For the first time this fine-looking sheet of water was beheld by Europeans.
Continuing Livingstone’s African Discoveries,
our selection from David Livingstone by Thomas Hughes published in 1889. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in 3.5 easy 5 minute installments.
Thomas Hughes was (1822-1896) was an English lawyer, judge, politician and author. First we conclude our Livingston excerpt.
Previously in Livingstone’s African Discoveries.
Place: Central Africa
When we had gone up the bank of this beautiful river about ninety-six miles from the point where we first struck it, and understood that we were still a considerable distance from the Ngami, we left all the oxen and wagons, except Mr. Oswell’s, which was the smallest, and one team, at Ngabisane, in the hope that they would be recruited for the home journey, while we made a push for the lake.
Twelve days after our departure from the wagons at Ngabisane we came to the northeast end of Lake Ngami; and on August 1, 1849, we went down together to the broad part, and for the first time this fine-looking sheet of water was beheld by Europeans. The direction of the lake seemed to be north-northeast and south-southwest by compass. The southern portion is said to bend round to the west, and to receive the Teoughe from the north at its northwest extremity. We could detect no horizon where we stood looking south-south west, nor could we form any idea of the extent of the lake, except from the reports of the inhabitants of the district; and, as they professed to go round it in three days, allowing twenty-five miles a day would make it seventy-five, or less than seventy geographical miles in circumference.
Other guesses have been made since as to its circumference, ranging between seventy and one hundred miles. It is shallow, for I subsequently saw a native punting his canoe over seven or eight miles of the northeast end; it can never therefore be of much value as a commercial highway. In fact, during the months preceding the annual supply of water from the north, the lake is so shallow that it is with difficulty cattle can approach the water through the boggy, reedy banks. These are low on all sides, but on the west there is a space devoid of trees, showing that the waters have retired thence at no very ancient date. This is another of the proofs of desiccation met with so abundantly throughout the whole country. A number of dead trees lie on this space, some of them imbedded in the mud right in the water. We were informed by the Bayeiye, who live on the lake, that when the annual inundation begins, not only trees of great size, but antelopes, as the springbuck and tsessebe (Acronotus lunata,) are swept down by its rushing waters; the trees are gradually driven by the winds to the opposite side, and become imbedded in mud.
When the lake is full, the water is perfectly fresh, but brackish when low; and that coming down the Tamunak’le we found to be so clear, cold, and soft, the higher we ascended, that the idea of melting snow was suggested to our minds. We found this region, with regard to that from which we had come, to be clearly a hollow, the lowest point being Lake Kumadau; the point of the ebullition of water as shown by one of Newman’s barometric thermometers, was only between 207-1/2° and 206°, giving an elevation of not much more than two thousand feet above the level of the sea. We had descended above two thousand feet in coming to it from Kolobeng. It is the southern and lowest part of the great river system beyond, in which large tracts of country are inundated annually by tropical rains. A little of that water, which in the countries farther north produces inundation, comes as far south as 20° 20′, the latitude of the upper end of the lake, and instead of flooding the country, falls into the lake as into a reservoir. It begins to flow down the Embarrah, which divides into the Rivers Tzo and Teoughe. The Tzo divides into the Tamunak’le and Mababe; the Tamunak’le discharges itself into the Zouga, and the Teoughe into the lake. The flow begins in either March or April, and the descending waters find the channels of all these rivers dried out, except in certain pools in their beds, which have long dry spaces between them. The lake itself is very low. The Zouga is but a prolongation of the Tamunak’le, and an arm of the lake reaches up to the point where the one ends and the other begins. The last is narrow and shallow, while the Zouga is broad and deep. The narrow arm of the lake, which on the map looks like a continuation of the Zouga, has never been observed to flow either way.
BY THOMAS HUGHES
Before the middle of 1852 Livingstone was ready to start on the journey which resulted in the opening of routes from Central Africa to the West and East coasts; but the way was still beset with difficulties. The missionary societies were regarded as “unpatriotic” by the authorities at the Cape; and he, as the most outspoken of critics, and the most uncompromising denouncer of the slave-trade and champion of the natives, came in for a double share of their suspicion. On the other hand, his brethren gave him only a half-hearted support and doubted his orthodoxy. He found great difficulty even in procuring ammunition. A country postmaster whom he had accused of overcharging, threatened an action at the last moment, which he compromised rather than be detained. As it was, he had anticipated his meagre salary by more than a year, and had to be content with very inferior oxen, and a wagon which required constant mending throughout the journey. On June 8, 1852, he at last got away, taking with him a Mr. Fleming, the agent of his friend Mr. Rutherford, a Cape merchant, in the hope of by degrees substituting legitimate traffic for that in slaves.
The heavy Cape wagon with its ten poor oxen dragged heavily onward. Livingstone had so loaded himself with parcels for stations up-country, and his wagon and team were so inferior, that he did not reach Kuruman until September. Here he was detained by the breaking of a wheel.
David Livingstone begins here.
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