In 1874, Henry Morton Stanley resolved to explore more of Africa and determine once and for all the source of the Nile River.
Using his reputation as the savior of Livingstone, he gathered sponsors to finance an exploring party that arrived on the shores of Lake Victoria in February 1875.
After exploring the coasts of the lake, he ventured south and then west, where he discovered a river, nearly a mile wide, flowing north. In November 1876, Stanley led 356 men into the jungles bordering the river, land that had never been seen by Europeans. When the men put a boat onto the river, they heard calls relayed through the forest. Africans were warning one another of strangers in a boat.
“Reed arrows, tipped with poison, were shot at us from the jungles as we glided by,” recalled Stanley. “Out of every bush glared eyes flaming with hate; in the stream lurked the crocodiles to feed.”
For weeks, the party continued down the river in their canoes. At one spot, Stanley and his party, now down to a little more than 100 men, faced 54 canoes filled with African warriors, possibly more than 2,000 in all.
Stanley’s men battled desperately and used their guns to a decisive advantage. After 32 skirmishes, Stanley and the men entered a safe territory along the river where they were welcomed enthusiastically by a chief. Stanley asked the chief the name of the river.
“Ikutu Ya Kongo,” he answered. Stanley named the river Congo. As the party continued downriver, the water grew treacherous. The canoes entered the foaming maelstrom of the river’s rapids, where whirlpools swamped one canoe and crushed another against rocks.
In one afternoon, nine men were drowned, a tragedy so devastating to Stanley that he considered suicide. The river was too dangerous, and Stanley ordered his men to abandon the crafts and continue on foot.
In August 1876, Stanley and 108 men arrived at the mouth of the river where it emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. The river system of the Congo was opened to Europeans. Back in England, Stanley wrote Through the Dar3k Continent, an immensely popular account of his journey.