1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bangweulu

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BANGWEULU, a shallow lake of British Central Africa, formed by the head streams of the Congo. It lies between 10° 38′ and 11° 31′ S. and is cut by 30° E. Bangweulu occupies the north-west part of a central basin in an extensive plateau, and is about 3700 ft. above the sea. The land slopes gently to the depression from the south, east and north, and into it drain a considerable number of streams, turning the greater part into a morass of reeds and papyrus. The term Bangweulu is sometimes applied to the whole depression, but is properly confined to the area of clear water. Only on its south-west and western sides are the banks of the lake clearly defined. The greatest extent of open water is about 60 m. N. to S. and 40 m. E. to W. Long narrow sandbanks almost separate Chifunawuli, the western pan of the lake, from the main body of water, while the water surface is further diminished by a number of islands. The largest of these islands, Kirui (Chiru), lies on the east side of the lake close to the swamp. Kisi (Chishi) is a small island occupying a central position just south of 11° S., and Mbawali, 20 m. long by 3 broad, lies south of Kisi. South of Bangweulu the swamp extends to 12° 10′ S. Into this swamp on its east side flows the Chambezi, the most remote head stream of the Congo. Without entering the lake the Chambezi mingles its waters in the swamp with those of the Luapula. The Luapula, which leaves Bangweulu at its most southern point, is about a mile wide at the outflow, but soon narrows to 300 or so yds. West of the Luapulu and near its outflow lies Lake Kampolombo, 20 m. long and 8 broad at its southern end. A sandy track separates Bangweulu from Kampolombo, and a narrow forest-clad tongue of land called Kapata intervenes between the Luapula and Kampolombo. Various channels lead, however, from the river to the lake. The Luapula flows south through the swamp some 50 m. and then turns west and afterwards north (see Congo). The flood waters of the Chambezi and other streams, which deposit large quantities of alluvium, are gradually solidifying the swamp, while the Luapula is believed to be, though very slowly, draining Bangweulu. The waters of the lake do not appear to be anywhere more than 15 ft. deep.

Though heard of by the Portuguese traveller, Francisco de Lacerda, in 1798, Bangweulu was first reached in 1868 by David Livingstone, who died six years later among the swamps to the south. It was partially surveyed in 1883 by the French traveller, Victor Giraud, and first circumnavigated by Poulett Weatherley in 1896.

See P. Weatherley in Geog. Journ. vol. xii. (1898) and vol. xiv. p. 561 (1899). L. A. Wallace in Geog. Journ. vol. xxix. (1907), with map by O. L. Beringer. Giraud’s Les Lacs de l’Afrique équatoriale (Paris, 1890) and Livingstone’s Last Journals (1874) may also be consulted.