Equator Crossings - Travelogue Extraordinary
By Paul Huygelen
A superb blend of fact and fiction. This book is set against a backdrop of nineteenth-century Africa, Zanzibar, Europe and Oman.
Equator Crossings – Travelogue Extraordinary is set against a backdrop of nineteenth-century Africa, Zanzibar, Europe and Oman. An upstage American press magnate’s single three-letter-word telegram to his British competitor leads Henry Morton Stanley to 999 gruelling days of exploration in a quest to discover and define the watersheds of Africa’s two gigantic rivers, the Nile and the Congo. This geographical and scientific feat, that drastically changed the economic and political history of the world, now provides an epic narrative of adventure, travel and romance.
An exciting debut novel by Paul Huygelen.
November 2008, Hardback, 680 pages, 32 Photgraphs, 23.5cm x 15.5cm
A QUICK OVERVIEW BY THE AUTHOR
It was late evening on 17 October 1869 when Henry Morton Stanley, in response to an urgent telegram from the New York Herald’s publisher, knocked on the door of James Gordon Bennett Jr.’s room at the Grand Hôtel, Paris and landed two plum journalistic assignments in a matter of minutes.
Listen to Bennett’s own words: “I will tell you what you will do. Draw a thousand pounds now; and when you have gone through that, draw another thousand, and when that is spent, draw another thousand and when you have finished that, draw another thousand, and so on; but, find Livingstone."
And he added: “On your way to Central Africa where Dr David Livingstone is apparently either dead, lost, or still looking for the source of the Nile, I wish you to go to the inauguration of the Suez Canal first; the ceremony is scheduled for just about a month from now. The canal’s successful construction by Ferdinand de Lesseps is the engineering feat of the century; its inauguration in the presence of Empress Eugénie and most of the crowned heads of continental Europe will be truly the social event of the century ! "
Thus started Stanley’s career in Central Africa and his subsequent equator crossings, heading expeditions that led to his momentous geographical and hydrographic discoveries reported to his journalistic sponsors and which within less than fifteen years changed that blank patch, called during centuries in Latin “terra incognita”, into becoming a contentious piece of political real estate for Europe’s principal powers.
Previously, Stanley was essentially a war reporter. In 1867 for the Missouri Democrat, St. Louis, MO, he covered General Winfield Scott Hancock's Indian campaigns against the Kiowas and Comanches in America. And as from 1868 he was the star reporter, across thousands of miles overseas, for James Gordon Bennett Jr’s newspaper, headlining Britain’s invasion of Abyssinia
( = Ethiopia) and the siege of Magdala in 1868 by Sir Robert Napier’s troops that ended in the suicide of Emperor Theodore, Crete’s independence struggle against Turkish rule, and the civil war in Spain, its carnage in Valencia, the barricades in Zaragoza, the various insurrections that toppled Queen Isabella. It was during that latter assignment that, just back from Valencia, he received at his Madrid base at 10.a.m. on 16 October 1869 the telegram “Come to Paris on important business”.
War reporting was largely a loner’s job; its essentials were courage, steel nerves, and a fluent pen or pencil. Organizing expeditions, with hundreds of porters, for treks lasting several months (in fact 999 days for the second expedition, financed jointly by The Daily Telegraph, London, and the New York Herald) were a totally different experience. And Stanley’s historical accomplishments, apart from surviving hardships and fevers, proved to be outstanding.
The two most important geographical achievements concerned hydrography.
The first one was his mapping the contours of the Great Nyanza (since then called Lake Victoria = the size of Ireland or more than three times the size of Massachusetts) thanks to his ability with a Zanzibari crew of nine rowers and Uledi, his permanent coxswain, to circumnavigate the lake, an exploit that until then no human of any race or nationality had attempted; by so doing he demonstrated that it was a single lake, not a series of three or more contiguous masses of water as had been imagined for centuries. The Royal Geographical Society, London, made a point of congratulating him for that signal achievement.
The second achievement was to determine that neither Lake Tanganyika, as supposed by the explorer Richard Burton years earlier, nor the Lualaba River, as imagined by Dr David Livingstone, were the sources of the Nile.
In spite of being impeded by several series of immense cataracts, Stanley’s expedition managed to follow the course of the Lualaba, which crosses the equator twice, and ends in the Atlantic Ocean; in other words, the Lualaba turned out to be the source of what is still known as that gigantic Congo River, in places some 15 miles wide, and the outflow of which stretches 300 miles visibly into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean !
As a follow-up, the ultimate aim of Stanley’s next expedition, financed this time by the International Africa Association, was to launch a series of steamboats on the Congo River. Inspired no doubt by his youth’s experience on the Mississippi River, the project provided for easier export of ivory to Europe and North America across the Atlantic instead of the traditional use of hundreds of human porters marching all the way from its Central Africa sources to the Indian Ocean ports opposite Zanzibar.
The objective of the fourth expedition, financed by British business sources in cooperation with the Egyptian government, was to rescue Emin Pasha (born Eduard Schnitzer in Prussia), the Governor of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan’s Equatoria Province, from a potential massacre by nationalist forces inspired by the late Mahdi who in 1885 had killed in Khartoum General Charles George Gordon and his garrison. From a geographical viewpoint a noteworthy discovery during this painful trek that lasted two years was the first sighting of the then still legendary snow-clad Mountains of the Moon, i.e. the Ruwenzori chain (16798 ft above sea level) and its climbing up to a height of 10677 ft by select members of the expedition.
On the political level, Stanley’s discoveries produced an interesting phenomenon: three men, young men, ordinary men, not the century's Presidents, Queens, or Emperors, shaped Central Africa’s future, both chronologically and in terms of substance; three young men: an international newspaper man, a French naval cadet, and a German adventurer. And without that newspaperman’s writings, as admitted by the naval cadet, the visions of the two other men might never have occurred or materialized. Yes, Stanley’s geographical and hydrographic discoveries changed the political face of the world as a result of his cogent reports and his journalistic expertise to translate these scientific discoveries into scoops for his newspapers’ publishers. They inspired others to compete in Africa and become national heroes, not least the colonialist French naval cadet (Pierre de Brazza) and the German political adventurer (Dr Karl Peters). Brazza, who fortuitously met Stanley in the Lower Congo on 7 November 1880, told him point-blank: “Mr Stanley, I do suppose it is not news to you that it is your book that brought me here.”
Still food for thought today.
I do not have any hesitation to say that if the Pulitzer Prize for eminent journalism and the Nobel Prize for Literature had been in existence in the 1870s - 1880s (versus 1917 and 1901), one of the first laureates of these prizes would have been Henry Morton Stanley, be it for investigative reporting, international reporting, power of observation, or remarkable talent for narration. He would have outdone a worthy contender, Rudyard Kipling, who was the Nobel Prize laureate in 1907 for these very citations.
Yet Stanley did not live without kudos. His journalistic experience and as a result his reports and books on his four major expeditions in Central Africa earned him several honorary doctorates, including the LL.D (Doctor of Laws) of Cambridge University, the LL.D. of Edinburgh University, the D.C.L. (Doctor of Civil Law) of Oxford University, and the D.C.L. of Durham University. Not a bad record for a journalist who started his career in far away Missouri ! And whom in earlier years some detractors within the English Establishment fancied to call “that Welsh Yankee”.
From the Launch Notes:
Equator Crossings (hard cover, 680 pages including 8 maps, 42 photos, 26 illustrations, and 9 pages of valuable bibliography) by author Paul Huygelen, M.A. Columbia University, Ph.D. University of London, was published in November 2008 by Motivate Publishing, Dubai, UAE.
Anyone interested in the History of Oman, its former dependencies, particularly in East Africa, and, indeed, an interestingly chronicled account of the world situation in the late 19th early 20th Century, then Paul Huygelen's account of this extraordinary period in time gives the reader an enthralling and most enjoyable read, covering the personalities or the larger-than-life characters of that era.
The fascinating, Victorian-themed il¬lustrations on the cover or this exciting new work of historical fiction, Equator Crossings – Travelogue Extraordinary, written by Paul Huygelen, epitomise the friendship of Henry Morton Stanley with the then Sultan of Zanzibar Sayyid Barghash bin Said, from their first meet¬ing in Zaraibar in January 1871, and throughout their close collaboration dur¬ing the exploration of Central Africa, during Stanley's four expeditions in the 17 years that followed.
All of this is recounted in this book, which has been produced with the sup¬port of the Historical Association of Oman (HAO) and is to be launched un¬der the auspices of Sultan bin Hamdoon al Harthy, Chairman of Muscat Munici¬pality at Bait Al Baranda, Muttrah Cor¬niche, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, May 19.
Readers of this exciting, fusion of fact and fiction will also meet Stanley’s boss, James Gordon Bennett Jr, the young, successful, scoop-oriented publisher of the New York Herald; the omnipresent Zanzibari ivory trader, Tippo Tib (of the Al Marjabi tribe from Oman's Al Sharqiyah — Eastern region); and will come across personalities such as Dr David Livingstone, bugbears such as the princely Pierre de Brazza and Nkooma Pool's Ngalyema, as well as German adventurers and the novel's inevitable princess.
Speaking to the Observer, Shaikh Salem bin Nasser al Maskri, Secretary-General of the Council of Higher Education, said. "Paul Huygelen is a close friend of mine. He handed me the manuscript for its first approval reading. I found it to be fascinating, full all facts and world histo¬ry — especially pertaining to the Sultan¬ate of Oman and its former dependencies in East and Central Africa."
Shaikh Salem suggested that the manuscript be published, which (HAO) has since completed. Further, the book is to be translated into some important languages including Arabic and Swahili as well as other European languages.
"Stanley was not born an explorer," points out Jonathan Griffiths, General Manager of the Book Division at Moti¬vate Publishing. "He was a newspaper¬man and a war correspondent during the 1860s in America, Abyssinia, Spain and the Crimea, also later covering the Ashanti war in West Africa .... While reading this carefully researched and beautifully presented novel you will soon realise that Stanley was essentially the reporter par excellence."
While Ian Fairservice, Managing Partner and Group Editor of Motivate Publishing emphasised the important role played by Zanzibar during the time of the Sultans and the expansive 'Zenj Dominions', pointed out, "Zanzibar was the gateway to East Africa during its heyday of explorations some 100-150 years ago. And, at that time, Zanzibar was Omani. So everything is interlinked and this is one of the many aspects of the book that appealed to us and encouraged us to publish it."
"Unusually. for a novel, the book is illustrated with some wonderful old photographs and line engravings," he added.
Paul Huygelen first came to Oman in 1971. His professional career has been mostly involved in international affairs. It has taken him around the world, from continent to continent over and over again, at times when travelling was far from being as comfortable as it is nowadays.
His Fortuitous discovery of Stanley's travels as a newspaper reporter led him to want to know more about him, as he probably identified somewhat with the great explorer. His thorough knowledge 0f East and Central Africa, through ex¬tensive business trips in the region, helped him visualise more than anybody else Stanley's progress across that difficult continent.
Huygelan's strong taste for history, which he acquired during his higher-ed¬ucation years in the fields of European languages and international affairsat The University of London and at Colum¬bia University, New York, triggered his decision, some twenty-three years ago, to start his research.
What began as a hobby has now be¬come Huygelen's first novel. Equator Crossings — Travelogue. Extrordianry- brings amazing historical events to life in a most pleasant and agreeable manner.