Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf Friedrich.

From the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) online

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obtained a magnificent view enabling him to follow
the coast line with his eye for a considerable distance.

Like all the high mountains in this neighbourhood,
the N'kolumbembe seemed to be a veritable storm
centre. On the afternoon of our first ascent the peak
assumed its cloud cap, and in spite of our being in the

193. Gigantic root scaffold of a strangling fig in the forest.

194. Gorilla lair. In the background Stepke and Undene.

195. Cola chlamydantha.


dry season, sprinkled us towards evening with a little
rain. Every now and then the tree-tops rustled,
and a gust of wind drove a cloud down into the valley,
wrapping us in a driving mist.

It took me the whole morning to reach the summit,
and, as the reward of my labours, the boiling point
apparatus indicated an altitude of but 2500 feet. I
reached the summit about noon, after an exhausting
and dangerous climb, or rather scramble, and was
immediately enveloped in a cloud cap as thick as a
London fog, which presently turned to rain. My
hopes of a view were, of course, doomed to disappoint-
ment. But even if the weather had been favourable,
I should not have seen very much, for Undene had cut
down the trees towards the north and west, and in
this direction there was but little to be seen. I realised,
however, that it would take days of tree-felling to enable
me to obtain a comprehensive view, so I was content
with what I saw from the top of the big tree during
the few available seconds of clear weather. When
I got back to camp I felt as if I had been on a moun-
taineering expedition, in which lianas and roots took
the place of alpenstocks and ropes.

It was most unfortunate that our provisions were
coming to an end, for Musa, who for the last few days
had been out hunting without success, came across a
high mountain on the Pfanemakok road, which I felt
I must at all hazards investigate. Fortune, however,
favoured us, for early on the 21st of July, as I was
breaking camp, Musa brought me the good news that
he had shot a young buffalo, and thus our difficulties
were at an end as regards provisions.

I had already made up my mind that if the
results of climbing the N'kolumbembe were not wholly


satisfactory, I would push forward along the Pfane-
makok road until I reached the Kom river at a point
where, according to the map, there was a great water-
fall. The road led alternately through abandoned
village sites and luxuriant belts of jungle, where an
incredible number of elephant tracks were visible.
Presently the thunder of the waterfall became audible,
and I sent Undene on ahead to find a suitable camp-
ing ground. Fortunately the Kom was now at a low
level, otherwise all my plans would have been frus-

As soon as my tent was pitched I set off to investi-
gate the waterfall, and soon reached the spot where
the river rushed in foaming cascades over the edge of
the polished granite rocks, covering the surrounding
trees with clouds of spray. (Illus. 197.) There were
now three separate falls, but probably in the rainy
season they combine to form one mighty, boiling rush
of water.

Suddenly I caught sight of a huge cone shaped like
a sugar loaf, towering over the tree tops, and appar-
ently close at hand. It was thickly covered with trees,
and the summit seemed to be about sixteen hundred
feet above my present standpoint. I realised later
on that this was the extremity of the ridge that Musa
had observed the previous day, and which I, too, had
caught sight of for a moment until it was once more
hidden by the trees.

The next day Undene set off at daybreak with some
of the bearers to discover the best means of negotia-
ing this steep and rugged rock. Meanwhile I busied
myself in studying the topography of the country.

I was deeply absorbed in my work with compass,
road book, and watch, when my attention was suddenly


aroused by a startling apparition. Musa was walking
a few steps behind me when all of a sudden he rushed
up to me in great excitement, and pointing to a gap
in the balsamine thicket beside me, shouted : " Massa,
tiger ! " I had entirely overlooked a leopard which
was crouching on a fallen tree barely five paces from
the road. Elumu, too, who was close behind me, failed
to notice the animal, but Musa, about ten paces in the
rear, saw it take to flight, followed by its mate. Having
only a shot gun, he was afraid to fire for fear of injuring

The same day I received a telegram from the Duke,
who was at Lokoja, expressing the hope that Mildbraed
and I would accompany him home in the first August
steamer. Even if I had at once interrupted my work
and hurried to the coast, giving up our projected
island tour, I could not possibly have caught the
steamer, and I sent a reply from Campo to this effect.

Undene reached camp at dusk, and described to me
the difficulties which he had encountered in making
the ascent of the highest part of the ridge, adding
that he had not yet finished his tree-felling. From
his account I gathered that I must be prepared for
another day of arduous mountaineering. Fortunately
there was nothing to hinder me from spending another
day or two encamped beside the Kom Falls, since my
men were now well provided with food, brought in by
the chieftain of Sogebafam and his wives.

I started at an early hour the following morning,
fully equipped for spending the night on the mountain
if necessary : I took a supply of food and some blankets
for the men, and for my own use one of the outer
coverings of my tent, which could easily be converted
into a sleeping-sack.


Undene had selected the steepest side of the moun-
tain, but I was now somewhat inured to climbing,
and within two hours and a half had reached the
summit. The altitude proved to be under 2300 feet,
but the view was more extensive than any I had
hitherto enjoyed. In order that it might include
the mountain ranges toward the south-west and
north-east, I had to make up my mind to scramble
up a tall tree by means of a liana ladder erected by
my bearers. This would have been a hard task for
anyone inclined to giddiness, for the tree swayed in
the most unpleasant manner, especially when the top
was shaken by a gust of wind. My field of vision now
included all the surrounding hills of any importance,
so that I had at length solved the problem regarding
the mountains of this intricate neighbourhood. One
thing was certain : not one of the peaks came any-
where near being 6000 feet in height, and I could not
even see one that approached 5000 feet. The highest
mountain lay in a north-easterly direction, and its
altitude was not above 4000 feet.

By three o'clock I was back in camp, well satisfied
with the results of my investigations. I set off the
following morning in high spirits on the return march
to Sogebafam ; my men, too, were delighted to think
that their hardships were at an end, for, like myself,
many of them were reduced to mere skin and bones.

From Sogebafam we were to proceed as far as Afan
in the direction of the coast, and at this point I should
have to make up my mind whether to take the road
to Campo and thence along the coast to Kribi, or to
travel across country via N'goen on the Lobe River.
The former route was for obvious reasons the more
attractive, but the latter was more promising from
















197. Kom falls.


a scientific point of view, this part of the country
being but little known.

Excepting for a few occasional showers, the weather
was now favourable, and this helped to restore my
exhausted bearers to health. By the time we reached
Afan, they had so far recovered that they were quite
fit for the final stage of the journey.

We were marching through a slightly undulating
plain, from 120 to 320 feet above the sea. Every
now and then we passed an isolated hill, one of the
last out-posts of the mountain range. We travelled
almost continuously in the shade of the forest, but
owing to the time of year the trees were unfortunately
barren and shrivelled. But although the season was
unfavourable from the collector's point of view, it
was not without its advantages, since in the wet
season the large tracts of swamp-land that lay in our
path would have been quite impassable.

Before we reached the large village of Angali, we
could hear the rushing waters of the Lobe, which,
according to some of my men, was part of the Kom
River. The road showed many windings, and de-
viated towards the East, away from the coast. On
the 28th of July, at the little village of Akom, my Bule
caravan crossed the Lobe in two canoes, and we were
now much further from the coast than at Afan, which
lay two days' march in our rear.

On the right bank of the Lobe is a vast plain, which
during the wet season is said to lie six feet under water.
At present the road was easy, although we were tor-
mented by a great number of mosquitoes. The road
still led in an easterly direction, and it was not until
we had crossed the Niete that it turned once more
towards the coast.


Perhaps this slight detour is due to the difficult
passage of the Niete, which, even in the dry season,
affords a dangerous crossing infested with crocodiles.

I had some very anxious moments during the cross-
ing of this river at its narrowest point. It was here
constricted by rocks to about thirty feet, and the
bridge consisted of a tree-trunk, with an awkward
bend in the middle. Steps had been cut in the slippery
surface of the wood, but just as I reached the middle
I found that my boots were not gripping properly,
and at this critical point I was obliged to assume a
sitting posture and slide along the remainder of the
bridge, with the foaming torrent boiling beneath me.
With an effort of will I conquered the momentary
giddiness that assailed me, and scrambled across.

Having crossed in safety myself, I felt some anxiety
for my baggage, for in spite of their monkey-like
agility, some of the men faltered at the prospect of
this dizzy crossing, knowing that everything that
fell into this abyss would be irretrievably lost. A
few of them, however, walked over the slippery bridge
with the utmost unconcern.

After crossing the Niete, we were once more in a
region which had once been cultivated, as evidenced
by the presence of a formidable aframomum thicket.
The largest forest regions now lay behind us. In
one respect this was unfortunate, for one of my
principal reasons in selecting this route to the coast
was in order to make the acquaintance of the Bagielli
dwarfs, whose language I was anxious to compare
with that of the other dwarfs that I had met.

I had made numerous inquiries, and Kukuma of
Angali had assured me that there were no Bagiellis
left in his district, as they had all migrated nearer

i '!



the coast. Later on I learned accidentally that the
Angali chieftain was the only man who could have
met my wishes in the matter of the dwarfs, as hordes
of Pygmies were at that very time hunting elephants
for him in the neighbourhood of his village.

I happened to meet another chief on the road to
Kribi, who informed me that a friend of his, living
in the next large Bule village, had just bought a
Bagielli wife, these women being much sought after
as wives, as their children are very strong and healthy.

After making many inquiries I succeeded in find-
ing this woman in the village of Anjok, and induced
her to pay me a visit in my tent. She certainly dis-
played none of the shyness of her race. A few
questions satisfied me that she knew not a word of
the pygmy language, and the same thing applied to
other representatives of this tribe whom I met a few
days later in Kribi. The villagers, too, assured me
that the Bagiellis of the coast spoke only the language
of the surrounding Bantu tribes.

From now onwards we proceeded rapidly to the
coast. On the 30th of July we encamped in N'kolum-
bunde, at the foot of the forest-clad Nanga, the famous
" Elephant Mountain " well known to all ships' captains.
It did not, however, welcome us in a friendly manner,
for on our arrival it was wrapped in clouds which
poured down torrents of rain.

I was anxious to make the ascent of the Nanga,
in order to obtain a final view of the mountainous
region in the rear. I had little time to spare, so on
the afternoon of my arrival I made inquiries as to
the possibility of the ascent. It has several times
been climbed by Europeans, so that the chief of the
village readily supplied the necessary information,


and for the sum of two marks agreed to be my

I set off early the following morning, and as I began
to climb I heard the hoot of a steamer, which sounded
as clearly through the fog as if I had been close to
the sea. My Togo " boys " who had grown up in the
vicinity of the sea, were greatly excited, and in my
heart, too, it awakened memories of the coast that
lay a whole year behind me.

Owing to the previous heavy rain, the ascent through
the wet underwood and up the steep micaceous slopes
was most unpleasant, and yet it was mere child's play
to my previous mountaineering expeditions.

The same day we set off again, and after crossing
the Lobe for the second time, found ourselves in the
monotonous agricultural district belonging to the
Mabeas, a tribe that has migrated from the East, and
whose elongated houses show their connection with
the Kunabembes and other Congo races.

In the village of Sabane, our last halting-place before
reaching Kribi, the roar of the sea was distinctly
audible, and I must confess that I slept little, so eagerly
did I anticipate the events of the following day.

When at length we stood on the burning shore of
the Batanga coast, some of my men who had never
seen the sea, gazed half incredulously at the vast
expanse of water, and with mingled pleasure and
fear let the waves wash over their bare feet.

At the church of the Catholic mission at Great
Batanga I came to the end of my work on the con-
tinent. After greeting Father Schwab, I hastened
after my men along the sunny road leading to the
shore in order to cross the bay in the little Govern-
ment boats. At the extremity of the bay the Lobe


rushes over the rocks straight into the sea. (Vide
coloured illus.)

Within an hour all the loads had been landed on
the further shore, and a little later I greeted my
colleague in the hospitable house of Dr Schurmann
in Kribi.

Mildbraed was in the act of arranging his botanical
trophies, and was no less satisfied than I with the
results of our journey. In the neighbourhood of
Fenda he had found a particularly favourable botanis-
ing ground, and west of this village he had observed
a well denned floral boundary.

We were very busy for several days. The bearers
had to be paid off and discharged, our collections
packed, and all the cases containing the treasures
amassed during the past six months prepared for
transmission to Germany.

The weather was most unfavourable, and the rain
poured down day after day in torrents. But our
kind host's house was all the more enjoyable, and
my colleague and I shall always retain very pleasant
memories of the happy evenings spent on his wide

Kribi marked the close of our labours on the main-
land of Africa, and all that remained of our task was
the exploration of the Spanish Guinea islands.





WHEN we left Hamburg, a visit to the Guinea Islands
was not contemplated, and it was only a chance
occurrence that determined the South Cameroons
party to explore these islands at the close of their
travels on the mainland. Herr Krull, agent for the
German firm, E. H. Moritz, at Fernando Po, happened
to be travelling with us, and the " Eleonore Woer-
mann " touched at Santa Isabella in order that he
might land. During our short stay the idea that
was already in our minds took root, and when we
put in at St Thomas and observed its magnificent
vegetation, we made up our minds to pay a longer
visit to these islands if we could by any possibility
arrange to do so. We never regretted this decision,
although our journey was delayed by unfavourable
weather and bad roads, so that we were unable to
carry out the whole of our plan.

After our prolonged journeys in the Cameroon
jungle, which afforded a rich harvest to the scientist,
but at the same time presented many difficulties to
the traveller, we were so favourably impressed by
Fernando Po and Annobon that all our hardships
were forgotten and these islands have remained in
our minds a glorious memory like Lake Kiwu and
the volcanic giants that we saw in East Africa during
our first expedition,



Fernando Po bears the same relation to the Cameroons
as Zanzibar to German East Africa. But whereas
Zanzibar is well-known in German colonial history,
the " pearl of the Gulf of Guinea " is to most of us
little more than a name. Even to the Cameroonians
it has remained more or less a terra incognita, although
Victoria is scarcely thirty- six miles from the capital
Santa Isabella. The island has relapsed into obs-
curity, for in the middle of the last century, when it
was occupied by the British, it was well known as
the mainstay and centre for all the enterprises against
the slave trade, as well as for the Niger expeditions.

In the year 1472 (or 1471) the Portuguese Captain
Fernao do Poo discovered in the Bight of Biafra an
island which, from its tropical luxuriance and beauty,
he named Formosa, this name being changed later
to that of its discoverer. There now remains no
trace of Portuguese rule ; its undertakings mostly
took the form of slave hunts, and the native Bubis,
to whose highly moral character this kind of traffic
was most repulsive, withdrew themselves into the
woods and mountains, and whenever possible, drove
back the " white devils " who landed on their shores.
It is not improbable that the Bubis' present-day fear
of Europeans has its origin in the dark deeds of those
ancient times.

In the year 1777 the island of Fernando Po was
bartered to Spain, and a splendid expedition was sent
to take possession. But the leader, Count Argelejos,
died soon after entering upon his new kingdom, and
the settlers were so decimated by fever that their
discontent finally culminated in a mutiny. The
ringleaders imprisoned Lieutenant Primo de Rivera,
and abandoned the land that had treated them so


inhospitably. From that time onwards Spain troubled
herself no more about the island. But British sea
captains realised the value of its position, its harbours,
and its excellent drinking water, and in 1827 the
British Government decided to make Fernando Po
the headquarters of the expeditions for the suppres-
sion of the slave trade. Clarence Town, the present
Santa Isabella, was founded, and the negroes taken
from the captured slavers were settled there. The
Spaniards apparently protested but weakly ; occas-
sionally the English vacated the island, leaving only
a consul, and in 1839 they endeavoured to purchase
it. But the national pride of the Spanish Cortes
was wounded by the offer of no more than 60,000
sterling. British influence, however, rapidly gained
ground, and the English consul, Beecroft, was at the
same time Spanish Governor ! He was succeeded
by the Dutchman Lynslager. The expeditions sent out
from Spain at intervals were not very effective, and
it was not until 1858 that a Spaniard was appointed

Since then the island has remained nominally under
Spanish rule. British influence was, however, so
persistent that in 1886 Oskar Baumann described
Fernando Po as being " entirely English excepting
for the government." But of recent years things
have changed, especially since the Spanish mission
" del immaculado corazon de Maria " has planted
numerous settlements in every part of the island.

There have been many enterprises on the part of
the Government, with but poor results ; costly under-
takings have been started, which have either failed
altogether, or have gradually collapsed owing to a
lack of perseverance and interest. What was started


with great zeal by one governor was allowed by his
successor to fall into oblivion. Bishop Coll, in his
book on Fernando Po, bewails this lack of stability.

Much still remains to be done. Roads, in the sense
of passable thoroughfares, exist only on paper, and
the two government steamers " Annobon " and
" Corisco " are in such a state that it is surprising
that they can still maintain the service. Nor has
the Government any idea of influencing the native
Bubis, and thus solving the problem of procuring
labourers. The lack of workmen is the greatest evil
in Fernando Po, and unless it can be remedied, it will
be impossible to exploit the natural wealth of the
colony. It is, however, exceedingly doubtful whether
any improvement will ever be achieved in this respect
under Spanish dominion.

When British influence was paramount several
scientific expeditions explored the island. A naval
lieutenant named Badgley was the first to survey the
coast, and his results have laid the foundations for all
subsequent maps. The report of the great Niger
expedition of the year 1841, written by Captain
William Allen and Dr Thompson, contains a detailed
account of the Bubis, based chiefly on the reliable
narratives of Beecroft. Frazer, the zoologist accom-
panying the expedition, collected some valuable
specimens. The botanist, a German named Vogel,
was ill when he arrived and soon succumbed to fever.
Beside him lies Captain Bird Allen, and Santa Isa-
bella is also the burying place of Richard Lander,
whose intrepid voyage into the unknown in a small
boat down the Lower Niger disclosed the secret of
this river, thus solving one of the most obscure pro-
blems of African geography. Fernando Po may thus








199. Tree overgrown with parasites in the mountain forest above Basile.

200. Portion of a branch with parasites.
Detail of the above illustration.


be styled the cemetery of the Niger expeditions. And
yet it is not the entrance to Clarence Cove (the bay
of Santa Isabella) that has been named by mariners
" the gate of the cemetery," but the mouth of the
Nun arm of the Niger ; in these swamps they were
instilled with the deadly virus, and Port Clarence
merely afforded them a final resting place. This partly
explains the island's wholly unjustified reputation for
possessing a murderous climate.

The British consul Beecroft was the first European
to ascend the Peak in 1843 ; he was followed in 1860
by the botanist Gustav Mann, a German in the British
service, who deserves to be remembered in the history
of Fernando Po as an explorer of the highest merit.
He was to have joined Baikies' Niger expedition as
Barter's successor, but failed to do so, and turned
his attention with the greatest zeal to the study of
the Guinea Isles and the adjoining mainland. He
climbed the Clarence Peak five times, and also made
the ascent of the Great Cameroon Mountain, and the
highest peaks of St Thomas and Prince's Island.

On the basis of his collections, the famous botanist,
Sir Joseph Hooker, was able to publish his " Survey
of the plants growing in the neighbourhood of the
Cameroon Mountains, and in the islands of the Bight
of Benin," and to demonstrate the surprising affinity
between these flowers and those of the far-away moun-
tains of Abyssinia, at a time when nothing was as
yet known concerning the vegetation of the Kilimand-
jaro or any of the other high mountains of Central
Africa. In the year 1863 the explorer Burton made
the ascent of the Peak, after having climbed the
Cameroon Mountain in company with Mann. Two
years previously the Spanish Commissary, Julian


Pellon, took scientific observations from the summit
of the Peak, and he subsequently made a map of the
island, which in many respects is more accurate
than that of Oskar Baumann. This Austrian ex-
plorer, who subsequently made a name for himself
by his travels in Usambara, and by his supposed dis-
covery of the source of the Nile, visited Fernando

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