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African paddlesteamers

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the resarches of Roderick are very interesting.

Complementary I want add some informations. The Niger river between Gao and Niamey is not navigable for engine driven ships, but long distances of the lower Niger in Nigeria are navigable.
I don't know anything about the recent situation of paddlevessels in this area, but as late as 1939 the Mayer shipyard in Papenburg/North Germany has build 3 modern identical sternwheelers with steam propulsion for use on the lower Niger.

A friend, who lived in Nigeria in the 1990s told me, as far he knows, no paddlesteamer was in use in this time.

The "Ma Robert" of David Livingstone proved with less succes, because the engine was weak and the patented iron plates of the hull  corroded in a short time.



Niger: Many of the steamers here were operated by the United Africa Company. If you find a history of that company you may get details. Latterly they were diesel sternwheelers.
The book Elder Dempster: a fleet history 1852-1985: James E Cowden and John O C Duffy has a fleet list of vessels employed on the Cross River and the Niger Delta, but no paddle steamers as far as I can see at a quick glance.

Zambesi: There was a series of articles in Paddle Wheels magazine in the late 1970s on Zambesi paddle steamers

Congo: I have recently purchased the book Blood River, about a trip thorough Congo from Lake Tanganyika to the sea. I haven't read it yet, but I notice a photo of abandoned paddle steamers on the river bank. The BBC did a series called River Journeys about 1980 featuring a sail on Luama which was then the last steam sternwheeler on the river

Roderick Smith:
I have now been back to Upington.  The photo which I remembered from an earlier holiday isn't there.  Conclusion: my memory was wrong.
The river was never navigable through Ausgrabie Falls, and seems to have had too many rock shoals to be navigable even seasonally.  There are now dams and irrigation outakes too.

There is a two-deck party boat (not paddle) based at Upington.
Today I have viewed many boats at Cape Town V&A, but none was paddle.  The cutest is a steam launch, and I intend to cruise on it on my spare day when I am back from St Helena.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

The Orange River was considered as not navigable.
Probably the boat at Upington only has a short range of cruising?
But what's about navigation at river Limpopo? I don't know anything.

The navigable rivers (for longer distances)in Africa are not numerous, as far I know: The Nile, the Niger and his tributary Benue, the Congo and his tributary Ubangi, in the east the Rufiji (in German colony times there were 2 sternwheelers) and in the south the Zambezi.

On my visit 1990/91 I saw the "Liemba" and one obviously abandoned big screw steamer on Lake Tanganijka.

On Lake Victoria I also discovered a derelict screw steamer.

Lake Nyassa: I didn't visit him, but in the past he was navigated by steamers.
There are some unknows areas about steamboating, as the central African lakes like Lake Albert and Lake Rudolf.
Possibel, that in Belgian colony times there was also trafic by steamers.

The Juba river in Somalia was navigated by the explorer Carl Claus von Decken in 1865 for a lenght of 760 km (see my topic -German explorating steamer Welf- in Construction) but never used for navigation after this time.



Roderick Smith:
This was formerly Lake Nyasa.
The regular cruise is by MV Ilala, see
I am told that this has a well-preserved interior (built in 1949).  The cruise has been recommended to me.
Perhaps it had a paddlesteamer predecessor?

See also: (which describes it as a steamer, which it isn't) (an unnamed 10 berth cruising launch). (small charter yachts)

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor


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