Born on 11th of September 1771
Died in 1806
One of the first explorers of the African interior, Mungo Park, was born near Selkirk in Scotland on September 11 1771. Although tenant farmers rather than landowners, Mungo Park’s family was relatively well off and he received a good education. At the age of 14 Park was apprenticed to a surgeon, Thomas Anderson, whose daughter he would marry in 1799, and whose son Alexander became a close friend who accompanied him on his last fateful expedition.
In 1788 Park entered the University of Edinburgh to study medicine and botany. After graduating and completing his education at the Royal College of Surgeons Park obtained a post as assistant surgeon on a ship – the Worcester - sailing to Sumatra. He returned with newly discovered plant and fish species. Soon seen as a rising star Park gained the backing of the African Association for an expedition to discover the true course of the Niger. During his explorations he was imprisoned by an Arab chief but managed to escape and continue his quest. In spite of running out of supplies and becoming ill for seven months he pressed on as far as Segu, but was finally returned to safety by a slaver. In 1797 Park published a best-selling account of his adventures: Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa.
After a period spent working as a surgeon in Peebles, in 1805 Park was asked by the government to lead a second attempt to discover the course of the Niger. Leading a party of 40 Europeans Park ill-advisedly set off during the rainy season, a factor which contributed to the deaths of expedition members as one-by-one they succumbed to dysentery and disease. Undeterred and with only five of the party left he set off in a canoe from Sansanding, a village on the Niger. In 1812 it was learned that the expedition had been attacked at the Bussa rapids 1000 miles downriver. Everybody, including Park, perished, probably drowned. Mungo Park’s date of death is simply given as 1806. His body was never recovered.
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