Friday, February 6, 2015

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda: The White Nile

An evening Nile "cruise" in an open excursion boat, encountered a thunderstorm.
The mysterious Nile!  Its source a mystery for 2.000 years. Herodotus (c.484-425BC), the Ancient Greek "Father of History", was probably the first to compile theories of the river's origins. He even made an expedition to Africa to determine the origin for himself, navigating as far as the modern Aswn in Egypt. He decided that the source was unknowable, due to the land of "Wild Beasts". 
Who? Me? The famous Nile Crocodile.
The monumental trials of later explorers, with swamps, diseases, animals, natives and Arab slave traders, proved him not far from wrong. Herodotus dismissed the theory that the origin of the Nile was snowmelt, arguing that the persistent heat of the equatorial regions precluded such an explanation. However, that explanation was closest to the truth.

The Hippos knew...

A trader named Diogenes, traveling west from the African coast around 50 CE, reported his discovery of a great lake and snowy mountains in the African interior. Historians suspect that these were the present day Lake Nyassa or Victoria and the Ruwenzori Mountains. From Diogenes account, the snowy mountains feeding the lakes and hence the Nile, were entered into Ptolemy's (the great second century Alexandrian geographer and cartographer)  grand Geograpica as the fabled  "Mountains of the Moon"

I may look like I'm from the moon, but I'm not! Saddle Billed Stork.
(Ephippiorhynchus senegalis)

The elusive Shoebill Stork. I am not from the moon either!

There are only an estimated 300 left in the wild.
These are two different individuals.
(Balaniceps rex)

Thus was the scant knowledge of the source of the Nile, for another 1500 yrs, until , in the 19th century it became an obsession.

The Richard Burton and John Speke expedition, 1856, also approached the Nile from the west coast of Africa, via Zanzibar. They "discovered" Lake Tanganyka together, but on a side expedition without Burton, Speke "discovered" Lake Victoria and Ripon Falls. He surmised that the river emanating from the falls was the Nile, and thus, that Lake victoria was the source of the Nile.

Hmm, let me think..could it be?
Olive Baboon (Papio anubis).

It was only a surmise, with no proof, and Burton had other theories. This lead to an extended debate in the Royal Geographic Society, which was to be settled by a public debate between Burton ans Speke. Directly before this could occur, Speke accidently (?) shot himself while hunting.

Does the Snake  Eagle know?
(I am unsure of the species)

Was the African Fish Hawk watching? ( Halieetus vocifer)

David Livingstone failed to find the source in 1866. It was left to Henry Morton Stanley in his remarkable "Walk Across Africa" to prove Speke right. By 1877, the mystery of the White Nile was solved. Even now however, the answer is more complex, including the snows of the Ruwenzori mountains and Lake Albert.

And thus the mystery was cleared, and modern day exploitation could begin.

There is still much beauty left!

There are Pied Kingfishers everywhere (Ceryle rudis).

His elegant cousin, the Giant Kingfisher ( Megaceryle maximus).

Another flashy relative, the Woodland Kingfisher (Halycon senegalensis).

Bird break! A Defassa Waterbuck.

Red Throated Bee Eater (Merops Bulocki) 

These Bee Eaters live in cavities
 in the cliffs above the river.

Little Bee Eater  (Merops pusillus)

Black Headed Weaver on Papyrus.
Papyrus swamps were the bane of many explorers.

With its nest.Why it is called a weaver bird.
(Ploceous melanocephalus)

They were everywhere, here with Cattle Egrets (Bulbucus ibis).

African Darter, drying its wings.
Anhingas do not have waterproof feathers.

Also called a "Snake Bird" (Anhinga rufus)

Another bird break!
Colobus Monkey  (Colobus guereza) in a Sausage Tree.
They eat the "sausages".

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath)
A Black Crake (Amauronis flavirosta),
wanders among the invasive Water Hyacinth

Fishermen on Lake Albert. The Congo in the background.

The Nile flows into Lake Albert, Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Francine "discovered" the lake on a treacherous journey, 1864.  But the source of the Nile eluded them.  Murchison Falls precluded further navigation. Sir Baker named Murchison Falls after Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geographic Society at that time. 

The Great White Pelicans laughed (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Murchison Falls, for which the Park is named.
 The falls break the Nile between Lake Victoria and Lake Albert, 

not far from Lake Albert.

The elephant remembers what it was like
before the Nile source was "discovered"

My excellent and knowlegable guide.

The sun sets over the Nile.
We need freedom to roam across land owned by no one, but protected by all, whose unchanging horizon is the same that bounded the world of our millenial ancestors~ E.O. Wilson.


  1. Tú siempre descubres la belleza , porqué miras con los ojos del alma , bellísimas imágenes de un lugar dónde no ha sido tocado por el hombre , ojalá mantenga su estado de pureza . Gracias hermana del corazón por compartir lo qué tus ojos ven .......belleza .

    1. Gracias mi hermana corazon, para sus palabras amables! Fue un viaje maravilloso, yo soy muy suerte haber mirado tal belleza! Es mi placer por compartir!

  2. Simply spectacular!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much Luis! Glad I can give back some of the beauty your blog brings me!

  3. Wow! What an amazing adventure! Love the bee eater and Kingfishers-and what an odd bill on that stork! Hope they survive.

    1. Thanks Larry, it was amazing! There is so much beauty.. I too hope it survives the human onslaught!

  4. Such beautiful and interesting creatures. Thanks for expanding my world.