The Article in the Daily Telegraph.--War between the Scientific Journals.--
Mr. Petermann backs his Friend Dr. Ferguson.--Reply of the Savant Koner.
--Bets made.--Sundry Propositions offered to the Doctor.
On the next day, in its number of January 15th, the Daily
Telegraph published an article couched in the following terms:
"Africa is, at length, about to surrender the secret
of her vast solitudes; a modern OEdipus is to give us the
key to that enigma which the learned men of sixty centuries
have not been able to decipher. In other days, to seek the
sources of the Nile--fontes Nili quoerere--was regarded as
a mad endeavor, a chimera that could not be realized.
"Dr. Barth, in following out to Soudan the track traced
by Denham and Clapperton; Dr. Livingstone, in multiplying
his fearless explorations from the Cape of Good Hope
to the basin of the Zambesi; Captains Burton and Speke,
in the discovery of the great interior lakes, have opened
three highways to modern civilization. THEIR POINT OF
INTERSECTION, which no traveller has yet been able to
reach, is the very heart of Africa, and it is thither
that all efforts should now be directed.
"The labors of these hardy pioneers of science are now
about to be knit together by the daring project of Dr.
Samuel Ferguson, whose fine explorations our readers
have frequently had the opportunity of appreciating.
"This intrepid discoverer proposes to traverse all
Africa from east to west IN A BALLOON. If we are well
informed, the point of departure for this surprising journey
is to be the island of Zanzibar, upon the eastern coast.
As for the point of arrival, it is reserved for Providence
alone to designate.
"The proposal for this scientific undertaking was officially
made, yesterday, at the rooms of the Royal Geographical
Society, and the sum of twenty-five hundred pounds was
voted to defray the expenses of the enterprise.
"We shall keep our readers informed as to the progress
of this enterprise, which has no precedent in the annals
As may be supposed, the foregoing article had an
enormous echo among scientific people. At first, it stirred
up a storm of incredulity; Dr. Ferguson passed for a
purely chimerical personage of the Barnum stamp, who,
after having gone through the United States, proposed to
"do" the British Isles.
A humorous reply appeared in the February number
of the Bulletins de la Societe Geographique of Geneva,
which very wittily showed up the Royal Society of London
and their phenomenal sturgeon.
But Herr Petermann, in his Mittheilungen, published
at Gotha, reduced the Geneva journal to the most absolute
silence. Herr Petermann knew Dr. Ferguson personally,
and guaranteed the intrepidity of his dauntless friend.
Besides, all manner of doubt was quickly put out of
the question: preparations for the trip were set on foot at
London; the factories of Lyons received a heavy order for
the silk required for the body of the balloon; and, finally,
the British Government placed the transport-ship Resolute,
Captain Bennett, at the disposal of the expedition.
At once, upon word of all this, a thousand encouragements
were offered, and felicitations came pouring in from
all quarters. The details of the undertaking were published
in full in the bulletins of the Geographical Society
of Paris; a remarkable article appeared in the Nouvelles
Annales des Voyages, de la Geographie, de l'Histoire, et
de l'Archaeologie de M. V. A. Malte-Brun ("New Annals
of Travels, Geography, History, and Archaeology, by
M. V. A. Malte-Brun"); and a searching essay in the Zeitschrift
fur Allgemeine Erdkunde, by Dr. W. Koner, triumphantly
demonstrated the feasibility of the journey, its
chances of success, the nature of the obstacles existing,
the immense advantages of the aerial mode of locomotion,
and found fault with nothing but the selected point of
departure, which it contended should be Massowah, a small
port in Abyssinia, whence James Bruce, in 1768, started
upon his explorations in search of the sources of the Nile.
Apart from that, it mentioned, in terms of unreserved
admiration, the energetic character of Dr. Ferguson, and the
heart, thrice panoplied in bronze, that could conceive and
undertake such an enterprise.
The North American Review could not, without some
displeasure, contemplate so much glory monopolized by
England. It therefore rather ridiculed the doctor's scheme,
and urged him, by all means, to push his explorations as
far as America, while he was about it.
In a word, without going over all the journals in the
world, there was not a scientific publication, from the
Journal of Evangelical Missions to the Revue Algerienne
et Coloniale, from the Annales de la Propagation de la
Foi to the Church Missionary Intelligencer, that had not
something to say about the affair in all its phases.
Many large bets were made at London and throughout
England generally, first, as to the real or supposititious
existence of Dr. Ferguson; secondly, as to the trip itself,
which, some contended, would not be undertaken at all,
and which was really contemplated, according to others;
thirdly, upon the success or failure of the enterprise; and
fourthly, upon the probabilities of Dr. Ferguson's return.
The betting-books were covered with entries of immense
sums, as though the Epsom races were at stake.
Thus, believers and unbelievers, the learned and the
ignorant, alike had their eyes fixed on the doctor, and he
became the lion of the day, without knowing that he carried
such a mane. On his part, he willingly gave the
most accurate information touching his project. He was
very easily approached, being naturally the most affable
man in the world. More than one bold adventurer presented
himself, offering to share the dangers as well as the
glory of the undertaking; but he refused them all, without
giving his reasons for rejecting them.
Numerous inventors of mechanism applicable to the
guidance of balloons came to propose their systems, but
he would accept none; and, when he was asked whether
he had discovered something of his own for that purpose,
he constantly refused to give any explanation, and merely
busied himself more actively than ever with the preparations
for his journey.