The English naturalist William Burchell arrived in Cape Town in June 1811 to explore the flora and fauna of the vast southern African interior. Over a four-year period, and travelling in a custom-built ox wagon, he amassed an astonishing 63000 specimens of plants, bulbs, insects, reptiles and mammals – many not previously documented for science – as well as over 500 paintings and illustrations.
While the outbound trek is well described in Burchell’s famous Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, little has been published about the challenges and discoveries made on his return journey to Cape Town, from 1812–1815. This pioneering book traces the homeward leg of Burchell’s epic odyssey – through the arid northern Cape, the Great Karoo, the warravaged eastern Cape, and along the Eden-like southern Cape coast.
Drawing on primary and secondary sources, including Burchell’s letters and the detailed map he created to record his trek, the authors have crafted a thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated account that encompasses both the genius of the man and the natural history of the region that so intrigued him.