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Richard Lemon Lander: Explorer of West Africa

Richard Lemon Lander (1804-1834) was an English explorer who made three trips to West Africa; he and his brother John were the first Europeans to canoe down the lower Niger River to its delta (where it meets the sea).

Richard Lander was born in Truro, Cornwall, England, on Feb. 8, 1804. He had no formal education, but went on an extended trip to the West Indies as a child.

As a young man, Lander worked for the Scottish explorer Hugh Clapperton, and went with him on a trip to West Africa (what is now northern Nigeria). The expedition (1825-1828) was designed to travel down the Niger River, but it was unsuccessful due to illness and many deaths. Clapperton and Lander's European companions all died early in the trip. Lander and Clapperton both had bouts of illness, and Clapperton died on April 18, 1827. African tribesmen later accused Lander of witchcraft, forcing him to drink poison to determine whether or not he was indeed a witch. Since he survived, the charges of witchcraft were rescinded, and Lander eventually returned to England (in July 1828). In England, Lander published "Journal of Richard Lander from Kano to the Sea Coast" (1829) and "Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition to Africa, with the Subsequent Adventures of the Author" (1830).

Lander returned to West Africa with his brother, John Lander, in 1830. They followed the lower Niger River from Bussa to the sea, travelling in leaky canoes. Along the way they were kidnapped by the King of the Ibos, rescued by another king (King Boy of Brass), and were reluctantly helped by a British ship. Lander later published his "Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Course and Termination of the Niger" (1832).

Lander died on his third West African trip (1833-1834). He was killed along the Niger River by African tribesmen on Feb. 6, 1834.

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