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Jeremy Rich

French traveler and travel writer who explored West Africa, was born in 1799 in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon in the Deux-Sèvres region of France. His family was extremely poor. Caillié’s father had been banished to work as a prisoner rowing on government boats before he was born. His mother died very young. According to his later account of his travels in West Africa, Caillié had dreamed of reaching the fabled trade center of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River since he was a child. Whether or not this actually was the case, Caillié did manage to reach the Senegalese town of Saint Louis in 1815 He stayed there for several months and tried to join an English expedition up the Gambia River This project did not work out He then spent some time working on the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe but soon returned to Senegal He came back to ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

In 1825 the Paris Société de Géographie offered a prize of 10,000 francs to the first person to visit the legendary city of Tombouctou and return with a description of it. With this challenge they made official an undeclared competition among European Explorers that had already claimed the lives of more than twenty men. Since 1788, explorers had been trying to reach the Sahelian market town, rumored to be the richest in Africa but also one of the most heavily guarded. Only one European, a Scottish explorer named Major Alexander Gordon Laing, had yet entered the fabled city, but he was murdered only days after leaving. However, in 1827 explorer René-Auguste Caillié, born in Mauzé, France, embarked on a journey to Tombouctou that would at last win the prize.

Inspired by the adventures of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719 Caillié had already made two voyages to ...

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Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

Article

Charles Withers

Scottish physician, botanist, and explorer, was the first European to return safely having observed the west–east course of the River Niger. His significance stems from this geographical accomplishment, from the much reprinted book of his first expedition, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, first published in 1799, and from his “heroic” failure and death in 1806, in circumstances that are still unclear, on a further Niger expedition. His second posthumously published work, published in 1815, and drawn from Park’s surviving papers and reports, began the process of Park’s biographical commemoration.

Park was born near Selkirk in Scotland on or about 11 September 1771, the seventh of thirteen children. Park was educated at home, at Selkirk Grammar School, and, from 1789, in the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. In November of 1792 Park was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks by his brother ...