Alexander Gordon Laing - Trip to Timbuktu
Alexander Gordon Laing was a Scottish military officer and explorer that managed to claim his place in history by becoming first European to reach the city of Timbuktu located in the West African nation of Mali on the southern edge of Sahara Desert using the north/south route.
Alexander Laing was born on 27 December 1793 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Great Britain, as the son of school professor William Laing who initially educated his son personally. Alexander joined the military and rose through ranks, being part of York Light Infantry Volunteers since 1811, 2nd West India Regiment since 1815 and Royal African Colonial Corps since 1822 where he reached the rank of Captain. During those years he managed to visit Sierra Leone, Mandingo country, Solimana country where he took part in several armed conflicts against slavers. He was also involved into deepening trade between African countries and England, and was also very interested in geography, managing to find and map the source of river Rokel and relatively precisely ascertain the source of river Niger. In 1824 he was promoted to the Africa-only rank of Major, which he carried during many months of Ashanti War in the modern day Ghana.
1825 and 1826 was the most famous year of the life of Alexander Gordon Laing. It was during that time that he managed to secure the permission for finding the source of river Nigger and finding the route to the city of Timbuktu. His journey came with the blessing of the Famous British explorer Joseph Banks, and Henry, 3rd Earl Bathurst who then commanded the British colonies in the Africa. Laing was instructed to explore the hydrography of the Niger basin. His journey began on 16 July 1825, two days after he married Emma Warrington, daughter of the British consul in Tripoli. He traveled across the Sahara, reached the settlements of Ghadames and In Salah. During the last leg of the journey across desert of Tanezrouft his party became attacked by the group of Tuareg raiders, during which he wrote that he received over 20 wounds. In the end, he managed to reach city of Timbuktu on August 18 1826, barely alive and with only one hand. He never left the city even though he planned to return home according to his letters. Modern historians presume he was murdered on the night of 26 September.