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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about thirty yards I doubled, and concealed myself
behind the nearest tree, lying flat on the ground, as
I have seen the negroes do. But while I was still run-
ning I had heard the whistling breathing of my pursuer,
and I realised that he was mortally wounded in the
lungs. Then I heard a shot, and something crashed
past me a few moments later.

There was dead silence, so I rose from the ground

81. The Loka mountain in storm.

82. Rejaf on the White Nile.


and climbed the tree. I caught sight of Abderahman
standing almost on the same spot where I had left him
at the critical moment. I felt a little ashamed of my
cowardice as I returned to his side, and learned what
had occurred.

Abderahman had realized immediately that the first
elephant was mortally wounded, and consequently
paid little heed to his impetuous onslaught. He
turned his attention to the second uninjured bull,
which likewise charged him. He allowed the beast
to come within three yards (the distance was easily
measured afterwards in the trampled grass), and
then shot him in the head with my Mauser. This
gave the elephant such a shock that he turned and fled.

Meanwhile the first elephant had collapsed on to
the ground. I loaded the double-barrelled gun, and
we approached cautiously from behind. Abderahman
pulled his tail, and as he did not stir, we knew that
he was dead. I shook the brave Soudanese warmly by
the hand ; I have come across many instances of fear-
less courage, but nothing to equal this man's daring,
which bordered on the supernatural.

It was a fine elephant, even for this neighbourhood,
and his ivory weighed 178 Ibs. The news spread
rapidly, and within a few hours the deserted plain was
crowded with negroes carrying off basketsful of the
meat to their distant villages. Only the skin and
bones were left to the vultures.

Three days later I accomplished my last day's march
in Africa. Early in the morning we caught sight
of the Redjaf Mountain, rose-tipped by the rising
sun : a steep, rugged, solitary granite peak, several
thousand feet high. I knew that beyond it flowed
the Nile.


For the last time the sun blazed down upon my
battered helmet, which was held together only by
means of sticking-plaster ; for the last time the bearers
panted and groaned under the weight of their heavy
loads. But to-day no one complained, and they pushed
on without halting every few minutes as was their
wont. When at last we reached the foot of the moun-
tain, a broad valley lay stretched before us, through
which flowed old Father Nile himself, gleaming in
the sunlight like a silver ribbon.

My Cameroon and Togo " boys " shouted and roared
with delight. Now at last the hateful journey was
at an end, and a ship would soon bear them back
to their beloved country. This was the chief cause
of their joy ; another was the prospect of an ox, which
I had promised them on the day we reached the Nile.

Redjaf is a small station lying between the mountain
of the same name and the Nile. (Illus. 82.) It com-
prises a Soudanese village, four or five Government
buildings, and half a dozen factories belonging to
Greek and Indian traders. Being the terminus for
the steamer service of the White Nile, it is an important
centre for the Congo ivory and india-rubber trade.

A fortnight elapsed before the arrival of the Soudan
Development and Exploration Company's steamer.
At first I was fully occupied in paying off my caravan,
and in writing letters and reports, but finally I grew
impatient and often climbed the mountain to gaze
northward through my telescope. At length, on the
17th of September, a black cloud of smoke heralded
the coming of the steamer " Gordon Pasha." She ap-
peared to be crawling south at a snail's pace, but at
last she was moored alongside, and my " boys " greeted
her with three hearty cheers. Our baggage was stowed



on board the same evening, and the following morning
we steamed down- stream.

My exploratory travels were now at an end, and
the rest of the journey was a mere pleasure trip. In
Khartoum, von Wiese and I celebrated our happy
meeting after a separation of thirteen months, and
in a short time we enjoyed the happiest moment of
the whole journey : that of our safe return home !







ON the banks of the Stanleypool near Kinshassa,
during the last days of August in the year 1910, the
members of our party displayed a feverish activity.
They were sorting vast mountains of luggage piled
on the Congo steamer's landing stage, and beneath
the scanty shade of a gigantic tree (illus. 84), which
since the days of Stanley had seen many expeditions
setting out for the interior. It took two hard days'
work to reduce the baggage to order, and to stow
the greater part of it on board the " Valerie," which
was to convey most of the members of the expedition
up the Congo and Ubangi rivers.

A small share of the loads was reserved for the botanist
Dr Mildbraed, and myself. We were to travel in the
wake of the rest of the party as far as the Ssanga River,
and here we were to turn aside to explore that part
of the South Cameroons which lies between this river
and the West Coast.

We had to wait at least ten days for a steamer to
the Ssanga, so that we were able to gratify our wish
to investigate the country round Brazzaville, which
seemed to offer a rich field for zoological and botanical
research. Not having much time at our disposal,
we decided to make one of the stations of the Congo
railway our headquarters.

The Belgian railway officials, Messieurs Goubert



and Schubb, were most kind in helping us to carry
out this plan, and on the 30th of August we went by
train with our " boys " and the necessary camp baggage
to Kimuenza, a station twelve miles from Kinshassa.
From the train we caught glimpses of the luxuriant
vegetation, recognising old friends from the Cameroons
such as the inevitable umbrella tree of West Africa
(Musanga Smithii) which grows here in great profusion.

Here and there amid the dark green foliage of
the tropical forest, were purple patches of flowering
Combretum, warning us of the approaching rainy
season. On the plains, too, the fresh, green grass was
springing up, and over the blue, yellow, and white
flowers hovered little scarlet butterflies, the first heralds
of spring.

We pitched our tents under the fruit trees, not far
from the little corrugated iron house belonging to the
black stationmaster. It was an ideal spot (illus. 85),
on a wooded slope of the Lukaya valley, shaded by
low, gnarled trees, many of them in full bloom, and
surrounded by swarms of buzzing bees. The silence
was broken only by the rumbling of the trains, and
the frequent blowing of their whistles in which the
black engine-drivers indulged.

Shaded by dense forests, the little Lukaya River
flows in its deep bed on the other side of the railway.
The soil is sandy, with here and there a patch of clay,
and its fertility is evidenced by the luxuriance of the

On the very first day of our arrival in Kimuenza,
we crossed the swaying liana bridge which spanned the
yellow waters of the Lukaya immediately opposite our
camp. This is the district renowned for the botanical
collections of the Jesuit Fathers, Gillet and Vanderyst.

84. Among the baobab trees of Kinchassa.

85. Our camp near Kimuentsa.

86. Abandoned mission station near Kimuentsa.

87. Hymenocardia steppe near Kimuentsa.

88. Steppe near Kimuentsa with Amaryllides after the first showers.


Here the beautiful Bombax lucayensis displays its
gorgeous blooms, and the peculiar dwarf bamboos vie
with graceful dragon-trees and other evergreens in
the stateliness of their stems. A tropical tangle
of creepers enveloped all the other plants, whilst
an almost impenetrable undergrowth of pine-apples
bore witness to the cultivation of the former mission-

It was very unfortunate for the industrious Jesuit
Fathers that circumstances obliged them to abandon
Kimuenza, the scene of many years' activity, and
begin all over again at Kisantu.

Soon after our arrival we were visited by natives,
asking for medicine to ward off the evil effects of
mosquito bites. This confirmed the evil reputation
borne by Kimuenza in Stanleypool, where it was
described to us as the centre of a district infested with
sleeping-sickness. The natives assured us that whole
villages had been depopulated by this disease, and
their statements were confirmed by the presence of
Glossina palpalis mosquitoes. There were fortunately
only a few specimens of this noxious insect, but they
pursued with us a subtle persistence unequalled by
any other variety of winged blood-suckers. Even in
our tents, pitched on the plain, we were not free from
their insidious attacks, thus proving that the tsetse
fly does not fear the sunshine.

On the first Sunday of our camp life on the bank
of the Lukaya, I paid a visit to the abandoned site of
the Mission, under the guidance of the negro station-
master. (Illus. 86.) Part of the brick buildings is still in
good preservation, and the activity of the Jesuit Fathers
is evidenced by the mango, dragon-tree, and oil-palm
avenues, and by the luxuriant growth of several foreign


plants. But the gloomy silence of the deserted buildings
proclaims the devastating influence of the noxious
poison for which no antidote has as yet been found.
In the neighbourhood of the station there is a village,
similarly deserted. Three or four natives died here
every day, until at last the survivors decided to forsake
this abode of death. The neglected cemetery of the
Fathers completes the melancholy picture ; a cast-iron
cross and several wooden crosses, most of them lying
on the ground, are overgrown by parched grass and
scorched creepers. The woods surrounding the ceme-
tery seem to be the breeding-place of these death-
dealing flies, which gave evidence of their presence
by pursuing us persistently. It is a curious fact that
there is here no sign of water (the Mission Fathers
were obliged to fetch their water supply from a
distance), and this proves conclusively that tsetse
flies are not confined to streams with overhanging

A dull, introspective-looking native lives here with
his family in a hut which is carefully shut up during
the day, and cares for the remains of the Mission
plantations. I was not able to ascertain whether he,
too, was infected with the disease, but as a rule this
spot is shunned by the natives.

It must have been most disheartening for the mission-
aries to see their people, Europeans and negroes alike,
dying one by one of an epidemic whose nature was
at that time not understood, and which has entirely
depopulated vast regions of Africa.

Nothing short of the most severe measures, prohibiting
any migration of the natives, would suffice, according
to present day scientific knowledge, to check this
fearful scourge. The tsetse flies abound everywhere,


and consequently a single infected man suffices to
contaminate the whole district.

Mildbraed had not been able to accompany me on
this memorable expedition, as he was suffering from
violent pains in his limbs, which made him almost
incapable of moving. He got no better, and was there-
fore reluctantly compelled to seek admittance in the
Leopoldville Hospital, and it was with a heavy heart
that I watched the departure of the train that conveyed
him, on the 6th of September, to the Belgian Congo

I was now alone with my " boys " in our big camp,
and I sought distraction from my anxiety in a redoubled
activity in collecting specimens. As far as possible
I proceeded with Mildbraed's interrupted botanical

Although at first the results of our collecting were
most promising, many of the zoological specimens
being particularly rare, yet our work was considerably
hindered by the prolonged absence of the overdue
rainy season. It was everywhere far too dry, both
in the forest and in the plains, and although the sky
had been overcast for some time, the parched earth
was still crying out for rain. The news that Mildbraed
was suffering from rheumatic fever did not tend to
raise my spirits. Our plans would have to be consider-
ably modified, and the only redeeming feature of the
case lay in the fact that Mildbraed had fallen ill at
the very beginning of our travels, in a place where he
could have the best possible care in his painful malady,
Dr Broden of Leopoldville being the most experienced
physician in the Belgian colony.

My ethnological studies in the neighbourhood of our
camp came to a premature end, which although most


distressing, was not wholly unexpected. The influx
of workmen for the construction of the Matadi and
Stanleypool railway resulted in a considerable inter-
mingling of the numerous tribes of the lower Congo,
and consequently the greater part of their racial char-
acteristics had been lost. However, I visited the
nearest native village, hoping to gain some valuable
information regarding the habits of the aborigines.
My hopes were somewhat dashed when I caught sight
of the plank doors of the otherwise typical native huts,
but when the peaceful hum of a Singer's sewing machine
fell upon my ear, I knew that my ethnological studies
in Kimuenza were at an end ; there was assuredly
nothing more to be done in this district !

Towards the middle of September the rain at length
materialised. On the 13th blue-grey clouds raced
across the sky, and loud claps of thunder were audible
though there was no lightning to be seen. The first
showers were but slight, and made little impression
on the baked ground. But the spell being once broken,
the storms succeeded one another at shorter and shorter
intervals with ever-increasing violence, while the rain
fell in torrents. After every shower fresh flowers
appeared in the midst of the grass, and in forest and
plain alike the insects took on a new lease of life.

But the light green spring foliage of the hymeno-
cardiae (illus. 87), the strychnine trees, and the
anonae had many a battle to fight with the prairie
fires which still raged through the dry grass, crack-
ling over the arid slopes, and sending up thick
clouds of smoke, whilst the burning leaves were
scattered in every direction. These fires are lighted
by the lazy natives, as the easiest means of removing
the trees that they have cut down, or else in order


to destroy the cover which might conceal the few
remaining head of game. In any case it is very
destructive for agriculture, and the flames consume
much valuable material which cannot be replaced.

The black native of Stanleypool is in this respect no
worse than other negroes, but apart from his natural
indolence, he embodies, in common with all mixed
African races, a very unprepossessing type of Bantu.
He invariably mistakes kind treatment for weakness,
and responds with insolence to any friendly advances.

By the end of the month so much rain had fallen
that the Lukaya had risen visibly, and the ground was
soaked. All day the gorgeous blue gladiolus and the
delicate ground orchid displayed their beauty, whilst
every evening large amaryllides opened their snow-
white, purple- striped cups, which shone like stars
on the prairie from sundown till dawn, filling the air
with fragrance, and attracting moths of every kind.
(Illus. 88.)

Unfortunately the approach of the rainy season
gave rise to another, much less pleasant, phenomenon :
namely, a plague of flies such as I have never before
experienced in Africa. Every evening they made
their way through the smallest aperture into the hot
atmosphere of my tent, making it almost impossible
to do any work. As there is no stagnant water in
the neighbourhood of Kimuenza, the prevalence of
these bloodthirsty creatures can only be accounted
for by the great number of pine-apple bushes. The
raindrops accumulate at the base of their leaves, and
form an ideal breeding-ground for flies. Needless to
say, the tsetse fly likewise appeared in ever-increasing

The rapid development of the flowers promised


to compensate Mildbraed for his period of enforced
idleness. I visited him in hospital, and learned that
the tedium of his seclusion was considerably lightened
by the presence of a Danish officer in the Belgian
service : Commandant Willemoes d'Obry, the official
geographer of the Congo colony. This gentleman
supplied my comrade with literature, and was very
kind in paying him frequent visits. But it is very
trying, especially in the tropics, for a naturalist to be
confined to bed just as all nature is awakening to new
life, and Mildbraed awaited with impatience the day
of his discharge from hospital. I could not visit him
as often as I wished, because the journey from Kimuenza
to Leopoldville and back could not be accomplished
in the day, owing to the inconvenience of the train
connections ; it was, moreover, a most disagreeable
experience. The single first-class fare from Kimuenza
to Kinshassa is fifty-eight francs, and as the fares for
other journeys are in proportion, practically no one
but officers and officials travel first-class. My only
other resource was to travel with the natives, and
share with them the filthy seats of the open carriages,
in which the smoke from the engine soon obliterates
any difference of colouring, and in which I was obliged
to accustom my nose to the various African odours.

I went for a long walk one day to the highest hill
in the neighbourhood, which afforded a grand view
as far as Leopoldville and Brazzaville, embracing
almost the whole of Stanleypool, and I made up my
mind that when I next visited Mildbraed, I would go
on foot. I had no cause to regret my decision, for
as I walked along the railway I realised how much of
the beauty of nature one loses in travelling by train.

Walking over the railway sleepers was more tiring

89. Landscape in the Sanga delta.

90. Steamer Commandant Lamv before Wesso.

91. Flooded village on the Djah.

92. Village of Wesso on the Sanga.

93. Confluence of the Sanga and Djah.

94. Station of Molundu at low water.


than I had anticipated, especially near Dolo, where
the sand was almost on a level with the rails. The
wide stretches of sand covered with short grass, vividly
recalled the downs on the shores of the North Sea,
and the only thing wanting to complete the illusion
was the heather. My walk ended in the Avenue
Souverain, leading to the hill on which the hospital
stands. As I climbed this hill in the scorching sun,
my legs began to ache, and I decided to return by

On the 8th of October Mildbraed at last returned
to camp, and during the few days that remained before
the departure of our steamer, we were able to take walks
together in the neighbourhood. Mildbraed instructed
me in his method of collecting botanical specimens
by means of field glasses and a rifle. When he caught
sight of a branch laden with flowers or fruit at the top
of a tall tree, provided it was not too closely bound
to the other branches by creepers, he shot it down
with an expanding bullet. But apart from the very
awkward position, the branch he aimed at was small,
and many cartridges were wasted before the coveted
specimen fell from its dizzy height. Consequently
in order to make a collection of about two hundred
different trees, which could not have been obtained
in any other manner, we employed more than four
thousand cartridges. In the case of the beautiful
flowering lianas, the difficulties were even greater,
and we were obliged to invoke the aid of a skilled
native climber. I feel sure that to the uninitiated at
home the complete collection conveyed but a faint
conception of the patient toil entailed in obtaining
each individual specimen.

We struck our tents on the morning of the 17th of


October, and our Cameroon boys were greatly excited
at the prospect of returning home, for they seemed
to imagine that we had nothing more pressing to do
than to travel straight to their native land.

It was evening when at last we rested our weary
limbs in the " Hotel Cosmopolite " at Kinshassa ; we
soon discovered that here, too, the mosquitoes were in
high spirits owing to the commencing rainy season,
and they did their best to make our lives a burden.

A thunderstorm broke over Kinshassa during the
night of the 19th of October, and offered a striking
example of the violence of which an African tornado
is capable. The fury of the storm was such that the
heavy Adansonia fruits were torn from their branches,
and hurled with the noise of a cannonade on to the
galvanised iron roofs of the houses.

The following day it was unusually sultry instead
of being cooler as we had anticipated. This was speci-
ally trying for me, as I had important business
to transact in the French capital, Brazzaville, where
I was anxious to pay my respects to the Governor-
General Merlin, who was on the eve of returning home.

Stanleypool being the focus of the whole Congo
basin, everything is on a grand scale, and I was not
surprised to find that the fare for the short journey
from Kinshassa to Brazzaville was twenty francs.
The distances in Brazzaville are so great that in order
to transact my business I was obliged to be on my
feet for three hours. This was a doubtful pleasure,
as the streets were new and shadeless, and I was dressed
in a tight white suit with a stiff collar, which soon
succumbed to a temperature of 86 F. Fortunately
I was able to tidy myself at an English factory,
and could accept with a clear conscience the Governor-


General's invitation to an official breakfast. I fully
appreciated the kindly hospitality of the officials and
ladies of Brazzaville. I realized at the same time
that on quitting the Governor's palace I was taking
leave for many months of all the comforts of European

Early the following morning we conveyed our baggage
to Brazzaville, but it took us the whole day to comply
with the troublesome custom-house regulations, and it
was late in the evening before the last load was on
board the " Commandant Lamy," a paddle steamer of
150 tons burden which was to convey us to the Ssanga.

We felt that we had earned a good night's rest, but
we were doomed to disappointment, for our first night
on board proved a typical African experience. Our
cabins were said to be mosquito-proof, the windows
and doors being covered with gauze, so that we had
packed our mosquito nets in the baggage sealed by the
custom-house official. We soon regretted our over-
confidence, for in spite of all our efforts the windows
refused to shut, and the gnats of the Stanleypool
came through the inch-wide aperture in swarms, so
that we did not close our eyes all night and were
lamentably bitten.

Fortunately the fears that we entertained during our
first night on board were not justified, and the " Com-
mandant Lamy" proved to be a very comfortable
vessel. The captain, a broad-shouldered Breton, was
at first somewhat reserved, but he soon thawed and
became a genial travelling companion.

When the steamer left her mooring on the morning
of the 23rd of October, nearly all the cabins were
occupied. The passengers were, for the most part,
employe's of French Concession Companies, but we


also made the acquaintance of a Captain Schmoll,
the new chief of the French station, N'goila, and his
lieutenant, both of whom had lived for many years
in the tropics.

The first part of the voyage gave us a good idea
of the vast extent of the Stanleypool. It was noon
by the time we had left behind this wide expansion
of the Congo with its wooded islands. The banks
of the river are precipitous, and consist of sandstone
cliffs about five hundred feet high, partly brown, and
partly snow-white in colour. Francis Pocock, Stanley's
trusted companion on his first Congo voyage, compared
them to the chalk cliffs of England. Several recent
landslips showed that the banks are not very

We now entered the so-called " chenal " of the
Congo, where the dark-brown waters of the river are

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Online LibraryDuke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf FriedrichFrom the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 20)