For our selection this month we’ve chosen something very different, an extraordinary historical adventure story set in the mid-1800s in East Africa as two incredibly brave, stubborn, and competitive Englishmen set off to find the source of the great River Nile. Such a quest may seem astonishing to contemplate today when true geographical discovery primarily happens beyond planet Earth. But in the 1850s many remote areas of the world had yet to be explored by Westerners, and the source of the Nile, the longest river in the world, was considered “the Holy Grail” of exploration.
Determined to find its source were Richard Burton, a young British officer serving in India who had traveled widely and taught himself to speak 25 languages and a dozen other dialects. His colleague and later bitter rival was another widely traveled young British Army officer, John Hanning Speke, a skilled surveyor and hunter. Their search to find the source of the Nile begins in Zanzibar, off the coast of modern-day Tanzania, and proceeds deep into the interior of East Africa. The two men face incredible challenges and are beset enroute by mysterious illnesses that within six months have left Burton almost paralyzed and Speke almost totally blind. Both men recovered. Their courage and determination despite almost unimaginable hardship is one of the marvels of this fascinating book.
This story is especially meaningful to me because as you are reading this review in early August, I am in a safari camp in the Northern Serengeti plains of Tanzania only about 60 miles from Lake Victoria. And it is Lake Victoria, or Lake Nyanza before Speke renamed it for the British monarch, that is indeed the source of the River Nile. It’s the largest freshwater lake in Africa and the second largest in the world, stretching over 27,000 square miles.
CEO, Founder and Co-Executive Editor, DailyChatter Publications
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