I DEDICATE THIS BOOK,
WITH SPECIAL PERMISSION,
TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS ALBERT EDWARD,
PRINCE OF WALES,
AS THE FIRST OF
ENGLAND'S ROYAL RACE
WHO HAS SAILED UPON THE WATERS OF
THE LAKE SOURCES OF WHICH MIGHTY RIVER ARE HONOURED
BY THE NAMES OF
HIS AUGUST PARENTS.
THE work entitled "The Albert N'yanza Great Basin of the Nile,"
published in 1866, has given an account of the equatorial lake
system from which the Egyptian river derives its source. It has
been determined by the joint explorations of Speke, Grant, and
myself, that the rainfall of the equatorial districts supplies
two vast lakes, the Victoria and the Albert, of sufficient volume
to support the Nile throughout its entire course of thirty
degrees of latitude. Thus the parent stream, fed by never-failing
reservoirs, supplied by the ten months' rainfall of the equator,
rolls steadily on its way through arid sands and burning deserts
until it reaches the Delta of Lower Egypt.
It would at first sight appear that the discovery of the lake
sources of the Nile had completely solved the mystery of ages,
and that the fertility of Egypt depended upon the rainfall of the
equator concentrated in the lakes Victoria and Albert; but the
exploration of the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia divides the Nile
system into two proportions, and unravels the entire mystery of
the river, by assigning to each its due share in ministering to
the prosperity of Egypt.
The lake sources of Central Africa support the life of Egypt, by
supplying a stream, throughout all seasons, that has sufficient
volume to support the exhaustion of evaporation and absorption;
but this stream, if unaided, could never overflow its banks, and
Egypt, thus deprived of the annual inundation, would simply
exist, and cultivation would be confined to the close vicinity of
The inundation, which by its annual deposit of mud has actually
created the Delta of Lower Egypt, upon the overflow of which the
fertility of Egypt depends, has an origin entirely separate from
the lake-sources of Central Africa, and the supply of water is
derived exclusively from Abyssinia.
The two grand affluents of Abyssinia are, the Blue Nile and the
Atbara, which join the main stream respectively in N. lat. 15
degrees 30 minutes and 17 degrees 37 minutes. These rivers,
although streams of extreme grandeur during the period of the
Abyssinian rains, from the middle of June until September, are
reduced during the dry months to utter insignificance; the Blue
Nile becoming so shallow as to be unnavigable, and the Atbara
perfectly dry. At that time the water supply of Abyssinia having
ceased, Egypt depends solely upon the equatorial lakes and the
affluents of the White Nile, until the rainy season shall again
have flooded the two great Abyssinian arteries. That flood occurs
suddenly about the 20th of June, and the grand rush of water
pouring down the Blue Nile and the Atbara into the parent
channel, inundates Lower Egypt, and is the cause of its extreme
Not only is the inundation the effect of the Abyssinian rains,
but the deposit of mud that has formed the Delta, and which is
annually precipitated by the rising waters, is also due to the
Abyssinian streams, more especially to the river Atbara, which,
known as the Bahr el Aswat (Black River), carries a larger
proportion of soil than any other tributary of the Nile;
therefore, to the Atbara, above all other rivers, must the wealth
and fertility of Egypt be attributed.
It may thus be stated: The equatorial lakes FEED Egypt; but the
Abyssinian rivers CAUSE THE INUNDATION.
This being a concise summary of the Nile system, I shall describe
twelve months' exploration, during which I examined every
individual river that is tributary to the Nile from Abyssinia,
including the Atbara, Settite, Royan, Salaam, Angrab, Rahad,
Dinder, and the Blue Nile. The interest attached to these
portions of Africa differs entirely from that of the White Nile
regions, as the whole of Upper Egypt and Abyssinia is capable of
development, and is inhabited by races either Mohammedan or
Christian; while Central Africa is peopled by a hopeless race of
savages, for whom there is no prospect of civilization.
The exploration of the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia occupied the
first twelve months of my journey towards the Nile sources.
During this time, I had the opportunity of learning Arabic and of
studying the character of the people; both necessary
acquirements, which led to my ultimate success in reaching the
"Albert N'yanza." As the readers of the work of that title are
aware, I was accompanied throughout the entire journey by my
wife, who, with extraordinary hardihood and devotion, shared
every difficulty with which African travel is beset.
ABOVE THE CATARACT.
Sterility--Arrival at Korosko--Twenty-six Days from Cairo--The
Nubian Desert--Nature's Pyramids--Volcanic Bombs--The Stony Sea--
The Camel's Grave--The Crows of Moorahd--A delicious
Draught--Rocks of the Desert--The perished Regiment--Arrival at
the Nile--Distance from Korosko--Gazelles of the Desert--Dryness
of the Atmosphere--Arrival at Berber--Halleem Effendi's
Garden--Halleem gives Advice--The Nile rising--Visit of the
Ladies--The Pillars of Sand--The Governor's Friendship--Save me
from my Friends.
The Cairo Dragoman Mahomet--Mahomet forsakes his Pistols--The
Route to the Atbara--The Dry Bed of the River--The Dome
Palm--Preparation of the Fruit--Pools of the Atbara--Collection
of Birds--Charms of the Desert--Suffering of Men and
Beasts--Collodabad--Hippopotamus kills the Arab--Daring Feat of
bagged--Delight of the Arabs--Fishing--Catch a Tartar--Lose my
Turtle Soup--Gazelle-shooting--The Speed of the Gazelle--
Preparation of Water-skins--Tanning the Hides--Shoot a
Crocodile--The River comes down--The mighty Stream of the
Atbara--Change in the Season.