FIRST FOOTSTEPS IN EAST AFRICA; OR, AN EXPLORATION OF HARAR.
BY RICHARD F. BURTON
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.
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.  The answer returned, was to the
"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
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
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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