I learn that these good people, to make topographical confusion worse confounded, call a river by one name when you are going up it, and by another when you are coming down; just as if you called the Thames the London when you were going up, and the Greenwich when you were coming down. The banks all round this lake or broad, seem all light-coloured sand and clay. We pass out of it into a channel. Current flowing north. As we are entering the channel between banks of grass-overgrown sand, a superb white crane is seen standing on the sand edge to the left. Gray Shirt attempts to get a shot at it, but it—alarmed at our unusual appearance—raises itself up with one of those graceful preliminary curtseys, and after one or two preliminary flaps spreads its broad wings and sweeps away, with its long legs trailing behind it like a thing on a Japanese screen. Gray Shirt does not fire, but puts down his gun on the baggage again with its muzzle nestling against my left ear. A minute afterwards we strike a bank, and bang goes off the gun, deafening me, singeing my hair and the side of my face slightly. Fortunately the two men in front are at the moment in the recumbent position attributive to the shock of the canoe jarring against the cliff edge of a bank, or they would have had a miscellaneous collection of bits of broken iron pots and lumps of lead frisking among their vitals. It is a little difficult to make out how much credit Providence really deserves in this affair, but a good deal. Of course if It had taken the trouble to keep us off the bank, or to remind Gray Shirt to uncock his weapon, the thing would not have happened at all, but preliminary precaution is not Providence’s peculiarity. Still, when the thing happened It certainly rose to it. I might have had the back of my head blown out, and the men might have been killed.
Mary H. Kingsley
Unknown, in the region of Gabon & Republic of Congo, 1895
Source: Mary H. Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, London: MacMillan and Co., Ltd, 1897