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River crossing 22 jan 1879
Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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I am of the opinion that the river (Buffalo) was not in flood on the day 22 Jan 1879. Having known the area for more than 15 years those who crossed in a very short space of time an amounted to more than 3000 would have not made it if the river was really in flood. I can add several other aspects that would support my thinking.


Last edited by Paul Lamberth on Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Buffalo
Robert John


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 203
Location: The Netherlands
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Thank you Paul --- this should open up a whole new discussion.

I am very interested though to hear what other evidence you have to support this theory.

All the best ,

Robert

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R J Jones
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points of discussion
Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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The reason why I am raising this point is because I find it interesting that those who cross the river earlier on the day (22nd) do not mention anything regarding difficulties. Smith-Dorrien x 2, Chard x 2, Durnford, Vase & Ardendorf. The non combatants standing on the top of the hill (Shiyane) in the afternoon watching “Zulus” approaching the Mission make no mention of the river…and they would have had an excellent view. Then we have the events of the afternoon approximately 11 kilometres down stream that paints a different story…the river was in flood. The scenes/descriptions at Fugitive’s Drift are somewhat dramatic however it is not apparent that it was time consuming as several “thousands” manage to cross in a very short space in time (no delay). I have personally kayaked the river in good spate (March 2000) from Rorke’s down to the point were Bengough was supposed to cross. Rapids and whirlpools are a plenty and at some points it would be very challenging to cross. However, on the same day, along this stretch of water there were several sections (flat, shallow and wide) that one could cross without great difficulty if need be. A good example of such a point is the “orange grove” at Camp Buffalo. I would assume that the Zulu’s were aware of these crossing points and they were used as such. To add there is no mention (at the camp) of adverse weather prior to this day (19,20,21st) in any form. Sunny sky and a walk in the park for Lonsdale as an example. Harness and his guns would have great had fun if it had been raining over the last couple of days (prior to the 22nd).
So did it rain in the catchment area north of Newcastle? Well, there is no mention from Wood either that weather conditions were difficult and he was in that vicinity We do no that further south towards Greytown conditions were difficult and caused delays but this does not indicate or imply that the river was in flood.
So my conclusion is that the river could have been running high but I am not of the opinion that it was “actually” in flood. Those who mention conditions in the afternoon at Fugitive’s Drift could have described how the river appears in narrows as apposed to flat wide sections as described. For those who have crossed the river whilst completing the Fugitive’s Trail walk and had to swim could/would also describe it as “being in flood” but that is only because the have probably never seen the river in flood as such. For those who have seen the river in flood (last significant flood was in January 2005 when the road to Fugitive’s was washed away) may agree and certainly would not attempt to cross.


Last edited by Paul Lamberth on Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:19 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1326
Location: Wales
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Paul, it should perhaps be mentioned, to avoid confusion, that Sothondose's Drift,
was soon to be known as Fugitives' Drift. I note you also call it 'Buffalo' river and not uMzinyathi.

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Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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Thank you Alan point noted and I will refer it as such "Fugitives' Drift" and not Sothondose's as mentioned.
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Dewi Evans


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 177
Location: Chwilog, North Wales
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Hi Paul,

I am very pleased to see on the forum again. I stayed at your Lodge in April 2007 when you guided me and my wife around the Battlefield sites, greatest experience ever. I very often reminisce by looking at the photos I took during our visit. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience for us, and I would once again like to thank you and Christine for your warm hospitality.

Yours sincerely,

Dewi

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D W Evans
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Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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Dewi, it was my pleasure.
Regards
Paul
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River Crossing- fugitives
Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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Based on the response from this thread I can only assume that it is not a great issue.
Therefor, I will continue to question whether the river was actually in flood as I know it to be.
At best it was in good spate based on the delay derived from building the "road" that took 8 days which could have included adverse weather amongst other challenges.
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Ken Gillings


Joined: 23 Apr 2006
Posts: 61
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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It is important to realise that in 1879 there was little if any irrigation taking place upstream of Rorke's Drift - unlike nowadays where there is a considerable amount of water being drawn off.
Accordingly, the river was flowing strongly and swiftly (as was normal). It was also the height of a South African summer in January 1879 with regular thunderstorms resulting in tributaries feeding the Mzinyathi / Buffalo and the level rising in tandem.
On one occasion in the 1970s, when I was walking the Fugitives' Trail, we were ferried across the Mzinyathi at Sothondose's Drift by the boatman. During the 6 hours that I was away (I walked from George Buntting's farm and back), heavy rain fell in the Skurweberge and Dundee area. The boat was washed away by the resultant surge of water. George told me that the river's level rose by 3 metres.
Regards, Ken

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Ken Gillings
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AMB


Joined: 07 Oct 2005
Posts: 871
Location: Queensland, Australia
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Gentlemen,

A very interesting thread.

Is it possible to gain a weather synopsis for Zululand on 22 Jan 1879?

Has anyone done any research to see if there was rain within the catchment area with the resultant rise in water levels that Ken suggests is possible?

Maybe a 'challenge' for some friendly hydrologist out there?

AMB
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Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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Flood...defined by when a river rises higher than normal. Those who were present on the day would not have knowledge of what was normal and what was not. So at best the river was at good spate, being normal for that time of the year.It was also reported to be in good spate on the 11th of Jan when we know several people were washed away and drowned.
However, it is not about flood or no flood it is about timing. It takes more than 3 hours for a trained walker to cover the approximate distance. This derives from several half marathons which have been held to date. It takes a runner just more than an hour to cover the same approximate distance. In both cases they did not have to cross a river in "flood" To add that on the day several people cross the river without any mention that it was in flood. The exception are a few who were chased at Fugitive's. This also includes when the column crosses on the morning of the 23rd...no mention of difficulties.
So my opinion is that the river was running as normal and was not in flood as it is known to be...2nd February 1984 a 100 year flood event. A point of note is that are no dams upstream from Fugitive's only a few centre point take offs. The fastest the river has been measured in the vicinity is 5 metres per second (18 km/hr). A soil cross section can determine approximate flood events but due to lack of data(records) the findings will only be approximate. Google Earth also shows flood plains but as stated these are past events.
I also find that timing is very important with the events that took place at the mission. It is also important to note that time is GMT. In comparison with SA standard time there is a difference of approximate 2 hours.The Zulu reserve was possibly put into action at approximately 11:00 hrs (GMT)...thanks to Raw.That equates to approximately 5 hours and that would have been quiet an achievement at best. Therefor the reserve did not arrive all at once but in drips and drabs for at least 2 hours or even longer. It also brings Spalding's moves to the for as it was reported still to be light.Ian Knights chronology in "pinned like rats in a hole" should also give reference to real time.What makes it even more interesting is that Pulleine's note was sent to the General at 10 0' clock.
This brings it all down to the fact that the river was not in flood.
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Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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The event that Ken is referring to could have been the tropical storms (cyclones) in the seventies
Feb. 1972 Caroline,
Feb. 1972 Eugenie,
Jan. 1976 Danae,
Feb. 1977 Emilie.
The last major event was Domoina in Jan/Feb 1984.
However, I have some reservation towards the three meters in six hours as this is beyond known hydrological measures.
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Damian


Joined: 12 Aug 2007
Posts: 98
Location: Pietermaritzburg KZN
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Interesting discussion
Thanks I enjoyed reading it
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Paul Lamberth


Joined: 03 Sep 2005
Posts: 34
Location: Rorke's Drift KZN South Africa
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I previously mentioned time...a somewhat heated debate. The current model I use comes from Keith Smith's papers...Dead was Everything. A question of time. Although there is no specific mention about the river's status it certainly reflects that the given time is in line with normal levels...and not in flood.
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1326
Location: Wales
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Paul,
I'm just reading Hamilton-Browne's version of the war. He seems to be sure it was in flood, also '...full, rapid and very cold...'.

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River crossing 22 jan 1879
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