The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 27, 1926



Loring Whitman




Wed Oct 27nd Last night we were serenaded. As we went to sleep we could hear the village drum being hammered into life – but after our many night in Liberia we have become accustomed to if not even pleased with, the rather inspiring and typically African music.

            However at about 200 AM we were waked from our sleep by such a roar as I have rarely heard – and apparently just outside our beds. Whoever was pounding the drum must have certainly been inspired to use force such as he had never used before. I could actually see the dead arisen from their graves. But that was not all – for the entire population of the town was their – singing hastily. I suppose they thought that we would be honored – and as far as I was concerned the rhythm of the drum immediately caught hold of me – and I was not unpleasantly disturbed from my slumbers. Not so Hal – who crawled out of bed – picked up a rifle and flashlight –And vanished in the direction of the noise. – A savage discussion followed – but not interrupting the soloist – a light flashed showing the bare steel of the gun – silence – and the ghosts fled. They drifted off after that to continue in a  more remote section of the village.

            When we got up we had plenty of onlookers – as we decided to pack our bags, assign the loads and get the men started. This was an excellent idea – but unfortunately the the execution of it was not all that it might have been. In the first place our Coe town retainers who had brought us thru the bush so well wished to continue with us to Sino and as they were the best carriers we had had in our entire trip we were not at all upset about it. However, Chief Bashman was – and showed it in the following manner. One of the women who had carried a microscope thru the bush took to herself the same load and sat on it to show possession. Bashman he seeing this, proceeded to drag her off the box by brute strength she prostrate on the ground. And not content with this wanted to drag her about 100 yds just to show his superiority. I stepped overjust them and spoilt the game. Still this annoyed the men – and seeing that they would probably be bullied on their way back they quit – and we had to pay them off. Blow No 1. For they were reliable, and cheerful and friendly people. We were quite  attached to them.

            Then we told Bashman to assign the loads to suit himself while we had an already cold breakfast. Nothing was done. This was followed by swearing at the various scoundrels until they actually went off to get poles for the twoman loads. It was really exasperating because for the first 2 or 4 times they would say “yes” I then continue to palava without moving. Alright – we did get something done – to suddenly find that there were not enough men. This was particularly annoying after having had 8 good carriers scared away. And the chiefs son – the Headman – had absolutely no control over the men, no initiative no ambition, and no ((guts)). We were al mad. I found the rest of the needed men in the chiefs own hut and herded them out. Well we got off at about 800 instead of 600 for what promised to be a very long day with recalcitrant porters.

            As we were already delayed in the bush and elsewhere it was necessary to reach Sino as soon as possible. And all the people said it would take 4-5 days. Except Tobey. He said 2 ½ - 3 days – but that the first one – to Padibio was 6 – 6 day - - We wanted therefore to make Padibio while all the men said it was too far – and that it would take 2 days to get there. Hence we expected trouble. – 

            For the first hour we passed thru a series of small towns in each of which he had trouble – or rather delay – for the men sat down and dropped their loads in each and had to be almost pushed on their way again. Then we came to a  town where our safari had split – and some had run away. After replacing them – Strong and I took one trail while Hal and Dr. George went the other. Our way led us thru a town – Yah town – in which I was stopped by the Chief and asked to read some letters for him. ?? of these was from some member of the Anglo African Exploration Co. Ltd etc etc which stated that the gentleman had slept there. But whether he was pleased or not was not stated. The other letter was from the govt authorizing Chief X to be speak for’ Paramount Chief Bashman (Beastman was written) – and instructing him to keep his loads and trails up. “Yes” he said pleased. My only comment for this unnecessary delay was that he could spend a little more time n the trails without hurting them – and left. 

            We so joined the other trail and plunged into big bush again – and for a good 3 hours. The same kind of big bush that we have grown so used to with perhaps fewer swamps. At 1100 we stopped for a  rest to be told that we had at least 3 more hours of bush going. This proved to be just 2 hrs too much and at 1200 we came out to the trail leading to the town which our porters said was our first camp. – Our answer was posting a guard who saw that nobody turned off. Then Hal went ahead to the next town and forbade anyone to turn off stop them. So we went. At about 300 we got to Padibio – 7 hours instead of 1200 – Well what about Sino? Possibly we can condense that 2 days into one.

            As son as we got in we made arrangements about sleeping – as as we were becoming more generous with ourselves we had 3 walls remove – leaving only the front to protect us somewhat from prying eyes. Then we stowed our boxes under the eaves and took a bath. About this time our porters visualizing only 2 shillings for two days rather than 4 or five for a more leisurely trip got nervous – and thru their headman informed us that there were “plenty men” here to take us on – and that if we paid them they would start home. We reminded them of their agreement to take us to Sino. They then threatened to run away – which we squelched by saying no pay till Sino. Also we might have to arrest somebody. Then we gave them rice.


            After baths and supper the headman came back – rice wasn’t enough for them – they needed palm oil. We were annoyed but gave them a shilling. This was followed by another argument about running away. In the meantime we paid our respects to the Paramount Chief who had dashed us chicken and Rice. At the same time we called on the district clerk and gave him a handsome present. “You will make Sino easily tomorrow.” He said. “When the wind is right you can even hear the steamboat whistles here” etc, Sounds good. 






Loring Whitman, “The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 27, 1926,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed May 25, 2018,