Stanley Meets Livingstone

The American journalist's harrowing 1871 quest to find England's most celebrated explorer is also a story of newfound fascination with Africa, the growing power of newspapers and the United States' emergence as a world power

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 5)


History had never known an explorer like Roderick Impey Murchison. His legacy laid the groundwork for the spread of the British Empire. His peers named 23 topographical features on six continents in his honor—waterfalls, rivers, mountains, glaciers and even an island.


Livingstone’s absence consumed Murchison. He longed for his friend to return. Murchison had vowed he would not be laid to rest until that great day came. “I will then,” the old showman had promised, “take leave of you in the fullness of my heart.”


Ujiji, Tanganyika, November 10, 1871—The Herald caravan had set forth before dawn on what Stanley hoped would be the last hours of its mission. They had still to cross over a mountain, but Stanley didn’t care. He just wanted to get to Ujiji. But the view from the summit had taken his breath away. Lake Tanganyika sparkled below like a silver sea. “In a few minutes we shall have reached the spot where we imagine the objects of our search,” he wrote. “Our fate will soon be decided. No one in the town knows we are coming.”


A mile from town, Stanley ordered the American colors raised. “The flags are fluttered, the banner of America is in front waving joyfully,” Stanley wrote. The sound of muskets firing and horns blowing filled the air. “Never were the Stars and Stripes so beautiful in my mind.”


As Stanley entered Ujiji, thousands of people pressed around the caravan. Livingstone had been sitting on a straw mat on the mud veranda of his small house, pondering his woeful future, when he heard the commotion. Now Livingstone got slowly to his feet. Above the throngs of people, he saw the American flag snapping in the breeze and porters bearing an incredible assortment of goods: bales of cloth, huge kettles, tents. “This must be a luxurious traveler,” Livingstone thought. “And not one at wit’s end like me.”


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus