Allen Francis Gardiner, 1794-1851

Narrative of a Journey to the Zoolu Country, in South Africa. London: W. Crofts, 1836. [Rare Books Division]

It is not with a view to recount my personal adventures . . . nor was it for the mere novelty of traveling that I determined on a visit to South Africa; far otherwise was the object of my journey—an endeavour, under the blessing of God, to open a way whereby the ministers of the gospel might find access to the Zoolu nation, and be the means of introducing true religion, civilisation, and industry, into those benighted regions. . . . Determined to travel as lightly and expeditiously as possible, we distributed our baggage upon three horses, on which we and our guide were also mounted, and in this Don Quixote manner we left Cape Town. . . .

—Gardiner (pp. 1,3)

Having received a pious education, Gardiner spent the first half of his life in the British navy, distinguishing himself in a number of naval encounters and assignments in various parts of the world. He was promoted to commander on 13 September 1826. But, unable to obtain further government employment, he resolved to devote the rest of his life to the work of a missionary pioneer among “heathen nations.” With this goal in mind, he went to southern Africa in 1834, exploring the Zulu country and establishing the first missionary station at Port Natal (today’s Durban, South Africa). From 1834 to 1838, he endeavored to establish Christian churches in Zululand, but native wars and political events outside his control prevented any permanent success. He next focused on South America and participated in several missions to Chile, Bolivia, and Tierra del Fuego. On a small expedition to a remote and barren part of Patagonia in 1851, his party ran out of supplies and gradually starved to death waiting for a delayed support ship. Gardiner’s journal was later recovered.