Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa

explorations-and-adventures-frontcover-webBy Paul du Chaillu.  One of the most famous early white explorers of central West Africa, the American Paul du Chaillu won fame for confirming the existence of the gorilla—and for his accurate and breathtaking descriptions of the life, customs and behavior of Africans in the pre-colonial era.

This work contains vivid and uncensored descriptions of native African cannibalism, tribal warfare, witchdoctors, superstition, and technology. His astute observations were even used by Oxford University professor John R. Baker in a section on African cognitive ability in his classic work Race.

Du Chaillu was an unbiased observer, who genuinely felt sympathy with the Africans, and wrote down what he saw, without embellishment or exaggeration.

His description of African slavery in particular, is highly relevant, written as it was against the backdrop of the then still ongoing Atlantic Slave Trade:

“In the first place, I ought to state that its [the African slave trade] existence has no connection at all with the foreign slave-trade. There were slaves held here long before a barracoon was built on the coast . . . Nor is it continued because of the present foreign slave-trade. It has an independent existence, and is ruled by laws of its own.

“No better illustration could be given of the way in which the slave system has ingrafted itself upon the life and policy of these tribes than this, that, from the seashore to the farthest point in the interior which I was able to reach, the commercial unit of value is a slave. As we say dollar, as the English say pound sterling, so these Africans say slave.

“If a man is fined for an offense, he is mulcted in so many slaves. If he is bargaining for a wife, he contracts to give so many slaves for her. Perhaps he has no slaves; but he has ivory or trade goods, and pays of these the value of so many slaves—that is to say, as much ivory, or ebony, or bar-wood, or the amount in trade goods which would, in that precise place, buy so many slaves.

“It is a mistake to suppose that the slave-trade is the cause of all the wars and quarrels of the African tribes and nations. Where it plays a part, it doubtless aggravates these; but the total absence of any law but that of the strongest—the almost total ignoring of the right of property, and the numerous superstitions of the people, are the fertile causes of constant warfare.”

This masterpiece of anthropology is no dry read, but an exciting tale of adventure in an era when the author was literally the first white man many of these interior tribes had ever seen.

This new edition has been completely reset and contains all 80 illustrations and maps which accompanied the original work.

About the author: Paul du Chaillu (1831–1903) was the son of a French trader who was stationed on the West African cost. In 1855 he was sent by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia to explore Africa because of his knowledge of the local languages and customs. In two expeditions into the interior, he observed numerous gorillas, brought back dead specimens, and also confirmed the existence of African pygmies, becoming the first European to observe them in real life. Du Chaillu sold his hunted gorillas to the Natural History Museum in London and his cannibal skulls to other European collections. Later he specialized in the prehistory of Scandinavia, and died while doing research in St Petersburg, Russia.


CHAPTER I: Purpose of My Explorations.—Facilities.—Nature of the Country to be Explored.—The Gaboon.—The Mpongwe People.—Their Jealousy of Travelers.—Trade Peculiarities.—Missionaries.—Baraka.—Manner in which the Missionaries Teach.—A Day’s Work on the Station.

CHAPTER II: The Gaboon People.—Mysterious Disappearance of African Tribes.—Mpongwe Villages.—Houses, how Built.—A Mpongwe Interior.—Costume.—An African Trader.—Monopolies.—The Commission Business among the Negroes.—“Trust.”—Extensive System of Credit.—Native Jealousy.—A Day with an African Trader.—Time of No Value.—Mpongwe Coasting-trade.—Their Vessels.—Products of the Gaboon.—The Ivory-trade.

CHAPTER III: Some Causes of the Decrease of the Mpongwe.—Restrictions as to Intermarriage.—Last Days of King Glass.—Public Opinion on the Gaboon.—Mourning for a King.—“Making” a New King.—Character of the Mpongwe.—An African Gentleman.—Food.—Agriculture.

CHAPTER IV: Corisco the Beautiful.—The Mbingas.—Missionary Stations.—African Wake.—Set out for the Muni.—An Explorer’s Outfit.—Plan of Operations.—Poor Debtor in Africa.—Lynch Law.—My Canoe.—The Muni.—Mangrove Swamps.—Lost.—King Dayoko.—Salutations.

CHAPTER V: Dayoko.—African Royalty.—Foreign Relations and Diplomacy in the Interior.—The Value of a Wife.—Negotiations.—The Dry Season.—The Mbousha Tribe.—A Wizard.—A Fetich Trial and a Murder.—Progress.—Excitement of the Shekianis at my Supposed Wealth.—The Ntambounay.—The Sierra del Crystal.—Lost Again.—Approaches of Interior Village.—Agricultural Operations.—Famine.

CHAPTER VI: Hold of a Traveler on the Natives.—Fruits.—The Mbondemo.—Their Towns.—Houses.—Morals of War.—Condition of Women.—Women as Bearers.—The Hills.—A Caravan.—Mutiny.—Rapids of the Ntambounay.—Summit of the Sierra.—Contemplations Interrupted by a Serpent.—The First Gorilla.—Appearance in Motion.—Famine in the Camp.—Native Stories of the Gorilla.—Superstitious Notions about the Animal.—Lifelessness of the Forest.—A Beehive.

CHAPTER VII: Famine.—Encounter with the Fan.—A Desperate Situation.—Fright at My Appearance.—A Fan Warrior.—His Weapons.—Fetiches.—Women.—I am Closely Examined.—Gorilla-hunt.—Signs of the Animal’s Presence.—Appearance of the Male.—Roar.—Conduct.—My First Gorilla.—Division of the Spoils.—Superstitions.—Wandering Bakalai.—Mournful Songs.—Their Fear of Night.—Cooking.—Fan Town.—Cannibal Signs.—Presented to His Cannibal Majesty.—The King Is Scared at My Appearance.—Description of His Majesty.—Mbene’s Glory.—The King in His War-dress.—Arms of the Fan.—A Grand Dance.—The Music.

CHAPTER VIII: The Grand Hunt.—Fan Mode of Capturing Elephants.—A Pitched Battle.—Man Killed by an Elephant.—Grace before Meat among the Fan.—The Use of a Dead Hunter.—Habits of the Elephant.—Hanou, or Elephant-trap.—Elephant Meat.—Condition of Women.—Marriage Ceremonies.—A Fan Wedding.—Musical Instrument.—Corpse Brought in to be Eaten.—Human Flesh prized.—Stories of Fan Cannibalism.—Encroachments Westward of the Fans.—Their Origin.—Color.—Tattooing.—Trade.—Iron-smelting.—Fan Blacksmiths.—Bellows and other Tools.—Pottery.—Agriculture.—Food.—Slavery.—The Oshebo.—Beyond.—Superstitions.—Sorcery.—Charms.—Idols.

CHAPTER IX: The Return Trip.—Climate of the Mountain Region.—Native Courage.—Mode of Warfare.—Heavy Rains.—On the Noya.—Visits to native Chiefs.—Ezongo.—Attempt at Blackmail.—Alapay.—The Mbicho.—Net-hunting.—Bad Shooting of the Negroes.—Attacked by the Bashikouay Ants.—Toilet of the Mbicho.—Superstition about the Moon.—Ivory of this District Peculiar.—Igouma.—Fan of the Country.—An Immense Cavern.—Crossing a Mangrove Swamp.

CHAPTER X: Up the Moondah.—Vexations of a Traveler in Africa.—Mangrove Swamps.—Mbicho Men Run off.—Bashikouay Again.—Missionary Station.—The Bar-wood Trade.—Manner of Getting Bar-wood.—The India-rubber Vine.—How Rubber is Gathered.—Torturing a Woman.—Adventure with a Wild Bull.—Lying out for Game.—Bullock and Leopard.—Birds.

CHAPTER XI: Creek Navigation.—Nocturnal Habits of the Negroes.—A Royal Farm.—Beach-travel.—Canoe-building.—Ogoula-Limbai.—A Great Elephant-hunter.—In the Surf.—Shark River.—Prairies.—Sangatanga.—King Bango.—An Audience of Royalty.—A Ball.—Barracoons.—Unwelcome Guest.—A Slaver in the Offing.—Decline of the Slave-trade on this Coast.—Idols.

CHAPTER XII: Set out for the Interior.—Prairies.—Odd Mistake.—Hippopotami.—Ngola.—Negro Theology.—Hunts.—Torture of a Woman.—Rum.—The Shekiani.—Appearance, Manners, and Customs.—Polygamy.—Marriage.—Superstitions.—Bos brachicheros.—Camp in the Woods.—African Humor.—Solid Comfort.—Hunting with a Leopard.—Great Jollification.—Superstition about the Leopard.—Elephant Shooting.—Meeting a Boa.—Stalking the Wild Bull.—Return to Sangatanga.—I am Accused of Sorcery.—Idols.—Bango’s Treasures.—Burial-ground of the Barracoons.—Disgusting Sights.—Status of Slaves in Africa.—Oroungou Cemetery.—An African Watering-place.—Fetich Point.

CHAPTER XIII: The “Camma Country.”—Coast.—Surf.—Trade—The Caroline.—A Mixed Crew.—A Dusky Bride.—A Squall.—On Her Beam-ends.—Native Traders.—Ranpano.—Sangala Troubles.—Nearly a Fight.—The City of Washington.—Attempt at Assassination.—The Camma People.—Aniambia.—River Navigation.—Men Refuse to Advance.—King Olenga-Yombi.—A Dance.—Fetich-houses.—Spirit Worship.—A Mad Bull.—Cheating the King.—Live Gorilla Brought in.—How Caught.—Ferocity of the Animal.—Joe Escapes.—Is Recaptured.—Habits and Peculiarities of Joe.—Hippopotamus-shooting.—Night-hunting.—Hippopotamus Meat.—Habits of the Animal.—Hide.—Use of the Tusks.—They Capsize Boats.—Peaceable if not Attacked.—Voice.—Combative.—Adventures with Hippopotami.

CHAPTER XIV: To the Anengue.—Canoes.—River Scenery.—Nature of the Country.—The Lagoons.—Navigation.—India-rubber Vines.—Mercantile Products and Facilities.—Porcupine-hunts.—Quengueza, the Great King.—Change of Season.—Variety in Animal Life.—Birds of Passage.—Fish.—Bee-eater.—Curious Habits of this Bird.—Serpents.—The Rivers in the Dry Season.—The Lagoons in the Dry Season.—Immense Numbers of Crocodiles.—Damagondai.—Witchcraft.—A Caudle Lecture.—Shimbouvenegani.—An Olako.—Royal Costume.—Discover a New Ape.—The Nshiego Mbouvé, or Nest-building Ape (Troglodytes Calvus).—How They Build.—Habits.—Food.—Description of the First Specimen.—A Crocodile-hunt.—Anengue Canoes.—The Ogata.—Turtle.—How the Crocodile Gets His Prey.—A Fight Looms up Ahead.—Oshoria backs down.—People of the Anengue.—Family Idols.—Worship.—Sickness.—Bola Ivoga.—African Festivals.—A Clear Case of Witchcraft.—A Native Doctor.—Exorcising a Witch.—My Town is Deserted.—I am Made a Chief.—We get a Second Young Gorilla.—I am Poisoned with Arsenic.—Trial of the Poisoner.—Singular Effect of Arsenic.

CHAPTER XV: Message and Hostage from Quengueza.—Outfit.—Makondai.—Fame of Mr. Colt.—Goumbi.—Reception.—Family Arrangements in Africa.—Intermarriage.—Driving out a Witch.—Riches among the Camma.—African Shams.—A Sunday Lecture.—Gorilla Shot.—The Poison Ordeal.—Mboundou.—Effects of the Poison.—Native Gorilla Stories.—Charms.—Young Female Gorilla Caught.—Superstitious Belief.—Trouble in the Royal Family.—A Holy Place.—Obindji’s Town.—A Royal Introduction.—Houses.—Decency in Obindji’s Town.—Surprise of the Negroes at My Appearance.—Ordeal of the Ring Boiled in Oil.—Bashikouay.—Koolookamba.—Another New Ape.—Gouamba, or Hunger for Meat.—Grace before Meat.—A Day’s Work in Africa.—Checks.—I am Counted a Magician.

CHAPTER XVI: Venomous Flies.—Gorilla.—Cutting Ebony.—The Ebony-tree.—Anguilai’s Town.—Superstitions.—Severe Sickness.—Kindness of the Native Women to Me.—Child Murdered for Sorcery.—New Cure for Sterility.—Ivory-eaters.—Manioc.—Capture a Young Nshiego Mbouve.—Its Grief for Its Mother.—Biography of Nshiego Tommy.—Easily Tamed.—His Tricks.—Habits.—Love for Wine and Scotch Ale.—His Death.—Curious Color.—Famine.—Njani Oil.—Gorilla.—Evidence of Their Vast Strength.—Guaniony.—Return to Obindji’s.—Letters and Papers from Home.—Astonishment of the Negroes at My Reading.—The Ofoubou River.—Starvation.—Njalie-Coody.—The Njambai Festival.—Woman’s Rights among the Bakalai.—A Midnight Festival.—A Mystery.—An Attempt at Blackmail.—Nature of the Njambai, or Guardian Spirit.—Hunter Killed by Gorilla.—Native Superstitions.—The Dry Season.—Gouamba.—The Eloway Fly.—Huge Serpents.—Enormous Gorilla Killed.—Curious Superstition about the Gorilla and a Pregnant Woman.—Animals Peculiar to this Region.—Generosity of the Blacks.—The Superstition of Roondah.—Return.

CHAPTER XVII: The Ants of Equatorial Africa.—The Bashikouay.—The Red Ant.—The Nchellelay.—The Little Ant.—The Red Leaf-ant.—The Nest-building Ant.

CHAPTER XVIII: The Seasons and the Fevers of Equatorial Africa.

CHAPTER XIX: Politics: the Government, Superstitions, and Slave System of Equatorial Africa.

CHAPTER XX: Summary Account and Comparison of the Great Apes of Africa: the Troglodytes Gorilla, the T. Kooloo-Kamba, the Chimpanzee (T. niger), and the Nshiego Mbouve, or T. calvus.

CHAPTER XXI: On the Bony Structure of the Gorilla and other African Apes. —Measurements of the Gorilla’s Skeleton

CHAPTER XXII: The Bakalai.—Extent of Region in which They Are Met.—Qualities.—Reasons for Intermixture of Tribes.—The Bakalai Are Rovers.—Fear of Death.—Old People Abandoned.—Treachery.—Case of Retaliation.—Women-palavers.—Arbitration.—A fetich Palaver.—Appearance of the Bakalai.—Property.—Duties of a Wife.—Restrictions on Marriage.—Slaves.—Costume.—Grass-cloth.—Hunters.—Fishing.—Great Traders.—Diseases.—Leprosy.—Music.

CHAPTER XXIII: Departure for the Interior.—Meeting of the People.—Address of Ranpano.—I am Made a Makaga.—Use of Quinine.—A Sick Friend.—Death in Goumbi.—Sorcery, and How It Is Discovered.—Great Excitement.—Terrible Tragedy.—The Victims.—The Accusations.—The Poison-cup.—The Execution.—Visit from Adouma.—Sincerity of the Doctors?—Up the River.—Manga-hunts.—A Manga Doctor.—Keeping a Creditor.—Querlaouen.—An African Tragedy.—Fight on the River.—Toward Ashira-land.—The Ashira Plains.—Splendid View.

CHAPTER XXIV: We Enter Ashira-land.—Astonishment of the People at My Appearance.—Their Fear of My Eyes.—Grand Reception.—Message and Presents from the Ashira King.—Kendo.—King Olenda.—His Address to Me.—I am an Object of Great Wonder.—My Clock a Fetich.—Features of the Plain.—Villages.—Houses.—Agriculture.—Appearance of the Ashira.—Dress.—Grass-cloth.—Loom.—Curious Custom of Young Women.—Operation of Dyeing.—Manner of Hair-dressing.—Peculiarities.—Fears of the Slaves.—Condition of Women.—Marriage.—Splendid Waterfall.—Mount Nchondo.—A Superstition about It.—A Case of Insanity.—Ascent of Mount Andele.—Meet a Nshiego Mbouve.—How It Rests at Night.—Attempt to Ascend the Nkoomoo-nabouali.—Gorilla Killed.—Difficulties of the Ascent.—Starvation .

CHAPTER XXV: The Ashira Grow Jealous of My Projects.—Set out for the Apingi Country.—Olenda Blesses Us.—The Passage of the Ovigui.—Rude Bridge.—Features of the Country.—We Meet Gorillas.—The Roar of the Gorilla.—His Walk.—Great Strength.—Meet the Apingi King.—I Fall into an Elephant-hole.—Famine.—Mosquitoes.—We See the Rembo Apingi River.—Reception among the Apingi.—Address of the King.—I am Offered a Slave for My Supper.—Wonder of the People at My Appearance.—The Mysterious Sapadi, a Cloven-footed Race.—My Clock is Thought a Guardian Spirit.—I am Asked to Make a Mountain of Beads and Trade-goods.—Fruitfulness of the Women.—Appearance of the People.—A Leopard-trap.—Invested with the Kendo.—Palm-oil.—Palm-wine.—Drunkenness Universal.—Tattooing.—Dress of the Women.—Lack of Modesty.—I am Claimed as a Husband.—Weaving of Grass-cloth.—Property among the Apingi.—The Apingi Loom.—The Ndengui.—Fetich to kill Leopards.—War Belt.

CHAPTER XXVI: Bible-reading.—The Negroes are Frightened and Run Away.—The Ceremony of Bongo.—Its Importance.—Curious Phase of African Slavery.—Preparations to Ascend the River.—Apingi Villages.—Fetiches.—Superstitions.—Spiders.—Curious Manner of Catching Their Prey.—New Animals.—Capsized.—Putrid Corpse in a Village.—Curious Manner of Burial.—Leave the River.—The Region Beyond.—Return to Remandji’s Town.—Explore the Mountains.—The Isogo.—Beyond the lsogo.—Ultima Thule.—My Shoes Give Out.—Starvation.—Great Suffering.—Shoot a Gorilla.—Illness.—Homesick.—The Return to the Seashore.—Etita: a Very Singular Disease.—The Remedy.—Heavy Rains.—An Uncomfortable Night.—Fierce Attack of Bashikouay Ants.—Difference of Seasons.—Arrival in Biagano.—Close.

APPENDIX: The Fauna of Equatorial Africa—The Languages of Equatorial Africa.

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