Richard & John Lander, African explorers

Richard Lemon Lander

Richard Lemon Lander (1804-1834) made three trips to West Africa; he and his brother John were the first Europeans to follow the course of the Niger River to its delta.

Richard & John Lander were two brothers born in the Fighting Cocks Inn (later called The Dolphin Inn) in Truro in 1804 and 1807 who both grew up to become explorers.

Richard Lander appears to have had a colourful life. He walked to London at the age of nine. And when he was eleven, sailed on a merchant ship to the West Indies returning to England in 1818. He then lived as a servant in the homes of various wealthy families. In 1823 he went to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and returned in 1824.

He accompanied Lieut. H. Clapperton to West Africa in 1825. The purpose of the Clapperton expedition (1825-1828) was to travel down the Niger River. Clapperton and Lander's European companions all died early in the trip. Clapperton also eventually died on April 18, 1827. African tribesmen accused Lander of witchcraft, and forced him to drink poison. Since he survived, they determined that Lander was not a witch, and Lander eventually returned to England (in July 1828). In England, Lander published "Journal of Richard Lander from Kano to the Sea Coast" (1829) and "Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa, with the Subsequent Adventures of the Author" (1830).

Next the British government sent Richard Lander and his brother, John, to explore more of the lower Niger River in 1830, and they were able to prove that the Niger flows through many mouths into the Bight of Benin. They found the source, route and mouths of the Niger River, that up to then had been unmapped. They published their results in a "Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Course and Termination of the Niger" published in 1832.

Richard Lander died on his third West African trip (1833-1834). He was badly wounded on the Niger River by African tribesmen. He died at Fernando Po on Feb. 6, 1834. Richard was called by the Africans "Nasarah Curramaee", meaning "Little Christian". He named an island in the Niger River, Truro, and a hill on its bank, Cornwall Mountain.

He was awarded the first gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1832.

A statue of Richard Lander stands on a tall column at the top of Lemon Street in Truro sculpted by Neville Northey Burnard born in 1818 in Altarnun.

Two descendants of Richard Lander joined an expedition to retrace his historic journey down an African river.

Books on Richard Lander

BBC report on Expedition to Follow Lander's footsteps

Richard Lander web site, but not actually packed with useful information

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