The Facts About Hugh Clapperton and the Exploration of the Niger River
Hugh Clapperton was the Scottish explorer who gave the first account of the region which is now known as the Northern Nigeria. He was born in Annan, Scotland in the year 1788. Clapperton went to sea as a sailor at the tender age of 13 where he grew in the profession to the level of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He was among the early explorers of the River Niger in West Africa after the demise of Mungo Park. Mungo Park was not able to complete his expedition to the mouth of the Niger, so Clapperton and his team had come to complete the assignment. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent Clapperton, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in West Africa.
Fisherman on the Niger River near Timbuktu, Mali by stringer_bel on flickr.com
Clapperton and his colleagues entered into West Africa crossing the Sahara desert from Tripoli, in present day Libya. They became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad in the northern border of the present-day Nigeria. At Lake Chad, Dixon Denham, one of Clapperton’s colleagues set off to explore the Lake on his own while Clapperton and Walter Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano. Oudney could not make it to Kano; he died on the way while Clapperton reached Kano alone. Unable to find a guide to lead him through to the Niger River, he travelled from Kano to Sokoto and was arrested and detained by local traditional rulers along the way.
The Niger Riverbed in the dry season by robin. elaine on flickr.com
He finally escaped and returned to England. He later launched a return to West Africa to complete his exploration of the Niger River in 1825 with British explorer Richard Lemon Lander. Clapperton traveled with Richard Lander into the inland from the Bight of Benin to the Niger at Bussa and then to Sokoto. While in Sokoto, he couldn’t find a guide to lead him this time upwards to Segou which is in the present day Mali and after about a year or more, he took ill and died of dysentery in 1827. In an 1830 expedition, Lander succeeded in determining the true course of the Niger, proving Clapperton's theory that it flowed into the Gulf of Guinea.
Pirogue on the Niger River, Mpoti, Mali by stringer_bel on flickr.com
Clapperton was among the first explorers who believed that the Niger River had its outlet in the gulf of Guinea and this was made clear in his ‘Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the Years 1822-1823, and 1824 which was published in 1828. His beliefs was confirmed when Richard discovered the mouth of the Niger River in the gulf of Guinea. His second expedition was recorded in his own journal which was posthumously published in 1829 and in Lander's Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa (1830).
Picture in box by stringer_bel on flickr.com