EUROPEAN EXPLORERS

In 1788, the African Association was formed in England to promote the exploration of Africa in the hopes of locating the Niger. In 1795, Mungo Park (1771-1806), the Scottish explorer, travelled overland from the Gambia region and reached the Niger near Segou, where, in July 1796, he established that the river flowed eastward. The true course was confirmed in his book, Travels in the Interior of Africa, which appeared in 1799.

In 1805, Mungo Park sailed more than 2,400 kilometres down the river, seeking to reach its mouth, but he and his party were drowned in the rapids at Bussa.

Hugh Clapperton (1788-1827), a young Scottish, was the first European explorer in West Africa to return with a first-hand account of the area now known as Northern Nigeria. Following his service in the Royal Navy, he joined explorers Dixon Denham and Walter Oudney in a British government sponsored expedition that journeyed southward from Tripoli across the Sahara. Early in 1823, they became the first Europeans to view Lake Chad and to enter the Sudanese province of Bornu (now Borno) in Nigeria. Clapperton travelled to Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zaria, before he and Denham returned to England in June 1825. Almost immediately, he sailed to the west coast of Africa. In December, he left the Bight of Benin for the Niger River with his servant and companion, Richard Lemon Lander. They crossed the Niger and travelled via Kano to Sokoto, near which Clapperton died. His Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822-1823, and 1824 was published in 1828. Lander published Records of Captain Clapperton’s Last Expedition to Africa in 1830.

At the request of the British government, Richard Lemon Lander (1804-1834) returned to Western Africa. This time, he travelled with his brother John Lander. The Lander brothers, as they became known, sailed to the Bight of Benin. They landed at Badagry on 22 March 1830. From there, they took Clapperton’s route and travelled inland to Bussa and explored the Niger River, after which they proceeded to explore the Benue River and the Niger Delta.

They returned to Britain in 1831. Richard Lander returned to Niger in 1832, as leader of an expedition organized by Macgregor Laired and other Liverpudlian merchants, with the intention of founding a trading settlement at the junction of the Niger and Benue rivers. However, the expedition encountered some difficulties. Many people died from fever and it failed to reach Bussa. While journeying upstream in a canoe, Richard Lander was attacked by local people and wounded in his thigh. He managed to return to the coast, but died from his injuries.