Dr David Livingstone: The Later Years

This is the second part of the legend of Dr David Livingstone Scottish doctor and missionary explorer. Read the first part Dr Livingstone the early years.

The Third and Last Journey (1866 – 1873)

On his third journey and his last Dr Livingstone decided to explore Central Africa.

In 1866, financed mostly by the liberal contributions of his friends and admirers, Dr David Livingstone led an expedition to discover the sources of the Nile and explore the watershed of central Africa separating the Nile and Congo drainage basins. He travelled up Lake Malawi and westwards and discovered Lake Bangweulu and Lake Mweru. Travelling along the Ruvuma River, Dr David Livingstone made his way towards Lake Tanganyika, reaching its shore in 1869.

In 1869 Dr. David Livingstone started off on a journey from Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika into the region lying west of the lake, becoming the first European to visit the Lualaba River, which becomes the Congo River in the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. After great privation he returned to Ujiji.

Livingstone at Ujiji

Livingstone liked Ujiji very much for he extended his stay there. It reminded him of Scotland because of its mountainous nature. He’s reported to have been scaling some of those little mountains. The locals, as a result, called him “Liemba” which means “a range of highlands.” Today Lake Tanganyika has a large boat, a former Germany battle ship converted to a “liner” called MV Liemba that plies its waters.

During this period, little was heard from Dr David Livingstone, and his welfare became a matter of international concern at home, in Europe and in the USA. James Gordon Bennett, a war correspondent of the New York Herald, commissioned a Welshman Henry Morton Stanley. Bennett asked Stanley a journalist to find Dr Livingstone and bring him back – dead or alive. It was quite a tall order!

“Dr Livingstone I Presume?”

Stanley searched for Livingstone for a long time. On October 28, 1871 and by coincidence, he met African hunters who informed him about a white man (bwana in Kiswahili) who was living at Ujiji. Stanley finally met Livingstone at Ujiji where, behold, the legendary famous greeting, “Dr Livingstone I Presume?” and Livingstone answered, “Yes. You’re right. My name is Livingstone.”

Henry Stanley stayed with him for four months and nursed Livingstone who was a bit off colour. Afterwards Stanley failed to persuade him to leave for England and left him behind with fresh supplies of medicines, food and drinks. Two years later Dr Livingstone arrived with his two faithful servants Susi and Chuma at Chief Chitambo’s village in Serenge on April 28, 1873.

Livingstone is Sick Again

He had given up finding the source of the Nile. On his mind was the source of another river Chambeshi to the east. Malaria had taken its toll and he knew the end was near. This was late in April after having been delayed by flooding in the Bangweulu Floodplains.

The Death Livingstone

At this time he was sick suffering from dysentery and very weak. His last entry in his dairy was on April 28th, “Properly shook up.” He was carried into the chief’s village. Chief Chitambo visited him after Susi and Chuma informed him about their fear. Their master was near death. While kneeling in prayer he died at night on May 1st 1873 at the age of 60 years and 1 month.

After his death, and as instructed, his faithful servants Juma and Susi removed his heart and viscera (internal organs) and buried them in a metal box at the foot of a mpundu (Parinari curatelligolia) tree. The body was smeared with salt inside and out and exposed to the sun for fourteen days. They wrapped up the preserved body. Chief Chitambo mobilised Africa men who helped carried the preserved remains over 1,500kms to the east coast of Africa at Bangamoyo.

The body was shipped for burial in England. Dr David Livingstone was buried with honours in a national morning at Westminster Abbey in April 1874 about a year after his death.

The Livingstone Monument

Today a monument stands in his memory and honour at the site where he died at Chief Chitambo’s village in Zambia. It would be amiss if Zambian tourism achieves forgot to mention of Dr David Livingstone. However, the Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, a town named after him, has done him proud. Lots of his exploits have been recorded and some of his possessions are kept there.

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