1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elgon

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ELGON, also known as Masawa, an extinct volcano in British East Africa, cut by 1° N. and 341/2° E., forming a vast isolated mass over 40 m. in diameter. The outer slopes are in great measure precipitous on the north, west and south, but fall more gradually to the east. The southern cliffs are remarkable for extensive caves, which have the appearance of water-worn caves on a coast line and have for ages served as habitations for the natives. The higher parts slope gradually upwards to the rim of an old crater, lying somewhat north of the centre of the mass, and measuring some 8 m. in diameter. The highest point of the rim is about 14,100 ft. above the sea. Steep spurs separated by narrow ravines run out from the mountain, affording the most picturesque scenery. The ravines are traversed by a great number of streams, which flow north-west and west to the Nile (through Lake Choga), south and south-east to Victoria Nyanza, and north-east to Lake Rudolf by the Turkwell, the head-stream of which rises within the crater, breaking through a deep cleft in its rim. To the north-west of the mountain a grassy plain, swampy in the rains, falls towards the chain of lakes ending in Choga; towards the north-east the country becomes more arid, while towards the south it is well wooded. The outer slopes are clothed in their upper regions with dense forest formed in part of bamboos, especially towards the south and west, in which directions the rainfall is greater than elsewhere. The lower slopes are exceptionally fertile on the west, and produce bananas in abundance. On the north-west and north the region between 6000 and 7000 ft. possesses a delightful climate, and is well watered by streams of ice-cold water. The district of Save on the north is a halting-place for Arab and Swahili caravans going north. On the west the slopes are densely inhabited by small Bantu-Negro tribes, who style their country Masawa (whence the alternative name for the mountain); but on the south and north there are tribes which seem akin to the Gallas. Of these, the best known are the El-gonyi, from whom the name Elgon has been derived. They formerly lived almost entirely in the caves, but many of them have descended to villages at the foot of the mountain. Elgon was first visited in 1883 by Joseph Thomson, who brought to light the cave-dwellings on the southern face. It was crossed from north to south, and its crater reached, in 1890 by F. J. Jackson and Ernest Gedge, while the first journey round it was made by C. W. Hobley in 1896.  (E. He.)