19 – Last Exploration

On the 23rd of August the Doctor started on his last exploration of Africa.  He pursued a course southwest until he arrived on the shores of Lake Tanganika.  There he turned south and followed the lake to its southern extremity and around to its southwestern line.  From there he struck off almost due south in the direction of Lake Bangweolo.  

     Soon after turning southward, the country became low and marshy, and they had to wade through water almost constantly.  The whole party suffered greatly from fever, and Livingstone’s dysentery soon returned in a much greater intensity.  Soon he was so depleted of strength that the natives had to carry him most of the time.  

     The entry in his journal of January 24th graphically describes the difficulties they had to encounter on this terrible march:

     “Went on east and northeast to avoid the deep part of a large river, which requires two canoes, but the men sent by the chief would certainly hide them.  Went on hour and three-quarter’s journey to a large stream, through drizzling rain, at least three hundred yards of deep water, among sedges and sponges of one hundred yards.  One part was neck-deep for fifty yards, and the water was cold.  We plunged in elephants’ foot-prints one hour and a half, then came in one hour to a small rivulet ten feet broad, but waist-deep;  bridge covered and broken down.  Carrying me across one of the broad, deep, sedgy rivers is really a very difficult task.  One we crossed was at least one thousand feet broad, or more than three hundred yards.  The first part, the main stream, came up to Susi’s mouth and wetted my seat and legs.  One held up my pistol behind, then one after another took a turn; and when he sank into an elephant’s deep foot-print, he required two to lift him, so as to gain a footing on the level, which was over waist-deep.  Others went on, and bent down the grass, to insure some footing on the side of the elephant’s path.  Every ten or twelve paces brought us to a clear stream, flowing fast in its own channel, while over all a strong current came bodily through all the rushes and aquatic plants.  Susi had the first spell, then Farijala, then a tall, stout, Arab-looking man, then Amoda, then Chanda, then Wade Sale; and each time I was lifted off bodily, and put on another pair of stout, willing shoulders, and fifty yards put them out of breath:  no wonder!  It was sore on the women-folk of our party.  It took us full an hour and a half for all to cross over, and several came over turn to help me and their friends.  The water was cold, and so was the wind, but no leeches plagued us.  We had to hasten on the building of sheds after crossing the second rivulet, as rain threatened us.  After 4 P. M. it came on a pouring, cold rain, when we were all under cover.  We are anxious about food.  The lake is near, but we are not sure of provisions, as there have been changes of population.  Our progress is distressingly slow.  Wet, wet, wet; sloppy weather truly, and no observations, except that the land near the lake being very level, the rivers spread out into broad friths and sponges.”

     The hemorrhagic discharge from which Livingstone suffered was very much intensified by the dreadful exposure to the elements that he was subject to.  He knew that he was in  grave danger of the elements and that he was weakening severely because of his frequent solemn reflections that he wrote in the diary that he carried.  One of these was written on February 14th and reads as follows: “If the Good Lord gives me favor, and permits me to finish my work, I shall thank and bless him, though it has cost me untold toil, pain, and travel.  This trip has made my hair all gray.”

     March 19th was the last birthday that he was alive.  This found him on the Chambeze river, en route for Bangweolo lake.  The river was at its flood stage from long and continued heavy rains.  Canoes were very difficult to obtain, and he was starting to grow very weary from the constant cold and wet and all the savage nature that was around him.  

     He waited beside the Chambeze until March 16th before he could find ample canoes to ferry his party across the river.  When he finally did undertake the crossing, the river sank one of his canoes that contained a large number of cartridges, several guns, and a saddle.  All of this was lost to the river.  After they finally got across, they were able to acquire larger canoes.  The river was at such a flood stage that the ordinary roads and footpaths were under 6 feet of water.  

     This travel was very fatiguing, though, because they had to stop at short intervals to drag the canoes over bushes and pieces of land.  Every one of them was constantly wet and worried about the effect the exhausting labor would have on themselves and Livingstone since he was already very sick and weak from the previous trips.

     With what one could only say was much determination, he wanted to continue the journey.  He knew that the outcome could only be one thing.  After they left the canoes, the roads were still full of water and they were still constantly wet and cold all the time.  Livingstone continued to grow weaker, and his men made a sling on which he could lay on.  It consisted of two side-pieces of seven feet in length which were crossed with rails three feet long and four inches apart.  They lashed the whole thing together strongly.  Then they covered the framework with grass and then a blanket on top of that so the ride wouldn’t be so rough.  Two men hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him in this manner. They also put another blanket over the top of the pole so that the sun wouldn’t be so hot on him while they carried him.  It was in this state that the exhausted traveler reach the next village.  

     On April 27th, he made his last entry into his diary, describing his condition and the location of his party. The next text will cover the death and arrangements made for Dr. Livingstone.  Below is a picture rendered by the artist of Dr. Livingstone being carried by the natives across the water.  They had a tremendous love for this man.

Crossing the Water - Livingstone's Travels  

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.