White Nile

( 4 )

Overview

Relive all the thrills and adventure of Alan Moorehead's classic bestseller The White Nile — the daring exploration of the Nile River in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was at that time the most mysterious and impenetrable region on earth. Capturing in breathtaking prose the larger-than-life personalities of such notable figures as Stanley, Livingstone, Burton and many others, The White Nile remains a seminal work in tales of discovery and escapade, filled with incredible historical detail and ...

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Overview

Relive all the thrills and adventure of Alan Moorehead's classic bestseller The White Nile — the daring exploration of the Nile River in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was at that time the most mysterious and impenetrable region on earth. Capturing in breathtaking prose the larger-than-life personalities of such notable figures as Stanley, Livingstone, Burton and many others, The White Nile remains a seminal work in tales of discovery and escapade, filled with incredible historical detail and compelling stories of heroism and drama.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060956394
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 146,699
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Moorehead (1910-1983) was a foreign correspondent for the London Daily Express, where he won an international reputation for his coverage of World War II campaigns, and also served as the chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Defense. He is also the author of many other notable books, including Gallipoli and Darwin and the Beagle.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Zanzibar 1856

The Zanzibar that Burton and Speke first saw at the end of 1856 was a much more important place than it is today; indeed, it was almost the only centre of overseas commerce worth the name along the whole East African seaboard. The attempts of the Portuguese to found an empire on the mainland opposite the island had long since come to nothing, and all the country inland, the territories we now know as Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and the Congo, was very largely an unmapped, unknown void.

In a vague and general way the Sultans of Zanzibar laid claim to a part at least of this vast area, but in point of fact their power was restricted to the coastline and was not really effective even there. During the dry seasons slave and ivory caravans found their way into the wilderness that lay beyond and were gone for a year or more, perhaps for ever, but that was all one ever heard of Central Africa. It was almost as remote and strange as outer space is today.

The island of Zanzibar, however, was something of a name in the world, a regular port of call for the sailing vessels plying the Indian Ocean; and it was in one of these, a British sloop, that Burton and Speke came in on the northeast monsoon from Bombay on December, 1856.

Their first view of the island cannot have been so very different from the scene one sees at the present time. Then, as now, a whiff of cloves and tropical spices came out to greet the traveller from the shore, and on the shore itself a slow, oily sea of marvellous blue washed up on to white coral beaches. The jungle that began at the water's edge was green with a hecticgreenness, and although occasional rainstorms and even tornadoes swept the island it was oppressed throughout the year by a deep soporific heat.

Seen from the sea Zanzibar port was an uneven silhouette of earthen hovels and large four-square buildings made of greyish coral, the only building stone on the island. One described very easily the palace of the Sultan, the houses of the consuls and the merchants, and then the minarets rising from the mosques in the town beyond. It was to one of these houses, close to the foreshore, that of Lieutenant-Colonel Atkins Hamerton, the British Agent, that Burton and Speke proposed to make their way.

The anchorage before the town was much congested. Burton counted upwards of sixty Arab dhows which, like his own sloop, had been blown across the Indian Ocean by the monsoon, and they were similar to those one sees in Zanzibar now, solid wooden hulls of anything between 50 and 500 tons with a single mast, a great lateen sail and a bowsprit that projected so far it almost doubled the vessel's length. In addition there were half a dozen square-rigged merchantmen in port, Americans from Salem, Frenchmen and Hamburgers that had sailed round the Cape from Europe. AH these had come to pick up cargoes of copal, coconuts, ivory, hides, tortoise-shell, red pepper, ambergris, beeswax, hippopotamus teeth, rhinoceros horn, cowrie shells (that were called blackamoor's teeth) and anything else that was going in the bazaar. Rubbish of every kind floated by along the foreshore, and it was not unusual for a dead body to be seen among the debris. 'Here and there,' Burton wrote later, 'a giant shark shoots up from the depths and stares at the fisherman with a cool, fixed and colourless eye that makes his blood run cold.'

From the scene one sees at the present time. Then, as now, a whiff of cloves and tropical spices came out to greet the traveller from the shore, and on the shore itself a slow, oily sea of marvellous blue washed up on to white coral beaches. The jungle that began at the water's edge was green with a hectic greenness, and although occasional rainstorms and even tornadoes swept the island it was oppressed throughout the year by a deep soporific heat.

Seen from the sea Zanzibar port was an uneven silhouette of earthen hovels and large four-square buildings made of greyish coral, the only building stone on the island. One described very easily the palace of the Sultan, the houses of the consuls and the merchants, and then the minarets rising from the mosques in the town beyond. It was to one of these houses, close to the foreshore, that of Lieutenant-Colonel Atkins Hamerton, the British Agent, that Burton and Speke proposed to make their way.

The anchorage before the town was much congested. Burton counted upwards of sixty Arab dhows which, like his own sloop, had been blown across the Indian Ocean by the monsoon, and they were similar to those one sees in Zanzibar now, solid wooden hulls of anything between 50 and 500 tons with a single mast, a great lateen sail and a bowsprit that projected so far it almost doubled the vessel's length. In addition there were half a dozen square-rieized merchantmen in port, Americans from Salem, Frenchmen and Hamburgers that had sailed round the Cape from Europe. All these had come to pick up cargoes of copal, coconuts, ivory, hides, tortoise-shell, red pepper, ambergris, beeswax, hippopotamus teeth, rhinoceros hom, cowrie shells (that were called blackamoor's teeth) and anything else that was going in the bazaar. Rubbish of every kind floated by along the foreshore, and it was not unusual for a dead body to be seen among the debris. 'Here and there,' Burton wrote later, 'a giant shark shoots up from the depths and stares at the fisherman with a cool, fixed and colourless eye that makes his blood run cold.'

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2005

    Colossal

    I read the book when I was 36. Now I am 66 years old and I will buy it for as second reading, together with 'THE BLUE NILE' which I expect to thrill me as well. Is like watching a movie. It generates scenes so vivid you feel you participate in the quest. Takes you from your hand into an amazingly strong and dangerous adventure in a manner you start to believe you are participating also. Unwillingly, you believe YOU ARE THERE !

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2007

    One of my all-time favorite books.

    A Christmas gift left unread for many months, due to it's printing's sensational cover, White Nile turned out to be a wonderful surprise and has since endured several rereadings. Moorehead is the finest writer of popular history I've ever encountered and in my opinion outdistances Barbara Tuchman and Doris Kearnes Goodwin by a long mile. Possessed of an unmatched narrative sense, Moorehead adopts a distinctly British voice with a warmth I love to immerse myself in. Be that said, others will have problems with this book. The greatest of which is in the treatment of the Africans themselves, who are at times characterized by words, clearly taken from sources, like 'savage' and 'infantile.' Some readers, to their credit, will not be able to see beyond this. Yet, given the material Moorehead is dealing with here, and his overall task in telling the story of these explorers, it's hard to tell how he could have avoided this. To do so deliberately, I think, would have rendered the prose inauthentic. Furthermore, there is ample evidence in the text of his personal sympathy for the Africans, and their plight, and I have no trouble discerning when the author presents material from sources, even when not explicitly cited. Where Moorehead succeeds brilliantly is in telling the tale of perhaps the last generation of gifted amateurs, some of whom, armed with very little more than what personal qualities they possessed, enlarged our world and changed history. For some reason, Gordon come to mind here. Do not mistake White Nile as a formal monograph, such as Neil B. McLynn's Ambrose of Milan, because White Nile isn't about Africa per se. It is a romance of exploration and discovery, tinged with hints of the corporate malaise yet to come. So. White Nile is not a history, and it is not politically correct in all respects. So be it. The book has, and I believe will in future, stand well on its merits as an exemplar of it's genre. And when I make these kinds of preditions, I'm pretty much spot on....

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    Posted May 6, 2010

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    Posted December 6, 2008

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