Sir Samuel White Baker, Explorer & Hunter
Sir Samuel White Baker (1821-1893), Explorer & Hunter.
Sir Samuel White Baker, KCB, FRS, FRGS (1821-1893) was a British explorer, officer, naturalist, big game hunter, engineer, writer and abolitionist. He also held the titles of Pasha and Major-General in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. He served as the Governor-General of the Equatorial Nile Basin (today's Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda) between Apr. 1869 - Aug. 1873, which he established as the Province of Equatoria. He is mostly remembered as the discoverer of Lake Albert, as an explorer of the Nile and interior of central Africa, and for his exploits as a big game hunter in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Baker wrote a considerable number of books and published articles. He was a friend of King Edward, who as Prince of Wales, visited Baker with Queen Alexandra in Egypt. Other friendships were with explorers Henry Morton Stanley, Roderick Murchison, John H. Speke and James A. Grant, with the ruler of Egypt Pasha Ismail The Magnificent, Major-General Charles George Gordon and Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Samuel White Baker was born on June 8, 1821 in London as the offspring of a wealthy commercial family. His father, Samuel Baker Sr., was a sugar merchant, banker and ship owner from Thorngrove, Worcestershire with mercantile ties in the West Indies (Caribbean). His younger brother, Col. Valentine Baker (1827-1828), known as Baker Pasha, was initially a British hero of the African Cape Colony, the Crimean War, Ceylon and the Balkans, later dishonored by a civilian scandal, who had successfully sought fame in the Ottoman Empire, notably the Russian-Turkish War in the Caucasus and the War of Sudan from Egypt. His other siblings were: James, John, Mary "Min"(later Cawston),Ellen(later Hopkinson) and Anna Eliza Baker (later Bourne).
Sir Samuel White Baker, Explorer & Hunter.
The young Samuel Baker was educated at a private school at Rottingdean, at the College School, Gloucester (1833-1835), and privately at Tottenham (1838-1840), before completing his studies in Frankfurt, Germany in 1841. He studied and graduated MA as Civil Engineer. While commissioned, at Constanta, Romania, where, as Royal Superintendent, he designed and planned railways, bridges and other structures corridoring across the Dobrogea region, from the Danube to the Black Sea.
On 3 August 1843 he married his first wife, Henrietta Ann Bidgood Martin, daughter of the rector of Maisemore, Gloucestershire. Together, they had seven children: Agnes, Charles Martin, Constance, Edith, Ethel, Jane & John Lindsay Sloan. His brother John Garland Baker married Henrietta's sister Eliza Heberden Martin and after a double wedding, the four moved to Mauritius, overseeing the family's plantation. After two years in Mauritius the desire for travel took them in 1846 to Ceylon, where in the following year he founded an agricultural settlement at Nuwara Eliya, a mountain health-resort.
Aided by his family, he brought emigrants from England, together with choice breeds of cattle, and before long the new settlement was a success. During his residence in Ceylon he wrote and published The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon (1853) and two years later Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon (1855). After twelve years of marriage, his wife, Henrietta, died of typhoid fever in 1855, leaving Samuel a widower at the age thirty-four. His two sons and one daughter(Jane) also died young. Baker left his four surviving daughters in the care of his unmarried sister Mary "Min".
After a journey to Constantinople and the Crimea in 1856, he went to Constanta, Romania and acted as Royal Superintendent for the construction of a railway and bridges across the Dobrogea, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months on a tour of south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor.
While Baker was visiting the Duke of Atholl on his shooting estate in Scotland, he befriended Maharaja Duleep Singh and in 1858-1859, the two partnered an extensive hunting trip in central Europe and the Balkans, via Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest. On the last part of the voyage, Baker and the Maharajah, hired a wooden boat in Budapest, which was eventually abandoned on the frozen Danube. The two continued into Vidin where, to amuse the Maharajah, Baker went to the Vidin slave market. There, Baker fell in love with a white slave girl, destined for the Ottoman Pasha of Vidin. He was outbid by the Pasha but bribed the girl's attendants and ran away in a carriage together and eventually she became his lover and wife and accompanied him everywhere he journeyed. (Samuel Baker got married to Florence in 1865.)
Sir Samuel White Baker's wife, Florence Baker.
Before she became Lady Florence Baker, she was the daughter of a Hungarian Szekely officer from German gentry family in Transylvania with name Finnian (or Finnin) von Sass (Hungarian). She was officially born Aug 6, 1841 (but more probably 1845) in Nagyenyed, Austro-Hungary (today Aiud, Romania) and was baptised Barbara Maria. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 most of her family was killed, and eventually her wounded father got them to a refugee camp in Vidin, Bulgaria, where she was stolen and sold to an Armenian slave merchant, who groomed her for the Harem. From then on she never saw her father again.
Baker and the girl fled to Bucharest and remained in Romania, Baker applying for the position of British Consul there but he was refused. In Constanta, he acted as the Royal Superintendent for the construction of a railway and bridges across the Dobrogea, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months on a tour in south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. The new consul issued Baker's companion with a British passport under the name Florence Barbara Maria Finnian, although she was British neither by birth nor yet by marriage. She was affectionately called "Flooey" by Baker and nicknamed Anyadwe or Daughter of the Moon in what is now northern Uganda by the Luo-speaking Acholi natives, in esteem for her long blonde hair.
Florence refused to stay home, instead following her husband in his travels. She spoke English, German, Hungarian, Romanian and Arabic, rode camels, mules and horses and carried pistols when in the wilds. In March 11, 1916, she died, 23 years after her husband, aged 74, and like him she died at their estate in Sandford Orleigh, Devon.She was buried with him in the Baker family vault at Grimley, near Worcester although her name was never recorded.
It is possible that the story how Samuel Baker met his future second wife and her origin were romanticised by him and adapted to expectation of the Victorian society. (A rescue of an exotic princess by a brave white gentleman was a favorite plot of contemporary colonial novels.) Similarly, Florence Baker is on all drawings from Africa depicted in a conventional Victorian lady’s dress but in Afrika she used to wear an outfit almost identical to the one her husband had designed for himself. Although Sir Samuel and Lady Baker were personally charming enough to conquer most of Victorian society the Queen Victoria refused to receive Florence at Royal Court as she believed Baker had been "intimate with his wife before marriage", as indeed he had. Lady Baker is in Hungarian sources known as Sass or Flora what makes some confusion.
Sir Samuel White Baker, Explorer & Hunter.
In March 1861 he started upon his first tour of exploration in central Africa. This, in his own words, was undertaken "to discover the sources of the river Nile, with the hope of meeting the East African expedition under Captains Speke and Grant somewhere about the Victoria Lake." After a year spent on the Sudan-Abyssinian border, during which time he learned Arabic, explored the Atbara river and other Nile tributaries, and proved that the Nile sediment came from Abyssinia, he arrived at Khartoum, leaving that city in December 1862 to follow up the course of the White Nile.
Sir Samuel White Baker, Explorer & Hunter.
Two months later at Gondokoro he met Speke and Grant, who, after discovering the source of the Nile, were following the river to Egypt. Their success made him fear that there was nothing left for his own expedition to accomplish; but the two explorers gave him information which enabled him, after separating from them, to achieve the discovery of Albert Nyanza (Lake Albert), of whose existence credible assurance had already been given to Speke and Grant. Baker first sighted the lake on March 14, 1864. After some time spent in the exploration of the neighbourhood, Baker demonstrated that the Nile flowed through the Albert Nyanza. He formed an exaggerated idea of the relative importance of the Albert and Victoria lake sources in contributing to the Nile flow rate. Although he believed them to be near equal, Albert Nyanza sources add only to the Nile flow at this point, the remainder provided primarily by outflow from Lake Victoria. He started upon his return journey, and reached Khartoum, after many checks, in May 1865.
In the following October Baker returned to England with his wife, who had accompanied him throughout the dangerous and difficult journeys in Africa. In recognition of the achievements, the Royal Geographical Society awarded him its gold medal, and a similar distinction was bestowed on him by the Paris Geographical Society. In August 1866 he was knighted. In the same year he published The Albert N'yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources, and in 1867 The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, both books quickly turned into several editions. In 1868 he published a popular story called Cast up by the Sea. In 1869 he travelled with King Edward VII (who was the Prince of Wales at that time) through Egypt.
Baker never received quite the same level of acclamation granted to other contemporary British explorers of Africa. Queen Victoria, in particular avoided meeting Baker because of the irregular way in which he acquired Florence, not to mention the fact that during the years of their mutual travels, the couple were not actually married. A court case involving his brother Valentine Baker (following his indecent assault of a woman on a train) also harmed Samuel Baker’s chances of wider acceptance by the Victorian establishment.
In 1869, at the request of the khedive Ismail, Baker led a military expedition to the equatorial regions of the Nile, with the object of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and civilization. Before starting from Cairo with a force of 1700 Egyptian troops - many of them discharged convicts - he was given the rank of pasha and major-general in the Ottoman army. Lady Baker, as before, accompanied him. The khedive appointed him Governor-General of the new territory of Equatoria for four years at a salary of $ 10,000 a year; and it was not until the expiration of that time that Baker returned to Cairo, leaving his work to be carried on by the new governor, Colonel Charles George Gordon.
He had to contend with innumerable difficulties - the blocking of the river in the Sudd, the hostility of officials interested in the slave-trade, the armed opposition of the natives - but he succeeded in planting in the new territory the foundations upon which others could build up an administration.
He published his narrative of the central African expedition under the title of Ismailia (1874). Cyprus as I saw it in 1879 was the result of a visit to that island. He spent several winters in Egypt, and traveled in India, the Rocky Mountains and Japan in search of big game, publishing in 1890 Wild Beasts and their Ways.
He kept up a correspondence with men of all shades of opinion upon Egyptian affairs, strongly opposing the abandonment of the Sudan by the British Empire and subsequently urging its reconquest. Next to these, questions of maritime defence and strategy chiefly attracted him in his later years.
Sir Samuel White Baker, Explorer & Hunter.
In November 1874 he purchased the Sandford Orleigh estate in Newton Abbot, Devonshire, England where he also died after a heart attack, at the age of seventy-one, on December 30, 1893. He was cremated and his ashes buried in the Baker family vault at Grimley, near Worcester.
Samuel Baker lived as a reputed Victorian Nimrod and was a milestone in the history of modern hunting through his works and deeds. He was proud of his British heritage and was an advocate of the virtues of his nation, while he non-biased of others and a fighter against slavery.
An acclaimed sportsman, he likely started hunting in the Scottish Highlands; his skills were renowned, and he once gave a demonstration to friends in Scotland of how he could, with dogs, successfully hunt down a stag armed only with a knife, he did the same with the large boars in the jungles of Ceylon. He hunted consistently until his last years, in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
He forged his skills chasing asian elephants and sambar in Ceylon,a place where Rowland Ward's records account him for some of world largest wild boar trophies. He traveled looking for sport in Asia Minor in 1860, in Scotland in 1869 for red stag, in the Rocky Mountains in 1881 downing elk, grizzly and buffalo. In 1886 he was in the French Alps, looking for brown bear and many times in India in 1885 and 1887-1889 pursuing tigers and blackbuck. His most memorable cynegetic exploits remained the episodes in Africa and Ceylon, where he returned again towards the end of his life in 1887. He also visited for sport, Transylvania for bears, Serbia for wild boars, Hungary for deer, Cyprus in 1879, China and Japan.
He left a wealth of study in the science of hunting firearms and ballistics, and accounts as one of the world's few hunters that used the two bore rifle, the world's largest gun caliber for the purpose. He described in great detail his observations of the animal world, account in which, his book Wild Beasts And Their Ways (1890) ranks highest.
In 1863, the German zoologist Theodor von Heuglin, named a subspecie of Roan antelope in his honor: Hippotragus e. bakeri or Baker’s antelope. In Sri Lanka the Baker's Falls bears his name, and in 1906 Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi while in Ruwenzori, Uganda named Mount Baker in his honour.
Complete works of Sir Samuel White Baker
• The Rifle And Hound In Ceylon (1853)
• Eight Years' Wanderings In Ceylon (1855)
• The Albert N'Yanza Great Basin Of The Nile; And Exploration Of The Nile Sources (1866)
• The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia; And The Sword Of Hamran Arabs (1867)
• Cast Up By The Sea Or The Adventures Of Ned Grey, A Book For Boys (1869)
• Ismailia - A Narrative Of The Expedition To Central Africa For The Suppression Of Slave Trade, Organised By Ismail, Khadive Of Egypt (1874)
• Cyprus As I Saw It In 1879 (1879)
• In The Heart Of Africa (1886)
• Wild Beasts And Their Ways, Reminescenses Of Europe, Asia, Africa And America (1890)
• True Tales For My Grandsons (1891)