Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

In 1841, a man from Scotland named David Livingstone set foot on the African continent. Livingstone was a doctor, Christian missionary, and fearless explorer. Over the next 32 years, he travelled nearly 29,000 miles (46,700 kilometers) around Africa, and bravely explored places no other white man had ever been. His travel journals made him one of the greatest European explorers of Africa.

I have explored only a small portion of Africa, but I can’t imagine Livingstone seeing anything more spectacular than the mighty Victoria Falls. These falls are located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Before Livingstone arrived, the falls there were called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders” in the local language. When Livingstone reached the falls in November of 1855, he renamed them “Victoria Falls,” to honor the ruler of his homeland, Queen Victoria.

There are many qualities that helped Dr. Livingstone explore uncharted parts of Africa. He travelled light, carrying only a few necessary supplies. He met many tribal chiefs on his journeys, and he gained their respect by treating them with honor. Many European traders in Africa had frightened local villagers with their guns, but Livingstone always approached each village peacefully.

In 1864, he returned to England and published his travel notes about the people, plants, and animals he encountered. These writing inspired other Europeans to travel to Africa.

In 1866, Livingstone returned to Africa, but not long after, he seemed to disappear. Rumors spread that he was lost or dead. When no one had heard from the explorer for three years, the New York Herald newspaper sent a reporter named Henry Morton Stanley, to Africa to find David Livingstone. After two years of searching, Stanley finally found him in November 1871, in Tanzania. He greeted the long-lost explorer with these famous words: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

As I pass through the villages of rural Zambia, I try to imagine what Dr. Livingstone must have seen in his travels. The capital city of Lusaka is bustling and busy like many modern cities, with concrete buildings and honking cars. But in the villages, most people live simply. Many of the village houses are made from mud brick and thatch, and people go from place to place by bicycle or on foot. I am learning a lot about everyday life in Zambia, and I am sure I will learn even more when I go on safari!

Jenny