Acts America

Biographies of Great Christians


David Livingstone - Part 2

David LivingstoneNow came the second segment of his life of exploration, from 1858 to 1865, which took him into the Zambezi River area under the auspices of the British government. He was appointed the Consul for the East Coast of Africa, and he was given a command that included his having anything he wanted or needed. He now on governmental salary, had better equipment and ample funds. His wife and youngest son returned with him, his own health was much improved, and it looked like a bright future, as he accepted the challenge of exploring the eastern and central portions of the continent. But many disappointments were ahead. In March 1858 at age 46 he set out for Africa. Soon after arriving at Cape Town the trials began. His wife's health was poor, preventing her from going further with him. She took the child and went to her parents, the Moffats, at Kuruman. Then a second serious problem arose. Livingstone could command and organize Africans, but managing white colleagues and a large expedition was a total disaster. His greatest mistake was in taking his younger brother, whose temperament was totally unsuited to expedition work. Six years of disharmony and frustration were to follow, with a man named John Kirk being the only capable associate of this group. Third problem: He found out that there were a myriad of obstacles to the navigation of the Zambezi. Fourth reversal: His modern equipped boat, the Ma Roberts, was more of a hindrance than a help. She was so slow that a native canoe could easily outdistance her. She burned so much fuel that half of the time was given just to cut wood for her. On September 8, 1858, he did reach Tete and his beloved Makololo tribesmen. Much exploration followed, including the finding of Lake Nyasa on September 18, 1859, plus the discovery of the Shire River and the Kongone entrance to the Zambezi, which was Lake Shirwa.

On November 4, 1859, he received a letter informing him that he had a little daughter born at Kuruman on November 16, 1858--a year before. Much of 1860 was spent with his old friends, the Makololo. At the beginning of 1861 a new boat, the Pioneer, came to replace its antiquated predecessor. On the boat were missionaries under the direction of Bishop Charles Mackenzie, to minister to those who lived on Lake Nyasa. He explored the Rovuma River and helped establish the mission station on the Shire River in Nyasaland. This had been one of his dreams--an interior mission station--but the dream was soon shattered. Bishop Mackenzie died on January 31, 1862. Several of his helpers also died. That month, Livingstone's wife rejoined him after a separation of four years. In the intervening time she had taken the youngest son and baby girl back to Scotland, and then returned to rejoin her husband. But her failing health prevented the reunion to last for long. She died on April 27, 1862--just three months after she was reunited with her husband. She was buried under a great baobab tree at Shupange on the lower Zambezi. Livingstone was 49 years old and considered this a terrible loss. Out of 18 years of marriage, the two were together less than half the time. He put together a boat called the Lady Nyasa, and sought to launch her in June, 1862, on the lake for further exploration purposes. But weather conditions prevented the launch. Slave trading continued to plague him. Human skeletons showed up everywhere.

Finally, the Portuguese king promised to cooperate with Livingstone, but the officers in Africa ignored such royal suggestions. Livingstone's work actually helped rather than hindered them, for wherever he explored in Portuguese East Africa, the officers would come in and tell the natives they were Livingstone's children. Thus, through lying and trickery, they would obtain even more slaves--in Livingstone's own name. Then came a dispatch from the British government re-calling the expedition, saying it was more costly than the government had anticipated. But the truth was that the Portuguese government had written to the British Foreign Office that Livingstone's work was offensive to them, and the Portuguese asked for his removal. This latest blow in 1863 failed to stagger him. He decided to sell the boat, but not to the Portuguese because it would be used in slave trade. Rather, he decided to go to Bombay, India, and sell it there. With a small crew, only 14 tons of coal, scant provisions, including little water, and having never navigated a boat on the ocean, he left Africa April 30, 1864, and arrived in Bombay on June 16. He was received warmly but could not sell the boat, so he sailed to London, arriving July 10. This was his second and last trip home. He spent his time with his children, associating with William Gladstone and other notables, giving speeches against the slave trade and writing another book, The Zambezi and its Tributaries. While home, his mother died. Another tragedy in his life--Livingstone's son Robert, who at this time was fighting in the American Civil War to free the slaves, was killed and buried at Gettysburg.

Now the third phase of his explorations began to shape up. The Royal Geographical Society planned and sponsored his last expedition, which was from 1866 to 1873. His influential friend, Sir Roderick Murchison, had encouraged him to go back to find out more about the slave trading and also to discover the sources of the Zambezi, Congo, and Nile Rivers. He returned to Africa by way of Paris, France, where he put his daughter Agnes in school, and then Bombay, where he finally sold the boat at a loss of $18,500. The money he got was invested in an Indian bank, which shortly went broke--and all his funds were lost. He sailed from Bombay on January 3, 1866, and arrived in Zanzibar on January 26. This time he was once more going to be the only white man, having some 60 carriers consisting of Indians, plus Chuma and Susi from Africa and animal transport. They landed at the mouth of the Rovuma River in April, 1866, intending to pass around Lake Nyasa far from the influence of the Portuguese. However, in five months, he lost by desertion or treachery all but eleven of his men and all the animals. For four years he was befriended and cared for by people he despised--slave traders. During this time he discovered the southern end of Lake Tanganyika (1867) and Lakes Moero and Bangweolo (1868).

In 1869 he reached Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, the headquarters of the trade in ivory and slaves. By this time Livingstone was desperately ill, only to find his supplies and mail sent from the coast plundered and gone. He spent the next two years striving to explore the upper Congo. He struggled back to Ujiji a broken and disappointed man beginning on July 20, 1871. On this trip a spear was thrown at him, missing his head but grazing the back of his neck. Also, a huge tree crashed across their path, missing Livingstone by a yard. Arriving on October 22 with three attendants, he thought surely mail and medicine would be waiting for him--but it was not. The medicine had been sold and the letters destroyed or sold by Arab traders. On October 26, 1871, four days after his arrival, when his spirits were at their lowest ebb, with awful sores on his feet, dysentery, loss of blood, fever, and being half- starved--he heard Susi, one of his faithful followers, come running at top speed, gasping, "An Englishman--". J.G. Bennett of the New York Herald had called for a famous English reporter, Henry Stanley, to search for and find Livingstone at all cost, or verify his death, which by this time had been rumored. Shortly, when Stanley saw Livingstone approaching, he pushed through the crowd of natives to see him with the now-famous and legendary, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" A supply of food and mail was like a tonic to the tired explorer. Stanley lived with the missionary during the winter and did everything to nurse him and encourage him to return to England. Failing to convince him to return to England, in March, 1872, the two men--now good friends--parted. Livingstone accompanied Stanley to Unyamuembe. Stanley went to Zanzibar and promised to send men and supplies to Livingstone. Waiting was difficult, but finally the promised men and supplies did arrive. Stanley summed up his relationship with Dr. David Livingstone with these words: "I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it."

In August the new party started toward Lakes Tanganyika and Bangweolo. Jacob Wainwright became a valuable and trusted aid, along with old-time stalwarts, Susi and Chumah. Trials were reduced to such things as ants and floods. When Livingstone grew too weak to travel, Susi carried him on his shoulders. He found himself entangled in the swampy region of Lake Bangweolo in the middle of the rainy season. His dysentery attacks were almost continuous, but he kept going across the great swamps, reaching the southern side of Lake Tanganyika, mapping to within a day of his death. Soon he could not walk at all. He was carried on a litter and reached Chitambo, a village in Itala where a hut was built for him. His last written words by letter were:

“All I can say in my solitude is, may Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one--American, English, Turk--who will help heal this open sore of the world.”

At 4 am on May 1, 1873, his friends heard an unusual noise, lit a candle and found him dead on his knees in the hut. They removed his heart and buried it reverently at the foot of a mulva tree, with Wainwright reading the service. A wood monument was erected. They embalmed his body, gathered his papers, and started toward Zanzibar on a 1,000-mile trip that was to take nine months. They arrived in February of 1874 and gave the body to the officers of the British Consul. When the body arrived in England on April 15, there was some doubt about the identity of the remains. However, upon examination of the mangled left arm, the doubt disappeared. On April 18, 1874, London came to a stop as he was buried in Westminister Abbey with the kings and the great. At his funeral were his children, Susi, Henry Stanley--and the aged Robert Moffat, who had started it all.