Livingstone History & Geology


David Livingstone was one of the most famous euopean explorers of the African Continent. He was Scottish born near Glasgow in 1813. In his mid 20's he studied religion and medicine, where he decided on becoming a missionary physician. His first posting was to the Kalahari in 1841. He was intent on teaching Africans about Christianity, which to this day is the predominant religion of Southern Africa. Livingstone was inspired to stop slavery, and as such was inspired to travel throughout Africa. In 1842, he started an expedition to follow the Upper Zambezi River (which he discovered the previous year) and navigate this to the sea. In 1855 was his much acclaimed discovery of what we now know as Victoria Falls or Mosi Oa Tunya (Smoke that Thunders) In May 1856 he succesfully completed his expedition and reached the mouth of the Zambezi River in what is now Mozambique on the Indian Ocean. He was the first European explorer to cross the southern part of the African Continent. He returned to the UK a hero and performed many speaking engagements before being "sponsored by the British Government" to explore and report more findings of Southern Africa. Tragically his wife, Mary Moffat (the daughter of a fellow missionary) died of malaria in 1862. He was ordered back to the UK by the government, unimpressed by his reports and findings, but he returned soon after to explore the sourse of the Nile on a self funded expedition from 1866 until his death in 1873.


Victoria Falls are in geographic terms a fairly recent formation. Geologists agree that around a million years ago, the Zambezi River ran through a wide valley and over a plateau until it collided with the Middle Zambezi Rift, around where Matetsi River Mouth (where we finish our 7 day Zambezi trips) is now. Here it tumbled over a 750 foot (250 metre) escarpment where it carrved out a deeper gorge though the basalt that was evident in the plateau. The gorge continued to "retreat" upstream through cracks, fissueres or any weakness in the rock. These fissuers run naturally east to west in the Batoka Gorge.

As water continued to erode the lip of the falls, the valley turned north where the water eroded the cracks and fissures and turn them into great walls of rock stretching across the valley over which the water now flowed. As this continued to happen, the water would erode away at the weakest point behind the wall, ofetn causing the wall to collapse. This has resulted in the formation of the eight gorges which can be seen clearly from the air or travelled though whilst on the river. It is believed that the "new falls" may indeed form near the Devils cataract on the Zimbabwe side of the falls.