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Journeys in the Benin Country, West Africa

Journeys in the Benin Country, West Africa

The part of the world that I am go­ing to speak about is the Benin country, West Africa. Owing to the want of proper surveying instru­ments I was very much hampered in my mapping work.
On my return to Africa, early next year (1893), I hope to be able to furnish the Society with more reliable maps of this particular region. It is extraordinary how little appears to be known about the Be­nin country.
Dapper and Barbot, geographical writ­ers of the 17th and 18th centuries, give a certain amount of information on the subject; but their works were for the most part compiled from the observa­tions of others, and not from personal experience, and consequently their state­ments can only be accepted with a cer­tain amount of caution.
The Jakris have hitherto acted as mid­dlemen between the white traders and the oil producers ; they naturally resent any white trader establishing a factory up-country, and thereby dealing direct with the oil producers ; consequently they do their best to obstruct any move in this direction.
Taking these facts into consideration, it will probably be some time before the Sapele factories do very much trade.
On the other hand, the oil produc­ers are very anxious to trade direct with the white man ; but they are afraid of the Jakris, and will continue to be so until a military post is established at Sapele. The Vice-Consulate has been, and is at pre­sent, established near the mouth of the river; but in a very short time it will be moved up to Sapele.
This will have the effect of giving con­fidence to the Sobos, and at the same time an eye can be more easily kept on the Jakris.
After ascending the river about 6 miles we come to the Deli Creek. This water­way leads into the Escardos river and is navigable for launches, but is too narrow and tortuous for even small steamers.
In about a couple of miles we reach the Lagos Creek, the entrance to the in­land waters connecting the Benin Riv­er with Lagos.
Last year (1891) Mr. Haly Hutton and I managed to navigate this channel, there­by having the small satisfaction of be­ing the first Europeans to get through by this route. It appears that several attempts bad previously been made to reach the Benin River from Lagos, but Arogbo was the furthest point touched.
This place is about 50 miles from the Benin River.
On the occasion I mention our craft was a large gig-canoe, lent to me by Nan­na, the leading Jakri chief, manned by thirty men. Nanna objected to supply me with a crew, as he said that if once his slaves know the way to Lagos tbey would all eventually run away, Lagos being a free country. However, a chief named Dore not having the same scru­ples, gave me all the men I required.
Leaving the river on a Tuesday (Dec. 7th, 1891) we reached Lagos the follow­ing Sunday, thus taking five days to do the 170 miles.
We paddled only during the day, i.e., from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
* Benin Old Moat from Culture areas of Nigeria by Hambly, Wilfrid Dyson - 1935
Journeys in the Benin Country, West Africa
by Captain H. L. Gallwey (H.M. Vice-Consul to the Oil Rivers Protectorate)
A paper read at the meeting of the Roy­al Geographical Society,
December 5th, 1892
 

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