Kilimanjaro: before 1900

Name ID 1734

See also

Amin, Mohamed; Willetts, Duncan and Marshall, Peter Journey Through Tanzania
Page Number: 168
Extract Date: 0200

Ptolemy made the first written reference to Kilimanjaro

Ptolemy made the first written reference to it [Kilimanjaro] in his Geography in the 2nd century - to a ‘great snow mountain’ lying inland from Rhapta on the coast of Tanzania.

Extract ID: 392

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. and Sassoon, H Archeological Remains on Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 062
Extract Date: 960BC

Stone bowls

On the western slopes of the mountain, in the area between Ol Molog and Ngare Nairobi and up to the 7 000 feet contour level, many stone bowls and stone rings have been found by farmers. The bowls and rings are apparently made from local lava, though no petrological tests have been carried out to corroborate this assumption. Unfortunately, it seems that all the finds have been, of single, unrelated obects, and as yet no concentration of these artefacts has been discovered such as would indicate a living site or a burial.

The stone bowls are similar to the deep bowls (type b) reported by the Leakeys from Njoro (Leakey and Leakey, 1950). On pp. 16 and 77 of this publication, there are very, brief reports of a similar site which was excavated in Ngorongoro crater in 1941 and at which stone bowls of Gumban B type were found. It seems probably that the bowls from western Kilimanjaro will eventually prove to belong to the same general culture as Ngorongoro. A carbon-14 date has been published for the Njoro river site : it is approximately 960 B.C. or 2,900 years ago (Cole, 1954, p. 286) but it is probable that the Gumban B culture is much later than this.

Apparently associated with the stone bowls in western Kilimanjaro there are flakes and crude blade tools made from obsidian. On one farm, several large cores of this rock have been found, showing the scars from which flakes have been struck. The Geological Survey are not aware of any outcrops of obsidian on Kilimanjaro, nor in the whole of northern Tanzania. The nearest known outcrop is probably the one in Kenya which is a few miles north-east of Lake Magadi. The nearest major outcrop of obsidian is probably that in the Njorowa Gorge, south of Lake Naivasha. Whichever was the source of the obsidian on Kilimanjaro, it seems that it must have been carried at least 100 miles to the Ngare Nairobi area.

Extract ID: 4561

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 01
Extract Date: 1500

Unknown to the outside world

This note does not attempt to describe in detail the exploration of Kilimanjaro, but to refer readers to the descriptions of the successive attempts to climb the mountain from the first sighting by Rebmann in 1845 to the successful attempt by Meyer in 1889.

It is indeed curious that the existence of such a striking natural phenomenon remained unknown to the outside world till the middle of the nineteenth century, more particularly as the Arabs had been up and down the Coast from the 9th Century, the Chinese had visited Malindi in the 15th Century, and the Portuguese, after the first visit to Malindi in 1498 had been settled in Mombasa since 1507.

Extract ID: 4540

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 02
Extract Date: 1519

Mount Olympus

One early reference to Kilimanjaro has come to light, that of a Spanish geographer Fernandes de Encisco, who in 1519 published his Suma De Geographia Que Trata De Todas Las Partidas Y Provincias Del Mundo.

He states, and here I quote from Johnston (1886: p. 7 n.2) "West of this port (Mombasa) is the Ethiopian Mount Olympus, which is very high, and further off are the mountains of the moon in which are the sources of the Nile. In all this country are much gold and "aineles fieros" (probably "animaels fiieros" wild animals) and here devour the people locasts (lagostas)"

Johnston acknowledges his endebtedness for this reference to E.G. Ravenstein, a mid-19th Century geographer, but Meyer (1891 p. 5-6) who also uses the same quotation from Encisco, does not indicate his source. His quotation is not however taken directly from Johnston, as the translation is slightly different.

Extract ID: 4545

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 03
Extract Date: 1519 - 1848

References to Kilimanjaro seem to be non-existent

From 1519 to 1848 published references to Kilimanjaro seem to be non-existent. The indefatigable historian of southern Africa, S.M. Theal, failed to reveal anything about Kilimanjaro, though his searches in the libraries and archives of Europe, published as Records of South Eastern Africa 1898-1903, contain, in volume III (1899) numerous references to Mombasa and Malindi.

There is for instance an account of an attempt to penetrate up the Athi River from Malindi prior to 1569 (Theal op. cit. III p, 214), but this ended in failure. There are further hints in the literature that the Portuguese were probing up country from the 16th to the 19th Century onwards. It would in fact have been quite remarkable and out of character if they had not.

For further south they were doing just this, as witness Sir John Gray's description (1945 p. 37) of "A Journey from Tete (on the upper Zambezi) to Kilwa in 1616," or Lacerda's journey into Bemba country in Zambia (Northern Rodesia) in 1798, published m Richard Burton's The Lands of Kazembe (1873).

Extract ID: 4546

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 04
Extract Date: 1849

Looking for stones

As far as North Eastern Tanganyika is concerned, I myself came across a tradition In the Southern Pare Mountains that long ago white men came up from the coast, and camped at the foot of the mountains. They were "Looking for stones", doubtless prospecting for gold, and did not harm or come into conflict with the local population.

Over a century ago Rebmann (1849) the first man to make the existence of Kilimanjaro known in Europe, recorded "Some tradition of a Portuguese establishment in Jagga (Chagga) as having taken place about two centuries ago (i.e. circa 1650) is, as my guide informed me, still found with the Madjame (Machame) tribe". A map published in the same Journal (1849) shows a hill lying between the Pare Mountains and the Ruvu River bearing the legend "Hereabouts is a mountain on which the ruins of a castle and a broken piece of cannon are said to be seen" .

Extract ID: 4547

See also

editors East Africa
Extract Date: 1846

first Europeans to set eyes on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya

German missionaries Johann [sic] Rebmann and Johann [sic] Krapf become the first Europeans to set eyes on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya respectively

Extract ID: 858

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia

The first Europeans to discover Kilimanjaro

The first Europeans to discover Kilimanjaro, the legendary burial place of King Solomon, were two German missionaries, Johannes Rebmann and Ludwig Krapf, in 1848. Their tales of a snow-covered peak near the equator, however, were not initially believed. Later two other Germans were the first to reach (1889) the Kibo summit.

Extract ID: 393

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 04a
Extract Date: 1846

First exploration into Tanganyika

What can be considered as the first exploration into Tanganyika took place in 1846 by German missionaries Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann who, exploring the Pangani Valley for two years, were the first to report sighting Kilimanjaro in 1848. Their report that the mountain was snow-capped met with disbelief from the scientific world.

Extract ID: 4004

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 06
Extract Date: 1848

The Church Missionary Intelligencer

The news of the sighting of snow capped mountains near the equator burst on the Western world when Rebmann published an account of his first journey to Chaggaland in 1848 in The Church Missionary Intelligencer, Vol. I, No. I, May 1849. This stirred up a heated argument in which numerous learned gentlemen argued that it was impossible for snow clad mountains to exist in the tropics.

For examples of the arguments and counter-arguments used see a letter in the Athenaeum dated 19th May 1849 and many further letters and articles in that Journal and the The Church Missionary Intelligencer. One of the most ardent opponents of Rebmann was one Cooley who in 1852 published his book Inner Africa laid Open. For a summary of the arguments and also somewhat abreviated accounts of Rebmann's three journeys to Chaggaland see Dr. Krapf's Travels, Researches and Missionary Labours (1860).

Extract ID: 4549

See also

Dundas, Charles Kilimanjaro and its People
Page Number: 11
Extract Date: 10 Nov 1848

This morning we discerned the Mountains of Jagga

ON November 10th, 1848, the German Missionary Rebmann wrote in his diary: "This morning we discerned the Mountains of Jagga more distinctly than ever; and about ten o'clock I fancied I saw a dazzlingly white cloud. My Guide called the white which I saw merely 'Beredi,' cold; it was perfectly clear to me, however, that it could be nothing else but 'snow'".

That anyone who had once seen the great glittering dome of Kilimanjaro could doubt it to be ice capped is out of the question, yet even when Rebrnann had traversed the mountain flanks his accounts of the snow-covered summit were described by one writer (Cooley) as " a most delightful mental recognition, only not supported by the evidence of his senses." This sneer appeared in a publication of 1852 most inappropriately entitled " Inner Africa Laid Open," since it knew nothing of one of the most conspicuous marvels of Inner Africa. Perhaps the author of that work should be pardoned for doubting the existence of so remarkable a mountain which yet was unknown until Rebrnann saw it. In these days when one may have the closest view of the great mountain from a railway, it seems indeed difficult to conceive that it was unheard of seventy-three years ago.

Extract ID: 3134

See also

Ofcansky, Thomas P and Yeager, Rodger Historical Dictionary of Tanzania
Page Number: xviii
Extract Date: 1848 May 11

Rebmann first sights Mount Kilimanjaro.

Johannes Rebmann, a European missionary, first sights Mount Kilimanjaro.

Extract ID: 1230

See also

Fosbrooke, Henry Arusha Integrated Regional Development Plan
Page Number: 117
Extract Date: 1856

The Slug Map

Paper IX: Early Maps of East Africa

This is a comprehensive endeavour by the missionaries Krapf and Erhardt to depict large areas of East and Central Africa including the Great Lakes. From the information at their disposal it appeared that one huge lake lay at the centre of the area. Their representation of this lake, depicted in Map 2A, suggested a slug, hence the popular name of the map.

The map itself has never been published but is in the possession of the Royal Geographical Society, London. The Map Curator of the R.G.S. has kindly provided a photo copy of the relevant portion of the map, exhibited as map 2B, stating that this is the best that can be made.

To bring out the salient points, the Survey and Mapping Division of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development undertook an enlargement (times 2) which accurately reproduces the features which are of particular concern to this story, but omits many others.

Ngorongoro and the Serengeti do not yet appear, but the whole of the country from north of Lake Natron to south of the Pare Mountains is assigned to ILMASAI.

Oldonyo Lengai is shown as "Snow Mt. (rain Mt.) Gods Mt.". "Kignea" and "Kilimanjaro" are also shown as snow mountains. The reason for including Lengai in this category is because mineral deposits which appear on the upper slopes of the volcano show upwith such brilliant whiteness as to give to the early observers the impression of snow.

It is of interest to note that the trade in soda from Lake Natron (though not named as such) was in existance at the time: "From where the Magad [soda] is bought."

Another point of interest depicted in the extreme north east corner of the map is a reference to a stream flowing into "the Ukerewa" I.e. Lake Victoria. It is noted that "This water tho' sweet is said to turn peoples teeth yellow". This is probably the first recorded reference to the fact, particularly noticeable around Mount Meru, that a high flourine [sic] content in the drinking water, does cause a brown stain to the teeth which cannot be removed.

The Map was presented to the Royal Geographical Society on 10th November 1855 by the missionary Erhardt. Its official title is as follows:

"Sketch of a Map from 1 & deg;N. to 15 & deg;S. Latitude and from 23 & deg; to 43 & deg;E. Longitude delineating the probably position and extent of the Sea of Uniamesi as being the continuation of the Lake Niasa and exhibiting the numerous heathen-tribes situated to the East and West of that great Inland-sea together with the Caravan routes leading to it and into the interior in general. In true accordance with the information received from natives - Representatives of various inland tribes - and Mahomidan inland traders. By the Revd. Messrs. Erhardt and F. Rebmann Missionaries of the Church Miss. Society in East Africa Kisaludini March 14 1855."

A paper published in German - J. Erhardt's Memoire Zur Erlauterung Der Von Ihm Und J. Rebmann, Zusammengestellten Karte Von Ost- Und Central-Afrika , (S.Tafel 1.) - gives further details of the country concerned. It is the first attempt at assessing the geographic position of the main geographic features of eastern Africa - Kilimanjaro, Lengai, Lake Victoria etc. by the length and direction of each days march undertaken by the trading caravans.

Extract ID: 3215

See also

Amin, Mohamed; Willetts, Duncan and Marshall, Peter Journey Through Tanzania
Page Number: 168-9

Sighting of Kilimanjaro.

It was 13 years before Rebman’s sighting [of Kilimanjaro in 1848] was confirmed by the German Officer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken and the young British geologist Richard Thornton. Von de Decken climbed to about 14,000 feet and experienced a fall of snow. Thornton made many observations of the mountain and estimated accurately that it stood about 20,000 feet above sea level. Six years later the missionary Charles New managed to reach the snowline. Then in 1884 the naturalist Henry Hamilton Johnston made an intensive study of the flora and fauna.

Extract ID: 655

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 07
Extract Date: 1861 1862

Baron K. K. von der Decken

The argument was not settled, nor did any explorer attempt to visit or climb Kilimanjaro till a German, Baron K. K. von der Decken, accompanied by a young English geologist, Richard Thornton, travelled from Mombasa to Chaggaland in 1861 and attempted the first conquest of Kilimanjaro. For an account of this attempt which only reached 5,200 feet, see Thornton's diaries, at present being prepared for publication.

In 1862 the Baron, accompanied by a German, Otto Kersten, renewed the attempt. For details of how the party reached 14,200 feet before being forced to return by bad weather and uncooperative porters, see Kersten's account in his six volume opus published between 1869 and 1879. This account has been translated and published in English for the first time in this number of T.N.R.

Extract ID: 4550

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 04d
Extract Date: 1861-1862

von der Decken opens a route

.. .. during his 1861-1862 expedition, von der Decken opened a route to Kilimanjaro from Tanga.

In his memory a bird species was called after his name.

Extract ID: 4007

See also

Dundas, Charles Kilimanjaro and its People
Page Number: 20a
Extract Date: 1861

next to visit Kilimanjaro was Von der Decken

After Rebrnann the next to visit Kilimanjaro was von der Decken in 1861, who got no farther than 8,200 feet owing to the inclemency of the weather. In the following year he went up to 14,200 feet in company with Dr. Kerston. His accounts were finally accepted as reliable by the Royal Geographical Society though not without opposition from Rebmann's critics.

Extract ID: 3135

See also

Amin, Mohamed; Willetts, Duncan and Marshall, Peter Journey Through Tanzania
Page Number: 168-9

Sighting of Kilimanjaro.

It was 13 years before Rebman’s sighting [of Kilimanjaro in 1848] was confirmed by the German Officer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken and the young British geologist Richard Thornton. Von de Decken climbed to about 14,000 feet and experienced a fall of snow. Thornton made many observations of the mountain and estimated accurately that it stood about 20,000 feet above sea level. Six years later the missionary Charles New managed to reach the snowline. Then in 1884 the naturalist Henry Hamilton Johnston made an intensive study of the flora and fauna.

Extract ID: 655

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 08
Extract Date: August 1871

Charles New

The next recorded attempt on Kilimanjaro was by a missionary, Charles New, who after a first attempt on 14th August 1871, started again on 26th August 1871 and reached the snow line on 28th accompanied by one servant and a Chagga guide. His first account was published in the proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society in 1872 and more fully in his book Life, Wanderings and Labours in Eastern Africa (1873)

Extract ID: 4551

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 09
Extract Date: 1883

Joseph Thompson

More than ten years pass till numerous attempts between 1883 and 1889 culminated in the final conquest of Kilimanjaro.

Joseph Thompson who visited the area in 1883, didn't really attempt an ascent. He describes in his book Through Masailand (1885,pp.144-147) how he started on a one-day expedition from Moshi (Mandara's) without camping equipment in April 1883 ; by 9 a.m. he was at 5,000 feet and by 1 p.m. at 9,000 feet, where he turned back after 7 hours climbing, being reluctantly compelled to desist and give up my intention of penetrating above the forest region. Thompson then left. Chaggaland and travelled through what is now Kenya, giving us the first description of the north face of Kilimanjaro (op. cit pp. 209-214). He comments on the lack of population on the northern .slopes, which he attributes to "Its extremely precipitous nature, there being no projecting platforms, and no streams".

Extract ID: 4552

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 10
Extract Date: August 1884

Sir Harry Johnston

Sir Harry Johnston was however a serious contender, when, during the course of.his six months sojourn in Chaggaland in 1884 he made two attempts at the mountain. On the first, made in August/September 1884 from Moshi (Mandara's) he climbed to 9,000 feet (Johnston 1886, pp. 229-237) whilst on the second he left Marangu in October, and spent most of that month camped above the forest at nearly 10,000 feet (op. cit. pp. 259-274). From this camp, which he estimates was 4 miles from Mawenzi and 7 from Kibo.

He, unaccompanied, made a determined attempt at the latter. He reached the snow line and thought of turning back but states "Nevertheless I thought 'only a little farther and perhaps I may ascend above, the clouds and stand gazing down into the crater of Kilimanjaro from its snowy rim" . So, encouraged by this thought, he struggled on to an altitude he puts at 16,315 feet, but by 4.30 p.m. he was forced to turn back. Next day but one he made a second attempt, but was turned back by bad weather.

The interesting point about this account is the reference to the crater. To date, no one had claimed to have climed Kibo or mentioned the existence of a crater; was this just deduction on Johnston's part or had he in fact picked up a story from some local Chagga who had in fact scaled the mountain and told him of the existence of a crater ?

Some years later Hans Meyer, the Conquerer of Kilimanjaro, refutes the claim of Abbott and Ehlers to have reached the summit because they made no mention of a crater. This is logical enough but they could if they had wished, have claimed the existence of a crater merely by referring to Johnston.

Extract ID: 4553

See also

Bechky, Allen Adventuring in East Africa

Continued English disdain for Germany

Continued English disdain for Germany later gave rise to a great tale about Kilimanjaro. The well-known story goes that Kaiser Wilhelm wrote to Queen Victoria asking that Kili be assigned to German East Africa. He pleaded that the British Crown Colony already had one snow-capped peak in its Kenyan domain, while Germany had none. The Queen, in a typical English spirit of fair play, magnanimously assented, giving the mountain as a birthday gift to her grandson, the future Wilhelm II. It's a great yarn, one that has endured the test of time. But there is no truth to it. Carl Peters had sneaked into Tanganyika and persuaded various Chagga chieftains to sign treaties agreeing to cede their territories to his Society for German Colonization.

Extract ID: 399

See also

Hodd, Michael (Editor) 1995 East African Handbook

the great yarn lingers on

[But, the great yarn lingers on - even into 1995 ... ]

Whilst Germany and Britain were deciding the North boundary, Kaiser William I insisted that Mount Kilimanjaro should be German because it had been discovered by a German, John Rebmann. Queen Victoria generously 'gave' the mountain to her grandson, the future Kaiser William II on his birthday in 1886. Although no official record exists the Queen is supposed to have explained, by way of justification for her royal 'gift', that 'William likes everything that is high and big'. The boundary was thus moved so that Kilimanjaro is now found within Tanzania. As can be seen on the present map, instead of marking the boundary by pencilling it in with a ruler from the coast to Lake Victoria in one go, a freehand detour was made when the ruler hit the mountain, before carrying on again with the ruler and pencil on the far side

Extract ID: 398

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 11
Extract Date: 1887

Count Teleki and Lieut. Hoehnel

The next recorded climb is by Count Teleki and Lieut. Hoehnel in 1887. Writing in his book The Discovery of Lakes Rudolf and Stephanie, Hoehnel (1894, Vol. l p.195 et seq) describes how on 20th June he reached 16,240 feet when he was overcome and was compelled to stop.

But the intrepid Count went on unaccompanied to an altitude of 17,387 feet. But his lips were beginning to bleed freely and he felt dreadfully sleepy but went on till he reached the snow, where sleep so nearly overcame him that knowing it would be dangerous to yield to it, he decided to return. So ended yet another attempt, and the Count and his companion exchanged the freezing cold of Kilimanjaro for the burning heat of Lake Rudolf.

Extract ID: 4554

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 12
Extract Date: 1887

Hans Meyer made his first attempt

In the same year, 1887, Hans Meyer made his first attempt on the mountain, accompanied by Herr von Eberstein, but was defeated at 18,400 feet (Meyer 1891, p. viii). In 1888 he did a trip through the Usambaras but did not penetrate further inland than Gonja at the eastern foot of the South Pare Mountains.

Extract ID: 4555

See also

Rushby and Swynnerton Tanganyika Notes and Records No. 22
Page Number: 18
Extract Date: 1888,1889

Abbott's Duiker

[Abbott, Dr. W.L.] collected an adult male [Abbott's Duiker] on Kilimanjaro between 1888 and 1889, and for twenty years this specimen remained unique in collections.

Extract ID: 10

See also

CD Groliers Encyclopedia

The first Europeans to discover Kilimanjaro

The first Europeans to discover Kilimanjaro, the legendary burial place of King Solomon, were two German missionaries, Johannes Rebmann and Ludwig Krapf, in 1848. Their tales of a snow-covered peak near the equator, however, were not initially believed. Later two other Germans were the first to reach (1889) the Kibo summit.

Extract ID: 393

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 04l
Extract Date: 1890-1892

Colonial geography

Oscar Baumann, the Austrian geographer, found Lakes Eyasi and Manyara during his 1890-1892 expedition and Hans Meyer from Leipzig, professor in what was by then called colonial geography reached the top of Kilimanjaro (Kibo) with his colleague Purtscheller in 1889.

Extract ID: 4015

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 13
Extract Date: 1889

Dr. Abbott and Mr. Ehlers

In 1889 Dr. Abbott and Mr. Ehlers made an attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, concerning which I can find no detailed documentation. Meyer (op. cit p. 133) uses their camp, which he places above the forest at 9,480 feet so their attempt must have preceded Meyers, who states that Ehlers put forward a claim which he later retracted, to have reached the summit.

Extract ID: 4556

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 14
Extract Date: 5 October 1889

Purtscheller and Meyer

Finally in 1889, with a trained mountaineer called Purtscheller he [Meyer] ascended to the highest point of Kibo on 5th October 1889 (op. cit p. 147). He also spent some time on the saddle and in attempting to climb Mawenzi but in this he failed (op. cit. pp.162-194).

Extract ID: 4557

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 15
Extract Date: 1891

Literature of East Africa containing references to Kilimanjaro

Thus ends the story of the exploration of Kilimanjaro But should anyone wish to make a further study in depth of exploration In this part of the world they cannot do better than consult the exhaustive bibliography in Meyer (op. cit pp.304-397).

This contains details of 219 articles and books published between 1833 and 1890, the section being entitled "Literature of East Africa containing references to Kilimanjaro"

It is divided into a general section of early literature (17 entries, 8 in German),

then "Journeys of the Missionaries Krapf, Rebmann and Erhardt" (25 entries, 17 in German),

"Burton's Travels" (7 entries, 3 in German)

"C.C. von der Decken's expeditions, 1860-65" (14 entries, all English).

Another general section follows "Journeys, books and Papers from 1870-1880" (23 entries, 11 in German),

"H.H. Johnston's Expedition" (10 entries, 2 in German)

"Dr. G.A. Fischer's Expeditions 1880-85" (15 entries, 4 In German)

"Count Teleki's Expedition, 1887 and 1888" (8 entries, 6 in German)

"Journeys, Books and Papers from 1885-90" (56 entries, 43 in German)

and finally the author's own contributions to the literature "Dr. Hares Meyers Expeditions 1887, -1888 and 1889" (22 entries, 20 in German).

This lengthy catalogue shows the intense interest which European scientists and the reading public were displaying in African exploration in the 19th centruy and also the thoroughness with which Dr. Meyer prepared his expeditions. His most detailed work was in German Der Kilimanjaro (Meyer 1900) containing superb photos of. Kibo and Mawenzi and many interesting contemporary illustrations.

For the general reader without access to libraries, a number of abridgements of the early works referred to above are available, particularly the East African Literature Bureau's Early Travellers in East Africa series, with books on

Krapf by C.G. Richards,

Charles New by R. Forbes Watson,

Johnston by E.A. Loftus,

Count Teleki by C.G. Richards and

Thompson by E.A. Loftus.

More recent publications are Charles Richards (ed.) (1961) Some Historic Journeys in East Africa containing Rebmann's account of his first sighting of Kilimanjaro, and descriptions of New's two attempts to climb the mountain,

and Rowland Young (1962) Through Masailand with Joseph Thompson.

Extract ID: 4558

See also

Russell, Mary The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt: Women Travellers and their World
Page Number: 197
Extract Date: 1891

Do be reasonable

'Do be reasonable,' someone said to 41-year-old American May French Sheldon at Charing Cross Station as she was about to set off for Africa in 1891. 'Do be reasonable, and abandon this mad, useless scheme'

She didn't, of course. Instead, climbing down through dense forest to the edge of Lake Chala, a volcanic crater on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro, she punted her way round its previously unexplored waters:

"I found myself attempting to penetrate through a girdle of primeval forest trees, tossed, as it were, by some volcanic action against the rock base, and seemingly as impenetrable as any stockade. With bill-hooks and knives [the bearers] cleared a slight opening through which I managed to squeeze, on emerging to find myself standing on a boulder which was balanced upon another boulder, and every moment's tarriance seemed to imperil my equilibrium; and as I dared to venture on uncertain surfaces which presented a footing, it required cat-like agility to crawl or slide down, sometimes landing in a bed of leaves, which must have been the accumulation of centuries and into which I sank up to my armpits, and had to be hauled out by main force by my men . . ."

Had she listened to Reason, she wouldn't have found herself sinking waist-deep into mud, her long, full skirts heavy with evil-smelling sludge, but then nor would she have been able to wonder at 'the strange whirring of birds . . . the whisking myriad of monkeys . . . the hooting of white-hooded owls . . . the eagle whose feathers scattered like storm-flawn flowers from its beating wings'.

Extract ID: 3321

See also

Russell, Mary The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt: Women Travellers and their World
Page Number: 214
Extract Date: 1891

to study the native habits and customs

When, in 1891, the American May French Sheldon set out on her remarkable journey to Africa she disclaimed any scientific knowledge and said she was going 'simply to study the native habits and customs free from the influence of civilization'. This, however, was not good enough. The Spectator noted that since the journey had no scientific end it was motivated by a 'merely feminine curiosity . . . hardly a useful and laudable one'. Poor May! Even when she revealed that she had disciplined her recalcitrant porters by whipping them, the editor was unbelieving. Surely she wasn't strong enough to have punished the porters herself, personally? It was Catch 22. To have whipped the men herself would have been spirited but, regrettably, unladylike.

A book review in the same issue gives us an idea of the ideal woman. The heroine was '. . . graceful . . . pretty. . . sweet. . . and wholesome' and unlikely to have gone round whipping men, even if they were servants. There was also the fact that May was American and probably one of these New Women, for had she not left her husband in Naples while she went off on her own, jaunting through Africa?

'The horror,' continued the Spectator, 'is that the Lady Errant is not unlikely to encourage still further the feminine spirit of unrest and the uneasy jealousy that is forever driving the fair sex into proving itself the equal of the other. Isabella Bird Bishop has already shown what a woman is capable of in the way of pluck and courage.' Isabella by then was protected by the sober cloak of widowhood, was engaged in setting up a hospital in Srinagar and, best of all, was British.

But we should stay with May a little longer to learn what exactly the results of this 'feminine curiosity' were. Entertained by the Sultan of Zanzibar, she learned that his great regret was to have only three daughters and no sons. And he, in turn, discovering that she had no children, found it hard to believe that her husband did not have a few other wives hidden away who would provide him with the necessary family.

When travelling among the Maasai, she carefully noted the current market prices - five large beads for a wife but ten for a cow. In a playful moment, she showed a local chief how to cut a segment of orange peel into a set of teeth. Delighted, he withdrew and returned, bloody but smiling, to present her with one of his own teeth, just extracted, with a hole already bored through it so that she could string it round her neck.

May French Sheldon was a flamboyant dresser, suiting her garments to the occasion, for clothes are an important ingredient in the woman traveller's make-up, serving the dual purpose of helping her maintain her identity while at the same time giving out a clear message to those she meets along the way.

Extract ID: 3322
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