A Summary Of The Niger Expedition

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The Niger Expedition What was the purpose and task given the leader of the expedition to the Niger? This expedition was ordered to sail as far up the river as was possible to see what lay within the bowels of the Continent - gold, diamonds, agricultural produce, raw materials, ivory, or cheap labour. The expedition successfully reached the junction with the River Kwora (Benue), and extended its reach eastwards. If this expedition was judged to be 'successful ' in the estimation of those who sent it out, we do not know. One thing was certain, namely, approximately 60% of the Europeans that sailed on the Pleiad, the ship of the expedition, did not return alive to England. Most lost their lives on the river; several collapsing at Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the return journey. Most of the casualties succumbed to black water fever (severe malaria). Dr. William Balfour Baikie (1825-1864), who was the ship 's surgeon, and who took over as captain following the captain 's death from drink during the outward journey, would emerge as the most successful and enduring figure in that enterprise of exploration. His name, in the corrupt form Bekee, would become eponymous for all white men in the language of the Igbo peoples in the decades that followed! If these efforts by European peoples to enter the lands of the 'countries ' and 'tribes ' that lay in the hinterland of the Bight of Biafra had any purpose, it, clearly, had suggested that the Europeans had needs which only the

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