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The Congo River
Congo River near Lubefu (1888)
Public DomainCongo River near Lubefu (1888) - Credit: Alexandre Delcommune

When Conrad's story first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899, readers would have instantly recognised its unnamed African river as the Congo River, the course of which had been traced by Henry Morton Stanley only twenty-two years before.

The deepest river in the world, the second largest by volume of water discharged, and the ninth longest with an overall length of 4,700 km (2,920 miles), the Congo River and its tributaries flow through the Congo rainforest, the second largest in the world.

Originally known as Nzere (the river that swallows all rivers), it is named after the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, which was located at its mouth. In turn, the river has given its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

 

 

Congo River near Stanley Pool (c. 1888)
Public DomainCongo River near Stanley Pool (c. 1888) - Credit: Alexandre Delcommune
Congo River near Sankuru - 'Point terminus de la navigation' (1888)
Public DomainCongo River near Sankuru - 'Point terminus de la navigation' (1888) - Credit: Alexandre Decommune