The Discover of the Source of the Nile
By John Hanning Speke
My journey down to Alexandria was not without adventure, and carried me through scenes which, in other circumstances, it might have been worth while to describe. Thinking, however, that I have already sufficiently trespassed on the patience of the reader, I am unwilling to overload my volume with any matter that does not directly relate to the solution of the great problem which I went to solve. Having now, then, after a period of twenty-eight months, come upon the tracks of European travellers, and met them face to face, I close my Journal, to conclude with a few explanations, for the purpose of comparing the various branches of the Nile with its affluences, so as to show their respective values.
The first affluent, the Bahr el Ghazal, took us by surprise; for instead of finding a huge lake, as described in our maps, at an elbow of the Nile, we found only a small piece of water resembling a duck-pond buried in a sea of rushes. The old Nile swept through it with majestic grace, and carried us next to the Geraffe branch of the Sobat river, the second affluent, which we found flowing into the Nile with a graceful semicircular sweep and good stiff current, apparently deep, but not more than fifty yards broad.
Next in order came the main stream of the Sobat, flowing into the Nile in the same graceful way as the Geraffe, which in breadth it surpassed, but in velocity of current was inferior. The Nile by these additions was greatly increased; still it did not assume that noble appearance which astonished us so much, immediately after the rainy season, when we were navigating it in canoes in Unyoro.
I here took my last lunar observations, and made its mouth N. lat. 9 20' 48", E. long. 31 24' 0". The Sobat has a third mouth farther down the Nile, which unfortunately was passed without my knowing it; but as it is so well known to be unimportant, the loss was not great.
Next to be treated of is the famous Blue Nile, which we found a miserable river, even when compared with the Geraffe branch of the Sobat. It is very broad at the mouth, it is true, but so shallow that our vessel with difficulty was able to come up it. It has all the appearance of a mountain stream, subject to great periodical fluctuations. I was never more disappointed that with this river; if the White river was cut off from it, its waters would all be absorbed before they could reach Lower Egypt.
The Atbara river, which is the last affluent, was more like the Blue river than any of the other affluences, being decidedly a mountain stream, which floods in the rains, but runs nearly dry in the dry season.
I had now seen quite enough to satisfy myself that the White river which issues from the N'yanza at the Ripon Falls, is the true or parent Nile; for in every instance of its branching, it carried the palm with it in the distinctest manner, viewed, as all the streams were by me, in the dry season, which is the best time for estimating their relative perennial values.
Since returning to England, Dr Murie, who was with me at Gondokoro, has also come home; and he, judging from my account of the way in which we got ahead of the flooding of the Nile between the Karuma Falls and Gondokoro, is of opinion that the Little Luta Nzige must be a great backwater to the Nile, which the waters of the Nile must have been occupied in filling during my residence in Madi; and then about the same time that I set out from Madi, the Little Luta Nzige having been surcharged with water, the surplus began its march northwards just about the time when we started in the same direction. For myself, I believe in this opinion, as he no sooner asked me how I could account for the phenomenon I have already mentioned of the river appearing to decrease in bulk as we descended it, than I instinctively advanced his own theory. Moreover, the same hypothesis will answer for the sluggish flooding of the Nile down to Egypt.
I hope the reader who has followed my narrative thus far will be interested in knowing how "my faithful children," for whose services I had no further occasion, and whom I had taken so far from their own country, were disposed of. At Cairo, where we put up in Shepherd's Hotel, I had the whole of them photographed, and indulged them at the public concerts, tableaux vivants, etc. By invitation, we called on the Viceroy at his Rhoda Island palace, and were much gratified with the reception; for, after hearing all our stories with marked intelligence, he most graciously offered to assist me in any other undertaking which would assist to open up and develop the interior of Africa.
I next appointed Bombay captain of the "faithfuls," and gave him three photographs of all the eighteen men and three more of the four women, to give one of each to our Consuls at Suez, Aden, and Zanzibar, by which they might be recognised. I also gave them increased wages, equal to three years' pay each, by orders on Zanzibar, which was one in addition to their time of service; an order for a grand "freeman's garden," to be purchased for them at Zanzibar; and an order that each one should receive ten dollars dowry-money as soon as he could find a wife.
With these letters in their hands, I made arrangements with our Consul, Mr Drummond Hay, to frank them through Suez, Aden, and the Seychelles to Zanzibar.
Since then, I have heard that Captain Bombay and his party missed the Seychelles, and went on to the Mauritius, where Captain Anson, Inspector-General of Police, kindly took charge of them and made great lions of them. A subscription was raised to give them a purse of money; they were treated with tickets to the "circus," and sent back to the Seychelles, whence they were transported by steamer to Zanzibar, and taken in charge by our lately-appointed Consul, Colonel Playfair, who appears to have taken much interest in them. Further, they volunteered to go with me again, should I attempt to cross Africa from east to west, through the fertile zone.