Walter Oudney

(1790—1824) naval surgeon and traveller in Africa

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Lake Chad

Hugh Clapperton (1788—1827) naval officer and traveller in Africa

Dixon Denham (1786—1828) explorer in Africa

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Scottish surgeon and botanist. Walter Oudney led the exploratory expedition that discovered Lake Chad. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in December 1790, Oudney was recruited to explore the Sahara and search for Lake Chad, which was believed to be the body of water into which the Niger River flowed. Other orders stated that Oudney would become the British consul at Bornu, the region in present-day Nigeria adjacent to Lake Chad. Oudney, a physically frail and self-effacing man, selected his friend, Captain Hugh Clapperton, to be his companion. When Major Dixon Denham, a prickly Englishman, joined the group, discord set in immediately. Beginning in Tripoli in early 1822, Oudney and the others traveled to Murzuk, where he almost died of malaria. Nonetheless, Oudney collected botanical and zoological specimens in the oasis of Germa, near Murzuk, and it was here in July 1822 that he discovered the old Roman ruins of Garama, which James Wellard claims were located in the richest archaeological zone in the Sahara yet seen by a modern European. It was not realized at the time, but Oudney's discovery was one of the most significant achievements of the expedition. Finally, after eleven months, he and his companions reached Lake Chad on February 4, 1823. They were the first Europeans to see this body of water. Staying at Kukawa (the capital of Bornu), Oudney and the others determined that Lake Chad and the Niger River were not connected. He and Clapperton left Denham in December 1823 and began a journey westward toward Kano. Two weeks later, on January 12, 1824, Walter Oudney died at Murmur.


From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: World History.

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