Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/304

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98 MUNGO PARK.


himself everyway worthy of this appointment, and made an adequate return to his distinguished patron, by the valuable observations and discoveries he made in botany, and other branches of natural history, in a voyage to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra. On his return in 1794, being then only twenty-three years old, he had the honour of reading a paper before the Linnaean Society in London, giving a description of eight new species of fishes he had observed in Sumatra, which was afterwards published in the Transactions of the Society.

After leaving the Worcester, Mr Park appears to have had no certain or fixed views as to his future career, but his talents and genius had already distinguished him too much to allow him to remain long unemployed. The wealthy and scientific Association for the Promotion of Discovery through the Interior of Africa, were at that time preparing to send out an expedition, with the view of endeavouring to trace the course of the Niger, and procuring every information relative to the great central city of Timbuctoo, of which little more than the name was then known. Sir Joseph Banks, one of the leading men of the As- sociation, immediately pointed out Park as one peculiarly eligible for taking the management of the expedition, and the offer being accordingly made to him, was eagerly accepted. He immediately prepared himself, therefore, for the task, being liberally supplied, according to his own statement, with the means of furnishing himself with everything he reckoned necessary, and sailed from Portsmouth on the 22nd of May, 1795, in the brig Endeavour. His in- structions were, to proceed to the Niger by the nearest and most convenient route, and endeavour to trace its course, from its rise to its termination ; as also to visit, if possible, all the principal towns and cities on its banks, parti- cularly Timbuctoo and Houssa, and afterwards return to Europe by the river Gambia, or any other way he thought advisable. He arrived at Jillifica, in the kingdom of Barra, and lying on the northern bank of the Gambia, on the 21st of June; and after proceeding up the river as far as Jonkakonda, he quitted the Endeavour, and proceeded by land to a small British factory, which had been established at Pisania, in the king of Yam's territories, where he took up his residence for a short time with Dr Laidley. He immediately applied himself to the study of the Mandingo tongue, and to collect all the information possible, relative to the various people and countries in the interior, preparatory to his journey. In consequence, however, of exposure to the night dew, while observing an eclipse of the moon, in the month of July, he was seized with fever, attended with delirium, which brought him almost to the grave ; nor was he sufficiently recovered to commence his journey till December. On the 2nd of that month he set out, having for his escort a negro servant, named Johnson, who had resided many years in Great Britain, and understood both the English and Mandingo languages, as a guide and interpreter ; a negro boy belonging to Dr Laidley, and whom that gentleman promised to set free on his return, in the event of his good conduct ; with four others, not immediately under his control, but who were made to understand that their own safety depended upon their fidelity to him. It may be interesting also to notice the nature and value of his equipments for a journey of such length, peril, and importance. These consisted of a horse for himself, two asses for his servants, provisions for two days, a small assortment of beads, amber, and tobacco, a few changes of linen and other apparel, an umbrella, a pocket sextant, a magnetic compass, a ther- mometer, two fowling-pieces, two pairs of pistols, and a few other trifling ar- ticles. Such were all the means of sustenance, comfort, and safety, with \\hich this intrepid man was provided for an expedition, the duration of which it was out of his power to calculate, but whose route, he well knew, lay, in some places, through pathless deserts, where neither tree grew, nor water ran, and