LIVINGSTONE, David (1813-1873). Autograph letter signed ('David Livingstone') to Messrs Napier & Sons, 20 Bedford Square, London, 15 December 1857, 7 pages, 8vo, on bifolia.
LIVINGSTONE'S PLANS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE MA-ROBERT: 'For the success of my expedition up the Zambesi river in Eastern Africa it is extremely desirable that a steam Launch should be prepared by the middle of next month or a little later'. Livingstone goes on to give his desired specifications: the vessel should be 'in 3 compartments to be sent out separate and put together on the spot 80 ft long -- 8 (?) ft broad 30 feet middle compartment 25 ft. each end -- simple high pressure engine of 10 or more horse power such as is used for agricultural purposes and of the least possible weight the vessel to be for river purposes and of the least possible draught'; he enquires as to the expense and possibility of making the vessel in the time allowed, and urges the cause of his expedition as a 'public concern' and of benefit to 'christian civilization. A postscript leaves it to Napiers to decide if his given dimensions are suitable, '& whether a paddle or screw vessel is preferrable [sic]'. The Ma-Robert was eventually constructed in little over a month by the Macgregor Laird yard in Birkenhead, and the final dimensions were close to Livingstone's suggestions here. In spite of her affectionate naming after the Makololo sobriquet for Mrs Livingstone, the vessel's service on the Zambesi expedition was an unmitigated disaster, proving vulnerable to the shallow draft of the river, to heat, rain, overlading, overcrowding, an 'outrageous consumption of wood' (Jeal,p.206) and ultimately rust.
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