"I felt above my head for the line of the steam-whistle, and jerked out screech after screech hurriedly"
Bentley's steamer Peace (c. 1900)
Public DomainBentley's steamer Peace (c. 1900) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

E. J. Glave offers a similar description of the Europeans’ practice of sounding the steamer’s whistle to frighten off African tribesmen:

We had a harmony whistle on board which alarmed them a great deal…. The poor natives of Nkolé, superstitious, as all savages are, thought it was some angry spirit who was kept by me to terrify people, and who gave vent to his feelings in this way. The natives on the beach beat a hasty retreat at this unusual sound, and those who were in canoes lost all presence of mind.

(In Savage Africa, 1892)

Bentley also records a similar incident during a journey on the Kwangu, a tributary of the Congo, when four Africans in canoes tried to intercept the steamship:

They demanded blackmail, and lay across our bows. The two whistles of the Peace shrieked their loudest … There was an instant collapse in the canoe; guns were dropped and paddles were seized and plied to their utmost.