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Ingrid Kretschmer:

The Austrian Congo Expedition 1885–1887: goals and resulting maps

Cartographica Helvetica 40 (2009) 3–16


During 2008 the media frequently reported about unrest and military conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a region which had also been a destination of Austrian explorers already 120 years before.

In 1888 the "Imperial and Royal Geographic Society" in Vienna – the predecessor of the Austrian Geographic Society – published the financial accounts of the Austrian Congo expedition which was primarily financed by this scientific society. After a journey of approximately two years, another traverse of tropical Africa from west to east was successful along a route connecting the course of the Congo River with the lakes in eastern Africa.

Besides a few geographic, petrographic and ethnographic studies, the primary results were valuable maps of the course of the Congo River divided into two sheets of the lower Congo and three uniformly designed sheets of the middle Congo. These maps, along with numerous minor maps and additional maps of the surrounding areas, appeared with astonishing succession between 1886 and 1890 in Vienna. At the time there were hardly any adequate navigation or river maps available, and these were the first maps of the Congo River at a relatively large scale of 1:400,000 intended for navigating the Congo. The map sheets remained relatively unknown among cartographic experts.

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