Soon after his return from Africa in 1864, Livingstone came across the results of Speke and Grant’s discoveries. After reading their journals, he truly believed that they had not found the true source of the Nile, which he thought must be in a chain of lakes lying south of Victoria N’yanza. After he had thought much about the matter, he decided that he needed to go to Africa for a third time and specifically test the claims that the other two men had made, and to also make other explorations that he had wanted to make before he was made to leave because of the dysentery that he developed.
It just so happened that at this time the government of India wanted to present to the Sultan of Zanzibar the steamer Thule, which had belonged to Captain Osborne’s Chinese Fleet, but was no longer required in that service. Dr. Livingstone was commissioned to make the formal presentation, and just previous to his departure, Sir Bartle Frere gave him a note to the Sultan, sending warm regards to him, and also asking the favor that Livingstone might be able to journey into Central Africa after he had sailed the boat and given it to the Sultan.
With these advantages he set sail for Zanzibar in the steamer Thule, and after a voyage of twenty three days from Bombay, landed his vessel January 23, 1866, and reported to the Sultan, who represented the Arabian government. Livingstone was cordially received by the Sultan and the presentation of the steamer was made according to the terms of his commission before a gathering of English officers, and also before the acting British consul at Zanzibar. The Sultan was so pleased that his kindness went so far as to offer Livingstone a vessel, crew, and provisions, and to give him any protection that the Arabics could afford.
Livingstone was there nearly two months outfitting the boat and perfecting all the details for the trip back to Africa. In the meantime, he had been provided with a beautiful house and every need was carefully attended to.
On March 18 he arranged with a Banian farmer to send a supply of beads, cloth, flour, tea, coffee and sugar to Ujiji, on Lake Tanganika, with a man to remain in charge of the goods on their arrival. Ujiji was made a principal base for supplies, and they set off for that place first.
The steamer Penguin was placed at his disposal, and on March 19th he set sail for the Rovuma river. They reached it on the following day and a dhow ( a coasting vessel of East Africa) was in waiting to receive the animals which Livingstone took with him for riding and as beasts of burden. There were six camels, three buffaloes and a calf, two mules and four donkeys. The men in his company consisted of thirteen Sepoys, ten Johanna men, nine Nassick boys, two Shupanga men, and others which were members of interior tribes, making 40 in all. Several of these same men had accompanied Livingstone on his second journey and already knew what to do to help him.
When the part finally came to the Rovuma, they could not find a spot to land the animals because it was so shallow. It took them 25 miles to find a safe, deeper spot to land the boat so they could get the animals off. By this time, the animals were so badly bruised by being tossed about in the dhow, that they had to stay and rest for a while there so that the animals could mend. Twenty natives were engaged here to carry some of the burdens, and saddles were made for the camels and donkeys. During this delay a buffalo gored one of the donkeys so badly that it had to be shot. This was a huge loss for Livingstone, as donkeys were extremely well suited for carrying purposes in Africa. After all the delays, it was not until April 6th that the expedition started for the interior of Africa.
On the 23rd of April they passed a spot where a leopard had been burned on the previous night. Upon questioning the natives, Livingstone found that it was the custom to burn the bodies of leopards that are killed, but to preserve the skins. Their valid reason for not eating the flesh was that the leopard devoured men, which showed an opposite inclination to cannibalism.
Upon reaching the Makoa country, they met some really queer people that were totally unlike any of the other tribes of the south. The men had their faces thickly tattooed in double raised lines of about half an inch in length. After the incisions were made, charcoal was rubbed in and the flesh pressed out so that all the cuts were raised above the level of the surface. The women were generally tall and well-made, with fine limbs and feet, and were also extremely tattooed all over. Even their hips and buttocks were elaborately marked, with no shame being felt about any exposure to those private parts.
On May 21st, a leopard slipped into the camp among the tents and caught a little dog which Livingstone had brought with him. The dog’s yelps and cries awakened him and he rushed out of his tent in time to catch a glimpse of the leopard as it made off with the dog. He mentioned this to the residents of the next village, and the natives said they had seen the same leopard and over a period of time they had lost many of their own goats and calves by wild animals. A spring gun was set by the natives. They tied a small goat near it so that if a leopard came up to get the goat, the gun would go off and kill the leopard.
After waiting several hours five of the natives went to see what had happened. As they approached, one of them was attacked by a large leopard that leaped upon his shoulder and began to ferociously try to tear him apart with its huge claws. The attack was so sudden that the native had no time to use his spear. and he would have been torn to pieces in a moment except for the assistance of the other natives around him who ran to help him. After a terrible battle in which several of the men were wounded, they succeeded in getting the leopard off of the man.
The leopard was one of the largest of its species and was probably hungry and about to spring on the decoy goat when the man got in his way. The men who had slain the leopard had suddenly become heroes in the eyes of their countrymen, and the lofty manner in which they strutted about showed how much they appreciated their honors.
They were now nearing Lake Nyassa. They knew this because they were meeting a number of slave parties that showed tallow marks from the region of the lake. Livingstone’s journal shows an entry dated June 19th that reads as follows:
“We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree, and dead. The people of the country explained that she had been unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become the property of any one else if she recovered after resting for a time. I may mention here that we saw others tied up in a similar manners, and one lying in the path shot or stabbed, for she was in a pool of blood. The explanation we got invariably was that the Arab who owned these victims was enraged at losing his money by the slaves becoming unable to march, and vented his spleen by murdering them. A poor little boy with prolapsus ani was carried yesterday by his mother many a weary mile, lying over her right shoulder – the only position he could find ease in; an infant at the breast occupied the left arm, and on her head were carried two baskets. The mother’s love was seen in binding up the part when we halted, while the coarseness of low civilization was evinced in the laugh with which some black brutes looked at the sufferer.”
The natives of Metaba were more intelligent than those found farther east on the Rovuma, and their appearance was not at all displeasing. Stone boiling was not known to them, but they made ovens in ant hills. They dug holes in the ground for baking the heads of large game, such as zebras, the feet of elephants, and humps of the rhinoceros.
They had an interesting way of making a fire by using two sticks which they always carried with them, with one of them having a hole through the center. They wet the blunt end of the upright stick with their tongue and then dipped it in the sand to cause some particles to stick to it before they inserted it into the horizontal piece. They they started to rub them together briskly. They used a certain wood to make these sticks out of, because it was esteemed to be fire ready. In wet weather they usually carried fire in the dried balls of elephants’ dung.
The country was generally beautiful, but the curse of slave-trading had blighted it until a famine had come to the land at the time Livingstone passed through it. The people were starving and there were skeletons lying everywhere. He also saw a number of slaves that were all yoked together that had been abandoned by their captors to die of starvation. Some of them were already unconscious, with others barely able to raise their heads from the ground. It was a shocking sight to Livingstone, but it was just one of many that he saw.
After seeing so many terrible things, Livingstone finally reached Lake Nyassa on August 8th after starting his journey on March 19th of the same year.