Chapter X. Notes on the Nzadi or Congo River.
Mungo Park, after a brief coldness and coquetting with it, hotly adopted to the fullest extent the wild scheme. Before leaving England (Oct. 4, 1804), he addressed a memoir to Lord Camden, explaining the causes of his conversion. It is curious to note his confusion of "Zad," his belief that the "Congo waters are at all seasons thick and muddy," and his conviction that "the annual flood," which he considered perpetual, "commences before the rains fall south of the equator." The latter is to a certain extent true; the real reason will presently be given. Infected by the enthusiasm of his brother Scot, he adds, "Considered in a commercial point of view, it is second only to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope; and, in a geographical point of view, it is certainly the greatest discovery that remains to be made in this world."
Thereupon the traveller set out for the upper Niger with the conviction that he would emerge by the Congo, and return to England via the West Indies. From the fragments of his Journal, and his letters to Lord Camden, to Sir Joseph Banks, and to his wife, it is evident that at San-sanding he had modified his theories, and that he was gradually learning the truth. To the former he writes, "I am more and more inclined to think that it (the Niger) can end nowhere but in the sea;" and presently a guide, who had won his confidence, assured him that the river, after passing Kashna, runs directly to the right hand, or south, which would throw it into the Gulf of Guinea.
The fatal termination of Park's career in 1805 lulled public curiosity for a time, but it presently revived. The geographical mind was still excited by the mysterious stream which evaporation or dispersion drained into the Lake-swamps of Wangara, and to this was added not a little curiosity concerning the lamented and popular explorer's fate. We find instructions concerning Mungo Park issued even to cruizers collecting political and other information upon the East African coast; e.g., to Captain Smee, sent in 1811 by the Bombay Government. His companion, Lieutenant Hardy, converted Usagara, west of the Zanzibar seaboard, into "Wangarah," and remarks, "a white man, supposed to be Park, is said to have travelled here twenty years ago" ("Observations,"
About ten years after Mungo Park's death, two expeditions were fitted out by Government to follow up his discovery. Major Peddie proceeded to descend the Niger, and Captain Tuckey to ascend the Congo. We have nothing to say of the former journey except that, as in the latter, every chief European officer died - Major Peddie, Captain Campbell, Lieutenant Stokoe, and M. Kummer, the naturalist. The expedition, consisting of 100 men and 200 animals, reached Kakundy June 13, 1817, and there fell to pieces. Concerning the Zaire Expedition, which left Deptford on February 16, 1816, a few words are advisable.
The personnel was left to the choice of the leader, Commander J. K. Tuckey, R. N. (died). There were six commissioned officers - Lieutenant John Hawkey, R.N. (died); Mr. Lewis Fitz-maurice, master and surveyor; Mr. Robert Hodder and Mr. Robert Beecraft, master's mates; Mr. John Eyre, purser (died); and Mr. James McKerrow, assistant surgeon. Under these were eight petty officers, four carpenters, two blacksmiths, and fourteen able seamen. The marines numbered one sergeant, one corporal, and twelve privates. Grand total of combatants, forty-nine. To these were added five "savants": Professor Chetien Smith, a Norwegian botanist and geologist (died); Mr. Cranch, collector of objects of natural history (died); Mr. Tudor, comparative anatomist (died); Mr. Galway, Irishman and volunteer naturalist (died); and "Lockhart, a gardener" (of His Majesty's Gardens, Kew). There were two Congo negroes, Benjamin Benjamins and Somme Simmons; the latter, engaged as a cook's mate, proved to be a "prince of the blood," which did not prevent his deserting for fear of the bushmen.
The allusions made to Mr. Cranch, a "joined methodist," and a "self-made man," are not complimentary. "Cranch, I fear," says Professor Smith, "by his absurd conduct, will diminish the liberality of the captain towards us: he is like a pointed arrow to the company." And, again, "Poor Cranch is almost too much the object of jest; Galway is the principal banterer."In the Professor's remarks on the" fat purser,"we can detect the foreigner, who, on such occasions, should never be mixed up with Englishmen.