Lake Ukerewe

Name of Lake Victoria until 1858

Name ID 1107

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 137
Extract Date: 1996

Three lakes

For the two explorers, Kazeh was a major milestone in their journey. They were ready for a rest. They stayed there for five weeks, dismissing much of their caravan and hiring fresh porters before they resumed their trek towards Lake Tanganyika.

Both Burton and Speke were now quite ill, and both suffered from trachoma, an affliction that seriously impairs vision by causing lumps to form on the inside of the eyelids. Burton at this point seemed to be in worse shape than Speke, which may partly explain why he spent most of his time in Kazeh with the Arab traders (who were also slavers). Burton says these Arabs treated him with "open-handed hospitality and hearty good-will."

Speke, on the other hand, spent much of his time in Kazeh gathering information. He writes: "Captain Burton got desperately ill, whilst I picked up all the information that I could gather from the Arabs, with Bombay as interpreter." Implicit in this statement is a growing conflict between the active Speke and the more contemplative Burton. Burton and Speke had been sent to find one great lake, the one shown on Rebmann and Erhardt's map, which they had been shown in the Royal Geographical Society in London and a copy of which they had with them. The Arabs now told them that there were in fact three lakes: Nyassa (now called Lake Malawi) to the south, the Ujiji lake (Lake Tanganyika) to the west, and the "Sea of Ukéréwé" (Lake Victoria) to the north. With Bombay as his interpreter, Speke learned from Snay bin Amir and others that "the Kitangulé and Katonga rivers ran out of the Ukéréwé Lake (Victoria N'yanza), and that another river, which is the Nile, but supposed by them to be the upper portions of the Jub river, ran into the N'yanza." They also originally told Speke that no river flowed out of the "Sea of Ujiji," but they recanted when Speke insisted they must be wrong: "I made them confess that all these rivers ran exactly contrary to the way they first stated…." Speke wrote that, at this time, "… I felt so curious to find out, and so sure in my own mind that the Victoria N'yanza would prove to be the source of the Nile, I proposed going to see it at once, instead of going on to Ujiji. The route, however, to the northward was said to be dangerous … and Captain Burton preferred going west."

Extract ID: 5763

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 138
Extract Date: 1996

So they went west

So they went west, and Speke was not to have a chance to slake his curiosity until after they returned to Kazeh six months later. About the lake to the north, Burton would write,

"... by his [Snay bin Amir's] distances and directions we were enabled to lay down the southern limits and the general shape of the Nyanza or Northern Lake as correctly — and the maps forwarded from Kazeh to the Royal Geographical Society will establish in fact — as were subsequently determined, after actual exploration, by my companion."

Burton is being defensive here for on these maps he had, in fact, "adjusted" the distances, dimensions, and shape recorded by Speke. He wanted Lake Tanganyika to be the source of the Nile, but in the event was not able to either prove or disprove it. He accepted the fact of the three large lakes, but did not, like Speke, continue to quiz people for details about them. Information was there for the asking, and Speke was hungry for details and directions. On the trip to Lake Tanganyika, he came to think that what we now know is the eastern escarpment of the western rift valley was the eastern end of a great arc of mountains, the Mountains of the Moon of Ptolemy. Even so, or perhaps even more so, by the time they returned to Kazeh, Speke had become preoccupied with the idea that Lake Victoria might be the source of the Nile. Burton was equally convinced it was not.

Extract ID: 5764