AFRICA. A land of burning desert sands across which picturesque camel caravans wind their way; of vast and gloomy forests where giant apes and warlike dwarfs dwell side by side; a land which at the dawn of history cradled a great civilization, yet whose vast interior is today slowly emerging from savagery; a land mysterious, opulent, alluring, which has beckoned many an adventurer to an untimely end from disease or Somali spear such is Africa, the great "Dark Continent," whose story is one of the most thrilling pages in History's book.
America was discovered, explored, colonized, and even far-off Australia was opened to the white man, while still Africa hid her great secrets, existing in the minds of men not as a continent but as a coastline. For centuries
Geographers of Afric maps
With savage pictures filled their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Placed elephants for want of towns.
Then in a brief 25 years in the last half of the 19th century the riddle of Africa was practically solved. French and British engineers with level and transit, drill and dynamite, followed the explorers into the interior, and the story of the conquest of a continent by these brave pioneers of the jungle and veldt forms a chronicle of courage and daring, resource and tenacity, unsurpassed in history.
Why did Africa, lying at the very doors of Europe and Asia, remain so long a dark continent? Why did its coastline remain unexplored and its interior unpenetrated by white men? A study of the map of Africa and of its climate will help to solve these questions.
EXTENT AND LOCATION. If you were to follow westward the parallel which touches Cape Blanco, the northernmost point of Africa, you would eventually reach the southern tip of Illinois, and if you followed it still farther, you would find that it lies a few miles south of San Francisco. Tlie southernmost point of the continent, Cape Agulhas, lies about as far south as Buenos Aires. The distance between these two points is about 5,000 miles. From Cape Verde, the extreme western tip of Africa, to Ras Hafun, south of Cape Guardafui, the point farthest east, the distance is some 4,600 miles. The area of this great land mass (11,262,000 sq. m.) is greater than that of any other continent except Asia, and is more than three times as great as that of Europe. Through the center runs the Equator, so that the greater part of Africa's great bulk lies within the torrid zone.
In the northeast Africa is joined to Asia by the Isthmus of Suez, about 75 miles wide, across which the Suez Canal has been cut. Europe lies to the north across the Mediterranean Sea, but at the Strait of Gibraltar the two continents are only nine miles apart. The Atlantic Ocean bounds Africa on the west and the Indian Ocean, with its inlet the Red Sea, forms the eastern boundary.
FORM AND COASTLINE. In shape Africa resembles somewhat a lop-sided pear. Its contour is very regular, and the coastline, almost wholly lacking in peninsulas and deep bays, is only 19,000 miles in length—shorter in proportion to its area than the coastline of any other continent, and only half again as long as that of little Norway. The great gulfs are the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast, the Gulf of Aden between the horn of Africa and Arabia, and the gulfs of Sidra and Gabes in the Mediterranean. A regular coastline means a lack of good harbors, and this fact, together with the difficulty of navigating the rivers, helped largely to keep the interior of Africa an unknown land for many centuries.
Few islands fringe the shores of Africa. Madagascar, the fifth largest island in the world, which lies 250 miles to the east across the deep Mozambique Channel, is the only one of any size. Among the islands off the eastern coast are the Seychelles, the Comoroi, Zanzibar, Pemba, Mauritius, and Reunion; and in the Atlantic Ocean are the Madeira, the Canary, and the Cape Verde groups, and Fernando Po, Prince, St. Thomas, St. Helena, and Ascension.
SURFACE. A study of the surface of Africa will show a second important reason why that continent remained so long unexplored and undeveloped. It is not, like the Americas, a land of great heights and wide fertile valleys; but in general it is a great plateau, averaging 2,000 feet in height, which in some places rises abruptly from the coast and in others leaves a narrow border of lowlands. The rivers, both large and small, descend from the high plateaus to the sea in rapids, and therefore they do not provide an easy means of penetrating to the interior of the continent. In the northwest the land is comparatively low for hundreds of miles along the coast, but the burning sands of the Sahara Desert turned back all who would approach from that direction.
HIGHLANDS AND LOWLANDS. As a whole the northern part of Africa is lower than the southern portion but in the extreme northwest the Atlas Mountains attain a considerable height, their loftiest peak reaching more than 14,000 feet. To the south and west of these mountains lies the great Sahara Desert, about 3,500,000 square miles in area. A long low ridge runs from northwest to southeast through this region. E ordering on the Gulf of Guinea are low mountain ranges, and in the extreme northeast of the continent there are heights along the Red Sea.
The southern part of the continent, with the exception of the Congo basin—a hollow formerly occupied by a great lake—and the lowlands along the coast, is a plateau 2,000 or more feet high. The East Africa plateau, extending from the Red Sea to the Zambezi River, is characterized by "rift valleys," parallel cracks in the earth's surface, in which lie the great lakes. Much of this highland has an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, and in Abyssinia it reaches heights of 6,000, 8,000, and 10,000 feet. It is in this eastern section that the chief mountains are massed. They do not run in great ranges, but are thrust up separately and between them are high prairies or plateaus called in Central Africa "savannas" and in the south "the veldt."
Near the Equator and east of Victoria Nyanza (nyanza means "lake") lie two extinct volcanoes, Kenya (17,200 ft.) and Kilimanjaro (19,720 ft.), tne culminating point of the African continent. Between lakes Albert and Albert Edward rises die great mass of Ruwenzori, the fabled "Mountains of the Moon," a short range which in early days was thought to extend across the continent from east to west and about which many legends arose. The tops of these mountains are covered with snow and glaciers. Their highest peak is 16,600 feet above sea level. No great heights rise above the South African plateau except the Drakensberg Mountains, in the extreme southeast, which are in places more than 11,000 feet high. Northwest of the Drakensbcrgs is the Kalahari Desert, a hot and barren stretch about 600 miles in diameter.
RIVEKS AND LAKES. About one-third of the vast continent of Africa sends no rivers to the sea. Lake Chad, in the west center, receives much of the waters of these inward-flowing streams. Another third of the territory drains into the Atlantic Ocean, and the remainder into the Indian Ocean or the Mediterranean. The dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian ocean drainage areas is rarely more than 500 miles from the east coast, except in the Zambezi basin.
Africa's four great rivers are the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, and the Zambezi. Of the world's rivers the Nile is second in length only to the Missouri-Mississippi system, and the Congo ranks second only to the Amazon in the volume of water it discharges. The Nile, which rises in the great lake district, is the only river of note which flows into the Mediterranean. It drains a comparatively small area. The Zambezi, in the southeast, is the only large river which empties into the Indian Ocean; others include the Limpopo, the Rovuma, the Rufiji, and the Juba. In the west, north of the Equator, the Niger and the Senegal, emptying into the Atlantic, are the important rivers. Farther south the Congo drains a large territory on its way to the Atlantic Ocean, and the extreme southern tip of the continent is drained by the Orange River, which also enters the Atlantic.
Africa has a magnificent, equatorial lake system, second only to the Great Lakes of North America. Unlike the latter, the African lakes have no deep-water connection with the sea, and hence their commercial value is greatly lessened. Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh-water lake in the world, Tanganyika, the longest lake in the world, and Lake Nyasa, which reaches in places a depth of 2,600 feet, are the largest lakes in the system. Others in the group are lakes Rudolf, Albert, and Albert Edward. Lake Chad, south of the Sahara, like the Caspian Sea, has no outlet. During the rainy season its area is about 20,000 square miles, but it is shallow, and during the dry season it shrinks to half that size.
CLIMATE. Of all the continents Africa possesses the most uniform climate. Three-fourths of it lies within the tropics, the remainder stretching into the north temperate and south temperate zones. Contrast it with North America, which stretches from the
Arctic Regions to within the tropics. In the equatorial region the rainfall is heavy. The heat is intense and there is a great deal of evaporation. In the regions near the Equator rain may fall during every month of the year, but it is heaviest in the spring and fall when the sun is nearly vertical. The region of greatest rainfall is in the Cameroon Mountains on the west coast. North and south of the equatorial region tlie rainfall diminishes rapidly. There is usually only one wet season. The structure of the continent as well as its temperature causes a lack of rainfall, for the moisture-bearing winds from the sea do not reach the interior, due to the high plateaus. The hot dry northeast trade winds blow across the Sahara Desert absorbing the moisture, and in some parts of it rain seldom or never falls. The countries bordering the Sahara are subject to a very dry wind full of fine particles of sand blowing from the desert to the sea. This wind has various names in different regions. In the Mediterranean it is known as the sirocco wind. The southeast trade winds blow across the Kalahari Desert, but it is not so dry as the Sahara. The Mediterranean and extreme southwest regions have mild winters, during which rain falls, and warm dry summers.
We find in the climate of Africa another reason for the centuries of delay in exploration and settlement. The highest plateaus and the temperate northern and southern portions of the continent are healthful, but the hot damp equatorial regions abound in fever, as do the lowlands along the eastern and parts of the western coasts, which have been called "the white man's grave." The tsetse fly, whose bite causes the fatal sleeping sickness, and the malarial mosquito take a toll of the lives of thousands of natives and scores of white men every year. Improved sanitation, however, is doing much to better these conditions.
PLANT LIFE. The vegetation of Africa is very diversified. In the equatorial regions are dense and tangled forests of enormous extent, with giant trees growing close together and so interlaced with vines and creepers that the rays of the sun seldom penetrate. The savannas and veldt districts are important grasslands, dotted with flat-topped trees which form continuous woods along the rivers, and abounding in reeds in the marshy districts. The deserts have little vegetation—just a few thorny, fleshy shrubs and acacia bushes. In the oases of the Sahara—those spots where springs of water have forced themselves to the surface there are groves of date palms whose fruit is an important article of food to the nomadic tribes of that region.
In the Mediterranean belt the vegetation is much like that of southern Europe. There are found the olive, semi-tropical fruits, cork and oak trees, etc. In Algeria, Tunis, and Libya there are vast tracts of esparto grass, which is largely exported to 'England for paper-making. The papyrus still lingers on the upper Nile, although in the lower Nile valley the lotus and other native plants have given way to cereals, cotton, tobacco, etc. The cotton and coffee plants are both native to Africa and are widely cultivated. In the forest regions of the Sudan and Guinea the baobab or monkey-bread tree flourishes. The banana, butter tree, ebony, the mangrove, and various palms also grow profusely in these regions. The south temperate zone has the richest and most varied vegetation of all Africa. There grasses, shrubs, beautiful ferns, and many varieties of heather are found, and the flowering plants are notable for their unusual brilliancy of coloring.
ANIMALS. Africa is the home of the largest members of the animal kingdom—the elephant, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, and the lion. The animal life does not vary greatly in different parts of the continent. On the savannas animals are very numerous, especially those varieties which feed on grass. Antelopes lead in numbers, and there are also the buffalo, the rhinoceros, the gnu, the zebra, and the giraffe, which is peculiar to Africa. Of the flesh-eating animals, the leopard, the lion, the hyena, and the jackal are found in these regions. The okapi, a sort of cousin of the giraffe found only in Africa, inhabits the dense Congo forests.
In the forests a great wealth of bird and insect life abounds, but there are few mammals. These regions, however, are the special habitat of the gorilla, chimpanzee, and countless other varieties of monkeys. The elephant, which has been so persistently hunted for its tusks that it is greatly reduced in numbers, makes its home in the jungles as well as in the savannas. The rivers in the tropical zone abound in hippopotamuses and crocodiles.
Among the birds most characteristic of Africa are the ostrich and the secretary bird. Other varieties include weaver birds, guinea-fowl), ibises, parrots, and many other birds of brilliant hue. Of reptiles the lizard and chameleon are very common, and there are a number of venomous serpents. There are many thousand varieties of insects. The ravages of the locusts, termites, and white ants are almost incredible. The tsetse fly, which attacks animals, makes cattle-raising impossible in some districts.
GEOLOGY AND MINERALS. Geologically Africa is a very old continent. The greater part of its land surface was formed in early geologic times and lias remained above sea level during succeeding periods. Its structure is simple and uniform. Among the prevailing types of rocks are schists, granites, and gneisses. Above them are usually tilted or eroded beds of sandstones and slates. There are many volcanic mountains. The Atlas range, however, is the only representative of a system formed by crustal folding.
The diamond and gold regions of South Africa are among the largest known. Building stones are found among the rocks, and the granite and syenite found along the basin of the Nile have been excavated since the time of the Pharaohs. In the southern part of the Congo basin are valuable iron and copper deposits, and these minerals also exist in Northern Rhodesia, Morocco, and Algeria. Coal has been found to a limited extent along the Zambezi River and elsewhere. Tin occurs in the Niger valley and petroleum in Somaliland and Egypt.
PEOPLE. One hundred and fifty million blacks and twenty million light-skinned people make up the population of Africa. They are very unevenly distributed over the surface, the Nile delta, for instance, being densely populated while large tracts of desert lands are uninhabited. The interior of the continent has no natural barriers, so the different tribes have intermingled to such an extent that there is a great confusion of races and no sharp line can be drawn in classifying them. The chief racial elements are the Bushman, Negro, Hamite, Libyan, and Semite, from which a vast number of "transitional" tribes has risen.
In early times the Bushmen, a race of short yellowish-brown hunters, and the Hottentots, a pastoral people of medium stature and yellowish-brown complexion, shared the southern end of the continent. The Hottentots seem to be a blend of Bushman, Negro, and Hamite. The Negroes and the transitional tribes which have sprung up through their intermingling with other races occupy the southern and central plateaus and the forest regions. They are divided into two great groups, those to the north being classed as the true Negroes and those to the south as Bantus. The Negroes are black-skinned, and have flat or broad noses, thick lips, and narrow heads with woolly hair. Among them a great confusion of languages exists. In a small area in Nigeria, for instance, one may find a halt dozen villages speaking not different dialects, but entirely different languages. Some of the Bantus resemble the true Negroes while others have prominent noses and thin lips. They speak one language.
In the densely forested regions along the Equator dwell the Pygmy tribes, an extremely interesting little people who live as nomadic hunters. To what strain they belong is undecided. They are dark brown and have very broad noses. Abyssinia is inhabited mainly by brown-skinned Semites (Arabs) and Hamites, and the territory to the east and north of it by Hamites. In Algeria and Morocco are the Libyans (Berbers), a distinctively white people who have fallen in certain respects under Arab influence.
Where rain is plentiful agriculture is. the main pursuit of the African natives, except where the density of the forest makes the task of clearing too difficult. The Sudan Negroes plant plantains, yams, and manioc. The Bantus are farmers except those in Southwest Africa whose purely pastoral habits are the outcome of the barren country they inhabit. They drink milk, which is almost unknown among the northern Negroes.
The Negroes in the west central part of Africa have rectangular houses with ridged roofs, and wear clothing of bark cloth or palm fiber. It is fashionable in this section to have one's upper teeth chipped or extracted. Their chief weapon is the bow with strings of cane. The Bantus in the south and east have circular huts with domed or conical roofs, clothing of skin or leather, and Dame Fashion decrees among these tribes that the lower teeth shall be chipped or extracted. Spears are their principal weapons. Both of these races are highly superstitious. The Negroes practice fetish worship, while the Bantu religion takes the form of ancestor worship. In the dry regions rain-making superstitions are prevalent. Among the Hamites, Semites, and Libyans Mohammedanism is the form of worship.'
Living in a warm region where little is needed in the way of clothing and shelter, and where the forest provides food, it is difficult for the Negro to learn to work, and this has been another great stumbling block in the way of progress in Africa. The tribal government and absence of central authority, the practice of slavery, the prevalence of all sorts of superstitions and' terrors, the tribal wars brought about by the ivory trade—all these things have to be fought in bringing about better conditions. The increase of education and Christianity, however, the employment of large numbers of Africans in industries, and the lessons tauglit by the World War are among the factors which have intensified the feeling of race unity and are rapidly changing conditions in the heart of Africa.
HISTORY. So far as its native inhabitants are concerned, Africa, with the exception of the lower Nile valley and what is known as Roman Africa in the North, is a continent practically without a history. The Negro is the child of the moment and his memory is very short. He has kept no records from which a history might be constructed, and the early movement of tribes and the origin of their customs are mostly matters of conjecture. Except for Egypt and Ethiopia the story of Africa is a record of the doings of its Asiatic and European conquerors.
First came the Phoenicians, in about 1000 B.C., who later founded the powerful city of Carthage on the Mediterranean near where the city of Tunis now stands. The Greeks, in the 7th century B.C., founded Cyrenaica, a flourishing colony at the point where Africa approaches nearest to the Greek islands. Under the Romans, who supplanted the-earlier peoples, the settled portions of the land became very prosperous. Then the shifting pageant of history shows the introduction of
Christianity, which flourished for a time, the coming of the Vandals from the west, and the invasion of an Arab horde from the cast. The latter conquered the whole country from the Red Sea to the Atlantic, bringing with them the Mohammedan religion, which in succeeding centuries became indelibly stamped on northern Africa. Christianity survived only in Abyssinia, which remained independent of the Arabs, and in Egypt, where the Coptic Church was suffered to exist. In the 16th century Arab rule was overthrown by the Turks.
In the 15th century Prince Henry of Portugal, "the Navigator," inspired several expeditions down the Atlantic coast of Africa, which met with varying success. In 1498, however, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and up the east Coast. The Portuguese established sovereignty over large areas of the coast lands. Trading stations were established along the Guinea coast and trade was carried on in slaves, gold, ivory, and spices. British, French, and Dutch adventurers followed the Portuguese.
During the 17th century the Dutch gradually gained control of tlie southern end of the continent. In the 18th century the European nations were too busy with wars and the struggle for supremacy in America and the East to give much attention to Africa. The slave trade nourished, however, and reached its highest development at this period. Then towards the end of the century began the period of great explorations. James Bruce, wlio discovered the Blue Nile, and Mungo Park, wlio made explorations through the Niger territory, headed the list of notable explorers.
In the early 19th century Great Britain had gained possession of the territory in the south and the Boers (as the descendants of the Dutch settlers were called) had moved farther inland. The French were gaining territory in the northwest and great efforts were being made in that section and in the west to put an end to the slave trade.
In 1840 David Livingstone, a missionary, began explorations in the course of which he crossed the continent from west to east, discovered the great Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, and later explored Lake Nyasa (See LIVINGSTONE, DAVID). J. H. Speke was the first man to read the riddle of the Nile. Henry M. Stanley, a British-American who had been sent out to find the lost Livingstone, made the most memorable of all exploring expeditions (begun in 1874). He circumnavigated lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, and followed the Lualaba River to the Atlantic, proving it to be the Congo (See STANLEY, SIR HENRY MORTON-). While the great mystery of Central Africa was being solved by these men, other explorers were making discoveries in the north and in the south where the finding_in 1869 of rich diamond fields at the junction of the Orange and Vaal rivers caused a rush of ship at Neuchatel, he came to America to follow certain lines of research in geology and zoology. He lectured at Harvard University and at Cornell and also at Lowell Institute, and was offered sufficiently attractive inducements to keep him in America. The sum of $50,000 was contributed by a citizen of New York City for the advancing of his work, and an academic position was offered to him. He taught first at Cornell University and later became professor of zoology and geology at Harvard. His researches carried him to Brazil and led to extensive travel travel in North America, bringing valuable acquisitions to the data of science. He held many views contrary to those prevalent in his day, his opposition to the theory of evolution being the most noteworthy example. His chief writings are Researches on Fossil Fishes, Glacial Systems, Outlines on Comparative Physiology and a Journey to Brazil.