In 1897 his book Through Unknown African Countries: the First Expedition from Somaliland to Lake Rudolf appeared. It includes many interesting details about the area, the usual condescending talk about "poor savages" and "amusing natives," and images of the author standing over dead animals or in the act of killing them.
Dr. A. Donaldson Smith has lately presented to the British Museum a collectiou of plants made during his expedition through Somaliland to Lake Rudolf in 1894-95. Unfortunately many of the specimens were injured by damp, but those which remain are of considerable interest. Messrs. E. G. Baker and Rendle have worked out some of these, and have described the following novelties, in addition to the two Ipomoeas described on pp. 36, 37.
Dr. Donaldson Smith gave a lecture on his travels before the Royal Geographical Society on Jan. 6th, in the course of which he said that during a sporting trip in Somaliland over two years ago he conceived the idea that he could carry an expedition across that large extent of unexplored country lying between the Shebeli river and Lake Rudolf, with Somalis as a guard, and camels and pack animals. Accordingly he came back to England, and set to work to fit out an expedition, engaging the services of Mr. Edward Dodson, a young taxidermist at the British Museum. Accompanied by Mr. Gillett, they set sail from London on June 1st, 1894. On July 10th they were able to give the order to march from Berbera. They were soon across the hundred miles of bushy, waterless plateau-land called the Haud, and found themselves at Milmil, in the Ogadain country [this is still the great unexplored part of the world as far as Moringa is concerned]. As their route lay directly west, it was principally through a rough country. The Ogadain was dry, like the rest of Somaliland ; the wells and pools of water in the riverbeds were far apart, and to the south-west the water was brackish. This was not the case, of course, during the spring and autumn rains, but it was astonishing how quickly the country assumed its half-parched appearance after the rains had ceased. The country became gradually more interesting as it was more unknown. They had one march of three days through a waterless, hilly country, called Sibe. There was no crossing the Ezer, owing to the great rocky walls that surround it, so they had to march down Turfi tug to its junction with the Shebeli river. The Shebeli was flooded, and it was all they could do to cross it. As they progressed they only found a few poor villages of a hundred souls each, the natives presenting the most abject appearance imaginable. The remnant of a great tribe, they were the Arusa Gallas, and their native land extended fifty miles west of the Shebeli river. On Sept. 17th they arrived at Luku, where they were astonished to find a stone tomb erected to a Mohammedan, Sheikh Abai Ezied; and a few days later they reached the imposing tomb of Sheikh Husein. There were five other white tombs of sheikhs scattered about the hilltop on which the town is situated, making quite a gay appearance. The Abyssinian General in command of this country, Wal-da-Gubbra, requested the presence of the leaders of the expedition at Ginia, and showed them every honour.
After waiting at Ginia for a mouth for the permission of King Menelek to proceed, they decided to start secretly, but after journeying some distance, were overtaken by the Abyssinian army, the general presenting them with a letter from the king ordering them to return by the way they had come, and there was nothing to do but to accept the situation, bad as it was. They returned into Somaliland, where they spent Christmas in company with Prince Boris, a Eussian sportsman, whom they chanced to meet. On Feb. 1st they were across the Shebeli again, and on the way once more to Lake Rudolf, moving as quickly as possible to the Juba, as the Abyssinians might be down on them at any moment. Keeping as westerly a course as possible, he reached the wells of El Madii on March 3rd, beyond which lay a mountainous and waterless tract of country for three days (45 geographical miles). This was successfully crossed, though the expedition suffered from lack of water, and twelve camels died on the way. After going a long way west through the Boran country, and overcoming a temporary outburst of hostility on the part of the natives, they explored the northern end of Lake Stefanie. Going far up to the north they came to a black race of people called the Amars, living high up on a mountain, and it was by their village that he was pointed out the grave of Prince Ruspoli, who had come down from the Juba river, the only traveller that had ever succeeded in getting nearly so far into the country. Gomg farther on, they came to a large river (50 yards broad, with a current of four miles an hour, and S^ ft. deep), which he afterwards found flowing into the northern -end of Lake Stefanie, and he discovered that it arose partly from Lake Abeia itself and partly from the mountains immediately about that lake.
Their further experiences included an attack by a large and warlike tribe called the Arbore, inhabiting half of the valley above Lake Stefanie, who assailed them with javelins and arrows, but were quickly dispersed by the whizzing of a few bullets. There were no roads, and they had to make paths over ridges two thousand feet high above the surrounding country. On July 4th they found themselves without guides in such a bushy country that they were obliged to make five long marches in the bed of a river knee -deep in water the whole time. As their boots were wearing out, they were forced to walk barefooted ; but their spirits ran high — Lake Rudolf was near, and they were to be the first to reach it from the east. After more than a year's wanderings in all sorts of country, and under most diverse circumstances, they found themselves at the goal of their ambition. They reached Lake Rudolf on July 14th, 1895. A journey round the northern end of the lake disclosed the fact that the Nianann was the only river emptying into the lake, and that there was no River Bass, as supposed by Count Teleki.
A very curious and interesting plant. It suggests technically Pittosporeae, but the anther-stamens are opposite the petals, and the leaves pinnately compound; also there is affinity with Passifloreae. If the accompanying figure be compared with that of Deidamia alata (data figured by Du Petit Thouars (Hist. Veg. Isles Austr. Afr. t, 20), certain points of resemblance will be at once noted. The shortly stipitate ovary with parietal placentation and hypogynous stamens, and the imparipinnate leaves. Tlie latter differs, however, in its 3-4-parted style and in the stamens being adnate to the gynophore, and in the reduced corona. In the Angolan genus Atheranthera we have ten stamens, five of which are sterile, and no corona; but the flowers are unisexual (see Trans. Linn. Soc. xxvii, 640), and the leaves simple. Atheranthera Welwitschii Masters, I. c. is identical with Gerrardanthus Trimeni Cogn. I have pleasure in dedicating this interesting novelty to the discoverer, Dr. Donaldson Smith; also in thanking Prof. D. Oliver for much assistance in connection with it. Mr. E. M. Holmes has suggested an affinity with Moringa, with which it has certainly some resemblance. It agrees in the 5 stamens alternating with 5 staminodia, and in the stipitate ovary with parietal placentation; but Donaldsonia differs from Moringa by the flowers being regular and having a decided disk, by the calyx not forming a cup at the base, and by the leaves being only simply, not compoundly, imparipinnate.
Scott says "I wish all botanical descriptions were preceded by epic journeys!"
Donaldson Smith, A. R. 1897. Through Unknown African Countries. Edward Arnold, London.
Olson, M. 2003. Developmental origins of floral bilateral symmetry in Moringaceae. American Journal of Botany 90(1):