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Title:The explorer who got lost: Dr Andrew Cowan's journal found
Author:Crampton, Hazel
Periodical:South African Historical Journal (ISSN 0258-2473)
Geographic terms:Mozambique
South Africa
The Cape
historical sources
About person:Andrew Cowan (1778-)
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02582473.2012.661448
Abstract:In 1808, one of the most expensive expeditions ever undertaken at the Cape, which had a most ambitious agenda, set out from Cape Town for the Portuguese Fort at Delagoa Bay in southern Mozambique. Under the leadership of Dr Andrew Cowan of the 83rd Regiment, the expedition crossed the Orange river safely and, after a short sojourn at the Klaarwater mission station, set off for the Kuruman river where Malibongwe, the king of the baTlhaping, had his capital. Two previous expeditions from the Cape had visited the baTlhaping prior to this time but once past them, the Cowan expedition, with approximately another 1000 kilometers between it and its destination, would be in virgin territory. The expedition failed to arrive at Delagoa Bay and, barring a letter written on Christmas Eve and sent from the Molopo river (near modern Mafikeng/Mahikeng), was not heard from again. In the two centuries since their disappearance, the fate of Cowan and his men has been the subject of on-going debate and speculation, which due to a lack of concrete evidence, has been necessarily inconclusive. Recently, however, Cowan's journal of the first leg of his journey has been rediscovered in an archive in Northern Ireland, along with several letters written by him en route. This article analyses the information regarding the Cowan expedition, focusing on the new material. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]