Diverted by war – dinosaurs

A little sidetrack into the experiences of a district commissioner in British East Africa led to the discovery of a book by Gerhard Maier recording the experiences of an expedition to find a dinasour: African Dinosaurs unearthed: The Tendaguru Expeditions (2003). In this Gerhard touches on the impact of the war.

The expedition had gone out for the big National Exhibition German Governor Heinrich Schnee was organising. This exhibiton led to huge quantities of food and supplies being imported into the colony. An unexpected little supply for when the war broke out.

News of Britain’s declaration of war was received in Dar es Salaam at 6.15am on 5 August 1914.

Schnee had apparently started a small pox innoculation programme.
There were about 100 government schools for African blacks while missionaries had a total of 1,832. 115,000 were enrolled out of a population of 7 million.
These and other developments were undone by the war, exaccerbated by the movement of people across the country and then the influenza outbreak. Maier estimates between 50 000 and 60 000 died from illness in the German colony.

The geologists, scientists and others involved in the expedition served in different capactities, some armed, others looking after supply etc. A couple managed to source bones which they then lost along with their notes. Maier suggests some of the dinosaur bones were taken to South Africa, while after the war the British picked up researching the dinosaurs.

I haven’t read the rest of the book yet, which looks rather fascinating. It might be one to recommend to my nephew and commission a synopsis.

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