Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tanzania Tuesday #28 : Eva Stuart-Watt

"Afterglow on Kibo" by Eva Stuart-Watt
This week's heroine is Eva Stuart-Watt, who climbed to the crater rim in 1926. Eva was born in Australia in 1891, spent her childhood in Africa with her missionary parents, and then went to Ireland to school when she was ten. In 1913, she returned to Africa to serve as a missionary with her parents; her father and brother died of a fever in 1914, leaving Eva, her mother, and her sister to continue the work on their own.

Eva Stuart-Watt (center), her sister (left), and mother (right)
In Africa's Dome of Mystery, Eva recounted her experiences in Africa, notably her Kilimanjaro climb. All images in this post are taken from her book.

Eva Stuart-Watt "on the Kibo track", probably on her trip in 1925 with Professor Charles Hedley

She had already been on the upper slopes of the mountain, twice ascending as high as Bismark's Hut (8500 feet). But on this attempt, she resolved to reach the snows of Kibo.
No trouble was spared in provisioning the expedition, for a little extra attention to their comfort is appreciated more than cash by these men, who endure real hardships in the ruthless cold of the unsheltered heights. The usual rations of maize, beef and corn-meal were supplemented by home-made bread and Chagga butter, tea and coffee, sugar and cocoa, dried bananas and a little brandy.
She paid her porters the going rate of one shilling a day, and the loan of a blanket or an extra shilling to hire one. The headman earned three shillings a day, as did the guide – or more "according to his success in reaching the goal set by the tourist".

Her comforts were also considered, of course:
My simple outfit consisted of warm woollen clothing, fur gloves, alpine footwear, dark glasses, a helmet and tam-o'-shanter, a spiked walking stick and a couple of cameras. 
 I especially loved her description of her gear:
The flannel cover of the piano with some bamboo poles served as a tent, and a light camp mattress, over which were sewn two camel-hair rugs and two eider-downs, made an excellent sleeping bag.
 (Never forget that Mallory climbed Everest in woolen clothes, a Burberry raincoat, and hob-nailed boots!) 

Some climbers – including Professor Charles Hedley, with whom she ascended as far as Peter's Hut in 1925 – chose to ride mules partway up the mountain, but Eva resolved to go on foot:
… not only to avoid the inconvenience of feeding and housing a mule at night, but as a practical means of becoming accustomed to the altitude. A mount in any case cannot be employed for the last and most strenuous part of the climb; and to ride for three successive days to the base of Kibo, and then dismount with stiff limbs and a dizzy head for the final ascent, is a positive disadvantage to the mountaineer. 
On September 9 Eva, her guide Jonathan – chosen despite being less experienced than "Oforo of Moshi" for the Kibo summit, but better known to her – and six porters set off through the forest. As they pushed through the wet undergrowth, they heard wild boar, hornbills, orioles, monkeys, and tree frogs. They spotted a herd of eland just before arriving at Bismarck's Hut (8500 feet), their stop for the night.

On their second day they climbed out of the forest and onto moorland, glimpsing Mawenzi through the mist to their right, while Kibo remained hidden by clouds.
But the scenery grew wilder and more weird was we left the forest and the grassland far, far below, and, following our undulating path in single file, trudged over gravelly ridges and into rocky ravines. The whole landscape as far as the eye could reach was a medley of dull grey lava slabs, dotted with red-leaved protea shrub and stunted heaths, which became smaller and smaller as we rose higher. 
She described these senecios – one of the most typical Kilimanjaro plants – with "their black stems and greyish-yellow crowns stood spreading out their arms in the deep moist gullies, like ghostly sentinels of the untrodden wilds.

PETER'S HUT, 11,500 FT
After five hours of hiking they reached Peter's Hut (11,500 feet); as the sun set they got a clear view of Kibo:
As the rising night wind drove away in a long white column the clouds that had curtained her during the mid-day hours, she stood wonderful, dignified and pure in her freezing whiteness. Every Chagga heart echoed silently 'God Amighty!'" 
As she rested in the hut, Eva was excited for the next day: "Only one more day—and then, should He permit us, we were to stand within the very gates of His lofty temple."

(Personal aside -- I'm now convinced that this hut, visited by both Eva Stuart-Watt and Estella Latham, is the same hut visible at Horombo Huts in 2013. I hope to see it on our climb!)

On the third day she rose before dawn, struggling to get the porters to move out of camp. They reached the saddle by 9 a.m., where a strong north wind slowed them down, much to the dismay of the porters, who complained until Eva "dealt out to each a little brandy and water." Later, as they crossed the sandy saddle, the porters "threw down their loads in despair half-way and were moaning on account of the cold and shortness of breath". Eva roused them by taking a photograph of them, saying, "Now, men, smile like heroes of the mountain and we can show your comrades this picture." 

At 2 p.m. they reached the caves at 15,000 feet and had tea and bread and butter around a campfire – the wood and water having been carried with them up from Peter's Hut. That night Eva sat alone with her thoughts:
I did not sleep; I could hear too well the beating of my own heart, and the high altitude had brought on mountain sickness. As the icy gale tore down from the dizzy heights above and whistled among the crags and crannies, I listened to its sighing and waited for the morning. In the clear, highly-rarefied atmosphere distances were misleading, and Mawenzi looked deceptively near, while the vault of heaven itself seemed to have come closer to earth. Myriads of stars shone in the deep indigo sky with a luster unknown to the inhabitants of the lower world. 
At 3 a.m. on September 12, 1926 Eva roused the porters by making them tea ("I broke bounds") and calling to them: "Haya watu, knoo! Chai tayari! Tufunge safari!" (Come along men! Tea is ready! Let us be off on the march!) She set off at 4am by the light of a hurricane lamp, wrapped in all of her clothes and blankets, with her headman Malawa and guide Jonathan.

Though their ascent was slow – "we could barely drag ourselves along and had to sit down every few yards to recover breath" – Eva noted there was no real obstacle apart from the extreme altitude and the loose shingle, "which mockingly carried us backwards at every footstep almost the whole distance of our tread." They revived themselves by resting, dropping items they deemed unnecessary (field glasses, a sunshade, a second camera), and nibbling Cadbury's Milk Chocolate.

One of the younger porters, Mikani, watched their slow progress from the shelter of the caves, and was inspired to join them and, "without even sandals to protect his feet, soon overtook us and accompanied the party for pure adventure." His energy raised the team's flagging spirits, and they continued climbing.

Near the top they spotted the famous leopard carcass, found earlier that year by Dr. Donald Latham. (Fun fact: Donald Latham is Estella Latham's brother-in-law and was saddened not to be able to join Kingsley and Estella on their climb in 1924.)

They reached the crater rim at 1 p.m., "where we were ushered abruptly from the heated rock into the cool, silent sanctuary of myriad snow crystals". Mikani jumped onto the snow, leaping back as his bare feet felt the cold.

Through a gap in the ice they could see the caldera, and stood in silence. Mawala suddenly said, "This is indeed the HOUSE OF GOD: there is no house in all the world clean except this one." Eva was "thrilled by these spontaneous words from native lips. We had, at last, reached the goal of the Fathers of the Chagga race!"

Shortly thereafter they began their descent, and within 24 hours were back in the lowlands. Eva Stuart-Watt was the fourth woman to reach the crater rim, most likely going as far as Gillman's Point.

Two years after her Kilimanjaro climb, Eva Stuart-Watt returned to Ireland, having spent 14 years in Africa. She founded the Young Ireland for Christ mission in Dublin, painted, and wrote many books. Eva died in 1959.


Eva Stuart Watt. Retrieved March 24, 2017 from http://kilimanjaro.bplaced.net/wiki/index.php?title=Eva_Stuart-Watt

Eva Stuart Watt. Retrieved March 24, 2017 from https://www.moodypublishers.com/authors/w/eva-stuart-watt/

Flynn, John. "Looking for a literary leopard on the rooftop of Africa". SF Gate, 31 March 2002. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/travel/departures/article/Looking-for-a-literary-leopard-on-the-rooftop-of-2857991.php

Nicholls, Christine. "Stuart Watt, Eccentric Missionary at Machakos." Old Africa Magazine, 17 April 2014. http://oldafricamagazine.com/stuart-watt-eccentric-missionary-at-machakos/

Nicholls, Christine. "Stuart Watt, Part II." Old Africa Magazine, 19 May 2014. http://oldafricamagazine.com/stuart-watt-part-ii/

Stuart-Watt, Eva. Africa's Dome of Mystery. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd. 1930.

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