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Joseph Thomson

In 1879 Joseph Thomson was just 21 when he first set out to explore the unknown and dangerous regions around Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. He climbed mountains, swam crocodile infested lakes, negotiated his passage through fearsome tribal lands, was charged by rhino and hit by a buffalo.

During his short life (Thomson died at 37) he walked over 15,000 miles through Africa, exploring the region for the Royal Geographical Society. He prospected for coal for a Sultan, negotiated treaties with tribal chiefs, and arranged trading rights for Victorian entrepreneurs like Cecil Rhodes. At one time he was held captive by the savage Maasai who would have executed him, had he not managed to change their minds by performing a witch-doctor’s ceremony with Eno’s effervescent salts. During all of this he survived several potentially fatal bouts of malaria, dysentery, small pox, and bilharzia.

What is most remarkable though is that throughout his entire time in Africa Thomson did not lose a single man to violence, nor have the necessity to shoot a single native. When he travelled he lived by his motto:

He who goes slowly, goes safely, he who goes safely goes far.

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