SAN DIEGO, April 8 (UPI) -- "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" These few words conjure up a world of travel and adventure, an image of the intrepid explorer who set off in search of the source of the Nile, and the adventurous journalist who set off in search of the explorer.
For his book "Into Africa," Martin Dugard researched the lives of these two men, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, from their childhood until the moment they met and beyond.
Although the outcome is well know by most readers, Dugard's skillful writing manages to build the suspense so that the moment of that famous meeting is fraught with emotion.
He sets the scene by describing in detail the hardships endured by both men in the jungles and deserts of Africa. People were made of sterner stuff in those days. They set off without cell phones or a GPS, accompanied by native porters who could turn around and rob or murder them as easily as they could become trusted companions and helpers.
The most famous of these native guides was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, a former slave, who took part in so many expeditions that the Royal Geographic Society of London awarded him a lifetime pension.
Livingstone's loyal native companions, Susi and Chuma, were with him until the end, and made sure his body was preserved so that it could be buried in England. They were later brought to England and presented with special medals by the Royal Geographic Society.
Explorers and missionaries were dependent on the natives not only as porters, but also as guides and interpreters. The porters carried food, medicine (essential in malaria-ridden Africa), cloth for bribes and bartering, gunpowder and sometimes, even elegant dinnerware.
Unfortunately, sometimes, as in the case of one New Zealand tribe, the missionaries ended up on the menu, and there were rumors of cannibalism in Africa as well.
Dugard moves the reader skillfully between New York, London and Africa, highlighting the contrast between the comfort and luxury of life in the former, and the deprivations and suffering endured in the latter.
He also recounts the rivalry between the British and the Americans, as embodied by the representatives of the Royal Geographic Society and the New York Herald, in their search for Dr. Livingstone. "Stanley represented America: brash, arrogant with resources, steadfast in the belief that anything was possible."
The British sent Sir Samuel White Baker to blaze a trail through the jungle with a regular army, establishing outposts, building villages and even planting vegetable gardens. He had under his orders 1,700 Sudanese and Egyptian soldiers, 48 sharpshooters, a personal assistant, a doctor, two engineers, a shopkeeper, an interpreter and a shipwright. He commanded a regular armada of ships -- 55 sailboats and nine steamers. No wonder Stanley got there first.
After trying his hand at several different ventures, including a stint in both the Union and Rebel armies during the Civil War, Stanley turned to journalism, where he discovered that he had a certain talent with the written word. His diaries, as Dugard points out, reveal "both surprising depth and moments of great melancholy."
According to Dugard, Stanley's true talent lay in his determination and his ability to weather rejection. That made him fearless and dogged, and enabled him to slog through jungle and swamps, braving snakes, crocodiles, lions and hyenas and enduring black ants, red ants, white ants, wasps, flies, centipedes and more.
Stanley also suffered debilitating attacks of malaria and dysentery, as did Livingstone, of course, who also suffered from hookworm, blood loss and anemia, and a blood clot in his abdomen. In what appears to be the supreme understatement, he wrote in his journal: "It is not all pleasure, this exploration." The catalog of hardships seems never-ending, and coupled with poor nutrition, lack of water, and many miles of walking through difficult terrain, it is a wonder that Stanley lived to tell his tale.
But survive he did, and so did Livingstone, who died in 1873, almost two years after his encounter with Stanley, at the age of 60, having lost all his teeth and with his hair and beard turned completely white.
What people did not know was that Stanley was not even really an American. He was born in Wales, the son of the town drunk and the local whore. The young Stanley had to overcome abandonment and abuse, until he eventually made his way to America, where he was told that people were judged by their actions, not their pedigree. Thus began Stanley's search for accomplishment and fame. His stints as soldier, sailor, merchant, and other enterprises having failed, he turned to journalism, where he finally found his niche. What made him successful was his determination to be the first to get the story, no matter what it took.
So off went Stanley into the African jungle, bearing the Stars and Stripes, and with the blessing of the American consul. It would take him 236 days of incredible hardships to cover 975 miles, but the result was worth it. Despite some rumors as to the veracity of his claim, Stanley was eventually vindicated and his exploits recognized. He was paid $10,000 to write a book about his travels and was even introduced to Queen Victoria -- quite an achievement for a low-class bastard from a small village in Wales.
Livingstone, on the other hand, left a family behind, and eventually one of his sons, Oswell, joined an expedition to try and find his father. But Stanley got there first.
Livingstone, who, for many people, represented the British Empire at its Victorian best, was a complex person. He abhorred slavery but eventually accepted the help and hospitality of Arab and African slavers; without them he would surely have perished. He was a minister and a married man, yet was rumored to have fathered a son in Africa, and his diaries contain observations about African women that showed a very human side to the explorer. "He possessed, in fact, a very human mixture of hope, dreams, longing, depression, spirituality, sexuality and regret."
Livingstone never did find the source of the Nile; it took another century of exploration to finally solve that mystery. Livingstone and the other British explorers, Burton, Speke and Baker, were all only partially correct. But his death, as Dugard notes in his epilogue, opened the floodgates to European exploration of Africa. Unfortunately, European greed for wealth and power gave rise to the exploitation of the continent's resources, to the detriment of its people.
In his research, Dugard used journals, letters, newspapers and books, and retraced the explorers' steps from London, New York, Paris and Denver to the East African coast, across Africa to Lake Tanganyika, Tabora and Ujiji. His narrative is lively and fascinating, full of details that render the adventures of Livingstone and Stanley as exciting today as they were to the avid readers of Victorian England.
This book is a tribute to the human spirit, and to the courage and determination of two very dissimilar men.
("Into Africa", Doubleday, $24.95, 314 pages. Publication date, April 15.)