CHAPTER XVIII. THE LATEST NEWS FROM KHARTOUM.
Silently and easily we floated down the river; the oars keeping us in midstream. The endless marshes no longer looked so mournful as we glided rapidly past, and descended the current against which we had so arduously laboured on our ascent to Gondokoro. As we thus proceeded on our voyage through the monotonous marshes and vast herds of hippopotami that at this season thronged the river, I had ample leisure to write my letters for England, to be posted on arrival at Khartoum, and to look back upon the results of the last few years. The Nile, cleared of its mystery, resolves itself into comparative simplicity. The actual basin of the Nile is included between about the 22 degree and 39 degree East longitude, and from 3 degrees South to 13 degrees North latitude. The drainage of that vast area is monopolized by the Egyptian river. The Victoria and Albert lakes, the two great equatorial reservoirs, are the recipients of all affluents south of the Equator; the Albert lake being the grand reservoir in which are concentrated the entire waters from the south, in addition to tributaries from the Blue Mountains from the north of the Equator. The Albert N'yanza is the great basin of the Nile: the distinction between that and the Victoria N'yanza is, that the Victoria is a reservoir receiving the eastern affluents, and it becomes a starting point or the most elevated SOURCE at the point where the river issues from it at the Ripon Falls: the Albert is a reservoir not only receiving the western and southern affluents direct from the Blue Mountains, but it also receives the supply from the Victoria and from the entire equatorial Nile basin. The Nile as it issues from the Albert N'yanza is the ENTIRE Nile; prior to its birth from the Albert lake it is NOT the entire Nile. A glance at the map will at once exemplify the relative value of the two great lakes. The Victoria gathers all the waters on the eastern side and sheds them into the northern extremity of the Albert: while the latter, from its character and position, is the direct channel of the Nile that receives all waters that belong to the equatorial Nile basin. Thus the Victoria is the first SOURCE; but from the Albert the river issues at once as the great White Nile.
It is not my intention to claim a higher value for my discovery than is justly due, neither would I diminish in any way the lustre of the achievements of Speke and Grant; it has ever been my object to confirm and support their discoveries, and to add my voice to the chorus of praise that they have so justly merited. A great geographical fact has through our joint labours been most thoroughly established by the discovery of the sources of the Nile. I lay down upon the map exactly what I saw, and what I gathered from information afforded by the natives most carefully examined.
My exploration confirms all that was asserted by Speke and Grant: they traced the country from Zanzibar to the northern watershed of Africa, commencing at about 3 degrees South latitude, at the southern extremity of the Victoria N'yanza. They subsequently determined the river at the Ripon Falls flowing from that lake to be the highest source of the Nile. They had a perfect right to arrive at this conclusion from the data then afforded. They traced the river for a considerable distance to Karuma Falls, in lat. 2 degrees 15 minutes N.; and they subsequently met the Nile in lat. 3 degrees 32 minutes N. They had heard that it flowed into the Luta N'zige, and that it issued from it; thus they were correct in all their investigations, which my discoveries have confirmed. Their general description of the country was perfect, but not having visited the lake heard of as the Luta N'zige, they could not possibly have been aware of the vast importance of that great reservoir in the Nile system. The task of exploring that extraordinary feature having been accomplished, the geographical question of the sources of the Nile is explained. Ptolemy had described the Nile sources as emanating from two great lakes that received the snows of the mountains of Ethiopia. There are many ancient maps existing upon which these lakes are marked as positive: although there is a wide error in the latitude, the fact remains, that two great lakes were reported to exist in Equatorial Africa fed by the torrents from lofty mountains, and that from these reservoirs two streams issued, the conjunction of which formed the Nile. The general principle was correct, although the detail was wrong. There can be little doubt that trade had been carried on between the Arabs from the Red Sea and the coast opposite Zanzibar in ancient times, and that the people engaged in such enterprise had penetrated so far into the interior as to have obtained a knowledge of the existence of the two reservoirs; thus may the geographical information originally have been brought into Egypt.