Dedication || 1: Departure from Aden
Averse to writing, as well as to reading, diffuse Prolegomena, the author
finds himself compelled to relate, at some length, the circumstances which
led to the subject of these pages.
In May 1849, the late Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm, formerly
Superintendent of the Indian Navy, in conjunction with Mr. William John
Hamilton, then President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great
Britain, solicited the permission of the Court of Directors of the
Honorable East India Company to ascertain the productive resources of the
unknown Somali Country in East Africa. (1)The answer returned, was to the
"If a fit and proper person volunteer to travel in the Somali Country, he
goes as a private traveller, the Government giving no more protection to
him than they would to an individual totally unconnected with the service.
They will allow the officer who obtains permission to go, during his
absence on the expedition to retain all the pay and allowances he may be
enjoying when leave was granted: they will supply him with all the
instruments required, afford him a passage going and returning, and pay
the actual expenses of the journey."
The project lay dormant until March 1850, when Sir Charles Malcolm and
Captain Smyth, President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great
Britain, waited upon the chairman of the Court of Directors of the
Honorable East India Company. He informed them that if they would draw up
a statement of what was required, and specify how it could be carried into
effect, the document should be forwarded to the Governor-General of India,
with a recommendation that, should no objection arise, either from expense
or other causes, a fit person should be permitted to explore the Somali
Sir Charles Malcolm then offered the charge of the expedition to Dr.
Carter of Bombay, an officer favourably known to the Indian world by his
services on board the "Palinurus" brig whilst employed upon the maritime
survey of Eastern Arabia. Dr. Carter at once acceded to the terms proposed
by those from whom the project emanated; but his principal object being to
compare the geology and botany of the Somali Country with the results of
his Arabian travels, he volunteered to traverse only that part of Eastern
Africa which lies north of a line drawn from Berberah to Ras Hafun,—in
fact, the maritime mountains of the Somal. His health not permitting him
to be left on shore, he required a cruizer to convey him from place to
place, and to preserve his store of presents and provisions. By this means
he hoped to land at the most interesting points and to penetrate here and
there from sixty to eighty miles inland, across the region which he
undertook to explore.
On the 17th of August, 1850, Sir Charles Malcolm wrote to Dr. Carter in
these terms:—"I have communicated with the President of the Royal
Geographical Society and others: the feeling is, that though much valuable
information could no doubt be gained by skirting the coast (as you
propose) both in geology and botany, yet that it does not fulfil the
primary and great object of the London Geographical Society, which was,
and still is, to have the interior explored." The Vice-Admiral, however,
proceeded to say that, under the circumstances of the case, Dr. Carter's
plans were approved of, and asked him to confer immediately with Commodore
Lushington; then Commander in Chief of the Indian Navy.
In May, 1851, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm died: geographers and
travellers lost in him an influential and an energetic friend. During the
ten years of his superintendence over the Indian Navy that service rose,
despite the incubus of profound peace, to the highest distinction. He
freely permitted the officers under his command to undertake the task of
geographical discovery, retaining their rank, pay, and batta, whilst the
actual expenses of their journeys were defrayed by contingent bills. All
papers and reports submitted to the local government were favourably
received, and the successful traveller looked forward to distinction and
During the decade which elapsed between 1828 and 1838, "officers of the
Indian Navy journeyed, as the phrase is, with their lives in their
hands, through the wildest districts of the East. Of these we name the
late Commander J. A. Young, Lieutenants Wellsted, Wyburd, Wood, and
Christopher, retired Commander Ormsby, the present Capt. H. B. Lynch C.B.,
Commanders Felix Jones and W. C. Barker, Lieutenants Cruttenden and
Whitelock. Their researches extended from the banks of the Bosphorus to
the shores of India. Of the vast, the immeasurable value of such
services," to quote the words of the Quarterly Review (No. cxxix. Dec.
1839), "which able officers thus employed, are in the mean time rendering
to science, to commerce, to their country, and to the whole civilized
world, we need say nothing:—nothing we could say would be too much."
"In five years, the admirable maps of that coral-bound gulf—the Red Sea—
were complete: the terrors of the navigation had given place to the
confidence inspired by excellent surveys. In 1829 the Thetis of ten guns,
under Commander Robert Moresby, convoyed the first coal ship up the Red
Sea, of the coasts of which this skilful and enterprising seaman made a
cursory survey, from which emanated the subsequent trigonometrical
operations which form our present maps. Two ships were employed, the
'Benares' and 'Palinurus,' the former under Commander Elwon, the latter
under Commander Moresby. It remained, however, for the latter officer to
complete the work. Some idea may be formed of the perils these officers
and men went through, when we state the 'Benares' was forty-two times
"Robert Moresby, the genius of the Red Sea, conducted also the survey of
the Maldive Islands and groups known as the Chagos Archipelago. He
narrowly escaped being a victim to the deleterious climate of his station,
and only left it when no longer capable of working. A host of young and
ardent officers,—Christopher, Young, Powell, Campbell, Jones, Barker, and
others,—ably seconded him: death was busy amongst them for months and so
paralyzed by disease were the living, that the anchors could scarcely be
raised for a retreat to the coast of India. Renovated by a three months'
stay, occasionally in port, where they were strengthened by additional
numbers, the undaunted remnants from time to time returned to their task;
and in 1837, gave to the world a knowledge of those singular groups which
heretofore—though within 150 miles of our coasts—had been a mystery
hidden within the dangers that environed them. The beautiful maps of the
Red Sea, drafted by the late Commodore Carless(2), then a lieutenant,
will ever remain permanent monuments of Indian Naval Science, and the
daring of its officers and men. Those of the Maldive and Chagos groups,
executed by Commander then Acting Lieutenant Felix Jones, were, we hear,
of such a high order, that they were deemed worthy of special inspection
by the Queen."
"While these enlightening operations were in progress, there were others
of this profession, no less distinguished, employed on similar
discoveries. The coast of Mekran westward from Scinde, was little known,
but it soon found a place in the hydrographical offices of India, under
Captain, then Lieutenant, Stafford Haines, and his staff, who were engaged
on it. The journey to the Oxus, made by Lieut. Wood, Sir. A. Burnes's
companion in his Lahore and Afghan missions, is a page of history which
may not be opened to us again in our own times; while in Lieut. Carless's
drafts of the channels of the Indus, we trace those designs, that the
sword of Sir Charles Napier only was destined to reveal."
"The ten years prior to that of 1839 were those of fitful repose, such as
generally precedes some great outbreak. The repose afforded ample leisure
for research, and the shores of the island of Socotra, with the south
coast of Arabia, were carefully delineated. Besides the excellent maps of
these regions, we are indebted to the survey for that unique work on Oman,
by the late Lieut. Wellsted of this service, and for valuable notices from
the pen of Lieut. Cruttenden. (3)
"Besides the works we have enumerated, there were others of the same
nature, but on a smaller scale, in operation at the same period around our
own coasts. The Gulf of Cambay, and the dangerous sands known as the
Molucca Banks, were explored and faithfully mapped by Captain Richard
Ethersey, assisted by Lieutenant (now Commander) Fell. Bombay Harbour was
delineated again on a grand scale by Capt. R. Cogan, assisted by Lieut.
Peters, now both dead; and the ink of the Maldive charts had scarcely
dried, when the labours of those employed were demanded of the Indian
Government by Her Majesty's authorities at Ceylon, to undertake
trigonometrical surveys of that Island, and the dangerous and shallow
gulfs on either side of the neck of sand connecting it with India. They
were the present Captains F. F. Powell, and Richard Ethersey, in the
Schooner 'Royal Tiger' and 'Shannon,' assisted by Lieut. (now Commander)
Felix Jones, and the late Lieut. Wilmot Christopher, who fell in action
before Mooltan. The first of these officers had charge of one of the
tenders under Lieut. Powell, and the latter another under Lieut. Ethersey.
The maps of the Pamban Pass and the Straits of Manaar were by the hand of
Lieut. Felix Jones, who was the draftsman also on this survey: they speak
In 1838 Sir Charles Malcolm was succeeded by Sir Robert Oliver, an "old
officer of the old school"—a strict disciplinarian, a faithful and honest
servant of Government, but a violent, limited, and prejudiced man. He
wanted "sailors," individuals conversant with ropes and rigging, and
steeped in knowledge of shot and shakings, he loved the "rule of thumb,"
he hated "literary razors," and he viewed science with the profoundest
contempt. About twenty surveys were ordered to be discontinued as an
inauguratory measure, causing the loss of many thousand pounds,
independent of such contingencies as the "Memnon."(5) Batta was withheld
from the few officers who obtained leave, and the life of weary labour on
board ship was systematically made monotonous and uncomfortable:—in local
phrase it was described as "many stripes and no stars." Few measures were
omitted to heighten the shock of contrast. No notice was taken of papers
forwarded to Government, and the man who attempted to distinguish himself
by higher views than quarter-deck duties, found himself marked out for the
angry Commodore's red-hot displeasure. No place was allowed for charts and
plans: valuable original surveys, of which no duplicates existed, lay
tossed amongst the brick and mortar with which the Marine Office was being
rebuilt. No instruments were provided for ships, even a barometer was not
supplied in one case, although duly indented for during five years. Whilst
Sir Charles Malcolm ruled the Bombay dockyards, the British name rose high
in the Indian, African, and Arabian seas. Each vessel had its presents—
guns, pistols, and powder, Abbas, crimson cloth and shawls, watches,
telescopes, and similar articles—with a suitable stock of which every
officer visiting the interior on leave was supplied. An order from Sir
Robert Oliver withdrew presents as well as instruments: with them
disappeared the just idea of our faith and greatness as a nation
entertained by the maritime races, who formerly looked forward to the
arrival of our cruizers. Thus the Indian navy was crushed by neglect and
routine into a mere transport service, remarkable for little beyond
constant quarrels between sea-lieutenants and land-lieutenants, sailor-
officers and soldier-officers, their "passengers." And thus resulted that
dearth of enterprise—alluded to ex cathedra by a late President of the
Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain—which now characterises
Western India erst so celebrated for ardour in adventure.
To return to the subject of East African discovery. Commodore Lushington
and Dr. Carter met in order to concert some measures for forwarding the
plans of a Somali Expedition. It was resolved to associate three persons,
Drs. Carter and Stocks, and an officer of the Indian navy: a vessel was
also warned for service on the coast of Africa. This took place in the
beginning of 1851: presently Commodore Lushington resigned his command,
and the project fell to the ground.
The author of these pages, after his return from El Hajaz to Bombay,
conceived the idea of reviving the Somali Expedition: he proposed to start
in the spring of 1854, and accompanied by two officers, to penetrate _via_
Harar and Gananah to Zanzibar. His plans were favourably received by the
Right Hon. Lord Elphinstone, the enlightened governor of the colony, and
by the local authorities, amongst whom the name of James Grant Lumsden,
then Member of Council, will ever suggest the liveliest feelings of
gratitude and affection. But it being judged necessary to refer once more
for permission to the Court of Directors, an official letter bearing date
the 28th April 1854 was forwarded from Bombay with a warm recommendation.
Lieut. Herne of the 1st Bombay European Regiment of Fusileers, an officer
skilful in surveying, photography, and mechanics, together with the
writer, obtained leave, pending the reference, and a free passage to Aden
in Arabia. On the 23rd August a favourable reply was despatched by the
Court of Directors.
Meanwhile the most painful of events had modified the original plan. The
third member of the Expedition, Assistant Surgeon J. Ellerton Stocks,
whose brilliant attainments as a botanist, whose long and enterprising
journeys, and whose eminently practical bent of mind had twice recommended
him for the honors and trials of African exploration, died suddenly in the
prime of life. Deeply did his friends lament him for many reasons: a
universal favourite, he left in the social circle a void never to be
filled up, and they mourned the more that Fate had not granted him the
time, as it had given him the will and the power, to trace a deeper and
more enduring mark upon the iron tablets of Fame.
No longer hoping to carry out his first project, the writer determined to
make the geography and commerce of the Somali country his principal
objects. He therefore applied to the Bombay Government for the assistance
of Lieut. William Stroyan, I. N., an officer distinguished by his surveys
on the coast of Western India, in Sindh, and on the Panjab Rivers. It was
not without difficulty that such valuable services were spared for the
deadly purpose of penetrating into Eastern Africa. All obstacles, however,
were removed by their ceaseless and energetic efforts, who had fostered
the author's plans, and early in the autumn of 1854, Lieut. Stroyan
received leave to join the Expedition. At the same time, Lieut. J. H.
Speke, of the 46th Regiment Bengal N. I., who had spent many years
collecting the Fauna of Thibet and the Himalayan mountains, volunteered to
share the hardships of African exploration.
In October 1854, the writer and his companions received at Aden in Arabia
the sanction of the Court of Directors. It was his intention to march in a
body, using Berberah as a base of operations, westwards to Harar, and
thence in a south-easterly direction towards Zanzibar.
But the voice of society at Aden was loud against the expedition. The
rough manners, the fierce looks, and the insolent threats of the Somal—
the effects of our too peaceful rule—had pre-possessed the timid colony
at the "Eye of Yemen" with an idea of extreme danger. The Anglo-Saxon
spirit suffers, it has been observed, from confinement within any but
wooden walls, and the European degenerates rapidly, as do his bull-dogs,
his game-cocks, and other pugnacious animals, in the hot, enervating, and
unhealthy climates of the East. The writer and his comrades were
represented to be men deliberately going to their death, and the Somal at
Aden were not slow in imitating the example of their rulers. The savages
had heard of the costly Shoa Mission, its 300 camels and 50 mules, and
they longed for another rehearsal of the drama: according to them a vast
outlay was absolutely necessary, every village must be feasted, every
chief propitiated with magnificent presents, and dollars must be dealt out
by handfuls. The Political Resident refused to countenance the scheme
proposed, and his objection necessitated a further change of plans.
Accordingly, Lieut. Herne was directed to proceed, after the opening of
the annual fair-season, to Berberah, where no danger was apprehended. It
was judged that the residence of this officer upon the coast would produce
a friendly feeling on the part of the Somal, and, as indeed afterwards
proved to be the case, would facilitate the writer's egress from Harar, by
terrifying the ruler for the fate of his caravans. (6) Lieut. Herne, who
on the 1st of January 1855, was joined by Lieut. Stroyan, resided on the
African coast from November to April; he inquired into the commerce, the
caravan lines, and the state of the slave trade, visited the maritime
mountains, sketched all the places of interest, and made a variety of
meteorological and other observations as a prelude to extensive research.
Lieut. Speke was directed to land at Bunder Guray, a small harbour in the
"Arz el Aman," or "Land of Safety," as the windward Somal style their
country. His aim was to trace the celebrated Wady Nogal, noting its
watershed and other peculiarities, to purchase horses and camels for the
future use of the Expedition, and to collect specimens of the reddish
earth which, according to the older African travellers, denotes the
presence of gold dust.(7) Lieut. Speke started on the 23rd October 1854,
and returned, after about three months, to Aden. He had failed, through
the rapacity and treachery of his guide, to reach the Wady Nogal. But he
had penetrated beyond the maritime chain of hills, and his journal
(condensed in the Appendix) proves that he had collected some novel and
Meanwhile the author, assuming the disguise of an Arab merchant, prepared
to visit the forbidden city of Harar. He left Aden on the 29th of October
1854, arrived at the capital of the ancient Hadiyah Empire on the 3rd
January 1855, and on the 9th of the ensuing February returned in safety to
Arabia, with the view of purchasing stores and provisions for a second and
a longer journey.(8) What unforeseen circumstance cut short the career of
the proposed Expedition, the Postscript of the present volume will show.
The following pages contain the writer's diary, kept daring his march to
and from Harar. It must be borne in mind that the region traversed on this
occasion was previously known only by the vague reports of native
travellers. All the Abyssinian discoverers had traversed the Dankali and
other northern tribes: the land of the Somal was still a terra
incognita. Harar, moreover, had never been visited, and few are the
cities of the world which in the present age, when men hurry about the
earth, have not opened their gates to European adventure. The ancient
metropolis of a once mighty race, the only permanent settlement in Eastern
Africa, the reported seat of Moslem learning, a walled city of stone
houses, possessing its independent chief, its peculiar population, its
unknown language, and its own coinage, the emporium of the coffee trade,
the head-quarters of slavery, the birth-place of the Kat plant,(9) and
the great manufactory of cotton-cloths, amply, it appeared, deserved the
trouble of exploration. That the writer was successful in his attempt, the
following pages will prove. Unfortunately it was found impossible to use
any instruments except a pocket compass, a watch, and a portable
thermometer more remarkable for convenience than correctness. But the way
was thus paved for scientific observation: shortly after the author's
departure from Harar, the Amir or chief wrote to the Acting Political
Resident at Aden, earnestly begging to be supplied with a "Frank
physician," and offering protection to any European who might be persuaded
to visit his dominions.
The Appendix contains the following papers connected with the movements of
the expedition in the winter of 1854.
1. The diary and observations made by Lieut. Speke, when attempting to
reach the Wady Nogal.
2. A sketch of the grammar, and a vocabulary of the Harari tongue. This
dialect is little known to European linguists: the only notices of it
hitherto published are in Salt's Abyssinia, Appendix I. p. 6-10.; by Balbi
Atlas Ethnogr. Tab. xxxix. No. 297.; Kielmaier, Ausland, 1840, No. 76.;
and Dr. Beke (Philological Journal, April 25. 1845.)
3. Meteorological observations in the cold season of 1854-55 by Lieuts.
Herne, Stroyan, and the Author.
4. A brief description of certain peculiar customs, noticed in Nubia, by
Brown and Werne under the name of fibulation.
5. The conclusion is a condensed account of an attempt to reach Harar from
Ankobar. (10) On the 14th October 1841, Major Sir William Cornwallis
Harris (then Captain in the Bombay Engineers), Chief of the Mission sent
from India to the King of Shoa, advised Lieut. W. Barker, I. N., whose
services were imperatively required by Sir Robert Oliver, to return from
Abyssinia via Harar, "over a road hitherto untrodden by Europeans." As
His Majesty Sahalah Selassie had offered friendly letters to the Moslem
Amir, Capt. Harris had "no doubt of the success of the enterprise."
Although the adventurous explorer was prevented by the idle fears of the
Bedouin Somal and the rapacity of his guides from visiting the city, his
pages, as a narrative of travel, will amply reward perusal. They have been
introduced into this volume mainly with the view of putting the reader in
possession of all that has hitherto been written and not published, upon
the subject of Harar.(11) For the same reason the author has not
hesitated to enrich his pages with observations drawn from Lieutenants
Cruttenden and Rigby. The former printed in the Transactions of the Bombay
Geographical Society two excellent papers: one headed a "Report on the
Mijjertheyn Tribe of Somallies inhabiting the district forming the North
East Point of Africa;" secondly, a "Memoir on the Western or Edoor Tribes,
inhabiting the Somali coast of North East Africa; with the Southern
Branches of the family of Darood, resident on the banks of the Webbe
Shebayli, commonly called the River Webbe." Lieut. C. P. Rigby, 16th
Regiment Bombay N. I., published, also in the Transactions of the
Geographical Society of Bombay, an "Outline of the Somali Language, with
Vocabulary," which supplied a great lacuna in the dialects of Eastern
A perusal of the following pages will convince the reader that the
extensive country of the Somal is by no means destitute of capabilities.
Though partially desert, and thinly populated, it possesses valuable
articles of traffic, and its harbours export the produce of the Gurague,
Abyssinian, Galla, and other inland races. The natives of the country are
essentially commercial: they have lapsed into barbarism by reason of their
political condition—the rude equality of the Hottentots,—but they appear
to contain material for a moral regeneration. As subjects they offer a
favourable contrast to their kindred, the Arabs of El Yemen, a race
untameable as the wolf, and which, subjugated in turn by Abyssinian,
Persian, Egyptian, and Turk, has ever preserved an indomitable spirit of
freedom, and eventually succeeded in skaking off the yoke of foreign
dominion. For half a generation we have been masters of Aden, filling
Southern Arabia with our calicos and rupees—what is the present state of
affairs there? We are dared by the Bedouins to come forth from behind our
stone walls and fight like men in the plain,—British proteges are
slaughtered within the range of our guns,—our allies' villages have been
burned in sight of Aden,—our deserters are welcomed and our fugitive
felons protected,—our supplies are cut off, and the garrison is reduced
to extreme distress, at the word of a half-naked bandit,—the miscreant
Bhagi who murdered Capt. Mylne in cold blood still roams the hills
unpunished,—gross insults are the sole acknowledgments of our peaceful
overtures,—the British flag has been fired upon without return, our
cruizers being ordered to act only on the defensive,—and our forbearance
to attack is universally asserted and believed to arise from mere
cowardice. Such is, and such will be, the character of the Arab!
The Sublime Porte still preserves her possessions in the Tahamah, and the
regions conterminous to Yemen, by the stringent measures with which
Mohammed Ali of Egypt opened the robber-haunted Suez road. Whenever a Turk
or a traveller is murdered, a few squadrons of Irregular Cavalry are
ordered out; they are not too nice upon the subject of retaliation, and
rarely refuse to burn a village or two, or to lay waste the crops near the
scene of outrage.
A civilized people, like ourselves, objects to such measures for many
reasons, of which none is more feeble than the fear of perpetuating a
blood feud with the Arabs. Our present relations with them are a "very
pretty quarrel," and moreover one which time must strengthen, cannot
efface. By a just, wholesome, and unsparing severity we may inspire the
Bedouin with fear instead of contempt: the veriest visionary would deride
the attempt to animate him with a higher sentiment.
"Peace," observes a modern sage, "is the dream of the wise, war is the
history of man." To indulge in such dreams is but questionable wisdom. It
was not a "peace-policy" which gave the Portuguese a seaboard extending
from Cape Non to Macao. By no peace policy the Osmanlis of a past age
pushed their victorious arms from the deserts of Tartary to Aden, to
Delhi, to Algiers, and to the gates of Vienna. It was no peace policy
which made the Russians seat themselves upon the shores of the Black, the
Baltic, and the Caspian seas: gaining in the space of 150 years, and,
despite war, retaining, a territory greater than England and France
united. No peace policy enabled the French to absorb region after region
in Northern Africa, till the Mediterranean appears doomed to sink into a
Gallic lake. The English of a former generation were celebrated for
gaining ground in both hemispheres: their broad lands were not won by a
peace policy, which, however, in this our day, has on two distinct
occasions well nigh lost for them the "gem of the British Empire"—India.
The philanthropist and the political economist may fondly hope, by outcry
against "territorial aggrandizement," by advocating a compact frontier, by
abandoning colonies, and by cultivating "equilibrium," to retain our rank
amongst the great nations of the world. Never! The facts of history prove
nothing more conclusively than this: a race either progresses or
retrogrades, either increases or diminishes: the children of Time, like
their sire, cannot stand still.
The occupation of the port of Berberah has been advised for many reasons.
In the first place, Berberah is the true key of the Red Sea, the centre of
East African traffic, and the only safe place for shipping upon the
western Erythroean shore, from Suez to Guardafui. Backed by lands capable
of cultivation, and by hills covered with pine and other valuable trees,
enjoying a comparatively temperate climate, with a regular although thin
monsoon, this harbour has been coveted by many a foreign conqueror.
Circumstances have thrown it as it were into our arms, and, if we refuse
the chance, another and a rival nation will not be so blind.
Secondly, we are bound to protect the lives of British subjects upon this
coast. In A.D. 1825 the crew of the "Mary Ann" brig was treacherously
murdered by the Somal. The consequence of a summary and exemplary
punishment (12) was that in August 1843, when the H.E.I.C.'s war-steamer
"Memnon" was stranded at Ras Assayr near Cape Guardafui, no outrage was
attempted by the barbarians, upon whose barren shores our seamen remained
for months labouring at the wreck. In A.D. 1855 the Somal, having
forgotten the old lesson, renewed their practices of pillaging and
murdering strangers. It is then evident that this people cannot be trusted
without supervision, and equally certain that vessels are ever liable to
be cast ashore in this part of the Red Sea. But a year ago the French
steam corvette, "Le Caiman," was lost within sight of Zayla; the Bedouin
Somal, principally Eesa, assembled a fanatic host, which was, however,
dispersed before blood had been drawn, by the exertion of the governor and
his guards. It remains for us, therefore, to provide against such
contingencies. Were one of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's vessels
cast by any accident upon this inhospitable shore, in the present state of
affairs the lives of the passengers, and the cargo, would be placed in
In advocating the establishment of an armed post at Berberah no stress is
laid upon the subject of slavery. To cut off that traffic the possession
of the great export harbour is by no means necessary. Whenever a British
cruizer shall receive positive and bona fide orders to search native
craft, and to sell as prizes all that have slaves on board, the trade will
receive a death-blow.
Certain measures have been taken during the last annual fair to punish the
outrage perpetrated by the Somal at Berberah in A.D. 1855. The writer on
his return to Aden proposed that the several clans implicated in the
offence should at once be expelled from British dominions. This
preliminary was carried out by the Acting Political Resident at Aden.
Moreover, it was judged advisable to blockade the Somali coast, from
Siyaro to Zayla, not concluded, until, in the first place, Lieut.
Stroyan's murderer, and the ruffian who attempted to spear Lieut. Speke in
cold blood, should be given up (13); and secondly, that due compensation
for all losses should be made by the plunderers. The former condition was
approved by the Right Honorable the Governor-General of India, who,
however, objected, it is said, to the money-demand.  At present the
H.E. I.C.'s cruizers "Mahi," and "Elphinstone," are blockading the harbour
of Berberah, the Somal have offered 15,000 dollars' indemnity, and they
pretend, as usual, that the murderer has been slain by his tribe.
To conclude. The writer has had the satisfaction of receiving from his
comrades assurances that they are willing to accompany him once more in
task of African Exploration. The plans of the Frank are now publicly known
to the Somali. Should the loss of life, however valuable, be an obstacle
to prosecuting them, he must fall in the esteem of the races around him.
On the contrary, should he, after duly chastising the offenders, carry out
the original plan, he will command the respect of the people, and wipe out
the memory of a temporary reverse. At no distant period the project will,
it is hoped, be revived. Nothing is required but permission to renew the
attempt—an indulgence which will not be refused by a Government raised by
energy, enterprise, and perseverance from the ranks of merchant society to
national wealth and imperial grandeur.
14. St. James's Square,
10th February, 1856.
(1)It occupies the whole of the Eastern Horn, extending from the north of
Bab el Mandeb to several degrees south of Cape Guardafui. In the former
direction it is bounded by the Dankali and the Ittoo Gallas; in the latter
by the Sawahil or Negrotic regions; the Red Sea is its eastern limit, and
westward it stretches to within a few miles of Harar.
(2)In A.D. 1838, Lieut. Carless surveyed the seaboard of the Somali
country, from Ras Hafun to Burnt Island; unfortunately his labours were
allowed by Sir Charles Malcolm's successor to lie five years in the
obscurity of MS. Meanwhile the steam frigate "Memnon," Capt. Powell
commanding, was lost at Ras Assayr; a Norie's chart, an antiquated
document, with an error of from fifteen to twenty miles, being the only
map of reference on board. Thus the Indian Government, by the dilatoriness
and prejudices of its Superintendent of Marine, sustained an unjustifiable
loss of at least 50,000_l._
(3) In A.D. 1836-38, Lieut. Cruttenden published descriptions of travel,
which will be alluded to in a subsequent part of this preface.
(4)This "hasty sketch of the scientific labours of the Indian navy," is
extracted from an able anonymous pamphlet, unpromisingly headed
"Grievances and Present Condition of our Indian Officers."
(5) In A.D. 1848, the late Mr. Joseph Hume called in the House of Commons
for a return of all Indian surveys carried on during the ten previous
years. The result proved that no less than a score had been suddenly
"broken up," by order of Sir Robert Oliver.
(6)This plan was successfully adopted by Messrs. Antoine and Arnauld
d'Abbadie, when travelling in dangerous parts of Abyssinia and the
(7)In A.D. 1660, Vermuyden found gold at Gambia always on naked and
barren hills embedded in a reddish earth.
(8) The writer has not unfrequently been blamed by the critics of Indian
papers, for venturing into such dangerous lands with an outfit nearly
1500_l._ in value. In the Somali, as in other countries of Eastern Africa,
travellers must carry not only the means of purchasing passage, but also
the very necessaries of life. Money being unknown, such bulky articles as
cotton-cloth, tobacco, and beads are necessary to provide meat and milk,
and he who would eat bread must load his camels with grain. The Somal of
course exaggerate the cost of travelling; every chief, however, may demand
a small present, and every pauper, as will be seen in the following pages,
expects to be fed.
(9) It is described at length in Chap. III.
(10)The author hoped to insert Lieut. Berne's journal, kept at Berberah,
and the different places of note in its vicinity; as yet, however, the
paper has not been received.
(11)Harar has frequently been described by hearsay; the following are the
Rochet (Second Voyage Dans le Pays des Adels, &c. Paris, 1846.), page 263.
Sir. W. Cornwallis Harris (Highlands of AEthiopia, vol. i. ch. 43. et
Cruttenden (Transactions of the Bombay Geological Society A.D. 1848).
Barker (Report of the probable Position of Harar. Vol. xii. Royal
M'Queen (Geographical Memoirs of Abyssinia, prefixed to Journals of Rev.
Messrs. Isenberg and Krapf).
Christopher (Journal whilst commanding the H. C.'s brig "Tigris," on the
East Coast of Africa).
Of these by far the most correct account is that of Lieut. Cruttenden.
(12) In A.D. 1825, the Government of Bombay received intelligence that a
brig from the Mauritius had been seized, plundered, and broken up near
Berberah, and that part of her crew had been barbarously murdered by the
Somali. The "Elphinstone" sloop of war (Capt. Greer commanding) was sent
to blockade the coast; when her guns opened fire, the people fled with
their wives and children, and the spot where a horseman was killed by a
cannon ball is still shown on the plain near the town. Through the
intervention of El Hajj Sharmarkay, the survivors were recovered; the
Somal bound themselves to abstain from future attacks upon English
vessels, and also to refund by annual instalments the full amount of
plundered property. For the purpose of enforcing the latter stipulation it
was resolved that a vessel of war should remain upon the coast until the
whole was liquidated. When attempts at evasion occurred, the traffic was
stopped by sending all craft outside the guard-ship, and forbidding
intercourse with the shore. The "Coote" (Capt. Pepper commanding), the
"Palinurus" and the "Tigris," in turn with the "Elphinstone," maintained
the blockade through the trading seasons till 1833. About 6000_l._ were
recovered, and the people were strongly impressed with the fact that we
had both the will and the means to keep their plundering propensities
[(14) The writer advised that these men should be hung upon the spot where
the outrage was committed, that the bodies should be burned and the ashes
cast into the sea, lest by any means the murderers might become martyrs.
This precaution should invariably be adopted when Moslems assassinate
(15)The reason of the objection is not apparent. A savage people is
imperfectly punished by a few deaths: the fine is the only true way to
produce a lasting impression upon their heads and hearts. Moreover, it is
the custom of India and the East generally, and is in reality the only
safeguard of a traveller's property.