Dearest Family, November 10, 1926

Creator

Loring Whitman

Date

September 12, 1926 - November 4, 1926

Text

No. 7

 

Monrovia, Liberia

November 10, 1926

(Preliminary Report)

 

Dearest Family; -

            My last letter started with an apology for expected brevity and then dragged on indefinitely. This one, however will not commit that same sin – I shall be brief. The reason for this is as follows: -

            I have been very busy packing in the last few days and seeing the other members of the Expedition, comparing notes on things seen and deeds accomplished and in general making up for the social gap in our party between Sept. 24th and November 5th.

            Now I feel that it is impossible to write either an accurate or a legible account of the last month and a half in a short time but as I have not written for so long and Dr. Allen is going to bring this with him I cannot hold back. Still this is not for information as much as it is to let you know that being far from home does not impair one’s memory or one’s thoughts of home. As soon as I have time to really write I will give you a more or less detailed account of my experiences since you last heard from me as well as a resume of my impressions of Liberia, the Tropics, and life in general, and it will take time.

            Now, first, I will answer some questions and doubts which are most frequent in the letters: - 

            1st – It is not as hot as you imagine. In the interior it averaged between 72 – 82° And at one time dropped into the 60s. And it was cool enough every evening to pull a blanket over one before morning. Sometimes we put on a sweater in the evening, too. The rains had also ceased and the humidity was in consequence much less. On the coast it goes up to 85 or so and is more muggy. But it is all quite liveable – we are used to it and it is never extreme as we have it in Boston. (103° In the shade in one letter.) We don’t have heat prostrations. 

            2nd – The flys are practically absent. Mosquitoes are noiseless and do not poison . They also stick close to the floor (or ground) so that mosquito boots give sufficient protection. Headnets and gloves are there for a waste of space and money. The tsetse flies also are local and I have only been bitten twice. Horse flies (tabanis) are at times a nuisance but it is very gratifying to cut off their heads and see them fly away – a morbid pleasure.

            3rd – Our food is a case of not too wisely but too well. Chicken and race from the staples to be got from the country. (The natives eat rice and palm oil and cassava. This is embellished by sweet potato, squash, and pumpkin, Edo, bananas, oranges (few at this season, but good), limes (now nearly gone), plantains – and edo leaves or cassava leaves as spinach. Occasionally a pawpaw or a pineapple. To this collection of natural foods we have canned meats, evaporated fruits, jams, butter in tins, cheese, milk, bacon, (ah, yes, eggs, according to the locality – and occasionally a goat). So you can see that we eat in style – even to plum pudding with a cream sauce – or macaroni and cheese.

            4th – Our hardships have been restricted to a super-abundance of energy possessed by R. P. Strong, which keeps us busy either working or traveling (with an accent on the latter) from morning to night. Our beds are comfortable. We have been blessed with moonlight nights when forced to camp after dark in the forest, without any shelter whatsoever (twice) and we have been fortunate in getting our wants gratified.           

            5th – My health has been excellent and my digestion of the best. My sleep has been long and sound and I am in first-class condition. Also, we have had no alcohol on our trip so Mother need not be nervous about my going to the alcoholic dogs as she implied or rather warned in one letter. There are likewise no aeroplanes so the abundance of newspaper clippings about a London-Paris accident have proved unnecessary.

            I hope that I have somewhat allayed the fear that I am treading thru perilous jungle with the steaming mists rising from tangled roots and vines, while pythons and cobras loop down from lofty branches to fell me should I not guard myself carefully at all times. And I am not constantly brushing the myriads of infected flies from out my eyes as I take careful aim at the charging elephant or bush cow. No, I haven’t even seen one – nor even smaller animals outside of monkeys and a few deer (duiker or antelope). So there you have t – I have spoiled the illusion and glory of this marvelous journey – but I hope that I have left a more peaceful frame of mind in its place. I don’t like to travel under false colors.

            But Dr. Allen is going to bring this letter home or mail it in England as he sees fit and if you get him to come to dinner immediately you will have not only the latest news but also the pleasure of getting it first hand from one of the most loveable men I have ever met or hope to meet. But I need pages to write about him and I must admit that I will have an unusually severe attack of homesickness when he leaves tomorrow. In fact, I have not written all day or all evening until he went to bed so as to see as much of him as possible before he is gone for good. Do ask him in and always keep in mind that he knows almost any nonsense book, or poem particularly, and in his quiet way can quote absolutely appropriate passages from them, or from Shakespeare, or the Bible (etc., etc.) at will. And his ability to change a word to better fit the occasion is supreme. See as much of him as you can – you will find that it is worth it.

            To briefly outline our trip, we went as follows;-

            We split into two parties at Gbanga two days after I sent my last letter – Drs. Strong, Shattuck, Hal and I going to the west and south – the rest going to the north and east. Our party travelled fast and furious to Gbai (a la Greek), Que Congo, Zicher (German) and Tappi – 4 days. At Tappi we spent (Hal and I did) four days elephant hunting to our great enjoyment but with no luck. We did see fresh tracks, however. I also took a day’s medical photography trip. I also spent one day in bed with a single malarial chill, hot period, sweat, and then normal – 3 hours. And, I collected five birds, four of which proved new to the collection.

            Then for eighteen days we travelled steadily with only occasional lay-off to Sino (or Greenville). On the way we crossed the Cess River on a raft and at one time spent four days travelling thru high forest without a village. We should have done it in three but our porters ran away (they thought that we would forget to pay them) leaving only eighteen of their number behind. We made our own boys carry and with them and the 18 got our immediate needs out of the “bush”. It took four days to send men in and back with the rest of the loads. Two days later we got to Sino and after the customary delay sailed for a day and a night in our open surf boat with all our boxes and a black Kru crew to (Grand) Bassa where we landed between dawn and sunrise for breakfast and an early lunch. Then from noon to the same time we sailed to Monrovia. Of course we got there earlier and anchored in the pouring rain from 1 – 4:30 Then we ran the bar and went into the town. But it was quite an experience. One of the best and will be written into a chapter in my real letter entitled “Cruising the West African Coast in an Open Surf Boat” and “Dodging phosphorescent covered rocks as we cruised the shore at night” can be a paragraph heading. It was quite delightful tho somewhat uncomfortable.

            And see, that brings us back to Monrovia where we landed so fresh four months ago, so unused and green at it all, so willing to see vague, mysterious, tropical wonders – and now, so matter of fact and blasé. Oh, well, times have changed and I am planning on a trip from Rangoon up the Salpeen River to the Sjan Border (Shan) and down thru Siam to Bangkok, visiting Kyeng-dai and Kyeng-Mei. These are pronounced Chung-dow and Chung-my. Young Dolph Cheek’s Father, who is here now (the father, I mean) was born in the latter and recommends the trip both as being economical an the most beautiful place in the whole Far East.

            But it is very late and I am afraid that I must stop before I become entirely incoherent. By the way, I was quite disappointed to find that Dr. Strong was against having a set of prints made until he got back. I wanted to have Dr. Allen have them made for you but he is a bit afraid of stolen thunder, which he covers with the guise that you would prefer them more in September next when I can show them personally. And he wouldn’t change, so I guess you won’t see them until he gets back in June ( and, of course, I won’t be there to show them to you). However, Dr. Allen volunteered a set of prints of his own pictures. But enough.

            My bestest best love to you all and my bestest thanks for the many letters from all the family. And my congratulations to K, if I did not mention it in my last letter. Again love. (I don’t know why I should slight Chud – so, congratulations to you.)

            LORING. 

(Dr. Allen will handle all films – and keep all my Liberian purchases until I return. Some are Hal’s.)

 

            

Type

Historical Documents

Identifier

VAD2036-U-00095G

Original Format

To

Mr. and Mrs. Whitman Jr.

Citation

Loring Whitman, “Dearest Family, November 10, 1926,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed November 23, 2017, http://liberianhistory.org/items/show/3630.