The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 28, 1926



Loring Whitman




Thur Oct 28th The first thrill of the morning was the absence of half our porter crew -. The headman then said that as we had given them insufficient rice – “same have no chop” the rest were not fit to travel. As we had given out about 1 ½ rations per man we were convinced that he was pretty much of a thief as well as a liar and enemy of the working man. Still we said nothing beyond that they were going today – and to Sino. We set about replacing the absent men. 

            About 800 again late we left – but the sun was shining – So why worry? After passing one small town we plunged into the bush where we were swalled up for some 4 hours. In this section I again saw elephant tracks – and twice heard “Baboon” drumming. Then about 1100 it started to rain – and as one of our men was rapidly playing out under a twoman load we were going slowly. Several of our men had skipped leaving us short handed. I ran ahead thru the wet woods to Little Butu when I got a couple of men to go back with me and rescuer their weaker brother.

            When we returned to Little Butu we ate some bananas and once more we ate some bananas and once more had a palava. We wanted men to help us out – and our host was fussy evidently wanting a dash. Our men were sullen. After some swearing, however, we had our way and were off again for a half hour to Grand Butu. It was raining in earnest by now – a steady cold drenching rain – a regular N.E. storm. We plugged along head down our clothes sticking to us – and feeling clammy.

            At Grand Butu some more men deserted and were replaced with effort. Then off again into the rain. About this time the bush got smaller and smaller with more and more grassy areas showing that we were approaching the sea. We came to road, a Liberian road along which we plodded. None offered to stop now – it was too chilly and walking was necessary to keep warm – Then the road gave way to a beach sand trail – frequently flooded – thru regular beach grass. – And the wind roared thru the palm trees. We were all miserable. – On, On, One. We could hear the sea roaring on the beach and visualizing the cold dreary – angry Atlantic beating its head fruitlessly upon the yellow sand. A miserable day.

            But at last the rain eased off we began to approach stray huts with the final appearance of a Kru town – there we were in Sino.

            I felt like the conquering hero as I led the vanguard thru the half slumbering streets of the town – As tho I were returning once more to the world after a long expedition into the unknown parts of the wo globe – with all the jewels riches and slaves signifying a successful and eventful time. And to better look the part I wrung out my shirt tails and tucked them into my trousers. After all it had stopped raining. We marched down the main street – the residential section of the town to stop in front of a rather squalid dirty wood house the home of the superintendant. On the way I was stopped by an affable tho somewhat inquisitive gentleman who wished to know all the facts of my existence, my birth, youth and education leading up to and thru my recent travels and closed by the desire for a cigaret. I am afraid that I didn’t comply with his desires as well as I might have.

            The Supt. Was a rather quiet gentleman who asked but few questions and immediately sent out to look for a house where we could stay for the next few days. His wife entertained us in the mean time. When he returned he brought with him a man in whose hands he put us and who we followed in a further parade thru the town with all porter gang. This journey – of about 200 yards – took us thru the business section of the place – and for the first time since leaving the Du we saw a white man. He was leaving out the window of the Dutch coast Africa Co, - and We waved our hands to him and asked him if he was the bank. – and We came to our house – a 3 strong building with the gray air of desertion. We climbed up the front steps – cuvent and partially chipped – to the porch – opened the door – and were in a house.

            Immediately there was a rushing and scrambling as all our boxes were brought onto the porch – had their lashing taken off and were toted upstairs. This brought us to the living quarters – 2 big rooms – another big porch and a small ant room – immediately seized by G.C.S. Strong decided to step on the porch while Hal and I took the East room. Then we tore into our boxes – set up our beds and put on dry clothes. Hal unfortunately had a chill on the way into town and as he was feeling quite miserable he went to bed while we got him some hot tea and crackers. I then attacked the chop boxes and started Sando on supper while George paid off the men.

            Just about that time a boy brought us a note from the Dutch people asking us to have dinner with them – but having already ordered dinner and with Hal in bed we thought it best to decline with a promise to call on them tomorrow. However after supper wandered over and spent a very jolly evening talking to them. There were two of them when I arrive and Vau Hensden – the head of the works in Liberia and the chop who had waved to us as we passed, but about 900 another man came in – fresh from the sea – for he had just arrived from down the coast in a surf boat. It was blowing so hard he said that he had had to let the sheet go twice to keep from capsizing. It was a pleasant evening with news that Trumay had knocked out Dempsey, that La Coste had beaten Tilden, and that the channel had become a regular bathing resort. But it was quite late – 1030 and bed called. 






Loring Whitman, “The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 28, 1926,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed May 25, 2018,