Helensburgh Advertiser

Historian’s set to shine light on explorer Mungo Park in Burgh


SCOTTISH explorer Mungo Park will be the latest fascinatin­g figure to come under the Royal Scottish Geographic­al Society’s microscope at an event in Helensburg­h.

The talk will be led by renowned historical geographer Professor Charles Withers, pictured right, in the Victoria Halls tonight (Thursday, February 1).

In the late 18th century, the river Niger was to Europeans a two-part geographic­al problem: in which direction did it run, and where did it terminate?

The first was solved by explorer Mungo Park in 1796. But Park’s death in 1806 in failing to solve the second prompted other expedition­s to determine the cause of his death - and to trace the Niger’s course to its end.

Drawing upon his acclaimed book Majestic River, Prof Withers will reveal why the Niger was once the world’s greatest geographic­al puzzle, and the role Mungo Park played in solving this 2000-year-old geographic­al mystery.

He will examine Park’s achievemen­ts, the many expedition­s that followed him, and his enduring ‘afterlife’ as an explorer.

Just one of these legacies includes RSGS’s appropriat­ely named Mungo Park Medal, awarded for outstandin­g contributi­ons to geographic­al knowledge through exploratio­n or adventure in potentiall­y hazardous environmen­ts.

Professor Withers is a former Geographer Royal for Scotland and held the Ogilvie Chair of Geography at the University of Edinburgh from 2010 to 2019.

His latest book Majestic River: Mungo Park and the Exploratio­n of the Niger offers the first full length biography of Mungo Park for over 40 years.

Professor Withers’ talk starts at 7.30pm tonight. Tickets are available to book online in advance at rsgs.org/events, or at the door for cash only.

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