( af′ri-kə )
- Among earth's continents, Africa is the second largest of all and situated in the Eastern hemisphere. The continent is located south of Europe between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Its total size has a capacity of 11,500,000 square miles. Historically it was called the Dark Continent.
Exploration and Discovery in Africa
Africa remained primarily a mystery to people around the world until the late 1700's.
Exploration of the African interior was a slow process. Between 1768-1773 A Scot, James Bruce, had gone through Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and located the source of the Blue Nile.
A group of British scholars formed the African Association in 1788 to promote exploration of the continent. Expeditions for the Association up the Niger River were led by another Scot, explorer Mungo Park between 1795-1796 and again in 1805. The River's complete course was not determined until 1830, when John and Richard Lander sailed down it.
Exploration by Europeans reached its peak during the 19th century due to economic or political expansion or in support of scientific investigation, most European nations encouraged exploration of the traditionally "dark" continent. English explorer Alexander Gordon Laing became the first European to reach Timbuktu in 1828, today known as Mali, but then the location served as a center of trade.
In 1828, French explorer René Caillié visited Timbuktu and followed up with an expedition to cross the Sahara.
The Royal Geographic Society founded in 1830, supported the search conducted by British explorers for the source of the White Nile, a southern branch of the Nile River, which lead to further expeditions of eastern Africa. English explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke (1857-1859), reached Lake Tanganyika in 1858, which forms part of the border between Zaire and Tanzania. Together they discovered Lake Tanganyika and from there, Speke continued to discover nearby Lake Victoria, alone. He returned again to extend his exploration of Lake Victoria from 1841-1856, providing evidence the lake was the source of the White Nile. Burton disagreed. In 1862, Speke and James Grant discovered where Lake Victoria emptied into a river. Samuel W. Baker confirmed that this was the Nile, who came up the river from the Sudan in 1864.
The Scottish medical missionary, David Livingston became the most well-known of explorers in Africa. Chiefly he worked in the Zambesi region. He traveled across southern and southwest Africa, reaching Luanda in what is today known as Angola. Those expeditions lasted from 1841-1856. Then, Livingstone journeyed east, tracing the Zambezi River across the continent. Between 1858-1863 Livingstone explored the African southeast reaching Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and then in 1866, traveled again through east central Africa until his death in 1873.
Henry Morton Stanley, a reporter for the New York Herald and London newspapers, traveled to Africa in 1869 in search of Livingstone who had not been heard from in several years. He was discovered by Stanley near Lake Tanganyika in 1871. The story captured the imagination of people around the world. Stanley wished to continued in Livingstone's explorations, and set out on an expedition 1874-1877, following the course of the Congo River to the sea.