This year saw the 50th anniversary of the first east-west transcontinental crossing of Africa. The expedition, led by Soutpansberg resident Dr Daniel Marais, established that by the construction of 240 miles (386 km) of locks and canals between Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and Lake Tanganyika, a transcontinental waterway for ships of modest burden might be possible in the fu-ture. Artwork supplied.

Local doctor part of pioneers who found waterway through Africa

Date: 28 November 2008 By: Andries van Zyl

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This year saw the 50th anniversary of the first east-west transcontinental crossing of Africa, via equatorial rivers and lakes, which was successfully accomplished in 1958.
The First Trans-African Waterway Expedition set out on June 1, 1958, at Chinde in the Zambezi estuary on the Indian Ocean to pioneer and charter a 3 600 mile (5 792 km) journey via inland waterways. The Atlantic Ocean was reached at Banana Point in the Congo River estuary on August 23, 1958.
The primary purpose of this expedition, led by Dr Daniel F Marais, was to survey the route and to determine the possible development of an equatorial water highway that could provide arterial links of commerce and industry between the two oceans.
Dr Marais is no stranger to Louis Trichardt. From 1969 until 1986, he practiced medicine in town. Although his practice was in town, he and his family stayed on the farm Klein Afrika, just north of the Hendrik Verwoerd Tunnels, until 1991. Now retired, the 79-year-old Dr Marais still practices medicine on occasion by helping the sick and injured on his farm Vera on the banks of the Sand River near Mopani.
Back in 1958, the 12-member team, mostly representatives of different branches of science, carried the approval and full scientific support of various organisations, including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African Institute for Medical Research (SAIMR) and an international body of scientists, the CSA. Re-quested to collect and document data en route, they were to provide biological and ethnical recordings and studies, as well as rare biological specimens, to various museums and international research organisations.
The journey, crossing the equator twice via four lakes and seven major rivers, was accomplished using three specially designed 15-feet (4,6 m) fibreglass outboard boats. An overland support party provided food, fuel and portage over impassable areas. Valuable scientific data and specimens, as well as important acquisitions of primitive art, were brought back from the territories visited.
The expedition established that, by the construction of 240 miles (386 km) of locks and canals between Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and Lake Tanganyika, a transcontinental waterway for ships of modest burden might be possible in the future.
The prestigious Eugene Marais Gedenkpenning was awarded to Dr Marais in 1995 by the Suid Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns in honour of the expedition. (Information supplied by Lynne Ras)
 
 

 
 
 
 

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Andries van Zyl

Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.

Email: andries@zoutnet.co.za

 
 

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