National Geographic : 1957 Jul
54 In 125 Flying Hours the Authors Swept Across a Continent That Took Centuries to Explore Five hundred years ago, Islam's impenetrable veil hung across northern Africa. Europeans, frightened by forbidding coasts and fancied sea monsters, knew little of what lay beyond. Not until 1498 did Portu guese sailors discover the magnitude of the continent's vast rim. The interior remained dark for nearly three centuries longer. Then explorers Bruce, Park, Livingstone, and Stanley followed Africa's rivers through her heart. Now the airplane illumines the remotest reaches. "No," he replied. "No. Just the desert." We made Dakar nonstop the next day-700 miles, our longest flight so far-in just four hours and 40 minutes. Here, in the capital of French West Africa, a city of 300,000, we planned to luxuriate for ten days as a sort of Easter vacation. We knew that from here on even modest comforts would be few. Rubber Bottles Hold Emergency Water In the modern Hotel Croix du Sud the French cuisine was so appetizing that Tay, thoughtless of Charlie's limitations, gained five pounds. This forced me to issue an ulti matum: we could not afford to add another ounce to Charlie's overload! We swam in the lukewarm Atlantic off Dakar's white sand beach and fished from a 20-foot dugout canoe, catching in an hour a score of big kingfish and red snappers (page 63). Then, the vacation ended, we began preparations for our journey across Africa. Flight and photographic permits were neces sary; we had to plan our stopping points and arrange for living accommodations at French outposts where quarters for visitors are rare and tourist hotels nonexistent. And Charlie's engine had to be overhauled. We also rechecked our first-aid kit and emergency supplies: two cans of corned-beef hash, one of pork and beans, two tins of cheese, two of sardines, one of crackers, some rice and raisins. Our drinking water filled two canteens and six hot-water bottles.