MoboReader > Literature > Ismailia

   Chapter 6 THE START.

Ismailia By Sir Samuel White Baker Characters: 60422

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

December 11.-The first division of the fleet, composed of eight vessels, had started, according to my previous arrangement, on 1st inst. Every third or fourth day another division followed the advance, until on the 11th I brought up the rear, and completed the departure with twenty-six vessels, including the No. 10 steamer and my diahbeeah. The wind was fair from the north.

The extensive and neat station of Tewfikeeyah was completely dismantled. The iron magazines and their contents were now safely stowed in the various ships, and were already on their voyage towards Gondokoro. The horses were shipped and the stables had been pulled down, and the wood cut up for fuel. The long rows of white tents had vanished, and little remained of the station except a few rows of deserted huts. It seemed extraordinary that so large a place could be packed up and stowed away among the fifty-nine vessels of the fleet.

The English shipwrights had constructed three very useful boats, each exactly the same size, about 16 ft. x 5 ft.; thus we had a total of seven small boats to assist in the explorations of the obstructed river.

I left the Shillook country at peace. Djiaffer Pacha had paid much attention to the sons of Quat Kare at Khartoum, and the Khedive, in reply to my representations, had appointed him chief of the country in place of the pretender Jangy. The governor of Fashoda had been condemned to disgrace. I left a handsome present for the old king Quat Kare, and we departed excellent friends. The English party had been reduced by the departure of Mr. Wood, Dr. Gedge, and two servants.

We had been deeply grieved by the sad news of the death of Dr. Gedge, at Khartoum, a few days before we broke up the station of Tewfikeeyah. This unfortunate gentleman was a great loss to the expedition, as he was not only my chief medical officer, but combined the scientific attainments of a botanist and naturalist.

I had made every preparation for cutting through the sudd, and we were well prepared with many hundred sharp bill-hooks, switching-hooks, bean-hooks, sabres, &c. I had also some hundred miners' spades, shovels, &c., in case it might be necessary to deepen the shallows. While the whole English party were full of spirit and determined to succeed, I regret to say there was a general feeling of disappointment among the Egyptian troops (including officers) that the expedition was once again in full sail towards the south. Their hearts were either at Khartoum, or sighing for the flesh-pots of Egypt. I had lost many men from sickness during our sojourn at Tewfikeeyah, and the men were disheartened and depressed. This feeling was increased by the unfortunate recurrence of the fast of Ramadan, during which month the Mohammedans will neither eat, drink, nor smoke from sunrise till sunset. The Koran exempts them from the observance of this pernicious fast when on a long journey, but my people preferred to keep it religiously, as it would be a plausible excuse for neglecting work.

The Nile was full and unusually high; this was in favour of the voyage, as success depended upon our crossing the shallows during the flood; it was, therefore, necessary to push on with all speed so as to reach the shallows which had been impassable last April, before the river should fall.

It will now be necessary to refer to my original journal, as it would be difficult to convey an idea of the voyage by a general description. A few hours after starting, on 11th December 1870, I find this entry:-"Thank goodness, we are off, and in good time, as the river is exceedingly high, although it has already fallen about five inches from its maximum. Mr. Higginbotham has been ill for a long time. Lieutenant-Colonel Abd-el-Kader, my first aide-de-camp, although an excellent officer, is almost useless from ill-health; thus the whole work falls on myself and Julian (Lieutenant Baker) personally, and had I not driven the officers forward from sunrise to sunset, we should not have been off for another two months. These miserable people do not understand energy, and the Ramadan increases their incapacity.

"December 12.-At 2.30 A.M., we were hailed when ten minutes within the Bahr Giraffe, by two noggurs (vessels) in distress. Stopped the steamer immediately, and then heard that the No. 15 noggur, their consort, had sunk in deep water, close to this spot.

"At day-break I searched the river, and discovered the wreck in eighteen feet depth of water. Two good divers worked for about two hours, and recovered three muskets and several copper cooking pots belonging to the soldiers. The story of the reis (captain) is, that she sprang a plank at about 4 A.M., six days ago, while under sail with a light wind, and she filled and sank immediately, the men having barely time to save themselves. Unfortunately, she had on board, in addition to one hundred urdeps of corn (450 bushels), a section of one of Samuda's steel lifeboats; this was placed upon the corn, before the mast, but having an air-tight compartment, it must have floated away in the dark without being noticed.

"The story of the reis is false; there can be no doubt that the crew and soldiers were fast asleep, and the vessel was run into by one of her consorts. Had the people been awake, the least movement of the helm would have run the vessel high and dry in this narrow river, as the banks are flooded, and she was close to the side. As the collision occurred, the people, suddenly awakened from sleep, were seized with panic, and only thought of saving themselves; thus the noggur lies in three-fathom water, and the invaluable section of a lifeboat is lost. The worry and disappointment, together with the loss of property, occasioned by these people, is beyond all description. Every man detests the expedition. The boats are nearly all old and rotten, and with such wretched material I have to conduct this fleet with 30,000l. worth of property. I dread the probable loss of some vessel laden with sections of the lake steamers, in which case the expedition would be ruined in spite of all my care. I trust that the floating portion of the life boat may be picked up by some of Agad's vessels in the rear.

"Leaving the hopeless wreck, we continued the voyage at 10.50 A.M., in company with the two noggurs, with a brisk north wind. At 5.20 P.M., we stopped at a forest to collect firewood.

"December 14.-Started at 7.30 A.M. Thermometer, Fahrenheit, at 6 A.M., 67 degrees; noon, 85 degrees. This is the lowest temperature we have had.

"Passed a number of our vessels, one having broken her yard. At 12.5 stopped at a forest to fill up with wood. While looking for wood, a soldier found a dead elephant with tusks that weighed about 120 lbs. I gave him a present of five dollars, also one dollar to Saat for having recovered from the sunken vessel the cooking pots and muskets.

"Wind very strong from north. The north wind always commences at about 7 A.M. and increases in power as the sun rises. It sinks together with the setting sun. Although the country is all that we could wish, there is no game. The water-marks upon the trees show that the maximum of the river has been a foot above its present level.

"December 16.-Suleiman Effendi's diahbeeah with six horses passed this morning; he left in company with us, as did also the new noggur that passed us yesterday morning; thus there must be gross negligence on the part of the twenty-one vessels still remaining in the rear. Thermometer, 6 A.M., 69 degrees; noon, 88 degrees. We shot seven guinea-fowl.

"December 17.-I see four vessels about six miles ahead that are only now making sail! thus they have been stopping for two days. In the afternoon the two diahbeeahs of the Englishmen came up, and gave us the terrible news that one of the vessels had sunk near the mouth of the river Sobat on the day of our departure from Tewfikeeyah; this vessel was laden with portions of the 38-ton steamer.

"I immediately ordered steam to be got up, and at 4.20 P.M. we started to return 120 miles to the wreck. It appears that Raouf Bey, with many other vessels, was in company with the lost noggur. To work in this country is simply heart-breaking; the material is utterly worthless, boats, officers, and men are all alike. The loss of invaluable time is ruinous, and the ignorance of the people is such that they can do nothing by themselves; thus I must be everywhere and superintend everything personally.

"The boatmen say the rats drag out the rags with which the vessels are caulked from within, thus occasioning sudden and dangerous leaks; but in such a case, why does not the captain run his vessel ashore to prevent sinking?

"Before starting, I despatched a letter by a vessel to Suleiman Effendi at the sudd, with orders to commence clearing the channel without loss of time.

"At 7.40 P.M. made out a light ahead, and shortly afterwards we met Raouf Bey's diahbeeah tied to the bank alongside of Achmet Effendi, the bimbashi's vessel. Raouf Bey came on board and confirmed the bad news. They describe the sunken vessel as lying with her stem about a foot below the surface, but her stern is in very deep water. I gave orders for steam to be up at daylight, and we halted for the night, as it is dangerous to travel down stream with a steamer in this narrow winding river.

"December 18.-Started at 6.25 A.M. Then, 68 degrees; noon, 81 degrees. At noon we met Colonel Tayib Agha and twelve vessels. I ordered three of these vessels to turn back immediately to the wreck, as I am determined to raise her, if possible.

"At 12.37 P.M. we reached the spot where we had passed the first wreck in the Bahr Giraffe. At exactly 2 P.M. we reached the Nile junction. At 6.50 P.M. we distinguished the mast of the wreck above water, almost opposite the Sobat junction, on the west side of the river. Having passed the wreck we reached our old station Tewfikeeyah at 7.30 P.M. Here we found a number of Shillooks, with Quat Kare's counsellor, Abdullah, who were guarding a quantity of corn that I had left in the king's charge, as our vessels were too heavily laden to carry it.

"December 19.-Thermometer, 6 A.M., 64 degrees; noon, 79 degrees. I sent Abdullah with orders to the king, Quat Kare, to collect all his people with their ambatch canoes to assist us in raising the wreck.

"The Shillooks have already taken possession of our old station, and have divided it into lots for planting.

"December 20.-Thermometer at 6 A.M. 66 degrees; noon, 78 degrees; the water in the goolah (cooler), 59 degrees. The wind blows a gale from the north daily.

"I have just heard that Raouf Bey and the two colonels, Tayib Agha and Achmet Effendi, together with about 400 men, actually abandoned, not only the wrecked vessel and her invaluable cargo, but they also left a section of one of the lifeboats upon the mud bank of the river and forsook it. Such conduct is incredible, and could only be found in this country.

"At 3.15 P.M., the steamer having replenished her wood, we started and arrived at the wreck at 4.35 P.M. After a careful examination we passed the night at the high ground near the Sobat junction.

"The section of the lifeboat is no longer on the mud, but I have no doubt it has been secured by the governor of Fashoda, together with the yard and sail. This entails the necessity of my sending him a letter seventy miles distant to order the return of the boat section immediately.

"December 21.-Thermometer at 6 A.M., 63 degrees; water in goolah, 52 degrees. I sent Abdullah Uz Bashi to Tewfikeeyah with a letter to the governor of Fashoda, which the Shillooks were to forward immediately. The letter demands eight oxen, ten sheep, the section of lifeboat saved from the wreck, together with the yard and sail.

"I shot two small antelopes, also some guinea-fowl, francolin partridge, and five pelicans.

"December 22.-Waiting for the arrival of Quat Kare and his Shillooks. Shot two geese and knocked over a large antelope, but lost him in the high grass. The country is all flooded, except for a space of about a mile from our little camp on the Sobat dubba, which is the highest ground for a great distance, being about fourteen feet above the maximum level of the river. A few Shillooks started off after my wounded antelope, and quickly brought me the head: it was a fine specimen of the new species of Hippotragus.

"December 23.-I sent the steamer up the White Nile to bring down the wind-bound kyassas (vessels). When she returned with them, all hands were immediately employed in discharging cargo and taking down masts and yards in readiness for operations on the sunken vessel.

"December 21.-Thermometer, 6 A.M., 67 degrees; noon, 82 degrees. Abdullah, the Shillook, arrived. The natives have not forwarded my letter to the governor of Fashoda, as they fear to pass certain villages with which they have been lately quarrelling. To-day is the close of the Ramadan fast, and the first of the Bairam, therefore it is kept as a holiday. All my people have turned out in new clothes.

"December 25.-Christmas Day. Thermometer, 6 A.M., 65 degrees. We began work at the sunken vessel. By filling the barges with water and sinking them within a foot of the surface, and then securing them by chains to the wreck, we obtained a firm hold. The water having been baled out of the barges, they gradually rose and lifted the vessel several feet. Having thus raised her, we hauled her a few feet nearer the bank, and the day's work concluded by proving that with care and additional force we shall be able to manage her.

"December 26.-We continued the same operations as those of yesterday. Having lashed the masts of the barges transversely across the gun-wales, to these we attached chains secured by divers beneath the bottom of the wreck. This was not possible yesterday until we had lifted her from the ground. At the same time that we were thus engaged, the men, by diving; secured ropes to the heavier pieces of iron sections, and we saved several tons of her cargo, which we placed upon the steamer and upon my diahbeeah. This lightened the wreck, and we then prepared a bed for her by cutting away the abrupt bank, and forming a shelf on the flooded shore in a depth of three feet of water, upon which we might be able to haul her when floated to the surface. We laid out the steamer's purchase with an anchor secured upon the shore, and the day ended successfully by hauling the wreck exactly parallel to the bank, with her stem and stern-post above the surface. As the current was very powerful, the bow of the wreck had throughout the operation been firmly secured by two anchors laid out up stream. It is very hard work, as we are in the sun from early morning till night. Julian (Lieutenant Baker), being a sailor, is just the fellow for this sort of work, and no other person knows how to make fast the ropes and chains so that they shall not slip. Higginbotham, as usual, is very energetic. Colonel Abd-el-Kader, who is my only reliable Egyptian officer, has been diving all day like a wild duck, and bringing up heavy boxes of rivets which few men but himself can lift. Altogether the men have worked famously, especially the black soldiers.

"December 27.-Julian is laid up with fever to-day; this is the effect of daily exposure to the sun. I laid out the steamer's second purchase at right angles fastened to the bow of the wreck; we thus had her bow and stern secured in the same manner. Having manned both purchases, we could manage her as she became lighter. About 250 Shillooks came to assist us under the command of old Quat Kare, who sat in his canoe and directed his people. Having lightened the vessel by taking out more cargo, I divided the labour; Higginbotham sinking two kyassas and making them fast as lifters, while other men cut away the flooded bank with spades and improved the shelf.

"After breakfast, the sunken kyassas being well-secured to the wreck with chains, we baled them out for the last time, and the vessel thus supported came bodily to the surface. All hands now hauled on the purchases, while the Shillooks, with screams and yells, tugged at four ropes fastened amidships, and we succeeded in dragging the vessel from the river's bed, and placing her upon the new shelf that we had prepared for her in little more than three feet of water. During this time many men had been baling out with large buckets, and now that she was safe, a general rush was made on board to empty the water with every conceivable utensil-gourd-shells, basins, cooking pots, &c.

"When baled out, we discovered and stopped the leaks, and floated her. She was one of the largest and finest vessels of the fleet, perfectly new, and was laden with steamer sections and machinery, the loss of which would have been fatal to the object of the expedition.

"I ran a flag up the mast as a signal to those at the station that she was safe. I then ordered the steamer to light her fires, and the wreck, together with the two kyassas and my diahbeeah, were taken in tow, and delivered at the bank that we had made our head-quarters. Thus we have happily saved the vessel and cargo that had been so disgracefully abandoned, when a large force was at hand to have assisted her.

"During the morning, a vessel arrived from Khartoum, laden with goods on speculation, from a French trader of my acquaintance, Monsieur Jules Poncet. She also brought the section of the lifeboat which my officers had neglected on the wreck, and which the governor had taken to Fashoda.

"December 28.-I sent the steamer to Fashoda for the sail and yard of the wrecked vessel. All hands are engaged in caulking ship, re-hoisting yards, rigging, &c., and refitting. Thermometer, 6 A.M., 66 degrees; noon, 81 degrees.

"December 29.-Thermometer, 6 A.M., 66 degrees; noon, 81 degrees. Julian and Higginbotham both ill with fever. Vessels progressing.

"December 30.-I shot a water-buck at daybreak (Redunca Ellipsyprimna). Yesterday evening, Quat Kare and his two favourite wives came to take leave. I gave him a musical box and a meerschaum pipe, with a lovely woman's face carved on the bowl. He was very much amused with the idea of the smoke issuing from the head. I also gave his wives some grey calico, red handkerchiefs, and gaudy ear-rings. They went away delighted.

"At 9 P.M., the steamer's boat came up to report her arrival at Tewfikeeyah. I immediately sent off a kyassa to join her for a cargo of wood.

"December 31.-The steamer arrived with the kyassa in tow at 11 A.M., with an immense supply of wood, together with ten oxen and ten sheep from Fashoda. The wreck will be taken in tow by the steamer, as her yard was taken on the day of the accident by Colonel Tayib Agha. She is now the most valuable vessel in the fleet. The new year 1871 commences well.

"January 1st, 1871.-At 1.30 P.M., I started the kyassas, having kept back twenty men from their complement of troops to man the vessel we have saved. Abdullah, the Shillook, came, and I gave him an order to receive half the corn that I left at Tewfikeeyah. This is a reward for Quat Kare, for having assisted to raise the sunken vessel with his people. The extraordinary rise in the river this season has destroyed a large portion of the Shillook crops, therefore the present of corn will be most acceptable to the old king.

"January 2.-At 8.35 A.M., we started in tow of the steamer. Wind fresh from the north. At 2.40 P.M. we passed the second of the three noggurs that sailed yesterday, and at 3 P.M. we passed the third exactly at the Giraffe junction. We have thus been six hours and twenty-five minutes from the Sobat to the Giraffe junction. Thermometer, 6 A.M., 66 degrees; noon, 86 degrees.

"January 3.-Last midnight stopped at a forest cutting wood; we started at 3.50 P.M. One of the rear boats came in sight at 11 A.M., which reached us at 3.40 P.M.

"January 4.-At 5.50 A.M. we actually overtook the nine vessels with Tayib Agha that we had left seventeen days ago; these miserable people have thus been wasting their time. The trading vessel of Jules Poncet, that left the Sobat only six days ago, is in sight ahead; thus she has in six days passed the boats that have been twenty-four days from the same starting-point. I took the sail belonging to the wrecked noggur from one, and passed ahead of all, except one that I kept back for repairs while we cut wood at the forest.

"January 5.-Arrived at Kutchuk Ali's station at 10.30 A.M., and took in wood. The country is all flooded, and both the natives and the traders are without corn, the crops having been destroyed by the extraordinary rise of the river. The people have no other grain than the scanty supply yielded by the seeds of the lotus, which they collect from the river. I met several men who had formerly served under Ibrahim, when we accompanied Khoorshood Agha's party to Unyoro many years ago.

"January 6.-Cutting wood. I wrote to Colonel Tayib Agha, desiring him to take in as much fuel as his vessels can stow, as there is no wood ahead. The vakeel of the station supplied five cows and six goats. I gave him five urdeps of dhurra (22 bushels). We started at 4 P.M.

"January 7.-During the night, at 12.40 A.M., to my intense disgust, we passed a great number of our vessels with Raouf Bey. Shortly after, we passed others, together with the boat of Achmet Effendi, bimbashi. These officers and people are incorrigible; they have idled their time on the road to such an extent that I can only conclude it is done purposely. We wasted about an hour during the night in stopping to make inquiries.

"At 11.30 A.M., we passed the solitary ambatch bush on the west bank where the steamer smashed her paddle last year. The wind is strong from the north. Last year we were five hours from the ambatch bush to the dubba. We shall therefore arrive to-day at about 4 P.M. We have been exactly 19 1/2 hours steaming from Kutchuk Ali's station to the ambatch. We left Tewfikeeyah at 11 o'clock; we have therefore been twenty-seven days to the spot at the dubba that we should reach this evening. Last year we left Khartoum on 8th February, and we arrived at the station in the following order:-

"February 15th-Fashoda. 16th-Sobat junction. 18th-Bahr Giraffe junction. March 2nd-arrived at the forest beyond Kutchuk Ali's station. This is the same spot where we overtook Raouf Bey last night, he having left Tewfikeeyah on 11th December. Thus he has been twenty-six days from Tewfikeeyah in reaching the spot this year which he arrived at from the great distance of Khartoum in our former voyage in twenty-two days! Last year the fleet was fourteen days on the voyage from the Sobat to the above spot; this year they have been twenty-six days! I believe thoroughly that they delay purposely, in the hope of thwarting the expedition.

"Last year the whole fleet assembled at the dubba in twenty days from


"We arrived at the dubba at 5.30 P.M., having been delayed two hours by obstructions and rapids.

"January 8.-We cut through a horrid accumulation of floating rafts that have filled the open space of last year between the dubba and the mouth of our old channel. This being completed, I ordered the boats to keep in close line until the arrival of the main body, otherwise the floating rafts would again block up the channel should the boats proceed.

"January 9.-Hauled the dingy over the marsh, and explored the old channel for a distance of fifty minutes. Thank goodness, this was clear to that point, a distance of about two miles; but at length we were stopped by vegetation. The latter is of a light character, and can be easily removed. Clouds of mosquitoes; the dew very heavy at night.

"Shot a Baleniceps Rex, with rifle.

"January 10.-At day-break we distinguished eight sail on the northern horizon.

"January 11.-Brisk north wind. Raouf Bey arrived in the evening.

"January 12.-Started and passed the choked river with much difficulty, and entered the channel of last year's clearing.

"January 13.-We only made about two miles yesterday and to-day, being stopped by vegetation.

"January 14.-Cutting partially, but the channel is much improved since last year. Made two and a half miles.

"January 15.-Made three-quarters of a mile, and having reached the lake Timsah (crocodile lake) we found the river blocked up; we therefore cut our way into an open but shallow channel which last year was impassable from want of depth.

"January 16.-The diahbeeah went ahead, but the steamer and heavy vessels were much delayed by shallows. I went on and determined upon the passage, the open lake being visible about 600 yards distant.

"January 17.-Made about 300 yards of heavy cutting through rafts of vegetation. The lake of last year nearly choked up; about 100 acres of rafts having completely destroyed it.

"January 18.-Cut about 350 yards, and at 3.30 p.m. we entered the lake. From the mast-head it appears that an unbroken sheet of water now exists for some miles. I trust this may be true, and that no mirage deceives us.

"January 19.-Sailed four miles, at which place we found a new channel coming from the south, while our channel of last year from south-east appeared to be closed at half a mile distance. Explored the new channel for about two miles; in appearance it was a river of 200 or 300 yards wide. At length we arrived at a sudd of small dimensions with open water beyond. We returned to the junction, and passed the night at a sudd half a mile up our old channel.

"January 20.-At 7 a.m. I took the dingy, and with much difficulty pushed about a mile through the grass until I found the whole country closed by vegetation. I think the river has opened a new channel, and that the passage of yesterday will take us to nearly the same spot above the sudd that we reached by another route last year.

"Many vessels having arrived, I visited the Englishmen and physicked Ramsall and Mr. Higginbotham. At 4.15 p.m. we started, poling round the angle to enter the new channel discovered yesterday. In the evening we all sailed with a light breeze, and found the river open for three and a half miles ahead. Halted for the night.

"January 21.-The river being closed ahead, I took the dingy, and after much trouble succeeded in reaching our old channel in the clear river. Having started at 7 a.m., I returned at 1 p.m. I had sounded the channel the whole distance, and I have determined to cut a passage through to-morrow.

"January 22.-Cut 350 yards through heavy sudd. Last year this piece was 600 yards. We at length reached the small lake where we last year buried the two artillerymen in an ant-hill.

"January 23.-I took the diahbeeah a mile and a quarter up the river, while the fleet was being squeezed through our spongy channel.

"January 24.-Yesterday the five vessels that were left behind by Raouf

Bey arrived, and the fleet assembled.

"I am in great anxiety about Tayib Agha who has twelve vessels with him, none of which are yet in sight.

"This black colonel is not clever, and should an accident occur, he will be at a loss how to act. Julian is unwell with fever, but Higginbotham is better.

"I went a long way in the dingy, and succeeded in finding the true channel of the stream by probing with the twelve-foot pole through the grass. To-morrow we shall begin cutting, as the whole country is closed.

"The tree that marks the open water of last year is about a mile and a half distant. There is a solitary dry spot near this, the heart of desolation-a tumulus of about half an acre, like the back of a huge tortoise, is raised about five feet above the highest water level. Upon this crocodiles love to bask in undisturbed sleep.

"January 25.-The men cut about 300 yards.

"January 26.-We again accomplished about 300 yards, and pushed the vessels within the channel.

"January 27.-We are thankful for a comparatively open ditch, deep, but covered with grass, through which the diahbeeah cut her path by sailing before a strong breeze, and we entered the lake at 11.20 a.m. There is no change here since last year. The steamer and fleet are close up, but there is a little deepening necessary at the mouth of the channel. The diahbeeah went ahead for six miles along the lake and broad river, and anchored for the night.

"January 28.-With a light breeze, the diahbeeah sailed four miles, and stopped at the three dubbas, whence we turned back last year. Even now there is only three feet and a half of water, and we shall have great trouble. Our fisherman, Howarti, caught a great haul of fine boulti with the casting-net.

"January 29.-I shot some ducks and geese. A slight shower fell in early morning. I explored about seven miles of the river in advance. The depth is very unsatisfactory, varying from shallows to deep channels.

"January 30.-The fleet joined in sections during last night and to-day. Set to work with the long-handled hoes, and cut a channel through the shallows for fifty yards, and took the vessels forward.

"January 31.-Cut a channel through the shallows, but we could not get the steamer along.

"February 1.-About 1,200 men at work cutting a channel and towing the steamer and noggurs through. The diahbeeah and two noggurs passed ahead for about a mile. We then stopped to await the steamer and other vessels that were delayed by the powerful current.

"February 2.-Stopped all day waiting for the steamer about a mile ahead of the noggurs. When we left the dubba, I had left a letter in a bottle, addressed to Tayib Agha, to order him to come on without delay, and deepen the channels we have cut, should it be necessary.

"February 3.-The steamer came up at 10 a.m. At 10.45 the diahbeeah made sail, and after two miles was delayed by a small sudd. Care must be taken to sail by the west branch of the two streams, as there is no water in the east channel.

"For six miles we have had nothing but shallows. Even at this season there is only a depth of four feet in many places, and a month hence the river will be impassable


"Tayib Agha's boats are in sight, about four miles distance, bearing north. We cut through the small sudd, and in a quarter of a mile, we arrived at an open water, very shallow: in many places only three feet deep. Stopped for the fleet, and upon arrival of the steamer and others, I had marked out the channel to be cleared. The men set to work immediately. I then passed ahead with the diahbeeah for about a mile and a half, the depth of water, as usual, varying, but often as low as four feet. We were at length stopped at the confluence of two channels, each shallow. The sun was setting, therefore we halted for the night. A buffalo crossed the river about 200 yards ahead.

"February 4.-I took the dingy early in the morning and explored both channels; that on the right has no water beyond a depth of about two feet. The left is the true stream, but the depth in some places is only three feet; thus there is more work for the men upon their arrival. Had we arrived here a month earlier, we could have just passed the shallows, as our vessels draw an average of a little over four feet. No vessels should arrive here later than 1st of January; the entire river is a ridiculous imposition; a month later, the bed will be nearly dry. A mile ahead, both channels are closed by a sudd of vegetation, we must thus await until the boats arrive. Altogether the entire journey by the Bahr Giraffe is a painful absurdity, and my expedition will be fruitless in all but geographical results unless the authorities of the Soudan will clear the main channel of the White Nile.

"February 5.-None of the vessels arrived yesterday. I went back and found them in a terrible fix, as the water is leaving us rapidly, and we must cut a fresh channel through the sand, about one hundred yards long.

"February 6.-I took the diahbeeah a mile and a quarter ahead to a sudd, passing over several shallows of only two feet eight inches, and three feet, which will again cause great delay and labour. I returned to the fleet and assisted in the tedious work of dragging the vessels over the shallows. In the evening I returned to the diahbeeah, and having dragged the dingy across the sudd, I explored the channel ahead for an hour, for about three miles; passed over distressing shallows for a space of a quarter of a mile ahead of the diahbeeah, after which I entered a deep, narrow channel with very rapid current.

"It is quite impossible to say where we are as the professed guides seem to know nothing of this horrible chaos, which changes its appearance constantly. It is most harassing.

"February 7.-Last evening I brought the diahbeeah back to the fleet, so as to push the work forward personally. The soldiers and officers hope we shall return as failures, in the same manner as last year. I have, therefore, informed them and Raouf Bey officially, that no boats shall retreat, but that should the river run dry, they shall remain here until the rise of the water during the next wet season, when they shall go on to Wat-el-Shambi. This decision has frightened them, and they are working to-day with better spirit.

"I unpacked and served out a hundred spades for digging channels; and I have ordered them to commence to-morrow morning and dig out a straight passage for the thirty one vessels that still remain in the shallows.

"February 8.-This is the date of departure last year from Khartoum; an inconceivable madness had any one known the character of the river. All hands as usual tugging, hauling, and deepening the river with spades and hoes; but the more we dig, the faster the water runs out of the bed, which threatens to leave us high and dry.

"February 9-The work as usual. All hands thoroughly disgusted. I am obliged to lighten the vessels by discharging cargo in the mud. Our waggons make excellent platforms for the luggage. Even with this assistance we only drew seven vessels through the shallows into the true river channel.

"To-morrow we must discharge more cargo.

"The anxiety of leading 1,600 men, and fifty-eight vessels with heavy cargoes, through this horrible country is very distressing.

"When I shall have succeeded in dragging the vessels into the true channel, I shall construct a dam in the rear, so as to retain the water at a higher level. I have no doubt that a series of such dams will be required to enable us to reach the Nile. Should it be impossible to proceed with the heavy vessels, I shall leave them thatched over as floating stores, with a small guard, until the next wet season shall raise the river level.

"February 10.-I gave orders to discharge all cargoes, so that no vessel should draw more than three feet. All hands are now employed at this work, as it is impossible to cut a channel through the sand, which fills in as fast as it is deepened.

"February 11.-Twenty-seven vessels passed the diahbeeah, having lightened their cargoes; these vessels must discharge everything at Khor, one and a half mile ahead, and return to fetch the remaining baggage. The work is tremendous, and the risk great. The damage of stores is certain, and should a heavy shower fall, which the cloudy state of the weather renders probable, the whole of our stores, now lying on the soft mud, will be destroyed.

"To-day I cut a deeper channel near the diahbeeah, and divided the men into gangs on the various shallow spots, to tow each boat past as she may arrive. The steamer is hard and fast, although she has discharged everything, and she must be literally dug out of the passage."

March 9.-From Feb. 11 to this date we had toiled through every species of difficulty. The men had cut one straight line of canal through a stiff clay for a distance of 600 yards. Many were sick, some had died; there appeared to be no hope. It was in vain that I endeavoured to cheer both officers and men with tales and assurances of the promised land before them, should they only reach the Nile. They had worked like slaves in these fetid marshes until their spirits were entirely broken,-the Egyptians had ceased to care whether they lived or died.

The enormous quantity of machinery, iron sections of steamers, supplies, &c., had actually been discharged from fifty-eight vessels. The river had fallen still lower, and upon the quickly sun-baked surface I made a road, and having set up my waggons, I conveyed the great mass of cargo across the land by a short cut, and thus reached my long line of vessels, and reloaded them after great labour. The waggons were then taken to pieces and re-shipped. It would be wearying to give the journal of every incident during this trying period, but from the description already given, the fatigue and anxiety may be imagined. Thank God, I seemed to bear a charmed life. From morning till night I was exploring in a small boat through mud and marsh, but I was completely fever-proof. My wife was also well. Lieutenant Baker and Mr. Higginbotham had suffered frequently from fever, but these energetic officers rendered me most important service. While I was ahead exploring, sounding, and planning out the route, Lieutenant Baker was commanding and directing the steamer, which appeared more like a huge stranded whale among the rushes than an object adapted for the navigation of this horrible country. I had a first-rate crew on my diahbeeah, and some picked men of the "Forty Thieves" who always accompanied me. The best and most devoted man that I have ever seen was a corporal of the "Forty Thieves" named Monsoor. This man was a Copt (Christian descendant of the true Egyptians); he was rather short, but exceedingly powerful; he swam and dived like an otter, and never seemed to feel fatigue. He was always in good health, very courageous, and he accompanied me like my own shadow; he seemed to watch over me as a mother would regard an only child. In fact, this excellent man appeared to have only one thought and object.

I had been as usual exploring far ahead of the toiling and labouring fleet, when, after pulling our little boat with the aid of fourteen men for several hours over a great mass of high floating grass, we suddenly emerged upon open water. We at once took to our boat, and hoisted the sprit-sail. The men stowed themselves as ballast in the bottom. The wind was strong from the north, and we travelled at about five miles per hour, the lake expanding as we rounded a promontory until it attained a width of about half a mile. Following the course of the lake for about five miles, we found a river flowing directly into the long-sought channel. Only one mile and a quarter from the lake, by this small river, we entered the great White Nile! I cannot describe my joy and thankfulness. My men shared my feelings. We all drank water from the turbid river, so unlike the marsh-filtered water of the swamps; and as each man washed his hands and face in the noble stream, he ejaculated from his heart, "El hambd el Illah!" ("Thank God!") I also thanked God. It was an hour after dark when we returned that night, after much difficulty, to my diahbeeah, to which we were guided by a lantern at the mast-head, thoughtfully placed there by my wife's orders. The good news made all happy. We had actually that day drunk water from the White Nile!

The great difficulty remained of bringing the larger vessels into the lake that communicated with the river. After all the labour of the last two months, I had succeeded in assembling the entire fleet in a sort of shallow pond, from which there was actually no exit. I had certainly escaped from this place by dragging the little dingy over about a mile of frightful sudd; but although this sudd covered deep water, it appeared to be shut out from us by solid mud, through which numerous streams percolated, the largest of which was about three feet broad and six inches deep. These small drains concentrated in a narrow ditch, which was the principal feeder of the pond, in which, with such infinite trouble, the fleet had been assembled. It was an anxious moment, as it would be necessary to cut a canal through solid mud for a great distance before we could reach the lake; and as we had made a free exit for the water behind us, while it only slowly oozed through before us, we stood a fair chance of being left helplessly around.

On the following morning, the good news of the discovery of the White Nile flew through the expedition. Many did not believe it, but considered it was a dodge to induce them to extra exertion. I immediately gave orders for a channel to be opened through the mud and large obstruction into the lake. After some days' hard work, a passage was completed that was sufficiently deep to admit the diahbeeah. It required a whole day to force her through this narrow channel, and in the evening we entered the lake, and hoisted the flag at the end of the tall yard, as a signal to the fleet that we had accomplished the passage.

It was now only necessary to work hard and improve the channel sufficiently to admit the passage of the steamer and heavier vessels.

Unfortunately my fears had proved correct; the fleet was hard and fast aground! The steamer was so helplessly deserted by the water, that she would have served for a Nilometer upon which to mark the level, like the rock at Assouan. It was simply impossible to move her, as she was as solidly fixed as a church. Every other vessel of the fleet stood high out of the water, which had run out by the clear channel we had opened in the rear.

The officers and men were in consternation. With the prize within our grasp, it would be physically impossible to proceed Those sort of people are soon disheartened, and I made great allowance for them, as the work of the last two months had been sufficient to destroy all energy.

I at once determined to make a dam behind the vessels so as to inclose the position in which we lay like a mill pond. Common sense assured me that this must succeed in raising the level, provided we could construct a dam of sufficient strength to bear the pressure of water.

I had a great quantity of fir timber in the shape of beams and rafters for building purposes. I therefore instructed Mr. Higginbotham to prepare two rows of piles which were to be driven across the river. This able engineer set to work with his usual energy, assisted by Lieutenant J. A. Baker and the Englishmen, together with all the mechanics that had been brought from Cairo.

The piles were driven with some difficulty, and diagonal struts were fastened from the top of the front row to the base of the rear. Horizontal beams then secured the entire line of skeleton bridge.

For two days 1,500 men were employed in making fascines of long, thick reeds tied in large bundles, in the centre of which was concealed a mass of about fifty pounds of stiff clap. These bundles were firmly lashed with twisted rushes. I had 500 corn sacks filled with sand and clay, these were to form the foundation of the dam, and to prevent the water from burrowing beneath.

Every company of troops had to prepare a certain number of fascines, which were piled on the side of the river, which had now exposed solid banks overgrown with the high reedy grass. This immensely long and thick grass, resembling sugar-canes, was exactly the material that we required. It was this gratis that created natural obstructions, and would therefore assist us in our artificial obstruction or dam. The sailors of the fleet worked in divisions under separate officers.

On March 13, all the preparations were completed for the work of filling in the dam. Great piles of solid balls of clay, of about 40 lbs. each, had been arranged in convenient places to stop up any leaks that should occur.

I stood on one of the stranded boats only a few yards from the row of piles. The men were all in their places. The buglers and drummers stood upon another vessel ready to give the signal.

At the first bugle, every two men lifted the sacks of sand and clay. At once all the drums and bugles then sounded the advance, and 500 heavy sacks were dropped into the row of piles, and firmly stamped down by the men. The troops now worked with intense energy. It was a race between the Soudanis and the Egyptians; this was labour to which the latter were accustomed in their own country. The sailors worked as vigorously as the troops; piles of fascines and clay balls were laid with extraordinary rapidity, while some stamped frantically and danced upon the entangled mass, all screaming and shouting in great excitement, and the bugles and drums kept up an incessant din. A long double line of men formed a transport corps, and passed a never-failing supply of fascines to the workers who stood in the water and kneaded firmly the adhesive mass.

At 2.15 P.M. the river was completely shut in, and the people with increased energy worked at the superstructure of the dam, which now rose like a causeway for about one hundred and ten yards from shore to shore.

At 3.30 the water had risen to an extent that obliged the men in some places to swim. The steamer that had been hopelessly stranded, and the entire fleet, were floating merrily in the pond. Thank God, I had forgotten nothing in the preparatory arrangements for the expedition. Without the spades, hoes, grass-knives, bill-hooks, timber, &c., &c., we never could have succeeded in this journey.

My diahbeeah was in the lake waiting for the fleet to accomplish the passage. I had made an excursion one day in the dingy to examine the south end of the lake, which I found to be about eight miles in length. On returning, I was rather anxious for the small boat, as a bull hippopotamus made a hostile demonstration. The water was not more than five feet six inches deep; thus as the hippo, after having snorted and sunk, continued to approach the boat, I could distinguish the path of his advance by the slight wave raised upon the surface. He presently raised his head about twenty yards from the boat, but at the same time he received a Reilly explosive shell under the eye which ended his worldly cares.

There were many hippopotami in this lake, and, very shortly after I had killed the first, I shot a second much in the same manner. I always carried a harpoon in the boat with the rope and ambatch float. The latter was painted red, so that it could be easily observed. I therefore, stuck the harpoon in the dead hippopotamus as a mark, and hastened back to my diahbeeah for assistance, as the flesh of two hippopotami would be very welcome to the people, who had not received rations of butcher's meat for many weeks. On arrival at the diahbeeah we quickly made sail, and soon returned to the hippopotamus. By the time we had cut up this large animal and secured the flesh, the sun was so low that I considered it would be better to fasten the other hippo by a rope attached to the hind legs, and tow it bodily astern of the diahbeeah. It could then be divided on the following day.

In this manner we returned to our anchorage at the tail of the lake, close to the entrance of the new channel. By the time we arrived, the moon was up. The diahbeeah was close to a mud-bank covered with high grass, and about thirty yards astern of her was a shallow part of the lake about three feet deep. A light boat of zinc was full of strips of hippopotamus' flesh, and the dingy was fastened alongside.

After dinner and a pipe, the usual arrangements were made for the night. There were many servants, male and female, on board; these began to suspend their mosquito curtains to the rigging and to creep beneath; the sailors, after chatting for a considerable time, dropped off to sleep-until the sentry was the only man on board who was on the alert. I always slept on the poop-deck, which was comfortably arranged with sofas and carpets.

The night was cold, and the moon clear and bright. Every one was wrapped up in warm blankets, and I was so sound asleep, that I cannot describe more until I was suddenly awoke by a tremendous splashing quite close to the diahbeeah, accompanied by the hoarse wild snorting of a furious hippopotamus. I jumped up, and immediately perceived a hippo which was apparently about to attack the vessel. The main deck being crowded with people sleeping beneath their thick mosquito curtains, attached to the stairs of the poop-deck, and to the rigging in all directions, rendered it impossible to descend. I at once tore away some of the ties, and awakened the sleepy people. My servant, Suleiman, was sleeping next to the cabin door. I called to him for a rifle. Before the affrighted Suleiman could bring the rifle, the hippopotamus dashed at us with indescribable fury. With one blow he capsized and sank the zinc boat with its cargo of flesh. In another instant he seized the dingy in his immense jaws, and the crash of splintered wood betokened the complete destruction of my favourite boat. By this time Suleiman appeared from the cabin with an unloaded gun in his hand and without ammunition. This was a very good man, but he was never overburdened with presence of mind; he was shaking so fearfully with nervousness, that his senses had entirely abandoned him. All the people were shouting and endeavouring to scare the hippo, which attacked us without ceasing with a blind fury that I have never witnessed in any animal except a bull-dog.

By this time I had procured a rifle from the cabin, where they were always kept fixed in a row, loaded and ready for action, with bags of breechloading ammunition on the same shelf.

The movements of the animal were so rapid as he charged and plunged alternately beneath the water in a cloud of foam and wave, that it was impossible to aim correctly at the small but fatal spot upon the head.

The moon was extremely bright, and presently, as he charged straight at the diahbeeah, I stopped him with a No. 8 Reilly shell. To my surprise, he soon recovered, and again commenced the attack.

I fired shot after shot at him without apparent effect. The diahbeeah rocked about upon the waves raised by the efforts of so large an animal; this movement rendered the aim uncertain. At length, apparently badly wounded, he retired to the high grass; there he lay by the bank, at about twenty-five yards' distance, snorting and blowing.

I could not distinguish him, as merely the head was above water, and this was concealed by the deep shadow thrown by the high grass. Thinking that he would die, I went to bed; but before this I took the precaution to arrange a white paper sight upon the muzzle of my rifle, without which, night shooting is very uncertain.

We had fallen asleep; but in about half an hour we were awoke by another tremendous splash, and once more this mad beast came charging directly at us as though unhurt. In another instant he was at the diahbeeah; but I met him with a ball in the top of his head which sent him rolling over and over, sometimes on his back, kicking with his four legs above the surface, and again producing waves which rocked the diahbeeah. In this helpless manner he rolled for about fifty yards down the stream, and we all thought him killed.

To our amazement he recovered, and we heard him splashing as he moved slowly along the river through the high grass by the left bank. There he remained snorting and blowing, and as the light of the moon was of no service in the dark shadows of the high grass, we waited for a considerable time and then went to bed, with the rifle placed in readiness on deck.

In a short time I heard louder splashing. I again got up, and I perceived him about eighty yards distant, walking slowly across the river in the shallows. Having a fair shot at the shoulder, I fired right and left with the No. 8 Reilly rifle, and I distinctly heard the bullets strike. He nevertheless reached the right bank, when he presently turned round and attempted to re-cross the shallow. This gave me a good chance at the shoulder, as his body was entirely exposed. He staggered forward at the shot, and fell dead in the shallow flat of the river.

He was now past recovery. It was very cold: the thermometer was 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and the blankets were very agreeable, as once more all hands turned in to sleep.

On the following morning I made a post-mortem examination. He had received three shots in the flank and shoulder; four in the head, one of which had broken his lower jaw; another through his nose had passed downward and cut off one of his large tusks. I never witnessed such determined and unprovoked fury as was exhibited by this animal-he appeared to be raving mad. His body was a mass of frightful scars, the result of continual conflicts with bulls of his own species; some of these wounds were still unhealed. There was one scar about two feet in length, and about two inches below the level of the surface skin, upon the flank. He was evidently a character of the worst description, but whose madness rendered him callous to all punishment. I can only suppose that the attack upon the vessels was induced by the smell of the raw hippopotamus flesh, which was hung in long strips about the rigging, and with which the zinc boat was filled. The dead hippopotamus that was floating astern lashed to the diahbeeah had not been molested.

We raised the zinc boat, which was fortunately unhurt. The dingy had lost a mouthful, as the hippopotamus had bitten out a portion of the side, including the gunwale of hard wood; he had munched out a piece like the port of a small vessel, which he had accomplished with the same ease as though it had been a slice of toast.

I sent the boat to the English shipwrights for repair, and these capital workmen turned it out in a few days nearly as good as new.

The success of the dam was most complete. The river rose so as to overflow the marshes, which enabled us to push all the vessels up the channel without the necessity of deepening it by spade labour.

"March 14.-Should we succeed in reaching Gondokoro without serious loss, it will be the greatest possible triumph over difficulties, which no one can understand who has not witnessed the necessities of the journey.

"A diahbeeah arrived in the lake, breaking her yard in a sudden shift of wind, and giving a man a fall from aloft, which was fatal.

"The steamer and fleet are coming through the sudd as fast as the troops clear the channel.

"March 15.-The steamer arrived in the lake at 3.30 P.M.

"March 16.-Thermometer, 6 A.M., 61 degrees; noon, 82 degrees. Eleven vessels entered the lake last night. The wind has been very variable for the last few days, and the true north wind appears to have deserted us; the absence of a fair breeze delays us sadly in pushing through the narrow channels against the stream.

"Dysentery and scurvy are prevalent among the Egyptians. Four Egyptian soldiers and two Soudanis have deserted. Where these wretched fools intend to wander is quite a speculation;-they appear to have yielded to a temptation to run away upon the first dry land that they have seen for months.

"The fleet assembled in the lake. The Egyptian troops cut a passage for fifty yards through a sudd in a channel through which the fleet must pass, as there is a shallow that will prevent them from taking the main course of the lake.

"To-morrow the whole force will turn out and cut the remaining portion of about 300 yards; there will then be no difficulty except a sudd of about three quarters of a mile between the lake and the White Nile.

"March 17.-We cut through the sudd, and all the vessels entered the broad waters of the lake and anchored in the evening opposite some native huts, close to the channel that we must open to-morrow. These huts are the first habitations that we have seen for more than two months;-they are now deserted by the frightened fishermen who had occupied them.

"March 18.-The diahbeeah led the way at 7.30 A.M. through the channel that is closed by grass and the Pistia Stratiotes. At 10.15 we arrived in the White Nile. There is plenty of water throughout the closed channel, but there was some heavy work to clear the vegetation.

"March 19.-All the vessels came through into the White Nile, and there was great rejoicing throughout the fleet. At length the men really believed that a country of dry land might lie before them, and that they were delivered from the horrible chaos or 'Slough of Despond' in which they had now laboured for sixty days.

"I served out new tow-ropes to the fleet, and ordered No. 13 transport to discharge and divide her cargo among other vessels, and to take on board thirty soldiers to accompany the steamer to-morrow. We remounted the steamer's paddles and tautened all the rigging of the diahbeeah; mended sails, and thoroughly repaired for a start to-morrow. No. 31 being a rotten vessel, I ordered her cargo to be divided among the lighter boats. I gave stringent orders to the officers to protect all ammunition and bales of goods with galvanized iron plates in case of rain.

"March 20.-All the vessels got away by 9 A.M. with a rattling breeze. The steamer started at 10.8 A.M., but was delayed one hour and twenty minutes by her stupidly dragging the nogger ashore in rounding a sharp corner.

"At 5.15 P.M. we arrived at a forest on the west bank. At 6.45 P.M. we stopped, as I was afraid we might pass the station of Wat-el-Shambi in the dark.

"March 21.-At 8.25 A.M. we started. Three natives came to the vessel and reported the zareeba to be close ahead.

"I served out fifteen rounds of snider ammunition per man to the 'Forty Thieves,' thus filling up their pouches to thirty rounds. The banks are now dry, and about two feet six inches above the river's level. The country is as usual flat, but covered with forest on the west. Cattle numerous, and bellowing in all directions.

"At 9.15 A.M. we arrived at Wat-el-Shambi. The forest is distant from the river, therefore at 10 we started with light south-east wind, and at 10.30 we returned to a good station for cutting fuel in the forest about four miles below Wat-el-Shambi.

"The few representatives of Ali Amouri, the trader at the latter station, declared that they could not supply us with cattle, they being hard up for provisions themselves. Their looks belied the excuse. Wind south all day, but changed to north at 6.30 P.M. The boat of the French trader, Jules Poncet, that had accompanied the fleet, arrived in the evening.

"A number of natives, stark naked, and smeared with wood ashes, came as usual to beg for corn. I have given strict orders that on no account shall corn be exchanged in purchases from the natives-otherwise our supply will be stolen wholesale. This order was broken through by Mustapha Ali, who therefore received a hundred lashes, as I was determined to enforce obedience.

"March 22.-Much lightning and wind from the south during the night. I fear rain. At daybreak we found Raouf Bey's vessel close up, and many others near. The north wind of last night must have aided them. The natives came in some numbers.

"March 23.-All hands yesterday and to-day busied in cutting wood for steamer.

"March 24.-Poor Jusef, one of the horsekeepers, died.

"March 25.-Started, with the steamer towing a noggur and my diahbeeah with about fifty hours' fuel on board, at 12.50 P.M.

"There has been wholesale theft of stores on No. 50 noggur. I caught and punished the captain in the act of selling our ammunition to the slave traders' people in their zareeba.

"March 26.-We travelled throughout last night; the stream is nearly three miles per hour. We lost an hour last evening in taking wood from the noggur in tow, as she leaks dangerously. I took six men and their effects from her, and placed them on the steamer, as she is quite unsafe.

"Arrived at the station of Abou Kookah at 10.25 A.M., having travelled badly against the strong south wind, and our bottom dirty. At 3.10 P.M. we left Abou Kookah, and at 9.50 P.M. we arrived at the forest, close to the deserted mission station of St. Croix, where we halted for the night. There were vast herds of cattle and many natives on the east bank."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top