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The Congo and the Cameroons (Penguin Great…
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The Congo and the Cameroons (Penguin Great Journeys)

by Mary Kingsley

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Kingsley was an English explorer and science writer during the Victorian era who specialized in traveling the African West Coast. This slim book is an excerpt from her Travels in West Africa, first published in 1897.
To say that Kingsley was fearless is an understatement. She traveled to Africa three times, gathering men from various tribes to be her guides and setting out for days in the jungle where she observed and noted everything, from animals, insects, trees and flowering plants and the actual land. She observed families of elephants and gorillas. She frequently shows more courage than the men by leaving them behind when they were afraid of the climb or cold weather, and she discovered a new direction to climb Mount Cameroon, which she did in long skirts. And while she seems to have been no-nonsense when dealing with her group, she maintains a dry sense of humor. Here's her description of ridding her canoe of a crocodile:

...he chose to get his front paws over the stern of my canoe, and endeavored to improve our acquaintance. I had to retire to the bows, to keep the balance right, and fetch him a clip on the snout with a paddle, when he withdrew, and I paddled into the very middle of the lagoon, hoping the water there was too deep for him or any of his friends to repeat the performance.

Her complete lack of vanity is rare. She attempts to clean up before meeting the local German Commander, but otherwise, her work is more imoptant than her comfort or appearance.

My face and particularly my lips are a misery to me, having been blistered all over by yesterday's sun, and last night I inadvertently whipped the skin all off on one cheek with the blanket, and it keeps on bleeding, and, horror of horrors, there is no tea until that water comes.

It's unfortunate that Kinglsey had such a short life. She died at thirty-seven, in Cape Town, where she was working as a volunteer nurse during the Second Boer War, after contracting typhoid. ( )
  mstrust | Aug 14, 2014 |
Mary Kingsley,was one of a number of intrepid travelers and explorers of the late 1800's to early 1900's.
The dangers and discomforts that she went through without complaint were many and it is amazing with what evident good humour she traveled. In reading about her experiences trekking through the African jungle and encountering snakes,poisonous insects of all kinds,as well as falls,injuries ect ,one cannot fail to admire her great courage. ( )
  devenish | Dec 25, 2008 |
Contemptuous of Europe's 'civilising mission' in Africa, Mary Kingsley's (1862-1900) extraordinary journeys through tropical west Africa are a remarkable record, both of a world which has vanished and of a writer and explorer of immense bravery, wit and humanity. Paddling through mangrove swamps, fending off crocodiles, climbing Mount Cameroon, Kingsley is both admirable and funny.
  antimuzak | Feb 20, 2007 |
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Mary Kingsley's journeys through tropical west Africa are a remarkable record, both of a world that has vanished and of a writer of immense bravery, wit and humanity. Paddling through mangrove swamps, fending off crocodiles, climbing Mount Cameroon, Kingsley is both admirable and funny.… (more)

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