The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 32: Mirambo's Capital. Stanley's Work on the Livingstone.

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Rocks by the Wayside

The march to King Mirambo's capital was without any incident of consequence. When within a few miles of the place they met a delegation, consisting of one of the officers who had accompanied them down the lake and two other personages of rank near the king. Doctor Bronson received them after the customary form—with presents of cloth and beads—and messengers were sent back to tell the king that his visitors were near.

As they entered the capital there was a large assemblage along the principal road leading into the town, and in some places the crowd was so dense that it was not easy to proceed. In a little while a company of the king's soldiers cleared the way, and the strangers were conducted to the presence of the man whom Stanley describes as the "Mars of Central Africa."

Drums were beaten and hundreds of muskets discharged by the people around the king, and one might have thought from the uproar that a battle was in progress. The king met them in front of his palace, which was a plain building, something in the style of M'tesa's at Rubaga, though smaller. The king shook hands with our friends in true European fashion, and said he was glad to see them in his country. He was dressed in Arab costume, and wore a scimitar at his side. His officers were similarly clad.

Frank endorsed fully the description which Stanley gives of this famous warrior. "He was the reverse," said the explorer, "of all my conceptions of the redoubtable chieftain and the man I had styled 'the terrible bandit.'
Crossing a Stream

"He is a man about five feet eleven inches in height, and about thirty-five years old, with not an ounce of superfluous flesh about him—a handsome, regular featured, mild-voiced, soft-spoken man, with what one might call a calm demeanor, very generous and open handed. The character was so different from that which I had attributed to him, that for some time a suspicion clung to my mind that I was being imposed upon; but Arabs came forward who testified that this was indeed Mirambo. I had expected to see something of the M'tesa type, a man whose exterior would explain his life and rank; but this unpresuming, mild-eyed man, of inoffensive, placid exterior, whose action was so calm, without a gesture, presented to the eye nothing of the Napoleonic genius which he has for five years displayed in the heart of Unyamwezi, to the injury of Arabs and commerce and doubling the price of ivory."

Presents were exchanged as tokens of friendship, and then the conversation turned upon the plans of the travelers. When the journey to Tanganyika was mentioned Mirambo said it was just then impossible.

This was a piece of intelligence the reverse of pleasing, and Doctor Bronson proceeded at once to ascertain what it meant.

"I have no objection to your going there," said Mirambo, "but I have recently received news of war between Uhha and Uvinza, two kingdoms that lie in your way."

The Doctor thought with dismay of the troubles of Stanley and others with these rapacious rulers, who demanded enormous tribute, and several times threatened to take by force what they wanted if it was not voluntarily surrendered.
Weapons of the Natives

"If there was no war," continued Mirambo, "you might buy the privilege of crossing those countries; but at present they have stopped all commerce, and any caravan attempting to go that way will certainly be plundered. Your firearms would not be so powerful against the fighting men as in many parts of Africa, as the most of them are supplied with muskets, which they have bought from the Arab merchants."

Mirambo farther said that the war was caused by quarrels among the slave stealers, and each side was engaged in making as many captives as possible and selling them to the Arabs. "It will be kept up," said he, "till they have stolen most of each other's people, and are compelled to stop for want of more villages to plunder, and more men and women to carry away."

Mirambo invited the strangers to remain in his country as long as they liked; and, as their future movements would require a little while for arrangement, he would give them anything they wanted in the way of provisions for their men.

The audience then broke up, and our friends went to the camp—which had been arranged during the interview—to discuss the new turn of events.

Abdul and Mohammed were sent to obtain all the information in their power, and in the course of a couple of hours they returned with a considerable budget. Mirambo had not exaggerated the state of affairs in Uhha and Uvinza. Abdul had talked with two Arab merchants who had been plundered of all they possessed while endeavoring to pass through Uhha. Their goods were stolen, their porters held for sale as slaves, and they only escaped by promising to send fifty bales of cloth from Unyamyembe. A third Arab who accompanied them was held as a hostage, and the King of Uhha had threatened to put him to death unless the cloth was received within thirty days.
Hill Country Near Mirambo's Capital

Under the circumstances it was deemed advisable to abandon the journey to Lake Tanganyika and proceed to Zanzibar by way of Unyamyembe. Of course, the decision was a great disappointment to Frank and Fred, and not much less to Doctor Bronson, but all of them had too much philosophy to grieve over what could not be helped.

"We can do one thing, if we can't do another," said Frank. "We will question everybody who can give us any information, and perhaps we can say something about the great lake, even if we don't see it."

Fred agreed to join Frank in the effort to give an account of the country beyond them, and for a couple of days they attended to little else than the collection of news concerning it. They talked with the Arab merchants, read all the books in their possession which had anything to say about Tanganyika and the Congo, questioned the Doctor, and in other ways showed that they were not to be set down as inattentive travelers.

They were already aware that the lake was discovered by Burton in 1858, was partially explored by Stanley and Livingstone a few years later, and that Stanley in his second visit to Central Africa completed the circumnavigation. Other investigations were made by Lieutenant Cameron, and the geographers are able to define the boundaries of the lake very distinctly. It is about four hundred miles long, and varies from ten to sixty miles in width; it lies between the third and ninth degrees of south latitude, and the twenty-ninth and thirty-second degrees of east longitude. Its position is southwest of the Victoria and Albert lakes, and northwest of Lake Nyassa, and its shores are for the most part mountainous.
Hut at Kifuma

The dispute as to its outlet, the Lukuga, was attributed by our friends to the fact that in the dry season the evaporation is equal to the amount of water received from tributary streams and the fall of rain, so that there is no flow whatever from the lake. In the rainy season the Lukuga becomes an important river, a thousand feet in width, and flowing with a strong current, while in the dry season a sandbar is formed across it, and there is no outflow at all. The Arab traders declared that this was the case, and so we can understand how Cameron found a good-sized river where Stanley said there was none, and the flow, if any, was into the lake rather than out of it.

At his second visit to Ujiji, where he met Livingstone, Stanley observed that the lake had risen considerably; and a later visitor says that the bar at the outlet of the lake had broken away, so as to allow the exit of the water, and the consequent sinking of the lake. All travelers agree that the shores of the lake are very beautiful, and in most portions thickly peopled. The principal town is Ujiji, on the eastern shore, and it will always be famous in history as the place where Stanley first shook hands with Dr. Livingstone, and offered the relief which had been sent to the great missionary by the proprietor of the New York Herald.

In his second journey Stanley crossed the lake from Ujiji, and plunged into the wilderness beyond its western shore, in a determination to reach the Atlantic Ocean by descending the Lualaba River. He believed the Lualaba flowed into the Congo, and by following its course he could reach the coast. The country was entirely unknown, as not even the Arab traders had ever explored it, and no one could tell what the explorer would encounter. There was a rumor that powerful tribes dwelt on the Congo, but no one could give an idea of their numbers and strength, or say whether they would be friendly or hostile.

The work accomplished by Stanley is thus described by an able writer in Harper's Magazine for October, 1878:
Stanley's Voyage on the Livingstone - Battle with the Natives

"Stanley gave nine months to the exploration of the Lualaba River, or rather to the Livingstone, as he called it, and as it must be called for all time. Before he went out on this mission we knew there were two rivers—the Congo and the Lualaba. We knew that the Congo ran into the Atlantic Ocean, but its source was lost in cataracts. The Portuguese were content to scatter a few settlements about its mouth, and trade for gums and ivory along its banks. But it was an unknown river beyond the cataracts. We knew there was a river in the middle of Africa called the Lualaba; we knew it had a swift current, that it was a river of large volume. But beyond that we knew nothing. Some had one theory, others had another. Livingstone was convinced that it ran into the Nile, was really the source of the Nile; and who would question even the theory of so great a master? What Stanley did was to show that the Congo and Lualaba were one and the same; that the Congo, instead of losing itself among the rapids, was to force itself into the very heart of the continent; that the Lualaba, instead of going north and submitting to the usurping waters of the Nile, was to turn to the west and force its way to the sea; that these two rivers were to disappear from the map, and be known as one river—the Livingstone; that this river was to be two thousand nine hundred miles in length; that for nearly ten degrees of longitude it was to be continuously navigable; that its volume was one million eight hundred thousand cubic feet a second; that the entire area it drains is eight hundred thousand square miles—in other words, that here was an immense waterway three thousand miles into the center of Africa, navigable, with the exception of two breaks, which engineering science can easily surmount—a waterway into a tropical empire, rich in woods and metals and gracious soil, in fruits and grains, the sure home of a civilized empire in the years to come. As Petermann, the eminent German geographer, put it, Stanley's work was to unite the fragments of African exploration—the achievements of Livingstone, Burton, Speke, Du Chaillu, Baker, Cameron, of all the heroic men who had gone before him—into one consecutive whole, just as Bismarck united the fragments of the German people, lying about under various princes and dukes, into one grand and harmonious empire. Even as Bismarck had created imperial Germany, so Stanley created geographical Africa.
Frank Pocock, Stanley's Companion on the Livingstone

"There was a battle at the outset at Ruiki River, which had no special result. Then came the first cataract—the falls of Ukassa. This seems to be a rapid current, like the first cataract of the Nile, and the boats and canoes were allowed to float over. A month was passed in these explorations, when, on December 6, Stanley came to the country of Usongora Meno, inhabited by a powerful tribe. Stanley's party was weakened by the fact that his people were suffering from smallpox. Dysentery came and ulcers, and in three days eighteen of the Arab escort died from various diseases, mainly smallpox. Stanley was one hundred and twenty-five miles from his starting place, with smallpox affecting seventy-two of his party, when he had another battle, the enemy coming in force, and firing poisoned arrows. Stanley made a camp, and defended his army as well as he could. 'Through the night the poisoned arrows flew, and were heard tapping trees and huts most unpleasantly.... Two days and two nights we bore attacks by land and water. The entire country was aroused against us. Bowmen climbed tall trees, and any person showing himself in the broad street of the little town became a target at once. We were unable to bury our dead or to attend to the delirious wounded.' From this difficult position Stanley released himself by a successful night foray, cutting away the canoes of the attacking party.

"It was necessary, in the eighteen hundred miles from Nyangué to the ocean, to pass fifty-seven waterfalls and rapids. After the river reached fourteen hundred miles, on its journey to the sea, it narrowed and ran through close meeting, uprising banks of naked cliffs, or steep slopes of mountains, fringed with tall woods. Here the river was as rough and stormy as a sea, sometimes a steep glassy fall, sometimes boiling around isles of stone and bowlders, sometimes whirlpools and caldrons, the air filled with a roar like that of Niagara. This part of the journey, although not more than one hundred and eighty miles, required five months to make. Stanley, looking back, regards the attempt as insanity. But he had resolved to cling to the river, and not to leave it until it bore him, whether over smooth beaches or stony bowlders, to the sea. If he had gone around the cataract region in a land march he would have lessened his journey, avoided fearful hardships, and saved lives. But this knowledge he bought for himself and for humankind by experience. Hard as was the task, it was better done in this way; otherwise there would have been a farther mystery. As it is, we now know every mile of the river from the source to the mouth. But the perils of these falls were the severest of the trip, and it was here that he lost Kalulu, the faithful black boy whom he found in Livingstone days and educated in England, and, more than all, his last remaining foreign associate, Frank Pocock.
Stanley's Expedition Recuperated and Reclad After Crossing Africa

"Stanley, having battled with tempest, disease, and armed enemies, now came to a halt, and sent a messenger for relief. Already he was within easy marches of the sea, within four days of Embomma. His small army had been reduced to one hundred and fifteen souls. His message was 'to any gentleman who speaks English at Embomma.' 'We are now,' he wrote, 'in a state of imminent starvation.... The supplies must arrive within two days, or I may have a fearful time of it among the dying.... For myself, if you have such little luxuries as tea, coffee, sugar, and biscuit by you, such as one man can easily carry, I beg you, on my own behalf, that you will send a small supply.... You may not know me by name; I therefore add, I am the person who discovered Livingstone in 1871.' This was on August 6, 1877, and in two days supplies arrived. The letter fell into the hands of A. Motta Viega and J. W. Harrison, whose names are worthy of remembrance, and Stanley wrote, in an ecstasy of delight over 'the rice, the fish, and the rum,' the 'wheat bread, butter, sardines, jam, peaches, grapes, beer (ye gods, just think of it!), three bottles of pale ale, besides tea and sugar!': 'The people cry out joyfully, while their mouths are full of rice and fish, "Verily our master has found the sea and his brothers, but we did not believe him until he showed to us the rice and the rum."... It will be the study of my lifetime,' continued Stanley, 'to remember my feelings of gratefullness when I first caught sight of your supplies, and my poor faithful and brave people cried out, "Master, we are saved—food is coming!" The old and the young, the men, women, and children, lifted their weary and worn out frames and began to chant lustily an extemporized song in honor of the foreign people of the great salt sea who had listened to their prayers. I had to rush to my tent to hide the tears that would issue despite all my attempts at composure.' This closed the journey, which, beginning at Nyangué, November 5, 1876, lasted nine months and one day; and counting from the time he left Zanzibar, the entire journey across the African continent occupied nine hundred and ninety-nine days, or two years and nine months!"

Stanley went again to Africa in 1879, to establish colonies on the upper waters of the Livingstone, in the interest of the International African Society, of which the King of Belgium is president. The object of the society is to open Africa to trade and civilization, and it has been liberal in the expenditure of money to accomplish its purposes.
Trading Station on the West Coast of Africa

It was near the end of 1879 that Stanley arrived at the mouth of the Livingstone, with a force of fifteen Europeans, sixty-eight Zanzibaris, and some twenty or more natives of other parts of Africa. The European inhabitants on the African coast were hostile to him, as they naturally feared his operations would interfere with their business.

The native traders, who act as intermediaries between the whites and the people of the interior, were also opposed, as they did not care to have Europeans establish trading stations away from the coast; and the same was the case with the tribes living near the falls of the great river. Stanley managed to avoid trouble with any of these interests, and at once began the work of establishing stations and building roads, to open up the heart of Africa to European traffic.

What he accomplished in three years may be summed up as follows:

He negotiated with the chiefs of the tribes on the river along the whole line of cataracts for the right to establish stations and build roads, paying a rental for the ground he occupied, and dealing liberally with them in every way. He made two hundred miles of road through the wilderness, carrying it sometimes over mountains and through country which presented a great many difficulties. In one place his whole force was occupied twenty-six days in making twelve hundred feet of road around the flank of a mountain of nearly solid quartz. At each end of the road there is a permanent station, consisting of a central house or residence, with numerous huts and storehouses around it, and with fields and gardens for the production of anything that will grow in the country.

There are three intermediate stations between the first and the last, built in the manner just described. The road through its whole length is about fifteen feet wide, and suitable for wagons of any kind, and it has been built with a view to permanency. By his exploit in going around the mountain Stanley received the name of "The Breaker of Rocks," by which he is now known in all that region.

In his account of the work the great explorer says:
Curious Headdress

"The weight and labor of our transport may be imagined when I say that we had no less than two thousand two hundred and twenty-five loads or packages, each weighing from sixty-five to seventy pounds. We had seven large store tents, and besides this we had enormous wagons, built on purpose for us in Belgium, whereon to transport the two steamers and two large steel boats, with boilers and machinery, which we had brought with us to put together on the Upper Congo. We had to go over the ground no less than thirty-three times, and our rate of progress, calculating the number of days we travelled, was only a quarter of a mile a day. After eleven months of unceasing toil the two steamers were put together at the second station above the Isangila cataract, the place where I left the Lady Alice after her seven thousand mile journey with me in the Anglo-American expedition across the African continent."

From this point the river is navigable for a distance of seventy-four miles, and the steamers transported the men and material of the expedition to the foot of the next cataract. Then came more road building, then another navigable distance, and then more roads, until at last the widening of the river was reached, at the foot of Stanley Pool. From here the great river is navigable nine hundred miles farther inland; and there are several tributary rivers where steamers can go. On one of these tributaries a lake has been discovered about seventy miles long, to which Stanley gave the name of Leopold II., in honor of the King of Belgium.
Exotic Fashion

The association has now seven steamers on the river: four on the lower portion, and three above Stanley Pool. By road and river there is now a direct way of communication between Central Africa and the seacoast, where the mails are regularly carried to the officers and men in charge of the stations and the merchants engaged in business there. In speaking of his achievements Stanley says as follows:

"I am ambitious only to leave permanent traces of my work on the east side of the African continent. Expedition after expedition has followed my track. Why should I not hope that the Congo basin throughout its vast extent, and the bank of the superb river, will be ultimately studded with civilized communities as well? We have begun well. Even now Belgians, Germans, English, Americans, Danes, Swedes, enlisted in our service, are devoting their best energies to accomplish this. So far we have been welcomed by the natives. Our object they can appreciate and understand, and they are the only ones as yet benefited by it. We have spent a large sum, and shall have to spend more yet. For we look upon ourselves as husbandmen, tilling and sowing that others may reap. As yet the Congo basin is a blank, a desolate and unproductive area. The energies of its denizens are benumbed. No prospect has dawned on them. It has been our purpose to fill this blank with life, to plant and sow that the natives may gather, to vivify the wide, wild lands so long forgotten of Europe. Accursed be he or they who will compel us to fire our station, destroy our work, and abandon Africa."

In our account of Stanley's work in Africa the author has gone outside of the information possessed by Frank and Fred, as the details of his expedition in behalf of the International Association were not known to them at the time they were in Africa. We trust the readers of their narrative will pardon the liberty we have taken, and accept the assurance that what we have given would have been faithfully chronicled by "The Boy Travelers," if they had known it in season.

The above apology being accepted, the author will take the reader into his confidence and show him a personal letter from Stanley, in reply to an invitation to run over to New York and meet several of his old friends, who promised to have dinner ready on the day of his arrival. If anyone believes Stanley otherwise than a genial man in his social relations, he can now have an opportunity to change his opinion:

"Brussels, November 4, 1882.
The First Cataract of the Livingstone

"My dear Knox,—I have been trying ever so much to cross from Europe to the 'land of the free and the home of the brave,' but there are so many fetters binding me in this fierce, stirring world, that I fear I cannot break them, or even have them loosened long enough for the journey. It was my dream in Africa to seek repose in lounging—loafing is the New York term—for a spell about any town: it really did not matter which. A village would do, so that I could rove about unnoticed, and regather by degrees a store of vitality to replace that which the cruel fever of West Africa scorched and almost consumed. I mourn now that my dream cannot be realized. When I leave Paris, I go to London, which is like 'from the frying pan into the fire,' and then farewell all....

"As you know, this is winter, and the East Wind strikes me everywhere; he catches me round street corners; at the street door I find him; he waits for me late at night from the warm saloons, with bundles of small fevers, coughs, bronchial irritation, catarrh, chest complaint. He shrivels me up until there is scarcely a resemblance of manhood left in the benumbed wretch.

"Ah! had it been September, or had it been April, oh, blessed Heaven! I should seek the Alaska, or the Werra, or Bennett's Namouna.

"I intend to go presently to Nice, Cannes, Mentone, Andalusia, or where? Anywhere, where I can see man other than in an overcoat.

"Yet it may be. America is dear, you know—New York has joys, and sometimes you do catch men without overcoats. There are good dinners there, too, and the Lotos has been ever since it was born a most welcome place; and you know, don't you know. —— himself is a host! And when added to him you have the jolly ——, and the courteous ——, and amiable ——, and the rest—why, I will come!

"But no, not yet. I fear the walls of snow in New York—the hilly ridges of frozen water, mud-colored and ancient.

"Some time I will come. And then I will seek you, and revive as well as we may the memories of our days in Paris in 1878—good dinners, without one unpleasant face; good wine, of a good vintage, heightened by the sparkling pleasantries of friendship. Meantime, dear old fellow, until we meet, adieu; and whisper, with my regrets that I cannot come at present, the sweet hopes that my firm soul shall entertain to all our mutual friends, and that I am, now as ever,

"Theirs and yours most faithfully,

"Henry M. Stanley."

    The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 32: Mirambo's Capital. Stanley's Work on the Livingstone.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Delegation: A group of people authorized to act as representative for another person, used to accomplish some aim.
Scimitar: A sword of Persian origin that features a curved blade.
Napoleonic: Of or pertaining to Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military leader who became the Emperor of France.
Plunder: To take or destroy all the goods of, by force.
Smallpox: An acute, highly infectious, and often fatal disease which caused pus-filled swellings on the skin. Those who survived were left with scars or pockmarks.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

Examine the chapter setting in modern times:

  • Fisherman on Lake Tanganyika

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

Study the map of Tanzania and find or answer the following:

  • Lake Tanganyika
  • Which countries border Lake Tanganyika?

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the applicable mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.


  1. 'Picture of Lake Tanganyika by Worldtraveller (CC BY-SA 3.0).' Wikipedia. n.p.