"I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there"
Map of Africa (1861)
Public DomainMap of Africa (1861) - Credit: Leipzig Stein Co.

Like Marlow, Conrad as a child determined one day to visit the heart of Africa:

It was in 1868, when nine years old or thereabouts, that while looking at a map of Africa at the time and putting my finger on the blank space then representing the unsolved mystery of that continent, I said to myself with absolute assurance and an amazing audacity which are no longer in my character now: ‘When I grow up I shall go there.'

European exploration of Africa began with the ancient Greeks and Romans, who established settlements in North Africa. In the 15th century, Portugal probed along the Western Coast, and further European exploration (by the Dutch, Spanish, French and English) over the next three centuries generally stuck to the coast. The real exploration of the African interior would not get going until well into the 19th century.