He found the source of the Nile river but had difficulty convincing everyone: Who is John Hanning Speke?

Speke was an English explorer and the first European to reach Lake Victoria in East Africa, where he accurately identified the long-sought source of Victoria.

By David Foster Published on 5 Temmuz 2024 : 13:46.
He found the source of the Nile river but had difficulty convincing everyone: Who is John Hanning Speke?

John Hanning Speke was born on 4 May 1827 in Bideford, Devon. In 1844 he was appointed to the British army and posted to India, where he served in the Punjab and traveled through the Himalayas and Tibet. In April 1855 he became part of Richard Burton's Somaliland expedition. Speke was seriously injured in an attack by the Somalis. He then volunteered in the Crimean War and served with a Turkish regiment during the war.

Captain John Hanning Speke (4 May 1827 – 15 September 1864) was an English explorer and military officer who made three exploratory expeditions to Africa. He is most associated with the search for the source of the Nile and was the first European to reach Lake Victoria (known to locals as Nam Lolwe in Dholuo and Nnalubaale or Ukerewe in Luganda). Speke is also known for propounding the Hamitic hypothesis in 1863, in which he supposed that the Tutsi ethnic group were descendants of the biblical figure Ham, and had lighter skin and more Hamitic features than the Bantu Hutu over whom they ruled.

In December 1856, Speke accepted Burton's invitation to join an expedition to search for the great lakes of eastern and central Africa, and in particular to try to find Lake Nyassa. They left Zanzibar in June 1857 and spent six months traveling the coast of East Africa in search of the best route inland. They became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika in February 1858.

During the return journey, Speke left Burton and went north alone. In July, Queen Victoria found a large lake which she named.

Speke argued that this lake was the source of the Nile River. But Burton refused. However, the Royal Geographical Society, which sponsored the expedition, honored Speke and launched a second expedition in 1860 to resolve the dispute. Speke and Captain James Grant mapped part of Lake Victoria. In July 1862, Speke, unaccompanied by Grant, found the outlet of the Nile from the lake and named it Ripon Falls. The group then attempted to follow the course of the river, but the outbreak of tribal warfare required them to change their route.

On his return to England, Speke was enthusiastically welcomed. But Burton and others were still not convinced. On September 15, 1864, shortly before Speke and Burton began to discuss the matter publicly, Speke was killed by a bullet from his own gun while hunting.

It remains unclear whether it was an accident or suicide.