The African Expedition
Despite the often negative connotations of “expedition,” these early European-led trips were not all about hunting big game. They were, above all, a tool to achieve specific scientific goals, and a means to explore the frontiers of knowledge and the lands they traversed. Those early expeditions produced significant botanical and zoological specimens, many of which were later returned to Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum. The explorers themselves often viewed their expeditions as an opportunity to test themselves and push the boundaries of their physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities.
After concluding his Missionary Travels, Livingstone sought funding to fund another expedition adventure to Africa. He successfully gathered support, convincing the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) that he could use his knowledge of African water systems to help Britain establish a legitimate trade route for its goods. His new objective was also to locate the source of the Nile, which he believed was somewhere in the area between Lake Nyassa and Lake Tanganyika.
Although the expedition was a great success in terms of its geographical goals, it failed to meet the grand expectations of many of its supporters at home. Nevertheless, it was still a significant accomplishment as a scientific expedition. It yielded various important botanical and zoological specimens, and it helped to delineate the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It also allowed Livingstone to observe the spectacular thundering of the Zambezi River’s Victoria Falls, which he would later name after his British patron, Queen Victoria (Ross 2002:89).
While Livingstone was the focal point of this expedition, it was a team effort. He had a retinue of African guides and servants, known as nduna, who assisted him with his research in the region. These ancillary members of his expedition were a key component to his success, as they acted as interpreters and were invaluable to the exploration of regions where Livingstone did not speak the local language. They also guided him through treacherous waters, such as the vast and dangerous river crossings of the Zambezi.
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