History Archive Icon

History Archive

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Collection

History Archive - Victoria Falls Collection

Victoria Falls is one of the greatest waterfall in the world, forming the most remarkable feature of the river Zambezi, Central Africa. The falls are about midway in the course of the Zambezi in 17° 51? S., 25° 41? E. For a considerable distance above the falls the river flows over a level sheet of basalt, its valley bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. Its clear blue waters are dotted with numerous tree-clad islands. These islands increase in number as the river, without quickening its current, approaches the falls, whose nearness is indicated only by a veil of spray.

At the spot where the Zambezi is at its widest—over 1860 yds.—it falls abruptly over the edge of an almost vertical chasm with a roar as of continuous thunder, sending up vast columns of vapour. Hence the native name Musi-oa-tunya, “Smoke does sound there,” The chasm extends the whole breadth of the river and is more than twice the depth of Niagara, varying from 256 ft. at the right bank to 343 ft. in the centre.

Unlike Niagara the water does not fall into an open basin but is arrested at a distance of from 80 to 240 ft. by the opposite wall of the chasm Both walls are of the same height, so that the falls appear to be formed by a huge crack in the bed of the river The only outlet is a narrow channel cut in the barrier wall at a point about three fifths from the western end of the chasm, and through this gorge, not more than 100 ft wide, the whole volume of the river pours for 130 yds. before emerging into an enormous zigzag trough (the Grand Cañon) which conducts the river past the basalt plateau. The tremendous pressure to which the water is subjected in the confinement of the chasm causes the perpetual columns of mist which rise over the precipice.

The fall is broken by islands on the lip of the precipice into four parts. Close to the right bank is a sloping cataract 36 yds. wide, called the Leaping Water, then beyond Boaruka Island, about 300 yds. wide, is the Main Fall, 473 yds. broad, and divided by Livingstone Island from the Rainbow Fall 535 yds. wide. At both these falls the rock is sharp cut and the river maintains its level to the edge of the precipice. At the left bank of the river is the Eastern Cataract, a millrace resembling the Leaping Water. From opposite the western end of the falls to Danger Point, which overlooks the entrance of the gorge, the escarpment of the chasm is covered with great trees known as the Rain Forest, looking across the gorge the eastern part of the wall (the Knife Edge) is less densely wooded.

At the end of the gorge the river has hollowed out a deep pool, named the Boiling Pot. It is some 500 ft. across, its surface, smooth at low water, is at flood-time troubled by slow, enormous swirls and heavy boilings. Thence the channel turns sharply westward, beginning the great zigzag mentioned. This grand and gloomy canon is over 40 m. long. Its almost perpendicular walls are over 400 ft. high, the level of the escarpment being that of the lip of the falls. A little below the Boiling Pot, and almost at right angles to the falls, the cañon is spanned by a bridge (completed in April 1905) which forms a link in the Cape to Cairo railway scheme. This bridge, 650 ft. long, with a main arch of 500 ft. span, is slightly below the top of the gorge. The height from low-water level to the rails is 420 ft.

The volume of water borne over the falls varies greatly, the level of the river in the cañon sinking as much as 60 ft. between the full flood of April and the end of the dry season in October. When the river is high the water rolls over the main falls in one great unbroken expanse; at low water (when alone it is possible to look into the grey depths of the great chasm) the falls are broken by crevices in the rock into numerous cascades.

The falls are in the territory of Rhodesia. They were discovered by David Livingstone on the 17th of November 1855, and by him named after Queen Victoria of England. Livingstone approached them from above and gained his first view of the falls from the island on its lip now named after him. In 1860 Livingstone, with Dr (afterwards Sir John) Kirk, made a careful investigation of the falls, but until the opening of the railway from Bulawayo (1905) they were rarely visited. The land in the vicinity of the falls is preserved by the Rhodesian government as a public park.


See Livingstone's Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (London, 1857) for the story of the discovery of the falls, and the Popular Account of Dr Livingstone's Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries 1858-1864 (London, 1894) for a fuller description of the falls and a theory as to their origin. How I crossed Africa, by Major Serpa Pinto (English trans., London. 1881), contains a graphic account of the visit paid to the falls by the Portuguese explorer. In the Geographical Journal for January 1905 is an article by A. J. C. Molyneux on “The Physical History of the Victoria Falls.” The article is illustrated by excellent photographs and gives a bibliography. Consult also “The Gorge and Basin of the Zambesi below the Victoria Falls,” by G. W. Lamplugh in the Geog. Jour. (1908), vol. xxxi.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28. pp. 44-45.

Available Books


Image Name
C.M.S Camp at Magubika, Usagara
Map of Mr. F. Oates's Route from Shoshong to Tati
View from the C.M.S Station Mpwapwa Looking West
On the March
Front Cover
Herd of Buffaloes Driven to the Edge of the Chasm
The Falls from the Narrow Neck Near the Eastern Headland of the Outlet
Centre Rock Fall and the Eastern Cataracts
Dry Bed of the Inkwesi River
Great Western or Main Fall
Map of Mr. F. Oates's Route from Tati to the Umgwanya River
Zanjueelah, the Boatman of the Rapids
Book Display III
Bradyornis oatesii
Repairing the Daisy at Kagei
The Profile Cliff, Narrow Gorge and Torrent of the Zambesi
[Butterflies - II]
A Night Encampment in the Forest
Book Display I
The Falls by Sunrise with the Spray Cloud Rising 1,200 Feet
C.M.S Camp and Building Yard, Bukindo, Ukerewe
Harbour of Durban
Anthericum oatesii
View of the Tati Settlement
Dryiophis oatesii
A Buffalo Hunt
[Insect Parts]
Entrance Gate to Bukindo, Island of Ukerewe
The Falls from the Western End of the Chasm
Front Cover
My First Gnu
Court House and Entrance to King's Palace, Bukindo
Grant Bay, Victoria, Nyanza from the Island of Ukerewe
The Leaping Water or Westernmost Cataract
A Street in d'Uurban
Saxicola shellyi
Back Cover
Panoramic View from the C.M.S Camp, Mkundi River, Usagara, Looking West
Book Cover
Marketing at the C.M.S Camp Ukerewe
Encampment in Potchefstrom
View in the Nguru Mountains Near Mamro on the Wami
High Veldt, Transvaal
[Butterflies - I]
Title Page
Grave of John Smith at Kagei
View from the C.M.S Camp Mkundi River Usagara Looking East
Rapids on the Wami River
Adiantium oatesii
Nguru, Capital of Usukuma
Map of South Eastern Africa
Hunting Hippopotami
C.M.S Camp in Western Ugogo
Mpwapwa in the Usagara Mountains
Caught in the Act
Plan or Bird's Eye View of Victoria Falls
Book Display II
The Victoria Falls of the Zambesi
Front Cover
Title Page
Sketch Map of East Africa
Coronella tritaenia
Back Cover
Shoshong, Bamangwato
The Falls from the East End of the Chasm to Garden Island
Tati Settlement
Title Page
Village of Rosako
A Doomed Rhinoceros
Victoria Falls, Zambesi (Western Extremity)
The Start From Kikoka 18th July 1867
Hunters' Camp on the Semokewe River
Matebeles in Martial Costume
Back Cover
Wreck of the Dhow


View All Regions
Sabalico Logo
Sabali Mail Logo
Domain Search Logo
Test Speed Logo
Website On Logo
Code Editor Logo
ASCII Table Logo
HTML Symbols Logo
Emoji Symbols Logo
Encode File Logo
Generator Password Logo
QR Code Generator Logo
Barcode Generator Logo
Online Sign Logo
Dictionary Online Logo
Counter Word Logo
Text Convert Logo
Lorem Ipsum Generator Logo
Sprite Sheet Logo
Resize Image Logo
Image Compress Logo
Image Color Logo
Image Crop Logo
Combine Images Logo
Color Picker Logo
Color Convert Logo
CSS Gradient Logo
To-Do List Logo
Calendar Free Logo
Generator Meme Logo
Word Spinner Logo
Phone Country Logo
Sabalytics Logo
Senty Logo
World Map Logo
SEO Guide Logo
Keyword Tool Logo
What is my IP Logo
My Device Logo
My Browser Logo
My Location Logo
Time Zone Logo
Day Map Logo
My Weather Logo
My Galaxy Logo
The Moon Logo
Periodic Table Logo
rStatistics Logo
Unit Convert Logo
Data Convert Logo
Coordinate Converter Logo
Temperature Convert Logo
2020 Election Logo
Currency Convert Logo
Free Calculator Logo
Finance Calculator Logo
Loan Calculator Logo
Calculator Mortgage Logo
Stock Calculator Logo
Bond Calculator Logo
Tax Calculator Logo
Tip Calculator Logo
Gas Mileage Logo
History of Humanity - History Archive Logo
History of Humanity - History Mysteries Logo
History of Humanity - Ancient Mesopotamia Logo
History of Humanity - Egypt History Logo
History of Humanity - Persian Empire Logo
History of Humanity - Greek History Logo
History of Humanity - Alexander the Great Logo
History of Humanity - Roman History Logo
History of Humanity - Punic Wars Logo
History of Humanity - Golden Age of Piracy Logo
History of Humanity - Revolutionary War Logo
History of Humanity - Mafia History Logo