THE NILE BASIN.*
THE meeting that was to have taken place at Bath in September last between Captains Speke and Burton would probably have done little towards clearing up the question of how far the dis- coveries of the former do or do not solve the mystery which, in Captain Burton's opinion at least, hangs more darkly than ever over the sources of the Nile, beyond the removal of some miscon- ceptions and the correction of a few minor points of detail, such as the position of the tree near Apuddo marked with M. Miani's initials, or at what precise angle the Sobat flows into the Nile ; still it is to be regretted that Captain Burton was deprived of that opportunity of stating his views in free and open discussion with his "quondam friend and Nile rival." There is a seeming want of generosity in disputing the conclusions and depre- ciating (at least in their results) the labours of one who can no longer defend himself, yet it is not to be desired, and certainly not to be expected, that out of motives of delicacy on Captain Burton's part what he esteems to be grave geographical errors should pass unquestioned. No one will suspect him of yielding to an amiable weakness like this, nor do we see any want of con- sideration to what is due to his rival's memory in the fact of the publication of this memoir. if Captain Spoke's map of the Nile regions cannot stand the test of a searching examination it is so far worthless, while if substantially correct the large additions he has there made to our knowledge of central Africa will only gain by being sifted like wheat on the threshing-floor of Captain Burton's unsparing criticism.
Not content, however, with bringing his own far from despic- able forces to bear upon his adversary, Captain Burton calls up from the oblivion of some past numbers of the Morning Advertiser a series of (to use his own words) "valuable and original letters," which should never have appeared in con- nection with his name. Mr. M'Queen's irritation is perfectly natural, and writing, as he did, in the lifetime of the author whose book he was reviewing, and while smarting under a sense of the injury his brother-in-law, Mr. Petherick, had sustained from the statements contained in that book, the tone of his letters is excusable, though the "inimitable dryness of style" that raises Captain Burton's admiration, is not at all to our taste. Mr. Petherick's friends are quite right in defending him to the best of their ability from the charges brought against him, but his wrongs have nothing to do with the configuration of the basin of the Nile, and Captain Burton would have done well to avoid a subject which affords an opportunity for what looks like a vicarious expression of bitterness on his part. Mr. M'Queen's authority on all disputed points of geography might have been invoked without republishing the whole of his Not content, however, with bringing his own far from despic- able forces to bear upon his adversary, Captain Burton calls up from the oblivion of some past numbers of the Morning Advertiser a series of (to use his own words) "valuable and original letters," which should never have appeared in con- nection with his name. Mr. M'Queen's irritation is perfectly natural, and writing, as he did, in the lifetime of the author whose book he was reviewing, and while smarting under a sense of the injury his brother-in-law, Mr. Petherick, had sustained from the statements contained in that book, the tone of his letters is excusable, though the "inimitable dryness of style" that raises Captain Burton's admiration, is not at all to our taste. Mr. Petherick's friends are quite right in defending him to the best of their ability from the charges brought against him, but his wrongs have nothing to do with the configuration of the basin of the Nile, and Captain Burton would have done well to avoid a subject which affords an opportunity for what looks like a vicarious expression of bitterness on his part. Mr. M'Queen's authority on all disputed points of geography might have been invoked without republishing the whole of his
critique on Captain Speke's magnum opus. We do not intend to enter here into the rights or wrongs of this painful question: Captain Grant confirms the statements of his friend as to the absence of Petherick on their arrival at Gondo- koro, and their joint feelings of disappointment and annoyance at his non-appearance, but he does not contribute anything new to accusations of neglect which, on a consideration of the whole subject, we cannot but think hasty and unjust, and which even if true to their fullest extent have been followed up by con- sequences of unmerited severity. At the close of his defence of Mr. Petberick's conduct Mr. M'Queen opens up a wider subject than that of the justice or injustice done to oar late Consul at Khartoum by his removal from office. The Belgian Consul at that place, after bearing testimony to the zeal and energy of Mr. Petherick in the repression of the slave trade, continues, "The slave traffic on the White Nile (for a long time held in restraint sufficiently feeble) has had for some years, thanks to the encourage- ment of certain high functionaries who find their profit in it, an extension truly frightful, and it is exercised with such horrors that I hesitate to describe them. Every year more than a hun- dred vessels leave Khartoum for the purpose of hunting down the negroes, and slaves, who formerly were brought in by stealth, are now dragged publicly along the highways of the country, and even through the streets of Khartoum, with the yoke on their necks. The British Consul, Mr. J. Petherick, initiated measures • The Nile Basis. A Memoir read before the Royal Geographical Society, Nov ember,1864. With Prefatory Remarks by Richard F. Barton, F.B.G.S. London : Ilnaley Brothers.
A Walk Aortae Africa; or, &walk Scenes from My Nile JoarRal. By James Augustus Grant. London: William Blackwood and Sons.
which would soon have placed a limit to the traffic ; unfortu- natAy, owing to the aversion of four- fifths of the Kliartoumians, who live by it, and of the high functionaries their accomplices, he saw his reputation tarnished by false accusations, his fellow- citizens and friends misled on his account, and he found no sufficient support even before his superiors, who were doubtless thus prejudiced against him."
"I am ignorant whether the British Government can now reconsider the decision it has take; but I do know that the re-establishment of a British Consulate at Khartoum would be a measure which all those who have at heart the triumph of the principles of civilization in this barbarous country would receive with joy."
When in his joint expedition with Captain Burton in 1858 Captain Spoke first looked upon the southern shore of that large body of water now known by the name of the Victoria Nyanza, he was convinced that here would be found the head spring of the Nile. Captain Burton, on the other hand, was equally con- fident that "rivers do not rise in lakes, especially when lakes have extensive inundations," but he adds, " I soon found the subject too sore for discussion." The subject has evidently lost none of its " soreness " now that Captain Speke, penetrat- ing (under what difficulties the readers of his journal are only too painfully aware) to the northern shore of what he believes to be the same body of water, and coming upon a considerable stream flowing out of it towards the north, proclaims the discovery he then only anticipated. Captain Burton remains unconvinced. A stream may flow from the Nyanza (or rather from tho Napo- leon channel, for in the existence of the Nyanza in its present form Captain Burton utterly disbelieves), and yet not be the Nile, though its face is set towards Egypt. The burden of proof rests with the discoverer, and the proofs yet given are inadequate. If indeed the whole course of this infant Nile could have been traced from the Ripon Falls to its junction with the Asua or Eastern White Nile, Captain Speke's position would be unassail- able, but in fact more than half its course is purely conjectural, founded on nothing more satisfactory than native reports and a comparison of the direction of its current when last seen and when again met with.
Some fifty miles below the Ripon Falls, and rather more than that distance between Chaguzi, in N. latitude 1 deg. 37 min., and the Karuina Falls are all for which Captain Speke can authoritatively vouch. The necessities of travel in an unknown country and among a barbarous people compelled him to quit the river whenever it bent decidedly away from its northern course. Twice the exploring party took the chord of which the river formed the arc, and on the second of these occasions Captain Burton maintains that they lost it altogether. It is at this bend of the stream, between the Karuma Falls and Apuddo, that there lies the so-called backwater of the Nile, the Lake Luta Nzige. That the river which comes from the south-west out of this lake is the White Nile Captain Burton fully agrees ; that it is identical with the one that flows from the Napoleon channel he considers highly improbable. "It is evident," he writes, "that the supposed White River, which may have been his own Kivira or other stream, discharged itself into the little Luta Nzige Lake, afterwards decreed to be a backwater. Instead, however, of beating the stream, Captain Speke had clearly missed it. It might easily have been drained by the Djour, which runs parallel to the White River, or by a similar branch into the Bahr el Ghazal, lately visited by Mr: Consul Petherick."
Here plainly lies the weakest point in the chain of evidence that is needed to establish the pedigree of the infant Nile, and until the Lake Luta Nzige and the land lying between it and the southern lakes shall have been more fully explored, the discovery of its source is not quite so certain as Captain Speke believed, or as a somewhat wearied public would gladly think it to be.
We must not do Captain Burton the injustice of making his efforts in the cause of geographical science appear wholly destruc- tive. He, too, has a theory to offer in solution of this ancient mystery. With him not the Nyanza, but the more Southern Lake Tanganyika, is "the top head" or reservoir, not sourne, of the western branch of the White Nile, as the Bahari-Ngo is of the Asua, or eastern branch. Tanganyika, the Rusizi, and the Luta Nzige form together the immensas paludes of ancient geographers, a lake chain connected by a liver such as we have become fami- liar with in the North American continent. At present we are not aware of any river connecting the Tanganyika and the Luta Nzige, and indeed two features of Captain Speke's map, if cor- rect, would render it an impossibility,—the one a chain of moun- tains lying between the two lakes, the other that the northern lake lies some 300 feet higher than the southern one. On the first point Captain Burton says that the shape and position of these mountains have been altered so often already that he has no hesitation in placing them further east ; on the other, that Captain Speke's levels are no more reliable than the position of his Moon Mountains. An examination of his map will indeed show that absolute dependence must not, be placed upon them, since he makes the River Kitangule flow up hill to empty itself into the Nyanza, little Lake Windermere, at its head, being 3,639 feet above the sea, while the Nyanza is 3,740 feet.
If Captain Burton can succeed in removing mountains and smoothing the levels for his hypothetical river, be may also succeed in proving its emistence, which at present rests on his own inductions, or rather intuitions, supported by vague native re- ports. It is curious that while one of his objections to the state- ment that the White Nile takes its rise in the waters of the Nyanza is that the period of the overflow of the lower river corresponds with the rainy periods of the Northern and not of the Southern hemisphere, he should place its source Several degrees further south. If, as he inclines to believe, the "Asua is the real White Nile, the so-called Nyanza effluents being of minor importance," that hypothesis will relieve Captain Spire's difficulty fully as much as it does his own. Captain Grant in speaking of this matter says :—" In April the Blue Nile was twenty feet lower than it is during the months of July and August, the snows in the mountains of Abyssinia bring it up to this height ; and I suspect this flood has more to do with the inundations of Lower Egypt than the more constant flow of water from the White Nile." Both he and Speke declare that the Asua is in size and volume of water far inferior to the. western branch, yet bearing traces of becoming in the rainy season a "wild torrent impos- sible to cross."
Leaving these problems, which with the data we have at present given us it is useless to attempt to solve, we may reflect with satisfaction that if the last expedition has not discovered the sources of the Nile it has at least, in Captain Burton's words, "brought to us an absolute gain of some 350 geographical miles between south latitude 3 deg. and north latitude 3 deg. before known by only the vaguest reports ;" and that if Captain Spoke did not quite "hit the Nile upon the head in 1858, and in 1863 drive it down into the Mediterranean," he has opened up three new African kingdoms lying round its head waters, fertile, populous, rich in picturesque scenery and in new forms of animal and vegetable life. That with so much to make it interesting the book in which Captain Speke has recorded his discoveries should be so little attractive is partly due to the depressing monotony of savage life, but still more to a want of artistic skill in the writer. It is as deficient in perspec- tive as a Chinese painting. Things near or far off are drawn of equal size. A butterfly assumes the proportions of a man. It succeeds indeed admirably in reproducing the weariness of the daily march, with its continual impediments, but we needed some such pendant as this lately published work of Captain Grant to clothe the dry skeleton with the flesh and sinews of which it stood so painfully in need.
Captain Spoke seems to have been aware that his fellow- traveller might be able to supply some deficiencies in himself, since it was under his encouragement that Captain Grant began the selections from his journals which lie has now, after the death of his friend, submitted with "considerable reluctance and anxiety" to the public. The anxiety and reluctance are both need- less. The public has long desired to have Captain Grant's story of his travels, and will find in it precisely what the more elabo- rate journal of his colleague failed to give. The touches of human interest, the genial spirit, the observation and apprecia- tion of all the varieties of character, of scenery, and of passing incidents, that make the true charm of a good book of travels, are all here. Every page is provocative of extract, but our space is brief, and we must confine ourselves to one only, not for any fresh light it throws upon domestic life in central Africa, but because it removes a misapprehension widely received, and ap- parently totally unjust, as to the behaviour of Captain Speke to his companion and friend at an important crisis in their expe- dition "On 'parting with 3rtessa (it will be remembered that he was the King of Uganda) he gave rather indefinite orders to Budja, who was in charge of our march, to take us to the exit of the Nile from Victoria Nyanza, nearly east of his residence. This route was not adhered to by Budja, and for four days in the most obstinate manner he led us more north than.east. Having got so far out of the line, it became a question whether it was really of importance to visit this point. Speke did not see any great advantage in it and many would have been of the same opinion because we had 'seen the lake daily from above our quarters at Uganda, and knew from all accounts that after making a few more miles we should come upon an immense river with which we were now running parallel. However, in order to avoid any reproach or charge of indifference at home, we resolved (Budja being overruled) to see the river issue from the lake, and thus leave nothing undone. Spoke asked me whether I was able to make a flying march of it along with him, while the baggage might be sent on towards Unyoro. At that time I was positively unable to walk twenty miles, and more especially miles of Uganda marching, through bogs and over rough ground. I therefore yielded reluctantly to the necessity of our parting,—and I am anxious to be explicit on this point, as some have hastily inferred that my com- panion did not wish me to share in the gratification of seeing the river. Nothing could be more contrary to fact. My state of health alone prevented me from accompanying Spoke, to set at rest for geogra- phers the latitude of the interesting locality as to which we were per- fectly satisfied from native report."
That Captain Speke should have been so near the object Of all his endeavours, yet should hardly think it worth while to verify native report.; by visiting the actual source of his White Nile, seems to us even more strange than that he should have wished to reserve to himself alone the distinction of being the first white man who had ever looked upon the fountains of the Nile.