Gateway to the Classics: The Country of the Dwarfs by Paul du Chaillu
The Country of the Dwarfs by  Paul du Chaillu

Setting Out for the Country of the Dwarfs

How Paul set out for the country of the dwarfs and what he took with him.

In the month of July, 1863, if you had been in London, you might have seen in St. Catherine's Dock a schooner called the Mentor, a little vessel of less than one hundred ton's measurement, and if you had gone on board you would have encountered your old friend Paul Du Chaillu busily superintending the taking of the cargo, and getting all things in readiness for the voyage upon which he is now going to take you.

Captain Vardon, the commander of the vessel, was generally by his side, and I am sure you would have been happy to make his acquaintance, for he was a very pleasant man.

Every body was busy on board, either, on deck or below deck, storing away the goods. Boxes upon boxes came alongside the Mentor from morning till evening. These contained my outfit and the equipment necessary for the expedition.

Paul Du Chaillu had an anxious look, and you need not wonder at it, for he was about to undertake a journey of explorations of about five year's duration, and had to think of many things. It was, indeed, no small undertaking. What an outfit it was! I will give you some idea of it.

Clothing for five years was to be provided; the very smallest article must not be forgotten, even to needles, thread, and scissors.

It would never do again to be left without shoes, as I was in Apingi Land, so I had seventy-two pairs of Balmoral lace-boots made especially for journeying in the great forest, with soles flexible enough to allow me to bend my feet while jumping from rock to rock, or from the base of one tree to another. Besides these lace-boots I had twenty-four pairs of shoes and twelve pairs of linen slippers. Twelve pairs of leggings were to protect my legs from thorns, briers, and the bite of snakes; so you see my feet and legs were to be well taken care of in that journey, and for my further comfort I laid in twelve dozen pairs of socks. I took so many because I do not know how to darn socks, and when a pair became full of holes they would have to be thrown away.

All my shirts were made of light-colored flannel; these were more healthy than linen shirts, and, besides economizing soap, it saved me from the necessity of getting under-garments, and consequently allotted me space which could be devoted to other articles.

With an eye to the great wear and tear of pantaloons, I had ordered six dozen pairs made of the strongest twisted blue drill that could be got. Instead of coats I ordered two dozen blouses, made of durable linen stuff, of a color not easily seen in the woods. The blouse was a very convenient garment, admitting of numerous pockets, in which I could keep things while on the march. Everything was made for wear and not for show, and to go through the thickest and most thorny jungle.

Several dozen pocket-handkerchiefs completed my wearing outfit. Besides their ordinary use, these were to be worn, generally wet, inside the three fine soft Panama hats I had provided to protect my head from the rays of a burning sun. No collars, no neckties were necessary.

Clothes must be washed, so I took with me one hundred pounds of the hardest Marseilles soap. That quantity was not much, but then I would probably be able sometime to make my own soap with palm-oil.

Then came the drugs, and these gave me more embarrassment than any thing else. If it had been only to take medicines for myself, the matter would have been simple enough. A compact little medicine-chest, with an extra quantity of quinine, laudanum, and a few other remedies used in tropical climates more frequently than in ours, would have sufficed; but I had to think of my followers and porters—a retinue that would sometimes number five and six hundred—and accordingly I purchased:

75ounce bottles of quinine.
10gallons of castor-oil.
50pounds of Epsom salts.
2quarts of laudanum.

These were the medicines which would be the most needed; but, besides these, I had pretty nearly all the drugs to be found at the apothecary's.

Of arsenic I took one hundred pounds, to preserve the skins of animals and birds I expected to kill in my journeyings.

Most of these and my wearing apparel were packed in japanned tin boxes, which would be serviceable afterward for the preservation of my butterflies and stuffed birds. Tin boxes were safer than wooden ones; the white ants would not be able to pierce through them.

Though I did not set out to make war, I felt that I ought to be prepared for any emergency. Besides, I was to hunt, and I must have guns. After a great deal of thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that, for such a wild country, where I might get short of cartridges, the greater part of my guns should be muzzle-loaders, so I bought four splendid English, muzzle-loaders, four long muzzle-loading rifles, two very short smooth-bore muzzle-loaders, and two very short muzzle-loading rifles.

Then I took a magnificent double-barrel breech loading rifle which could throw steel-pointed bullets weighing more than two ounces. I had Dean and Adams's revolvers, magnificent arms that never got out of order, and several long, formidable hunting-knives.

These guns were for my own special, use, and they were supplied with moulds for making bullets, etc., etc.

Besides these, I had ordered in Birmingham two hundred and fifty cheap guns for my body-guard and the native king, to whom I might desire to give one. Most of them were flint-locks, and of the pattern called the Tower.

I had great trouble in knowing what quantity of ammunition to take, for lead is heavy; but, then, what would a man do in a savage country without powder and bullets?

The great difficulty with rifle muzzle-loaders is, that when the charge has been driven home the bullets can not be easily withdrawn. So it is with the revolvers; and a great deal of ammunition would be lost on that account.

My ammunition consisted of 15,000 cartridges for my revolvers, in soldered tin boxes of fifties; 15,000 bullets for my guns and rifles, and lead for 20,000 more, for the practice of my men before starting into the desert; 1000 pounds of small shot of different sizes, for birds; 400 pounds of fine powder; 50,000 caps. I also took 200 10-pound barrels of coarse powder for my body-guard and to give away to my friends, or as presents.

So you see the warlike and hunting apparatus of the expedition was very heavy, but we were to depend in a great measure on our guns for food. Elephants, antelopes, hippopotami, gazelles, crocodiles, and monkeys would be our chief diet. Then came the scientific instruments:

4strong, splendid hunting-case watches, by Brock, London.
1watch made by Frodsham, London.
48spare watch-keys and 24 spare glasses.
3sextants, 8, 6, and 4 inches radius.
1binocular yachting-glass.
1universal sun-dial (a magnificent instrument).
2compasses, prismatic, with stand, shades, and reflector three inches in diameter, to take the bearings of land, etc, etc.
2pocket compasses.
1 set drawing instruments (German silver).
2 dozen drawing-pens.
2 artificial horizons, folding roof, improved iron trough, and bottles containing quicksilver, in sling case.
1 hypsometrical apparatus.
2 bull's-eye lanterns, copper boiler, three reservoirs for spirits, oil, or candles.
3 thermometers for measuring heights and boiling water.
2 thermometers for the sun (to know its power).
2 thermometers graduated Fahrenheit and Centigrade.
1 thermometer graduated Centigrade and Reaumur.
1 powerful electro-magnetic machine, with go feet of conducting wire or cord.
2 large magnifying-glasses.
7 pounds of mercury, in a bottle, as a reserve supply.
 Parallel rule (German silver).
 Protractor, circular, with compass rectifier, in a mahogany box.
3rain-gauges and spare glasses, to tell the amount of rain falling at a given time.
 Scale, 18 inches, metal, graduated to inches, and subdivided to tenths and hundredths, in a box.
 Tape, 100 feet, to measure trees.
75sheets of skeleton maps, ruled in squares, to mark out in rough my daily route as determined by compass.
4Nautical Almanacs, 1863, '4, '5, '6, to be used in my astronomical observations; and several other scientific books.
12blank books for keeping my daily journal.
10quires of paper.
 Ink, pens, pencils, slates.

For illumination I provided 100 pounds of wax candles, 10 gallons of spirits (alcohol) for lamps, thermometers, etc., etc.; 12 gross of matches in boxes, each dozen boxes inclosed in a separate soldered tin box. Though I had fire-steel and flint, the matches could light a fire much quicker, and they were "big things" with the natives.

So you see I had a complete set of instruments, and in sufficient number, so that in case of accident I could replace the injured one; and accidents I knew were sure to happen.

If I did not explain to you why I took five watches, I am sure you would say that I was foolish to spend so much money in watches. Then let me tell you that I bought so many because I was afraid that if I took only one or two, they might stop running, and in this event it would have been impossible for me to know my longitude, that, is: to say, how far east or west I might be, and to ascertain the day and month, should illness have caused me to forget the calendar. No watch can be safely depended upon to run for five years in such a climate without cleaning. But as four of them had been made specially for the journey, I felt assured that at least one or two out of the five would run till my return.

But we have not yet done with my equipment. There were 18 boxes containing photographic apparatus, with tent, and chemicals for 10,000 photographs. The transportation of these alone would require twenty men.

All that I have enumerated to you constituted but a small proportion of the things that came on board, and were for my special use, with the exception of the 250 common guns and a great part of the ammunition.

There are yet to be mentioned the presents for my old friends, who had been so kind to me on my former journeys, and whom I hoped to see again. These were chiefs whose hospitality I had enjoyed, and my dear hunters Aboko, Fasiko, Niamkala, Malaouen, Querlaouen, Gambo, dear old Quengueza, Ranpano, Rikimongani, and Obindji, the Bakalai chief. Presents too, were indispensable for the people who were to take me from tribe to tribe, and the right of way I knew would often have to be bought. So more than two months had been spent by me in the London clothing, hardware, and dry-goods establishments, finding what I wanted.

I bought more than 5000 pounds of beads of different sizes and colors, several hundred pieces of cotton goods, some pieces of silks, coats, waistcoats, shirts, 2000 red caps, a few umbrellas, files, knives, bells, fire-steel flints, looking-glasses, folks, spoons, some stove-pipe  hats for the kings near the sea-shore, straw hats, etc., etc.

Then, to impress the wild people with what I could do, I bought several large Geneva musical boxes, one powerful electrical battery, several magnets, and six ship clocks, etc. etc.

The abundant results of the tale of my "Adventures in Equatorial Africa," and the proceeds arising from the disposal of my gorillas, and my collection of beasts, birds, insects, and shells, alone enabled me to undertake this new expedition, for not one dollar has ever been given by any scientific society to help me in any of or explorations; but I was very happy in expending a part of my means in the interest of science and for the enlargement of our knowledge of unknown countries. I only wish now I could have done more, but really I think I did the best I could.

Years had passed away since I had gone first to Africa, my parents were both dead, I was alone in the world and the world was before me, and I thought I could do nothing better than make another exploration.

I had made up my mind, without confiding my purpose to any one, to cross the continent of Africa near the equator, from the west to the head waters of the Nile, and to set out from the Commi country. I knew my old negro friends would help me. That was the reason my outfit was on so large a scale. The only thing that worried me before my departure was our civil war, but then I thought it was soon to end.

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