Dr. Livingstone and his party ascended a branch of this river, the "Shire," and he gives some account of the people and things along its banks, thus:
"So far as we can ascertain, this river has never been explored by Europeans before. One part of the luxuriant valley of the Shire is marshy and abounding in lagoons, in which grow great quantities of the lotus plant. The people were busy collecting the tubers, which when boiled or roasted, resembled chestnuts. They are thus real Lotophagi, such as are mentioned by Herodotus. Another part of the valley abounded in elephants. Herd upon herd appeared as far as the eye could reach; and noble animals they were. "We sometimes chased them in our little steamer; for the Shire branches off occasionally, and forms islands.
The upper part of the valley is well peopled, and many of the hills are cultivated high up. But never having seen Europeans before, they looked on us with great suspicion. They watched us constantly, well armed with bows and poisoned arrows, ready to repel any attack, but no incivility was offered when we landed, nor were our wooding parties molested. The greatest coward fires first; so, thinking we had as much pluck as they, we did not lift a gun, though we saw them ever-ready to fire, or rather shoot. We did nothing to make us ashamed to return, and if we have their confidence, we may go further. They had abundance of provisions and sold them at a cheap rate; also cotton of two kinds—one indigenous, short in the staple, but very strong and woolly to the feeling—the other very fine and long in the staple. We brought in number of specimens of their spindles and yam, and, as it was quite equal to American upland cotton, did not offer them any American seed. The cotton plant is met with everywhere, and though burned down annually, springs up again as fresh and strong us ever. They grow sugar cane too, bananas, manioc, etc. The men are said by the Portuguese to be very intelligent, but very wild. The women wear the lip ornament, which is a ring, about four inches in circumference, and nearly a quarter of an inch thick, passing through a hole in the lower lip, which is thus made to protrude frightfully. I am thus particular, [the doctor is somewhat waggish], in case our own ladies, who show a noble perseverance when fashion dictates, may wish to adopt lip ornaments."
Of the climate, and the health of the party, Dr. Livingstone, in conclusion, writes as follows:
“We were warned by the fate of the Niger expedition not to delay among the mangrove swamps of the delta-the very hot-beds of fever. We accordingly made all haste away, and we took daily a quantity of quinine. The period of the year which I selected, though not the most favorable for navigation, was the most so for health, and thank God our precautions were successful. The Kroomen [African sailors recruited into the British Navy], from Sierra Leone have had more of it than we, until a short time ago, when it was the most unhealthy season of the year even to the natives. Three of us have had touches of the complaint, but are all now quite well. I have never had a day's illness since my return. We find, too, that, so far from Europeans being unable to work in a hot climate, it is the want of work that kills them. The Portuguese all know that so long as they are moving about, they enjoy good health but let them settle down, and smoke, or drink brandy, fever follows and the blame is all put on the climate."
This letter was written in acknowledgment of the author's election as a corresponding member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society.
[Scientific American, January 21, 1860]
“DR. LIVINGSTONE, I PRESUME?”
The public interest in the Scottish missionary and scientist grew after he “disappeared” from (European) view, and he was tracked down by journalist Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald in November 1871. The famous greeting may or may not have been uttered, but the news that the journalist brought back was eagerly devoured by the public of the day. Scientific American reported on one of Stanley’s lectures: