Explorers of the Nile, By Tim Jeal


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The Independent Culture

Seeking imperial glory, British explorers found gruesome ordeal.

After escaping from spear-throwing Somali captors while his hands were bound, John Hanning Speke used a knife to attack a beetle lodged in his ear ("the most painful thing I ever endured").

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Confirming Speke's discovery of the source of the White Nile, Stanley lost half his 228-strong party.

Jeal's splendidly absorbing account pays tribute to the African supporters of these adventurers. Ten lost their lives in a five-month journey bringing Livingstone's body to Europeans, only to be told, "Bury the body at once".