Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2012
March 21, 1871, New York Herald journalist Henry Morton Stanley begins his famous search through Africa for Dr. David Livingstone, the legendary British explorer. In the summer of 1865, at a time when the Western world is tremendously fascinated by the mysteries of Africa, Livingstone embarks on a two-year expedition into The Dark Continent to find the source of the Nile River. Six years later, and two years after the Western world last hears from him, The New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett Jr., decides to send Stanley on a mission to find Livingstone, or obtain evidence of his death. In the village of Ujiji, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, Stanley and his caravan come finally locate a sick and impoverished Livingstone. According to the legend, upon meeting the renown British explorer, Stanley extends his hand and greets him with the now famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” After deciding to stay in Africa to complete his mission, Livingstone eventually dies 18 months later in what is today’s Zambia.
Last month, a team of experts headed by Adrian S. Wisnicki—assistant professor of 19th-century British literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania—successfully used modern spectral-imaging technology to make Dr. David Livingstone’s over 100-year-old field diary legible. The old and tattered manuscript was partially written on newsprint and paper scraps using berry juice that caused smears and stains. Due to the extended period of time during which there was no communication between Livingstone and the outside world, his diary is of particular interest to historians and exploration enthusiasts. After obtaining the diary in Glasgow, Scotland, Livingstone’s place of birth, professor Wisnicki and his team of scientists used spectral-imaging technology to highlight the illegible text and focus light at specific angles to analyze the page topography and discern the illegible text of the diary.