Into Africa


“We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.” 
 Desmond Tutu


I always smile when I read stories of explorers and their remarkable discoveries that changed the way we look at our world.  It seems that humanity judges progress by time, location and perspective. Before the explorers came, the rivers flowed and those who lived within their valleys had already discovered them.

In 1483, the Portuguese explorer, Diogo Cão, a renowned navigator in the Age of Discovery, discovered the Congo River, when he came upon a vast open water expanse that measured eleven kilometres across.  A man standing on a ship on one side of the river could barely see the slender blue strip of coastline in the far distance.

Diogo Cão did not recognize this waterway as a river; rather, he believed that he had come upon a strait that would lead him directly to the legendary kingdom of Prester John, a Christian patriarch and king alleged to rule over a Christian nation lost among the pagans.  According to the medieval legends, Prester John was a direct descendant of one of the Three Magi who visited Bethlehem, at Christmas.  Whoever found Prester John would see a kingdom that boasted the “Gates of Alexander” and the “Fountain of Youth.”

The Congo River is the world’s deepest river with gauged depths in excess of 220 m or 720 feet; it is the 9th longest river at 4,700 kilometres.  It is the 3rd largest river in the world by volume of water discharged ranging from 23,000 – 75,000 cubic metres/second for an average of 41,000 cubic metres/second.  It has the second largest drainage system in the world, covering approximately 3.8 million km2. The river and its tributaries run through the Congo Rainforest which enjoys a rich abundance of species, its size second only to the Amazon Rainforest in South America.

Diogo Cão found a greater treasure than the kingdom of Prester John.   Its value is beyond measure.

“When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money.”
John May, The Greenpeace Story