Imatges de pÓgina


Government Expeditions-Tuckey, Campbell,

Laing, Gray, Ritchie, and Lyon.

The fate of Park, notwithstanding the deep regret which it had excited in England and in Europe, presented nothing which could destroy the hope of future success. The chief cause of failure could be easily traced to the precipitation into which he had been betrayed by a too ardent enthusiasm. Nothing had even been discovered adverse to the hypothesis which identifies the Niger with the Congo, and which still retained a strong hold on the public mind. The views of government and of the nation on this subject were entirely in unison. It was therefore determined that an expedition on a great scale should be fitted out, divided into two portions, one to descend the Niger and the other to ascend the Congo; which two parties, it was fondly hoped, would effect a triumphant meeting in the middle of the great stream that they were sent to explore. The public loudly applauded this resolution ; and never perhaps did a military or naval armament, by which the most splendid victories were expected to be achieved, excite a deeper interest than this, which seemed destined to triumph over the darkness that had so long enveloped the vast interior of the African continent.

The expedition to the Congo was intrusted to Captain Tuckey, an officer of merit and varied ser. vices, and who had published several works connected with geography and navigation. Besides a crew of about fifty individuals, including marines and mechanics, he was accompanied by Mr Smith, an eminent botanist, who likewise possessed some knowledge of geology; Mr Cranch, a self-taught but able zoologist; Mr Tudor, a good comparative anatomist; Mr Lockhart, a gardener from Kew; and Mr Galwey, an intelligent person who volunteered to join the party. They sailed from Deptford on the 16th February, 1816, and reached Malemba on the 30th June, where they met with a most cordial reception from the mafook, or king's merchant, in the belief that they were come to make up a cargo of slaves. The chiefs, on being reluctantly convinced of the contrary, burst into the most furious invectives against the crowned heads of Europe, particularly our own most gracious sovereign, whom they denominated “ the Devil,” imputing chiefly to him the stop put to this odious but lucrative traffic. A few days thereafter brought the English into the channel of the Congo; which, to their great surprise, instead of exhibiting the stupendous magnitude they had been taught to expect, scarcely appeared a river of the second class. The stream, it is true, was then at the lowest, but the depth being still more than 150 fathoms, made it impossible to estimate the mass of water which its channel might convey to the ocean. The banks were swampy, overgrown with mangrove trees ; and the deep silence and repose of these immense forests made a solemn impression upon the mind. At Embomma, the emporium of the Congo,

much interest was excited by the discovery that a negro officiating as cook’s-mate was a prince of the blood. He was welcomed with rapture by his father, and with a general rejoicing by the whole village. The young savage was soon arrayed in full African pomp, having on an embroidered coat very much tarnished, a silk sash, and a black glazed-hat, surmounted by an enormous feather. Captain Tuckey was introduced to the chenoo, who, with his huge gilt buttons, stockings of pink sarsenet, red half-boots, and high-crowned embroidered hat, reminded him of punch in a puppet-show. It was vain to attempt to convey to this sage prince any idea of the objects of the expedition. The terms which express science and an enlightened curiosity did not excite in his mind a single idea, and he rang continual changes on the questions, “ Are you come to trade?" and, Are you come to make war?”–unable to conjecture any other motive. At length, having received a solemn declaration that there was no intention to make war, he sealed peace by the acceptance of a large present of brandy.

After sailing between ridges of high rocky hills, the expedition came to the Yellala, or Great Cataract; and here they met with a second disappointment. Instead of another Niagara, which general report had led them to expect, they saw only comparative brook bubbling over its stony bed." The fall appears to be occasioned merely by masses of granite, fragments of which have fallen down and blocked up the stream. Yet this obstruction rendered it quite impossible for the boats to pass; nor could they be carried across the precipices and deep ravines by which the country was intersected. The


discoverers were therefore obliged to proceed by land through this difficult region, which, without a guide on whom they could rely, was attended with overwhelming toil. Cooloo, Inga, and Mavoonda, the principal villages, were separated by wide intervals, which placed the travellers under the necessity of often sleeping in the open air. At length the country began to improve and become more level, the river to widen, while the obstacles to its navigation gradually disappeared. But just as the voyage began to assume a prosperous aspect, indications of its fatal termination were already perceptible. The health of the party was rapidly giving way under the effects of fatigue, as well as the malignant influence of a damp and burning atmosphere. Tudor, Cranch, and Galwey, were succesșively obliged to return to the ship. Captain Tuckey, after struggling for some time against the increasing pressure of disease and exhaustion, as well as the accumulating difficulties of the undertaking, saw the necessity of putting a stop to the farther progress of the expedition. Mr Smith at first expressed deep disappointment at this resolution, but soon became so ill that he could scarcely be conveyed to the vessel. On reaching it, a sad scene awaited the survivors. Cranch, Tudor, and Galwey were no more; they had successively sunk under the weight of disease. Mr Smith soon shared their fate; and Captain Tuckey himself, on the 4th October, added one more to the number of deaths, without having suffered the usual attack of fever. He had been exhausted by constant depression and mental anxiety.

From this unhappy expedition, however, some information was obtained respecting a part of Africa


which had not been visited for several centuries. No trace indeed was seen of the great kingdoms, or of the cities and armies described by the Portuguese missionaries; so that, though the interior may very probably be more populous than the banks of the river, there must, in these pious narratives, have been much exaggeration. The largest towns, or rather villages, did not contain above a hundred houses, with five or six hundred inhabitants. They were governed by chenoos, or hereditary chiefs, having a power nearly absolute, and by mafooks under them, who were chiefly employed in the collection of reve

The people are merry, idle, good-humoured, hospitable, and liberal, with rather an innocent and agreeable expression of countenance. The greatest blemish in their character appears in the treatment of the female sex, on whom they devolve all the laborious duties of life, even more exclusively than is usual among negro tribes ; holding their virtue also in such slender esteem, that the greatest chiefs unblushingly made it an object of traffic. Upon this head, however, they have evidently learned much evil from their intercourse with Europeans. The character of the vegetation, and the general aspect of nature, are pretty nearly the same on the Congo as on the other African rivers.

Meantime, the other part of the expedition under Major Peddie, whose destination it was to descend the Niger, arrived at the mouth of the Senegal. Instead of the beaten track along the banks of that river, or of the Gambia, he preferred the route through the country of the Foulahs, which, though nearer, was more difficult and less explored. On the 17th November, 1816, he sailed from the

« AnteriorContinua »