The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

The Search for the Source of the Nile

Past display archive
28 January - 27 July 2008

Room 23 showcase

Free

John Hanning Speke
by Southwell Brothers
1863
NPG P658

This display features the protagonists in Britain's search for the source of the River Nile - the greatest geographical mystery of the age. It focuses on the recently conserved photograph of John Hanning Speke (1827-64), who became the first European to see Lake Victoria in 1858. He is presented alongside his colleague and rival, Sir Richard Burton, whose rejection of Speke's claim to have visited the Nile's source would have fatal consequences. Others engaged in the controversial quest into the heart of east Africa include the big game hunter Sir Samuel White Baker and his wife Florence and the most celebrated explorers of the age, David Livingstone and Sir Henry Stanley.

Map of the east African lakes showing the route of Burton and Speke's expedition, 1856-59

Map of the east African lakes
showing the route of Burton and Speke's expedition, 1856-59