LIVINGSTONE'S ZAMBEZI EXPEDITION, 1858-1864 -- FRANCIS SKEAD (1823-1891)
Chart entitled 'AFRICA EAST COAST. MOUTHS OF THE RIVER ZAMBESI Surveyed by F Skead Master R.N Assisted by Lieut Suther R.M.A 1858-61 Obsn Spot Pearl Id. Kongoni R. Lat 18°.52.50" Long 36°.11'.37"E of Greenwich H.W.F.&C 1Vth 30m Springs rise 12 to 15 feet Magnetic Variation in 1862 decreasing 4' annually Soundings in fathoms (Note Mouths are surveyed & rivers sketched in)', autograph maunscript on waxed paper laid down on linen, sepia and red ink, the soundings denoted in red ink, annotations in ink including the lines of breakers and sand bars, the named Points (Ord, Signal, Dry Wood, First Bluff and Hyde Parker), observation spots on Pearl Island, Flagstaff and village at the mouth of the Kongoni, compass with magnetic variation and scale, 30 x 39in. (76.2 x 99cm.).
ENGRAVED: by Malby & Sons, under the supervision of R. Adm. Washington, RRS, Hydrographer, for the Hydrographic Office, published at the Admiralty [London], Jany 12th 1863 (SEC XI, 2865), the printed map including a second compass and two coastal profiles (Views of the West and East Luabo)
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND HISTORIC EXPLORER'S MAP: SKEAD'S ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT CHART OF THE MOUTH OF THE ZAMBEZI, FROM SURVEYS MADE BY SKEAD IN MAY-JUNE 1858 AND FEBRUARY 1861 DURING LIVINGSTONE'S ZAMBEZI EXPEDITION
... while Mr. Skead polished off a few things connected with the triangles, the rest of us blazed away at hippopotami ... John Kirk
'The Expedition left England on the 10th of March, 1858, in Her Majesty's Colonial Steamer Pearl commanded by Captain Duncan; and, after enjoying the generous hospitality of our friends at Cape Town, with the obliging attentions of Sir George Grey, and receiving on board Mr. Francis Skead, R.N., as surveyor, we reached the East Coast in the following May. Our first object was to explore the Zambesi, its mouths and tributaries, with a view of their being used as highways for commerce and Christianity to pass into the vast interior of Africa. ... After the examination of three branches by the able and energetic surveyor, Francis Skead, R.N., the Kongone was found to be the best entrance. The immense amount of sand brought down by the Zambesi has in the course of ages formed a sort of promontory, against which the long swell of the Indian Ocean, beating during the prevailing winds, has formed bars, which, acting against the waters of the delta, may have led to their exit sideways. The Kongone is one of these lateral branches, and the safest; inasmuch as the bar has nearly two fathoms on it at low water, and the rise at spring tides is from twelve to fourteen feet. The bar is narrow, the passage nearly straight, and, were it buoyed and a beacon placed on Pearl Island, would always be safe to a steamer. Finding the Pearl's draught too great for that part of the river near the island of Simbo, where the branch called the Doto is given off to the Kongone on the right bank, and another named Chinde departs to the secret canal already mentioned on the left, the goods belonging to the expedition were taken out of her, and placed on one of the grassy islands about forty miles from the bar. The Pearl then left us, and we had to part with our good friends Duncan and Skead; the former for Ceylon, the latter to return to his duties as Government Surveyor at the Cape.' (D. and C. Livingstone, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries ... 1858-1864, London, 1865, pp.11-18)
The preliminary survey of the river's course was undertaken by Skead with Dr John Kirk, and the latter's Zambezi journals also record their arrival at the delta and their first excursions up the West Luabo: 'May 15th. At 3 p.m. we had a consultation and Capt. Bedingfeld and Mr. Skead seemed to think it unadvisable to go in the boats to examine the bar. The Capt. of the Pearl however saw no great difficulty and went at it, keeping the lead going and a good look out. We were so lucky as at first to hit upon a good channel, passed through the breakers and got fairly inside the bar to smooth water. ... May 17th. Started after breakfast with Mr. Skead to the right hand bank of the mouth of the Luabo. We landed on a sandy spot. ... Crossed the river on our return and while Mr. Skead polished off a few things connected with the triangles, the rest of us blazed away at hippopotami ... May 18th. Start at 6 a.m. in the boat with Mr. Skead to fix stations and to take angles. ... May 23rd Sunday. We were sent off to examine the river. ... May 26th We had no course but return, which was no easy matter and the paddles got eternally jammed with the weeds and convolvulus. ... Without Skead, there would have been no sketch of the river at all and he is hampered in every possible way, so that although the hardest working mortal imaginable, he cannot put himself out to advantage. ...' (R. Foskett, ed., The Zambesi Journal and Letters of Dr John Kirk, London, 1965, I, pp.24-32).
'So much for this fine river, its branches ending in a swamp of reed and in a mud ditch full of alligators ... The West Luabo, in fact, was not, as the explorers had thought, one of the mouths of the Zambesi, like the East Luabo, but a distinct river -- the Luawe. There was clearly nothing for it but to rejoin the Pearl, recross the bar, and sail along the coast in search of another opening. On June 3 they reached the Kongone, one of the four true mouths, and, as was presently proved, the best of the four for navigation. Next day the Ma Robert steamed some distance up it. The exploration of the Zambesi had at last begun. ... A preliminary survey made it clear that the river was too shallow for the Pearl to steam far up it. It was decided, therefore, to unload the stores, send the Pearl home, and rely on the Ma Robert for the journey up-stream to Tete. ... On June 26, the stores being all ashore, a farewell dinner was held on the Pearl, and next day she sailed for home, conveying Skead back to his official duties at the Cape and carrying, too, the first fruits of Kirk's botanical researches, a box of dried maritime plants addressed to Sir William Hooker. It was the breaking of the last link with the outer world." (R. Coupland, Kirk on the Zambesi, Oxford, 1928, pp.112-3)
Skead returned to continue his work on the survey of the Zambezi delta on HMS Sidon in early 1861. The ship was delivering the sunken Ma Robert's replacement, the Pioneer, to the expedition, as well as landing Skead's surveying party and the 'first instalment of missionaries who had come out for the purpose of founding the Central African Mission' -- the Sidon's arrival was recorded by Surgeon Lieut. Brigstocke: 'In the first place we were to tow the Pioneer to the River Zambese (sic) and we had also to take up officers for surveying the mouths of that river now becoming so well known through Dr Livingstone's energy & enterprise. We had besides on board the first instalment of missionaries who had come out for the purpose of founding the Central African Mission. All these objects in view promised a cruise of more than ordinary interest. ... The arrival of the little steamer was a source of great pleasure to Livingstone as it would enable him to prosecute his discoveries more effectively. As soon as possible we (i.e. the surveying party) got all our gear on shore and having chosen the highest available point of ground proceeded to pitch our tent. From this time there were four establishments on the banks of the river. First there was Livingstone & his party before mentioned. Secondly, there was Scudamore and his men encamped close to us. Thirdly, there was a surveying party consisting of Skead (Admiralty Surveyor) Suther (Lt. R.M.A. ... ) Shuckburgh (Lt R.N. Sidon) and I with the boat crews, and lastly there was the Pioneer with May, Mellor and Walker (C of E missionaries) on board. ... [5th] Skead and Suther surveying all day. At daylight on the 6th Skead & Suther started in the cutter for a two days surveying expedition. ...'(from 'A Cruise in the Mozambique. Visit to Mauritius and Voyage via the Cape to England -- HMS Sidon', extract from some remaining typed pages of 'A Naval Officer's Journal, 1861 by Surgeon Lieut R W Brigstocke, RN', Skead Papers, RGS)
Livingstone's 'highway' proved impassable, blocked by the Kebrabasa rapids, and, without a surveyor and with persistant navigational difficulties, he was unable to map the Shire and Lake Nyassa [Malawi] successfully, which he explored after the Zambezi. What remained of the missions, along with the remnants of the expedition, finally returned to Zanzibar in 1863 and early 1864.