The first humatitarian intervention
The steamboat was known with uncertain affection as the ‘Old Asthmatic’. With her boilers hissing and her wheels churning, she drove hard against the current. The banks of the river, once languid and wide, began to constrict. Walls of black basalt, too hot to touch, closed in, and the mood of the river was turbulent. Somewhere in the distance a roar, barely audible, told a tale that the captain really did not want hear.
The captain was Doctor David Livingstone, the legendary missionary-explorer, around whom this entire expedition had been assembled, and the river was the mighty Zambezi.
Also on board the ‘Old Asthmatic’ that afternoon was David Livingstone’s brother Charles, and Doctor John Kirk. Kirk was Expedition doctor and naturalist, and the de facto second-in-command. Already there was a strained atmosphere between the three men. Charles Livingstone, a swarthy, mop-haired character, periodontic, acerbic and shrill, was flush with excitement. Indeed, one can almost picture a self-satisfied snigger as the disaster slowly manifest.