The sixteen years which Livingstone had spent in Africa served to largely increase the spirit of adventure which first led him to renounce the influences of civilization for the barbarous regions of Africa in the first place. He was restless in England and longed to return to Africa and continue the labors he had begun there.
He longed to strike a death blow to the terrible slave trade, which at that time existed in nearly all parts of Africa. It was destroying happy families and degrading the people. They were in a constant state of fear and alarm and he found it virtually impossible to bring Christianity there or even a civilized society. He had witnessed many happy families during his first 16 years there and he desperately longed to go back to try to help the people there.
He wrote several papers to the English Geographical Society and proposed an expedition to Zambesi. With this expedition was the double intention of promoting commercial trade with the interior natives and suppressing the slave trade as much as he could. He wished to make the Zambesi a highway by which commerce and Christianity could pass into the interior of the country. He felt that if people really knew what was going on there, that maybe the slave trade would stop.
He was able to raise a good bit of money, with one gentleman contributing $5,000, which was a huge sum of money then. The trip was organized and they set sail on March 10, 1858. Livingstone was accompanied by his wife and brother Charles. Also present was Dr. Kirk, who was superintendent of the Kew Gardens in London. The party embarked on the steamer Pearl, and carried with them a steam launch in sections. When they arrived at the mouth of the Zambesi, the launch was put together and the ascent of the river was begun. After hitting several sand bars they launched onto another part of the river named the Kongone. It was more easily navigated, and its branches were lined with much tropical growth, mangroves, screw-palms, and climbing plants. It was a most beautiful view from the boat.
One hundred miles from the Zambesi’s mouth Livingstone discovered the Shire river. It was a considerable stream that he found led into a large lake after he had traveled the river for several hundred miles. He coasted the lake a distance of nearly two hundred miles, and found out that it was a basin into which a great portion of Central Africa is drained. He found that here the slave trade was flourishing greatly. It was promoted by continual wars in which all prisoners on either side were reduced to slavery. Criminals were also sold into slavery.
From Lake Nyassa the expedition returned down the Shire river to Mazaro, where they camped for two days before returning up the Zambesi. During this stop they were grievously annoyed by a singular species of rat, whose continual laughing was sorely perplexing and uncanny. The rats were so numerous that sleep was impossible. They were very bold and would scamper over the men with a constant laugh sound that sounded almost exactly like a human laugh. No amount of effort would get rid of them and they were proud to leave them behind.
Livingstone was now in the elephant country again, and every day there was some kind of adventure with these animals. One morning the launch ran into a herd that was bathing in the river. The animals were so frightened that the natives were able to catch a young one. Its screams attracted the rest of the herd, but by that time the boat had gotten too far down stream for them to catch up. The little fellow was brought on board and became quite friendly with the natives. Unfortunately, one of the natives had cut his proboscis (trunk) during the capture and he died several days later.
On the same day a large female elephant was killed, and as it was growing late they decided to stop for the night. The elephant was cut up, a big fire lighted, and a big feast began. The following is what Livingstone wrote in his diary about how they cooked the elephant: “We had the elephant’s forefoot cooked for ourselves in native fashion. A large hole was dug in the ground, in which a fire was made: and when the inside was thoroughly heated, the entire foot was placed in it, and covered over with the hot ashes and soil; another fire was made above the whole, and kept burning all night. We had the foot thus cooked for breakfast next morning, and found it delicious. It is a whitish mass, slightly gelatinous, and sweet, like marrow. A long march, to prevent biliousness ( harm done to the liver from improper digestion), is a wise precaution after a meal of elephant’s foot. Elephant’s trunk and tongue are also good, and, after long simmering, much resemble the hump of a buffalo and the tongue of an ox; but all the other meat is tough and, from its peculiar flavor, only to be eaten by a hungry man. The quantities of meat our men devour is quite astounding. They boil as much as their pots will hold, and eat till it becomes physically impossible for them to stow away any more. An uproarious dance follows, accompanied with stentorian (extremely loud) song. And as soon as they have shaken their first course down, and washed off the sweat and dust of the after performance, they go to work to roast more; a short snatch of sleep succeeds, and they are up and at it again; all night long it is boil and eat, roast and devour, with a few brief interludes of sleep.”
The Portuguese had introduced rum into the country through which Livingstone was now traveling. This in connection with the slave trade was having extremely degrading effects among the people. One chief remarked that the white men were greatly favored by their God, who was so kind as to send them guns and powder from heaven, and to cause rivers of rum to flow through their country all the year round. He said he would like to live on the banks of such a river.
The expedition proceeded up the Zambesi more than three hundred miles, to the head of the river. From there they proceeded riding oxen, donkeys, and on foot to a place where there was a very dense jungle. Here their attention was attracted by ferocious yelping like dogs fighting. Livingstone walked forward to where he could hear the sound and was astonished to behold a troop of dogs wrangling over the remains of a buffalo, which they had killed and already nearly devoured. This was a very strange sight to him, for he had never seen a dog in Africa before.
This particular dog had a large head and jaws of great power; the ears were long, the color black and yellow in patches, with a white tuft at the tip of the tail. They hunt their game in packs, and perseveringly follow the animal they first start with till they bring it down. Some of the natives remembered that people had used the dogs for hunting and drove them like a herd of goats, but kept them in a pit for safety. Somehow the dogs must have gotten loose and formed a wild pack.
The explorers continued their journey along the banks of the Zambesi until the Zongwe river was reached and they went by canoes nearly fifty miles, crossing the country again to Victoria Falls. (Picture of the falls today at bottom of text. Thanks to Livingstone coming back and telling about them, they became a big tourist attraction of people from all over the world). Livingstone quickly asked about the fate of the people of the Mabotsa mission there and for the chief Sekeletu. He was told the Sekeletu was fatally afflicted with leprosy and his tribe was totally lost because of his helpless condition. The people believed he was bewitched and would not follow him any longer. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Helmore, who had succeeded Livingstone at the mission had also died of fever and most of the work he had painstakingly tried to achieve there was lost.
There was nothing now to detain him in that country, as the fate of the mission destroyed all hope of any good coming from further Christian labors in that district. While he was there he wanted to visit Victoria Falls again, thinking that he may never see it again, and then they left in the canoes and descended down the rapids. While going down the stream, which was very dangerous, an old native offered his services to pray for their safe passage for a small fee. His offer was declined, and when the canoes safely descended through the chasm of boiling water, there was great surprise on the faces of the natives.
When they reached an eddy under the cliffs, they found a large number of hippos that were playing together. He shot one of them so that the others would be afraid of them and let them pass in the canoes. Just about the time they were going by, a number of crocodiles came up from out of the water and seized the dead hippo. Livingstone was continually amazed at the animals and their habits in Africa.
A few nights afterward as they were camped at a small stream, they heard a shrill cry for help. They ran quickly and found that a woman had been caught by a crocodile; they seized a boat and pushed off to the rescue, but just as they were almost within reach of her she gave a horrible shriek: the horrible reptile had snapped off her leg at the knee. Mangled and fainting she was carried to the village. They tried to put back on her leg, but she soon died.
Victoria Falls is truly one of the world’s natural wonders. The falls just seem to fall into a fissure in the earth and no one really knows what happens to them. As the aerial picture shows, there is land all the way around them, and even a road that you can see faintly on the right side. David Livingstone was mesmerized by them and it was true thanks to him that the world knew about them. This picture is what they look like today.