First Footsteps In East Africa; Or, An Exploration Of Harar. By Richard F. Burton

 - FIRST FOOTSTEPS IN EAST AFRICA; OR, AN EXPLORATION OF HARAR.

BY RICHARD F. BURTON




TO
THE HONORABLE
JAMES GRANT LUMSDEN - Page 1
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FIRST FOOTSTEPS IN EAST AFRICA; OR, AN EXPLORATION OF HARAR.

BY RICHARD F. BURTON

TO THE HONORABLE JAMES GRANT LUMSDEN, MEMBER OF COUNCIL, ETC. ETC. BOMBAY.

I have ventured, my dear Lumsden, to address you in, and inscribe to you, these pages. Within your hospitable walls my project of African travel was matured, in the fond hope of submitting, on return, to your friendly criticism, the record of adventures in which you took so warm an interest. Dis aliter visum! Still I would prove that my thoughts are with you, and thus request you to accept with your wonted _bonhommie_ this feeble token of a sincere good will.

PREFACE.

Averse to writing, as well as to reading, diffuse Prolegomena, the author finds himself compelled to relate, at some length, the circumstances which led to the subject of these pages.

In May 1849, the late Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm, formerly Superintendent of the Indian Navy, in conjunction with Mr. William John Hamilton, then President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain, solicited the permission of the Court of Directors of the Honorable East India Company to ascertain the productive resources of the unknown Somali Country in East Africa. [1] The answer returned, was to the following effect:--

"If a fit and proper person volunteer to travel in the Somali Country, he goes as a private traveller, the Government giving no more protection to him than they would to an individual totally unconnected with the service. They will allow the officer who obtains permission to go, during his absence on the expedition to retain all the pay and allowances he may be enjoying when leave was granted: they will supply him with all the instruments required, afford him a passage going and returning, and pay the actual expenses of the journey."

The project lay dormant until March 1850, when Sir Charles Malcolm and Captain Smyth, President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain, waited upon the chairman of the Court of Directors of the Honorable East India Company. He informed them that if they would draw up a statement of what was required, and specify how it could be carried into effect, the document should be forwarded to the Governor-General of India, with a recommendation that, should no objection arise, either from expense or other causes, a fit person should be permitted to explore the Somali Country.

Sir Charles Malcolm then offered the charge of the expedition to Dr. Carter of Bombay, an officer favourably known to the Indian world by his services on board the "Palinurus" brig whilst employed upon the maritime survey of Eastern Arabia. Dr. Carter at once acceded to the terms proposed by those from whom the project emanated; but his principal object being to compare the geology and botany of the Somali Country with the results of his Arabian travels, he volunteered to traverse only that part of Eastern Africa which lies north of a line drawn from Berberah to Ras Hafun,--in fact, the maritime mountains of the Somal. His health not permitting him to be left on shore, he required a cruizer to convey him from place to place, and to preserve his store of presents and provisions. By this means he hoped to land at the most interesting points and to penetrate here and there from sixty to eighty miles inland, across the region which he undertook to explore.

On the 17th of August, 1850, Sir Charles Malcolm wrote to Dr. Carter in these terms:--"I have communicated with the President of the Royal Geographical Society and others: the feeling is, that though much valuable information could no doubt be gained by skirting the coast (as you propose) both in geology and botany, yet that it does not fulfil the primary and great object of the London Geographical Society, which was, and still is, to have the interior explored." The Vice-Admiral, however, proceeded to say that, under the circumstances of the case, Dr. Carter's plans were approved of, and asked him to confer immediately with Commodore Lushington; then Commander in Chief of the Indian Navy.

In May, 1851, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm died: geographers and travellers lost in him an influential and an energetic friend. During the ten years of his superintendence over the Indian Navy that service rose, despite the incubus of profound peace, to the highest distinction. He freely permitted the officers under his command to undertake the task of geographical discovery, retaining their rank, pay, and batta, whilst the actual expenses of their journeys were defrayed by contingent bills. All papers and reports submitted to the local government were favourably received, and the successful traveller looked forward to distinction and advancement.

During the decade which elapsed between 1828 and 1838, "officers of the Indian Navy journeyed, as the phrase is, _with their lives in their hands_, through the wildest districts of the East. Of these we name the late Commander J. A. Young, Lieutenants Wellsted, Wyburd, Wood, and Christopher, retired Commander Ormsby, the present Capt. H. B. Lynch C.B., Commanders Felix Jones and W. C. Barker, Lieutenants Cruttenden and Whitelock. Their researches extended from the banks of the Bosphorus to the shores of India. Of the vast, the immeasurable value of such services," to quote the words of the Quarterly Review (No. cxxix. Dec. 1839), "which able officers thus employed, are in the mean time rendering to science, to commerce, to their country, and to the whole civilized world, we need say nothing:--nothing we could say would be too much."

"In five years, the admirable maps of that coral-bound gulf--the Red Sea-- were complete: the terrors of the navigation had given place to the confidence inspired by excellent surveys. In 1829 the Thetis of ten guns, under Commander Robert Moresby, convoyed the first coal ship up the Red Sea, of the coasts of which this skilful and enterprising seaman made a cursory survey, from which emanated the subsequent trigonometrical operations which form our present maps.

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