Friday, July 30, 2010

SS Alburkah: AD 1832-1834

From HISTORY OF NIGERIA - link in title

After Lander's second return to England a company is formed by a group of Liverpool merchants, including Macgregor Laird, to trade on the lower Niger. Laird is also a pioneer in the shipping industry. For the present purpose, an expedition to the Niger, he designs an iron paddle-steamer, the 55-ton Alburkah.

Laird himself leads the expedition, with Richard Lander as his expert guide.

The Alburkah steams south from Milford Haven in July 1832 with forty-eight on board. She reaches the mouth of the Niger three months later, entering history as the first ocean-going iron ship.

After making her way up one of the many streams of the Niger delta, the Alburkah progresses upstream on the main river as far as Lokoja, the junction with the Benue. The expedition demonstrates that the Niger offers a highway into the continent for ocean vessels. And the performance of the iron steamer is a triumph. But medicine is not yet as far advanced as technology. When the Alburkah returns to Liverpool, in 1834, only nine of the original crew of forty-eight are alive. They include a much weakened Macgregor Laird.

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