"One hundred and forty years after Speke's visionary prediction that Lake Victoria would prove to be the source of the Nile, I had come to Africa to see for myself. I arrived laden with a great store of knowledge about the Nile - all the lore and learning amassed since Speke's great discovery. I had all the facts, but I was not satisfied."
Long fascinated with historical exploration, writer Christopher Ondaatje here relives explorer Richard Francis Burton's 1856 expedition to discover the source of Africa's mighty Nile River. In 1996, with a lifetime of world travel behind him and after extensive research, Ondaatje set off to retrace the steps of Burton and other Victorian explorers. Journey to the Source of the Nile brings to life this incredible voyage.
Like the early explorers, Ondaatje put together a support team and, following the Victorians' routes, encountered the geography, peoples and nature in all their manifestations. With a constant mind to the words of Burton, Speke, Livingstone and the others, Ondaatje views the journey through their eyes but in the light of modern scientific knowledge. His trek across the Serengeti Plains to Olduvai Gorge provides the most striking revelation of all: the forces that shaped the Nile may also have triggered the evolution of the human race.
In a time of breathlessly fast change, Journey to the Source of the Nile returns us to a slower time, when knowledge was the goal and exploration the means. A fascinating tapestry of history and travel writing, Ondaatje's personal account and his dramatic photographs of this truly extraordinary expedition bring us closer to solving the riddle of the world's most mysterious river.
"Between 1902 and the present, [Africa] has evoked the highest despair of any continent in the world. In a way, perhaps I felt that understanding the difficult puzzle of the Nile's source might also give me some insight into a far more challenging riddle: the turbulent, complex, paradoxical enigma of Africa itself."
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Christopher Ondaatje was born in Ceylon and educated in England. He has worked for several magazines and newspapers and is the author of six books, including the best-selling biography of Victorian explorer Richard Burton, Sindh Revisited. A director of the World Wildlife Fund and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, he lives in London, England.Review:
In "Nile," Ondaatje provides a great look at 19th century travelers who explored Africa, and why they did it. Some went for money, others for glory, and still others for something more. -- Laurence Chollet, Melbourne Florida Today, Jan 2, 2000
The book is very well done. Each chapter begins with a small map showing the specific area described. ... His pictures are beautiful and capture the vastness of the country. ... A complete chronology, bibliography and index are included. This book is excellent for any class studying Africa; it provides a great deal of information along with many points for discussion. -- KLIATT Nov 1999
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