Title: Burchell's African Odyssey
Subtitle: Revealing the return journey 1812-1815
Authors: Roger Stewart; Marion Whitehead
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Imprint: Struik Nature
Cape Town, South Africa 2022
ISBN 9781775848158 / ISBN 978-1-77-584815-8
Hardcover, dustjacket, 18 x 24 cm, 248 pages, numerous colour photos and images
When Englishman William John Burchell (1781-1863) disembarked in Cape Town in 1811, he was an eager but inexperienced 29-year-old naturalist with a romantic passion for science. His achievements during his epic four-year trek across the southern African veld in his oxwagon far surpassed those of other illustrious travellers to the Cape Colony. During his 7 000-kilometre adventure, he amassed a collection of some 63 000 specimens of plants, mammals, insects, birds and reptiles, now lodged at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Back in London, he cultivated seeds and bulbs from his trek and introduced them to horticulture in the UK. However, the most important part of his great trek has remained undocumented: the three-year return journey from the southern Kalahari via the Karoo and southern coastal belt, when he collected 75% of his specimens. The authors have delved into Burchell's meticulous records, letters and illustrations, many unpublished, in order to reconstruct his journey, revealing details of his route, the highlights of his tireless collecting activities, plus notable events, experiences and people he met.
Burchell's African Odyssey: Revealing the return journey 1812-1815 fills the gap in our understanding of Burchell's travels and his contributions to natural history and horticulture. Burchell's African odyssey shaped his world view. He became a mature systems thinker and early ecologist, and developed the notion of bio-regions in southern Africa. The book also attempts to redress the neglect of this notable naturalist by the British establishment in his time and bring the achievements of a brilliant polymath - whose work is still relevant today - into perspective.
Burchell's African Odyssey: An Introduction
The Young Burchell: 'I hope. I go.'
Lessons of the Outbound Trek
The Return Journey Begins: Chue Loop
Kuruman to GraaflF-Reinet
Graaff-Reinet to Uitenhage
Uitenhage to Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay to Cape Town
The Odyssey Continues in London
Burchell's manuscript journals
Location of Burchell's 'stations'