resemble the Irish in their readiness to join either in a feast or a fray.  The town contains three thousand houses, each of which, as well as the town itself, is protected by an iron-wood palisade.  The cattle are kept in large kraals, and at various points high platforms are erected, where sentinels keep watch and ward both day and night.  The cattle are the wealth of the country, and so rich are the Latookas in them, that ten or twelve thousand head are housed in every large town.  The natives are constantly on guard to prevent the depredations of neighbouring tribes.

“The houses of the Latookas,” says Sir Samuel, “are generally bell-shaped, while others are precisely like huge candle-extinguishers, about twenty-five feet high.  The roofs are neatly thatched, at an angle of about 75°, resting upon a circular wall about four feet high; thus the roof forms a cap descending to within two feet and a half of the ground.  The doorway is only two feet and two inches high, thus an entrance must be effected upon all-fours.  The interior is remarkably clean, but dark, as the architects have no idea of windows.  It is a curious fact that the circular form of hut is the only style of architecture adopted among all the tribes of Central Africa, and also among the Arabs of Upper Egypt; and that, although these differ more or less in the form of the roof, no tribe has ever yet sufficiently advanced to construct a window.  The town of Tarangdlé is arranged with several entrances, in the shape of low archways through the palisades; these are closed at night by large branches of the hooked thorn of the kittur bush (a species of mimosa).  The main street is broad, but all others are studiously arranged to admit of only one cow, in single file, between high stockades; thus, in the event of an attack, these narrow passages could be easily defended, and it would be impossible to drive off their vast herds of cattle unless by the main street.  The large cattle kraals are accordingly arranged in various quarters in connection with the great road, and the entrance of each kraal is a small archway in the strong iron-wood fence, sufficiently wide to admit one ox at a time.  Suspended from the arch is a bell, formed of the shell of the Oolape palm-nut, against which every animal must strike either its horns or back, on entrance.  Every tinkle of the bell announces the passage of an ox into the kraal, and they are thus counted every evening when brought home from pasture.”

While at Latooka Sir Samuel was enabled to gratify his passion for the chase, and his skill and prowess were rewarded by the capture of an elephant.  There is a great difference, or rather, there are three great differences between the African and the Asiatic elephant: the back of the former is concave, that of the latter convex; the former has an enormous ear, the latter a comparatively small one; the head of the former has a convex front, while that of the latter exposes a flat surface a little above the trunk.  The African animal is much larger than the Asiatic; and while the latter seeks the forest depths during the day, and does not wander forth upon the plains till towards evening, the former remains all day in the vast open prairies, where the thick grass springs to a height of twelve feet.  The African elephant feeds chiefly on the foliage of trees; the Asiatic is an extensive grass feeder.

The natives hunt the elephant for the sake of the flesh and the tusks.  Sometimes he is caught in pitfalls; at other times, the grass of the prairies is fired, and the elephants gradually driven back into a confined area, where they are surrounded and speared to death.  Or, should a number of elephants be in the neighbourhood of a village, about a hundred men, armed with heavy-bladed lances, post themselves in as many trees, while a multitude of natives gradually drive the animals towards this ambush, when such as pass near enough are speared between the shoulders.  The Bagara Arabs are famous elephant hunters.  Armed with bamboo lances, tipped with a sharp iron head, two of them, mounted on good horses, sally forth to secure a prize.  On coming in sight of a herd, they single out the finest tusker and separate him from the others.  One man then leads the charge, and the animal, hotly pursued, turns against the horse, which the rider so manages as to draw the elephant further and further after him, while carefully keeping a safe distance ahead.  The other man, meanwhile, is at the elephant's heels, and suddenly dismounting, while at full gallop, plunges his spear into its body about two feet below the junction of the tail, driving it with all his strength into the abdomen, and then withdrawing it.  If successful in his thrust, he remounts his horse and escapes, or takes to flight on foot, pursued by the elephant, until the attention of the latter is drawn to his first assailant, who in his turn rides up, and inflicts a wound.  Sometimes the first wound proves fatal; sometimes the process is repeated twice or thrice before the animal succumbs; and sometimes the elephant overtakes his enemy, in which case the latter must expect no mercy.

On the 2nd of May, 1863, leaving five men in charge of his camp and baggage, Sir Samuel started for Obbo, crossing the Kanisti river, and travelling through a bold and romantic highland country.  He found the vegetation of Obbo rich and various; the soil produced nine kinds of yams, and many capital kinds of fruit.  Tobacco flourishes, and ground nuts are plentiful.  As for the people, they attire themselves in the skin of an antelope or goat, wearing it mantle-wise across their shoulders; but when on the warpath, they paint their body with red and yellow stripes.  Sir Samuel was received with all the honours by Katchiba, the chief of Obbo, and entertained with a grand dance, in which more vigour was displayed than elegance.  About a hundred men formed a ring; each holding in his hand a small cup-shaped drum, formed of hollowed wood, over the perforated end of which was lightly stretched the skin of an elephant's ear.  In the centre was placed the chief dancer, wearing, suspended from his shoulders, an immense drum, also covered with elephant's ear.  The dance commenced with a wild but agreeable chorus, the time being kept by the big drum, and the small tympana striking in at certain periods, with so much precision as to give the effect of a single instrument.  The figures varied continually, and the whole terminated with a “grand galop” in double circles, at a tremendous pace, the inner ring revolving in a contrary direction to the outer.

Sir Samuel returned to Latooka, and collecting his baggage and escort, started again for Obbo on the 13th of June.  Here he and his wife remained for several months, waiting for a favourable opportunity to resume their southward march.  Their quinine was exhausted, and consequently they suffered much from fever.  Sir Samuel, in lieu of horses, purchased and trained for their contemplated journey three robust oxen, named respectively, “Beef,” “Steaks,” and “Suet.”  He also obtained a supply of porters to carry his luggage, and arranged with Ibrahim, the friendly trader, that he should accompany him to Unyoro with a guard of one hundred men.  It was the 5th of January, 1864, before the expedition started.  On the very first day, however, one of the oxen bolted; and Sir Samuel was compelled to purchase another of one of the Turks at the price of a double-barrelled gun.  Three days' march through a beautiful country brought them to the Asua river, in lat. 3° 12′ N.  Its bed was almost dry.  On the 13th they arrived at Shooa.  This is characterized as a lovely place.  A noble mountain of granite ascended in a sheer precipice for about eight hundred feet from its base; perfectly abrupt on the eastern side, the other parts were of gradual inclination, covered with fine forest trees, and picturesquely studded with villages.  The surrounding country, with its trees and rivulets and greensward, might have been taken for an English park, but for the granite rocks that rose at intervals like the gray ruins of ancient castles.

Shooa is a land of milk and honey.  The travellers found fowls, butter, and goats abundant and ridiculously cheap; and as beads were highly valued, they effected some good bargains.  The women flocked to see the white lady, bringing her gifts of milk and flowers, and receiving beads and bracelets in return.  They were gentle in manner, and evidently anxious to establish friendly relations.  Sir Samuel was struck by the superior cultivation of the country.  Large quantities of sesamum were grown and carefully harvested, the crop being collected in oblong frames about twenty feet long and twelve feet high.  These were inclined at an angle of about 60°; the pods of the sesamum plants hanging on one facet, so that the frames resembled enormous brushes.  When fully dried, the crop was removed to the granaries, of which there were two kinds: the wicker-work plastered over with cow-dung, supported on four posts, with a thatched roof; and a simpler contrivance, which may be thus described:—A stout pole, twenty feet long, was fixed upright in the earth, and, at about four foot from the ground, a bundle of strong and long reeds was tied tightly round it.  Round these reeds, at intervals, were fastened hoop of wicker-work, until the structure assumed the shape of an inverted umbrella half expanded.  When this is filled with grain, fresh reeds are added, until the work has extended to within a few feet of the top of the pole.  The whole is then crowned with a covering of reeds, securely strapped, and resembles nothing in the world so much as one of those cigars which slightly bulge in the middle.

At Shooa all Sir Samuel's Obbo porters absconded, being afraid to enter Kamrasi's country, and he found so much difficulty in supplying their places, that he resolved on leaving behind him every article that was not absolutely indispensable.  How different an appearance his expedition presented to that which it had worn on leaving Khartûm!  It was shorn of all its “pride and circumstance;” but its leader remained as resolute and as hopeful as ever, and started from Shooa on the 18th of January, determined to press forward to the Luta N'zige.  After passing Fatiko, a village perched like an eagle's eyrie on a rocky table-land, he entered upon a sea of prairies, an immense undulating expanse of verdure, dotted with a few palms.  As his guide lost the road, Sir Samuel proposed to clear the country to the south by firing the prairies, and a strangely picturesque spectacle was the result.  In a few minutes the flames roared before them, and waves upon waves of fire, and clouds upon clouds of smoke, rolled away to the far horizon.  Flocks of buzzards and swarms of beautiful fly-catchers thronged to the spot, to prey upon the innumerable insects that endeavoured to escape from the approaching conflagration, which continued to extend until arrested by a reedy swamp.

On the 22nd, the expedition reached the Victoria White Nile, or, as it is sometimes called, the Somerset river, and proceeded through the magnificent forest that crowned its bank to the Karuma Falls.  The river here was about a hundred and fifty yards wide, and flowed between lofty cliffs, which were green with vines, bananas, and palms.  The falls, however, are very insignificant, not exceeding five feet in height.  Just above them is a ferry, and Sir Samuel and Lady Baker crossing by it, found themselves in Unyoro, King Kamrasi's country, and in his town or village of Atado.  Speke and Grant had left behind them pleasant memories, so that Baker, as their friend and countryman, received a hearty welcome.  A large hut was placed at the disposal of his wife and himself, and in exchange for fresh beef—Sir Samuel ordering an ox to be killed for the purpose—the natives furnished liberal quantities of flour, beans, and sweet potatoes.  A brisk market was quickly set going, and whole rows of girls and women arrived, bringing baskets filled with the desired provisions.  The women, we are told, were neatly dressed in short double-skirted petticoats: many had the bosom bare: others wore a piece of bark-cloth, plaid-wise, across chest and shoulders.  Bark-cloth, which is exclusively used throughout Equatorial Africa, is the produce of a kind of fig tree.  The bark is stripped off in large pieces, soaked in water, and beaten with a mallet.  In appearance it much resembles corduroy, in colour tanned leather; the finer qualities are peculiarly soft to the touch, like woven cotton.

The travellers were struck by the difference between the Unyoro people and the tribes they had previously seen.  On the north side of the Nile the natives were either wholly naked, or wore only a piece of skin across their shoulders.  The river seemed to mark the limit or ne plus ultra  of savagedom, for the inhabitants of Unyoro shrank like Europeans from the indecency and shame of nakedness.  Their higher civilization was shown also by their manufactures: their smiths were very skilful, and used iron hammers instead of stone; they converted into fine wire the thick brass and copper wire which they received from Zanzibar; and their pottery showed a certain degree of taste in conception.

“The natives,” writes Sir Samuel, “are particularly neat in all they do; they never bring anything to sell unless carefully packed in the neatest parcels, generally formed of the bark of the plantain, and sometimes of the inner portions of reeds stripped into snow-white stalks, which are bound round the parcels with the utmost care.  Should the plantain cider, ‘marossa,' be brought in a jar, the mouth is neatly covered with a finger-like mat of these clean white rushes split into shreds.  Not even tobacco is brought for sale unless most carefully packed.  During a journey, a pretty, bottle-shaped, long-necked gourd is carried, with a store of plantain cider; the mouth of the bottle is stopped with a bundle of the white rush shreds, through which a reed is inserted that reaches to the bottom; thus the drink can be sucked up during the march without the necessity of halting; nor is it possible to spill it by the movement of walking.

“The natives,” he adds, “prepare the skins of goats very beautifully, making them as soft as chamois leather; these they cut into squares, and sew them together as neatly as would be effected by a European tailor, converting them into mantles, which are prized far more highly than bark-cloth, on account of their durability.  They manufacture their own needles, not by boring the eye, but by sharpening the end into a fine point, and turning it over, the extremity being hammered into a small cut in the body of the needle to prevent it from catching.”

The arrival of Sir Samuel Baker being made known to Kamrasi, he requested him to pay a visit to his capital, and sent a legion of porters to carry his baggage.  Lady Baker suffered much from illness on the journey, which she performed in a litter; and Sir Samuel was also attacked by a debilitating fever.  His first interview with “the king” took place on the 10th of February.  He describes him as a fine-looking man, whose extremely prominent eyes gave a peculiar expression to his countenance; about six feet high; and dressed in a long robe of bark-cloth, draped in graceful folds.  The nails of his hands and feet were carefully tended, and his complexion was about as dark a brown as that of an Abyssinian.  He sat upon a copper stool, with a leopard-skin carpet spread around him, and was attended by about ten of his principal chiefs.  Of his character as a man Sir Samuel Baker speaks in the most unflattering terms; he was grasping, mean, mendacious, and a coward.  After some delay, and by dint of repeated bribes, Sir Samuel obtained from him a supply of natives to carry the baggage to the lake, where canoes were to be provided for the voyage to Magango, a village situated at the junction of the Somerset river.  He went to take leave of the royal savage, and was astonished by the insolent demand that Lady Baker should be left with him!  Sir Samuel drew his revolver; Lady Baker broke out into invectives in Arabic, which the woman, Bachuta, translated as nearly as she could, and with indignant emphasis, into the language of Unyoro; in short, “a scene” ensued!  Kamrasi was completely cowed, and faltered out, “Don't be angry!  I had no intention of offending you by asking for your wife; I will give you a wife, if you want one, and I thought you might have no objection to give me yours; it is my custom to give my visitors pretty wives, and I thought you might exchange.  Don't make it fuss about it: if you don't like it, there's an end of it; I will never mention it again.”  Sir Samuel received the apology very sternly, and insisted upon starting.  Kamrasi did not feel in a position to interpose any further delay, and the march to the lake began.

On the road a very painful incident occurred.  The expedition had reached Uafour river, which ran through the centre of a marsh, and, although deep, was so thickly covered with matted and tangled water grass and other aquatic plants, that a natural floating bridge, some two feet in thickness, was available for crossing.  The men passed it quickly, sinking merely to the ankles, though beneath the tough vegetation was deep water.  It was equally impossible to ride or be carried over this fickle surface; Sir Samuel therefore led the way, and begged his wife to follow on foot as quickly as possible, keeping exactly in his track.  The river was about eighty yards wide, and Sir Samuel had scarcely accomplished a fourth of the distance, when, looking back, he was horrified to see her standing in one spot, and sinking gradually through the weeds, while her face was distorted and perfectly purple.  She fell, as if stricken dead.  Her husband was immediately by her side, and, with the help of some of his men, dragged her through the yielding vegetation, across to the other side.  There she was tenderly laid beneath a tree, and her husband bathed her head and face with water, thinking she had fainted.  But he soon perceived that she was suffering from a sunstroke; and, removing her to a miserable hut close at hand, he watched anxiously for some sign of returning consciousness.  We shall quote his own words in all their pathetic simplicity:

“There was nothing to eat in this spot.  My wife had never stirred since she fell by the coup de soleil, and merely respired about five times a minute.  It was impossible to remain; the people would have starved.  She was laid gently upon her litter, and we started forward on our funeral course.  I was ill and broken-hearted, and I followed by her side through the long day's march over wild park lands and streams, with thick forest and deep marshy bottoms; over undulating hills, and through valleys of tall papyrus rushes, which, as we brushed through them on our melancholy way, waved over the litter like the black plumes of a hearse.  We halted at a village, and again the night was passed in watching.  I was wet, and coated with mud from the swampy marsh, and shivered with ague; but the cold within was greater than all.  No change had taken place; she had never moved.  I had plenty of fat, and I made four balls of about half a pound, each of which would burn for three hours.  A piece of a broken water-jar formed a lamp, several pieces of rag serving for wicks.  So in solitude the still calm night passed away as I sat by her side and watched.  In the drawn and distorted features that lay before me I could hardly trace the same form that for years had been my comfort through all the difficulties and dangers of my path.  Was she to die?  Was so terrible a sacrifice to be the result of my selfish exile?

“Again the night passed away.  Once more the march.  Though weak and ill, and for two nights without a moment's sleep, I felt no fatigue, but mechanically followed by the side of the litter as though in a dream.  The same wild country diversified with marsh and forest.  Again we halted.  The night came, and I sat by her side in a miserable hut, with the feeble lamp flickering while she lay, as in death.  She had never moved a muscle since she fell.  My people slept.  I was alone, and no sound broke the stillness of the night.  The ears ached at the utter silence, till the sudden wild cry of a hyæna made me shudder as the horrible thought rushed through my brain, that, should she be buried in this lonely spot, the hyæna would . . . disturb her rest.

“The morning was not far distant; it was past four o'clock.  I had passed the night in replacing wet cloths upon her head, and moistening her lips, as she lay apparently lifeless on her litter.  I could do nothing more; in solitude and abject misery in that dark hour, in a country of savage heathens, thousands of miles away from a Christian land, I beseeched an aid above all human, trusting alone to Him.

“The morning broke; my lamp had just burnt out, and, cramped with the night's watching, I rose from my seat, and seeing that she lay in the same unaltered state, I went to the door of the hut to breathe one gasp of the fresh morning air.  I was watching the first red streak that heralded the rising sun, when I was startled by the words, ‘Thank God,' faintly uttered behind me.  Suddenly she had awoke from her torpor, and with a heart overflowing I went to her bedside.  Her eyes were full of madness!  She spoke, but the brain was gone!”


Happily, after suffering for some days from brain fever, Lady Baker recovered consciousness, and thenceforward her progress, though slow, was sure.  After a brief rest, the march to the lake was resumed by the undaunted travellers; for the devoted wife would not allow any consideration of her comfort or safety to come between her husband and the accomplishment of the work he had undertaken.  At a village called Parkani, the guides informed them that they were only a day's journey from the lake.  In the west rose a lofty range of mountains, and Sir Samuel Baker had conjectured that the N'zige lay on the other side of it, but he was told that it actually formed its western or further boundary.  Only a day's journey!  That night Sir Samuel could hardly sleep; his brain was fired with the thought that he was within so short a distance of the Source of the Nile—that in a few hours he might drink of the waters of its mysterious fountain.  He was up before sunrise on the 14th of March, and crossing a deep cool valley between the hills, ascended the slope, gained the summit, and there, before him, flashing in the light of morning like a sea of quick-silver or a huge mirror of polished steel, lay the long-sought lake!  The height on which he stood was about fifteen hundred feet above its level, so that he could survey the entire expanse of those welcome waters which had created fertility in the heart of the desert, and made the fame and wealth and glory of Egypt.  He resolved that thenceforth they should bear a great name, and as the eastern reservoir of the Nile had been named after the Queen of England, he determined that the western should commemorate her lost and lamented consort, Prince Albert.  It is therefore now known as the Albert Lake.

With some difficulty, but with a grateful heart, he and his wife descended the steep to the shore of the silent, shining lake, and took up their quarters in a fishing village called Vacovia.  It was a wretched place, and the soil was strongly impregnated with salt; but discomforts were forgotten in the joy of a great discovery.  Sir Samuel proceeded to collect all the information he could relative to its position.  The chief of the village told him that its breadth was immense, but that large canoes had been known to cross from the other side after four days and nights of hard rowing.  That other side, the west, was included in the great kingdom of Malegga, governed by King Kajoro, who traded with Kamrasi from a point opposite to Magango, where the lake contracted to the width of one day's voyage.  South of Malegga was a country named Tori, and the lake extended into the kingdom of Karagwé, with whose sovereign, Rumanika, Speke and Grant had maintained a friendly intercourse.  Karagwé partly bounded the lake on the eastern side, and next to it, towards the north, came Utumbi; then, in succession, came Uganda, Unyoro, Chopé.

The Albert Nyanza formed a vast basin of water, lying far below the general level of the country, and receiving all its drainage.  It was surrounded by precipitous cliffs, which left but a narrow strip of sand between them and the swelling waves, and bounded on the west and south-west by huge mountain-ranges, from five to seven thousand feet in altitude.  Sir Samuel Baker, after a careful survey, concluded that it was the one great reservoir which received everything, from the passing shower to the roaring mountain torrent that drained from Central Africa towards the north.  Speke's Victoria Nyanza was a reservoir situated at a considerable elevation, receiving the waters from the west of the Kitangulé river, its principal feeder; but as the Albert Lake extended much farther north than the Victoria, it took up the river from the latter, and monopolized the entire head-waters of the Nile.  In Sir Samuel's opinion the Albert was the great reservoir, while the Nile was the eastern source; the parent streams that created these lakes were from the same origin, and the Kitangulé poured its waters into the Victoria, to be eventually received by the Albert.  The discoveries of Mr. Stanley, however, impose on geographers the necessity of considerably modifying Sir Samuel Baker's hypothesis, without detracting from the importance of his discovery.  The Albert Lake really holds an inferior position to the Victoria, which unquestionably receives the parent waters of the Nile; but it is not the less one of its great reservoirs.

Having obtained a canoe at Vacovia, Sir Samuel explored the north-eastern coast of the Albert, and after a voyage of thirteen days arrived at Magango, where the Nile, or Somerset river, after a winding course from the Victoria Nyanza, flows calmly into its basin, to quit it again a few miles further north, and make its way towards Egypt and the Mediterranean.  At Magango the lake is about seventeen miles wide, but to the north it ends in a long strip or neck which a growth of tall green rushes almost conceals.  After leaving the lake, the Nile smoothly descends its green valley, and is navigable for boats until it reaches Agunddo, where it dashes headlong over a precipice of thirty or forty feet.

Having completed his survey of the Albert, as far as his means admitted, Sir Samuel determined, instead of retracing his steps to Kamrasi's residence at 'Mroolli, to trace the course of the Somerset or Nile river up to Karuma Falls, to which point Speke and Grant had followed it downwards.  The canoes having been got ready, Baker and his wife began their river voyage.  About two miles from Magango the width contracted from 500 to 250 yards.  As they proceeded, the river gradually narrowed to about 180 yards, and when the men ceased paddling, they could distinctly hear the roar of water.  Arriving at a point where the river made a slight turn, they saw the sandbanks covered with crocodiles; like logs of timber, they lay together.  The cliffs on either side were steep and rugged, and the whole picture was rich in various colouring.  Foliage of the intensest green clothed each rocky projection, and through a narrow cleft or gap in the precipices the river plunged down before them in one vast leap of about 120 feet.  The fall of waters was white as snow, and contrasted magnificently with the dark walls that held it in, while the graceful palms of the tropics and wild plantains increased the beauty of the view.  This noble cataract, the grandest on the Nile, Sir Samuel named the Murchison Falls, in honour of the famous geologist and geographer.

It was impossible, of course, to pass the cataract, and the voyagers made haste to land and collect their oxen and attendants in order to resume their journey.  The route they took was parallel to the river, which continued to flow in a deep and picturesque ravine.  From an island called Palooan, a succession of islets broke its course until near the Karuma Falls.  These islets belonged to two chiefs, Rionza and Fowooka, who were bitter enemies of the King of Unyoro, Kamrasi.  On arriving at this point, Sir Samuel found that they were at that very time engaged in hostilities, and that it would be impossible for him to continue along the bank of the river.  Obstacles of every kind were thrown by the natives in the onward path of the travellers, but in spite of ill health, weakness, and weariness, they slowly pushed forward.  Not the least of their troubles was the scarcity of suitable provisions, and they grew so feeble that at last even their brave hearts gave way, and they began to despair of reaching Gondokoro—to resign themselves to the thought of being buried in that inhospitable land.  “I wrote instructions in my journal,” says Sir Samuel, “in case of death, and told my headman to be sure to deliver my maps, observations, and papers to the English consul at Khartûm; this was my only care, as I feared that all my labour might be lost should I die.  I had no fear for my wife, as she was quite as bad as I, and if one should die, the other would certainly follow;—in fact, this had been agreed upon lest she should fall into the hands of Kamrasi at my death.  We had struggled to win, and I thanked God that we had won; if death were to be the price, at all events we were at the goal, and we both looked upon death rather as a pleasure, as affording rest; there would be no more suffering; no fever, no long journey before us, that in our weak state was an infliction; the only wish was to lay down the burthen.”

From this wretched position Sir Samuel delivered himself, by undertaking to assist Kamrasi in his war against Fowooka.  Whether this was a legitimate proceeding on the part of a scientific explorer, who had no interest in the quarrel of either party, may well be doubted, but the alliance led to his obtaining an immediate supply of provisions.  Natives were sent to assist him and his wife in their journey to Kamrasi's camp at Kisoona.  But what was their surprise to find that the Kamrasi whom they had interviewed at 'Mrooli was not, after all, the real Kamrasi, the King of Unyoro, but his brother, M'Gami, whom Kamrasi had ordered to personate him, in an access of alarm as to the traveller's possible designs.  Sir Samuel was indignant at the deception, and it was with some difficulty that M'Gami could prevail upon him to forgive it.  At last he consented to visit the king, and something like an amicable understanding was established between them.  He was well supplied with provisions of all kinds, and both his wife and himself slowly recovered their health and spirits.  By a dexterous use of the British flag he repelled an attempted invasion of Fowooka's warriors; and he rendered various services to Kamrasi, which met, we need hardly say, with no adequate reward.  It was the middle of November before, in company with a caravan of ivory-traders under his old friend Ibrahim, Sir Samuel was able to resume his return journey to Gondokoro.  The caravan consisted of about seven hundred porters and eighty armed men, with women and children; in all, about one thousand people.  To provision such a body was necessarily difficult, and there was no meat, although flour was abundant.  Sir Samuel's skill as a hunter was put into requisition to supply a little variety to the bill of fare; and his bringing down a fine hartebeest was an event which gave very general satisfaction.

Five days after leaving the Victoria Nile, the caravan arrived at Shooa, where Sir Samuel and his wife received a hearty welcome.  Some months were spent in this pleasant locality, the Turks profiting by the opportunity to make razzias upon the neighbouring tribes, so that, for many miles around, the blackened ruins of villages and the desolated fields bore witness to their reckless cruelty; cattle were carried off in thousands, and a fair and fertile region was converted into a dreary wilderness.  The captives made were detained to be sold as slaves.  On one occasion, among the victims brought in to the Turkish camp was a pretty young girl of about fifteen.  She had been sold by auction, as usual, the day after the return from the razzia, and had fallen to the lot of one of the men.  A few days later, there appeared in the camp a native from the plundered village, intent upon ransoming the girl with a quantity of ivory.  He had scarcely entered the gateway, when the girl, who was sitting at the door of her owner's hut, descried him, and springing to her feet, ran with all the speed her chained ankles permitted, and flung herself into his arms, with the cry of “My father!”  Yes; it was her father who, to rescue his child from degradation, had nobly risked his life in his brutal enemy's camp.

The Turks who witnessed this particular incident, far from being touched by any emotion of pity, rushed on to the unfortunate native, tore him from his daughter, and bound him tightly with cords.  At this time Sir Samuel was in his tent, assisting some of his men to clean his rifles.  Suddenly, at a distance of less than a hundred paces, he heard three shots fired.  The men exclaimed, “They have shot the abid (native)!”  “What native?” inquired Sir Samuel; and his men replied by narrating the story we have just recorded.  Sir Samuel at first refused to believe it, but it proved to be true in every detail, even in the last; for, bound to a tree, lay the wretched father, shot dead with three balls.

In the month of February the caravan started for Gondokoro.  The route lay at first through a fertile and pleasant country, crossing twice the Un-y-Ami river, and touching at its point of junction with the Nile, in lat. 3° 32′ N.  On the north bank of the Un-y-Ami, about three miles from its mouth, Sir Samuel saw the tamarind tree—the “Shadder-el-Sowar” (or “Traveller's Tree”), as the trading parties called it—which indicated the limit of Signor Miani's explorations from Gondokoro, and the furthest point reached by any traveller from the north prior to Sir Samuel Baker's enterprise.  The journey was continued through a fine park-like extent of verdant grass, covered with stately tamarind trees, which sheltered among their branches great numbers of the brilliant yellow-breasted pigeon.  Ascending a rocky eminence by a laborious pass, Sir Samuel, from the summit, which was eight hundred feet high, saw before him the old historic river.  “Hurrah for the old Nile!” he said, and contemplated with eager gaze the noble scene before him.  Flowing from the westward, with many a curve and bend, was the broad sheet of unbroken water, four hundred yards wide, exclusive of the thick belt of reeds on either margin.  Its source could be clearly traced for some scores of miles, and the range of mountains on the west bank was distantly visible that the travellers had previously sighted, when on the route from Karuma to Shooa, at a distance of sixty miles.  This chain begins at Magango, and forms the Koshi frontier of the Nile.  The country opposite to Sir Samuel's position was Koshi, which extends along the west  bank of the river to the Albert Lake.  The country which he was traversing extends, under the name of Madi, along the east  bank to the confluence of the Somerset Nile, opposite Magango.

The Nile here enters a rocky valley between Gebel Kookoo and the western mountains, and foams and frets around and against rock and island, until, suddenly contracting, it breaks into a roaring torrent, and dashes furiously onward in the shadow of perpendicular cliffs.  Waterfall succeeds to waterfall, and it is difficult to identify the swollen, thunderous, angry river with the calm clear stream that brightens the fertile pastures of Shooa.  In this part of its course it receives the Asua.  Through dense thickets of bamboos, and deep ravines which, in the season of rains, pour their turbid tribute into the great river, the caravan made its way; but in passing through a gorge between two rocky hills it was attacked by a body of the Bari natives, who were lying in ambush.  Their bows and arrows, however, proved ineffectual against the musketry of the Turks, and they retired discomfited.  This was the last important incident of the journey to Gondokoro, where, after an absence of upwards of two years, Sir Samuel and Lady Baker arrived in safety.

But what was their disappointment to find there neither letters nor supplies!  Their friends and agents had long since given them up as dead; never believing that travellers could penetrate into that far and savage south, and return alive.  There was no news from home; no money; no conveyance provided to take them back to Khartûm.  With characteristic energy Sir Samuel confronted his disappointment, and instead of wringing his hands and waiting for the help that would not come, he set actively to work, engaged a dahabeeyah for the sum of four thousand piastres (£40), removed his baggage on board, collected provisions, took friendly leave of Ibrahim and the traders, and, with the flag of Old England flying at his masthead, set sail from Gondokoro.  There is very little to be said about the voyage to Khartûm.  Sir Samuel shot some antelopes, and the progress of the dahabeeyah beyond the junction of the Bahr-el-Ghazal was considerably impeded by that natural dam of floating vegetation, intermingled with reeds, sunburnt wood, and mud that here forms so signal an obstruction to the navigation of the Upper Nile.  To allow of the passage of boats a canal has been cut, about ten feet wide, but it requires constant clearance, and its transit is not accomplished without considerable difficulty.  Two days' hard work from morning till night carried the voyagers through it, and with feelings of relief and exultation they found themselves once more on the open Nile and beyond the dam.  But as they floated past the Sobat junction, the terrible plague broke out on board their vessel, carrying off two of the crew, and the boy Saat, who had served them so long and so faithfully.  It was a sad conclusion to an expedition which, though fraught with sufferings, trials, and dangers, had, on the whole, been crowned with complete success.

It was the evening of the 5th of May, 1865, when Sir Samuel and Lady Baker entered Khartûm, to be welcomed by the whole European population as if they had risen from the dead.  On the 1st of July they left it for Berber.  In making the passage of the Cataracts they narrowly escaped shipwreck; their boat, as it sped along under full sail before a high gale of wind, struck broadside upon a sandbank.  About sixty yards below rose a ridge of rocks on which it seemed certain that the vessel would be driven, if it cleared the bank; so that to avoid Scylla was to rush into Charybdis.  Sir Samuel, however, proved equal to the occasion.  An anchor was laid up stream; the crew hauled on the cable, and the great force of the current pressing against the vessels' broadside, she wore gradually round.  All hands then laboured to clear away the sand, which, when loosened by their hands and feet, the swift full current rapidly carried away.  For five hours they remained in this position, with the boat cracking, and half filled with water; however, a channel was opened at last, and slipping the cable, Sir Samuel hoisted sail, and with the velocity of an arrow, the head of the vessel swung round, and away she went, plunging through the swirling, boiling water, and clearing the rocks by a few inches.

They arrived at Berber, and procuring camels, started east for Souakim on the Red Sea, a distance of two hundred and seventy-five miles.  There they obtained passage on board an Egyptian Government steamer, and in five days landed at Suez.  Here ends the record of their heroic enterprise. [404]

[369]  Our gallant explorer was not knighted until 1866, but throughout this chapter we shall use the title by which he is so well and so honourably known.

[404]  Sir Samuel White Baker, “The Albert Nyanza, Great Basin of the Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources.”  London, 1866.