Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Encounter With The Tsavo Maneaters In Chicago

After spending a not-so-relaxing weekend in Chicago, I'm home and back to blogging--which may or may not be a good thing.  I'm describing the trip as not-so-relaxing as I don't consider walking seven miles in sub-zero weather all that enjoyable. Okay, so it wasn't sub-zero, but the wind chill was a bitch nontheless.  Be that as it may, despite the arctic air, it was a rather interesting Chicago trip and I most certainly got more out of it than I usually do primarily because I went solely for the museums and not the retail--blasphemy, I know.  Needless to say, after walking through the Planetarium, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), I'm pretty well spent.

However, being a semi-history buff and a lover of thrillers, I wanted to share the story of the Tsavo Maneaters as I find it a rather interesting one.  In The Field Museum, there's an exhibit containing the perpetrators of the narrative below.  I hadn't heard of the Tsavo Maneaters until I read the plaque next to the exhibit and realized the story surrounding it had been made into a movie in 1996 called The Ghost and the Darkness.  Yes, I know I'm slow. 

For your reading pleasure, here is the story of the Tsavo Maneaters along with the pics I took of them at The Field Museum:

In March 1898 the British started building a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya. The project was led by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. During the next nine months of construction, two maneless male Tsavo lions stalked the campsite, dragging Indian workers from their tents at night and devouring them. Crews tried to scare off the lions and built campfires and bomas of thorn fences around their camp for protection to keep the maneaters out, to no avail. The lions crawled through the thorn fences. After the new attacks, hundreds of workers fled from Tsavo, halting construction on the bridge. Patterson set traps and tried several times to ambush the lions at night from a tree. After repeated unsuccessful endeavors, he shot the first lion on December 9, 1898. Three weeks later, the second lion was found and killed. The first lion killed measured nine feet, eight inches (3 m) from nose to tip of tail. It took eight men to carry the carcass back to camp. The construction crew returned and completed the bridge in February 1899. The exact number of people killed by the lions is unclear. Over the course of his life, Patterson gave several figures, once claiming that there were 135 victims.

Patterson writes in his account that he wounded the first lion with one bullet from a Martini-Enfield chambered in .303 caliber. This shot struck the lion in the hindquarters, but it escaped. Later, it returned at night and began stalking Patterson as he tried to hunt it. He shot it with a .303 Lee Enfield several times, tracked it the next morning, and found it dead. The second lion was shot five times with a .303 Lee Enfield, but it got up and charged him in severely crippled condition, whereupon he shot it three more times with the Martini-Henry carbine, twice in the chest, and once in the head, which killed it. He claimed it died gnawing on a fallen tree branch, still trying to reach him.

After 25 years as Patterson's floor rugs, the lions' skins were sold to the Chicago Field Museum in 1924 for a sum of US$5,000. The lions' skins arrived at the museum in very poor condition. The lions were then reconstructed and are now on permanent display along with the original skulls.

Patterson's accounts were published in his 1907 book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

Field Museum---A must-see location in Chicago
Wikipedia---Source of the story above
Book---For those of you who want to learn more

No comments: