Page:Africa (Volume I).djvu/55

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29
EXPLORATION.

In our days geographical results are no carefully recorded that there can be no doubt as to the routes followed by travellers in the interior, and we are enabled, at least roughly, to truce the network of the itineraries by which our knowledge of the continent bus been enlarged. During the lust hundred years—that is, since the foundation in 1788 of the English Society for the exploration of Africa whose first heroes and victims were Mungo Park and Homemann—the whole continent has been sevcml times crossed from sea to sea. Livingstone, Cameron, Stanley, Serpa Pinto, Massari, Wissmann, Buonfanti, have all performed this exploit, while scores of other less distinguished explorers have penetrated in some directions thousands of miles from the seaboard. Nor is mere distance always a measure of the importance of these expeditions, and many trips of short duration deserve to find a place in the records of African discovery. Sufficient data have already been obtained to prepare complete maps of certain coastlands, such as the Cape, the Nile Delta, Tunis, Algeria, while the list of positions astronomically determined comprises several thousand names, and is daily increasing. Scarcely a week passes without bringing the news of some fresh geographical conquest. The routes of explorers are so interlaced, and overlap each other at so many points, that few blank spaces of great extent remain to be filled up; and even in the unexplored regions enough is known of the general trend of rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges to at least facilitate the work of future expeditions.

At present the greatest extent of terra incognita lies parallel with the equator north of the Ogowé and Congo, stretching from the Crystal Mountains and those of Mfumbiro and Gambaragara, between the Nile and Congo basins. It comprises an area of at least 400,000 square miles, or about the thirtieth part of the whole continent. But it is already being approached from several points around its periphery, and so recently as December, 1883, the last link was completed of the permanent stations reaching by the Congo route from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. The continent is now traversed from shore to shore by a continuous line of exploration.

The whole of Africa might perhaps have already been discovered had all the white explorers made the way easy for their successors by considerate treatment of the natives. By their humane conduct men like Speke, Livingstone, Barth, Piaggia, Gessi, Schweinfurth, Emin-Bey, ward off dangers from those following in their footsteps; but, on the other hand, many needless obstacles have been created by the threats and violence of less sympathetic pioneers. At the same time it must be confessed that whatever policy they may adopt, all alike are mistrusted by the aborigines, who have too often good reason for regarding them as forerunners of warlike expeditions. Thus even the best of Europeans are in some respects necessarily considered as hostile, their very success inviting the presence of less scrupulous followers. How often must the humane explorer, while accepting the hospitality of some native chief, reflect with feelings akin to remorse on the future which he is preparing for his generous hosts! However unintentionally, he loads the way for the trader and the soldier, thereby insuring the ruin of his friendly entertainers. To justify himself in his own eyes, he is