"The Original Flying Fox"
In 1903, decades after David Livingstone set foot on what is now known as Livingstone Island, an Englishman named Mr Charles Beresford Fox traveled to Victoria Falls as an assistant engineer on the Victoria Falls Bridge construction project. His main task was to develop a cable system to transport workers and light equipment back and forth across the gorge. After three attempts of firing a rocket across with a connecting line, steel cable was pulled across and secured to create a pulley system.
|Mr Fox going across the gorge|
"Passengers were taken over one at a time on a ‘bosun’s chair’ suspended from small pulleys running on the cable which was worked by a hand winch" - Peter Roberts
Mr Fox became the first man to make cross the gorge by cable, and he was the original "flying fox". Today, you can enjoy that same heart-pumping experience of gliding on the steel cables across the gorge on the Flying Fox activity in Victoria Falls.
The Original Victoria Falls Hotel
Although the beginning buildings of the Grand Ol Lady were built with iron structure, wooden walls and floors, during the First World War the new buildings were made of brick and they actually form the core of the hotel to this day! A visit to the Victoria Falls Hotel remains part of many tourists' list of things to do in Victoria Falls as it is an important part of the history of the place.
|The Entrance to the hotel.|
You can see the Victoria Falls Bridge
through the back where the terrace is today.
We all know that the first European to make account of the Victoria Falls and also named it after Queen Victoria was David Livingstone, in 1855. What is not generally known is that were it not for a bit of unrest between local Makalolo people and the invading Matebele people, the first European to see the Victoria Falls would have been James Chapman - a hunter and scholar who was hunting nearby in Chobe in 1853.
First Illustrations of Victoria Falls
James Chapman met Thomas Baines in Cape Town and the two traveled together to Victoria Falls. In 1862, they made it across desert from the western coast (now Walvis Bay, Namibia), to a large tree from where they could hear the sound "like the dashing of a mighty surf upon a rockbound coast". Baines painted several illustrations of the Victoria Falls.
The First Photographs of Victoria Falls
The first known photographs of the Victoria Falls were taken in 1861 by Frank "Zambezi" Watson, who traveled through the Zambezia region as a trader and hunter. Below, you can also see images of the gorge and the Big Tree, said to be the biggest baobab tree in Zimbabwe and possibly from where Chapman and Baines first saw the rising spray of the falls on their way to see the Victoria Falls for the first time.
Images and information in this post were taken from tothevictoriafalls.com and zambezibookcompany.com
You can find more information about the fascinating history surrounding the Victoria Falls in books written by Peter Roberts which are available on Amazon.