In August 2014, Research Fellow Yvonne Reddick visited David Livingstone’s archive in Livingstone, Africa. She met with the archivists and the Museum Director, and conducted in-depth work on unique, highly valuable manuscripts by Dr. Livingstone. The following is a transcription of a previously unpublished draft of Livingstone’s major book Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. The excerpt is reproduced here with kind permission of the Livingstone Museum.
Description of Victoria Falls – draft of Missionary Travels
Catalogue number: G17/4
ACC no. : 4550 or 1141
Livingstone Museum Archive, Livingstone, Zambia
A piece of the rock has fallen away off a spot on the left of the island wher & juts out from the water and from Above it below it I judged the distance which the water falls to be about one hundred feet. The sides The walls of this gigantic crack are perpendicular and composed of one homogeneous mass of rock. The edge of that side over which the water falls is worn off two or three feet and pieces have fallen off so as to give it a somewhat of a serrated appearance. That order which the water does not fall is quite straight except at the left corner where a rent appears and a piece seems inclined to fall off. Uppon the whole it is nearly in that state in which it was left at the period of formation. It The rock is dark brown in colour except about 10 feet at from the bottom which are is discoloured by the annual rise of the water to that or a greater amount height on the left side of the island we have a good view of the mass of water which causes one of the columns of vapour to ascend, as xxxxing over it leaps quite clear of the rock and forms a thick unbroken fleece all the way to the bottom. Its whiteness gave the idea of snow The A a sight I had not seen for many a day. and As it broke into bursts pieces of water all rushing on in the same direction and each gaveing off several rays of foam exactly as bits of steel when burned in oxygen gas give off rays of sparks – or as currents are represented to do if one separates
these unbroken bits of water giving off their streams of foam gave [two words illegible] of myriads of small The snow white sheet seemed like
Or And represent it on paper it looked as if myriads of small comets rushing in one direction each of which gave off (as they are represented on paper) from its nucleus streams of foam – I never saw the appearance referred to noticed elsewhere – it seemed As like the effect of the mass of water leaping at once clear of the rock and but five columns of vapour ascending from this strange abyss. They are evidently formed by the compression suffered by the force of the water in oron fall into an unyielding wedge shaped space. The enormous mass coming down was constant flow must xxx xxx about as batter their already there in somewhat the same way that air is compressed in pistons to produce fire. Of the five columns three two on the right and one on the left of the island were the largest. And the streams which formed them seemed each to exceed in size [?] the falls of clyde at stonebyres when that river is in flood. This was the period of low water in the Leambye but as far as I could guess there was a flow of five or six hundred yards of water which at the edge seemed at least three feet deep. I write in the hope that others better more capable of judging distances than I am myself will visit this scene
and I state simply the impressions made on my mind at the time. I thought and do still think that the river above the banks is at least falls to be one thousand yards broad – I am a poor judge of distances on water for I shewed a naval friend what I supposed to be 400 yards of the bay of Loanda and to my surprise he pronounced it to be 900 I tried to measure the Zambesi Leambye with a strong thread the only line I had in my possession but the when the river went two or three hundred yards they had got into conversation and did not hear our shouting when it the line became entangled At xxxx By going on the broken it [blot] and being carried away down the stream was lost on a snag. In vain I tried to bring to my recollection the way I had been taught to measure an angle a river by taking an angle with the sextant – that I once knew it and that it was easy were all I could recal [sic] and that only increased my vexation I however measured the river farther down by another plan. And then I found that the Portuguese had measured it at Lete and found it a little over one thousand yards And at the falls I think it is as broad xxx, if not more so, whoever may come after me will not I trust find reason to say I have indulged in exaggeration. I have given as fairly as I can the impressions produced in my own mind
The fizzure [sic] is said by the Makololo to be very much deeper farther to the Eastwards but there is one part at which the walls are so sloping that people accustomed to it can go down by descending in a sitting position. The Makololo on one occasion pursuing some fugitive Batoka saw them unable to stop them-selves in the descent, dashed literally dashed to pieces at the bottom. They saw beheld the stream like a white cord at the bottom and so far down (probably 300 feet) that they became giddy and were fain to go away holding on to the ground.
Now though the edge of the lip over which the river falls does not shew wearing more than three feet and there is no appearance of the opposite wall being worn out at the bottom in the parts exposed to view. Yet it is probable that in the parts where it has flowed and been along beyond the falls the sides of the fizzure [sic] must have green [?] nearly and the parts out of sight may be broader than the “volute cord” on the surface see continuation – back of next page
[Sketch] – DL labels it ‘Make a neat drawing of the fizzure’
The parts on the outside of the dotted lines intended to shew the wearing away of the rock sideways
and prolonged from ‘left end-tunnel through 30 miles’ hills and ‘pathway to bottom of fissure being 100ft down from ‘bed of’ river instead of what it is with ‘lips in fissure from 80 to 100ft apart then fancy that there was leaping bodily into ‘ gulf forced then to change its direction and flow from ‘right to’ left bank then go rush boiling and roaring through ‘hills and he may have some idea of what takes place at this’ most wonderful sight I had seen in Africa – In looking down into the fizzure [sic] on the right of the island one sees nothing but a dense white cloud which at the time we visited had two bright rainbows on it. (The sun was on the meridian and and [sic] the declination equal to the Latitude of the place.) From this cloud rushed up a great jet of vapour exactly like steam and it mounted up 200 or 300 feet high – there changed its hue to that of dark smoke it came back in a constant shower which soon wet us to the skin. This shower falls chiefly on the opposite side of the fizzure [sic] (and there stands a hedge of evergreen trees whose leaves were always wet. From their roots a number of little rills run back into the gulph [sic] but as they flow down the other side of the fizzure the column of vapour licks them up clean off the rock and away they mount again. They are constantly running down but never reach the bottom.
On the left of the island we see the water in a white boiling mass moving away to the prolongation of the fizzure near the left bank of the river