N'Yanza, a word used by the natives of central Africa to designate large bodies of water, but especially applied to the two great equatorial fresh-water lakes which are now believed to be the proximate sources of the Nile.
Victoria N'Yanza, the eastern of these lakes, called also Ukerewe by the natives, is situated directly under the equator, between lat. 2° 24' S. and 0° 21' 1ST., at an elevation, according to Speke (1862), of 3,308 ft. above the level of the sea. According to Baker, however, its elevation must be considerably higher, as he found its outlet, Somerset river, to flow at M'rooli at an altitude of 4,061 ft. Its western limit is not far from lon. 31° 30' E., but the width of the lake has not been ascertained, although it must be considerable, as the opposite side cannot be seen from that portion of the western shore which has been explored. The Victoria N'vanza was discovered on July 30, 1858, by Capt, J. H. Speke of the British Indian army, who visited its southern extremity, in about lon. 33° E., while upon the expedition with Capt. Richard F. Burton which resulted in the discovery of Lake Tanganyika, although he was not accompanied by his associate on this part of the journey. Convinced that he had found one of the great feeders of the Nile, Capt. Speke, on returning to England in the following year, organized an expedition for its further exploration, and in 1862 again reached the vicinity of its shores, from Zanzibar, this time in company with Capt. (now Col.) J. W. Grant. They travelled along its western and northern margin, though seldom within view of its waters, to the outlet of the lake, in about lat. 0° 21' 19" N., lon. 33° 30' E. This is a magnificent river from 600 to 700 yards wide, flowing northward over a beautiful cataract, having a descent of about 12 ft., to which they gave the name of Ripon falls.
This stream, now known as the Somerset river, Speke believed to be the White Nile; and his conjecture, founded upon native information, that it flowed into another lake further W., whence it emerged as the Nile itself, has since been verified by the discovery of the Albert N'yanza. Our actual knowledge concerning the Victoria lake is thus confined to the S. extremity and its N. W. shores. As seen from the south in 1858, it resembled a vast flood overspreading a flat surface; and though said by the natives to be very deep, its appearance did not confirm the statement. According to Speke, if any part of the adjacent country, which is low, well wooded, and dotted with hills, were inundated to the same extent, it would wear the same aspect. The water was of a dirty white color, but good and sweet. A small river flows into the S. end of the lake near a group of islets, N. of which are two islands of considerable size. Information derived from the Arabs represents the E. shore as studded with islands; but according to native accounts no rivers of any importance find their way into the lake on that side, the country which stretches eastward toward the mountain range of Kenia and Kilimanjaro being scantily watered and containing many salt lakes and salt plains.
The region S. of the Victoria N'yanza is occupied by the numerous petty states which constitute the extensive territory known as Unyamuezi. The principal feeder of the lake from the west is the Kitangulé river, which enters it near the 1st parallel of S. latitude. This river is believed to rise near Mt. M'fumbiro, a cone-like summit about 100 m. W. of the lake, the altitude of which is estimated by Speke at 10,000 ft. The W. shore is in the kingdom of Karague, and the N. W. and N. borders are included within the Uganda country. The surface of this moist, temperate, wooded, well cultivated, and populous region slopes toward the lake, near which the lands generally are low, grassy, and intersected by numerous rush drains. Further back, the scenery is more hilly, and the country is penetrated by several mountain spurs from the west, of moderate elevation. - The Victoria Nile, or Somerset river, as Speke called the outlet of the Victoria N'yanza, flows from Ri-pon falls northward and westward. It has actually been traced by Speke somewhat further down than lat. 1° N., and its course below M'rooli, the capital of Unyoro, in lat, 1° 38' N., Ion. 32° 20' E., has become tolerably well known through the later explorations of Baker. At Karuma falls, near lat, 2° 15' N., lon. 32° 26' E., where there is a descent of about 5 ft, the river bends suddenly westward and flows thence in that direction, between cliffs and over a succession of rapids, to Murchison falls, whore its width contracts from 200 to about 50 yards, and its waters rush furiously through a rocky gorge and descend at one leap a distance of 120 ft., in a cataract of snowy whiteness, forming the greatest waterfall of the Nile. The river now broadens until its banks are 500 yards apart, and moves with sluggish cur-rent slowly westward until, about 20 m. from the falls, it joins the second lake.
On their journey N. from the Victoria N'yanza Speke and Grant heard of this lake under the name of Luta N'zige, but did not visit it, as they left the Somerset river near Karuma falls, and did not see the Nile until they reached lat. 3° 32' N., about a degree below its exit from the then undiscovered body of water thus designated. On Feb. 15, 1863, near Gondokoro, they met Mr. (now Sir) Samuel Baker and his wife, on their way S. to discover the sources of the Nile, and communicated to them intelligence of the existence of this second lake. Baker then left the Nile region and pushed southward into Unyoro, N. of the Victoria lake, where he learned that the proper native name for the object of his search was not Luta N'zige, but M'wootan N'zige, the waters of which he first descried and reached on March 14, 1804, in lat. 1° 15' N., lon. 30° 50' E., at a small fishing village named Vacovia, on the E. shore. Thence the lake, which he called Albert N'yanza, in honor of the prince consort, spread out apparently a limitless expanse of white water toward the south and southwest, while on the opposite western shore rose blue mountains to a height of about 7,000 ft. above the lake level. The width at this point appeared to be 50 or 60 m.
South of Vacovia the Albert N'yanza has never been explored, but the natives describe it as extending directly S. beyond the 1st parallel of S. latitude, where it bends westward; no information has been obtained as to its extent any further than this. The E. coast of the N. portion, however, was carefully traced by Baker, who followed it northward, in a canoe voyage of 13 days' duration, as far as the mouth of the Somerset river or Victoria Nile, at Magungo, in lat. 2° 16' N. The shore trends N. N. E., and for some distance above Vacovia is fringed with precipitous cliffs 1,500 ft. high; but these decrease in elevation toward the north, and the lake loses its character of a deep inland sea, narrowing to a width of from 15 to 20 in., while the banks become marshy and are bordered by thick beds of reeds. The mountains on the W. coast opposite Magungo appear to be about 4,000 ft. in height. From the same village the exit of the Nile proper or Bahr el-Abiad from the N. E. extremity of the lake was visible, at a distance which Baker states to be 18 in., but which is nearly 30 m. according to his map, from which it appears that the point of the river's departure must be near lat. 2° 45' N., lon. 31° 30' E. The lake extends toward low ground on the northwest, but how far is unknown.
The corrected altitude of its surface above the sea level, as determined by Baker at Vacovia, is 2,720 ft. His map indicates that the minimum distance of the lake from the Victoria N'yanza cannot much exceed 100 m., and represents the altitude of the intervening country of Unyoro, which extends down the E. shore to the equator, as averaging 4,200 ft. The W. coast is occupied by the mountainous kingdom of Malegga. The Albert N'yanza is thus situated in a vast longitudinal depression crossing the equator, bounded E. by highlands and \V. by mountains. Its waters abound in fish, some varieties of which exceed 200 lbs. in weight; innumerable hippopotami and crocodiles frequent its banks, and the adjacent regions are the abode of large herds of elephants. According to Baker, the Victoria N'yanza is the first source of the Nile, which collects its eastern affluents; while from the Albert N'yanza, which receives those and all the other waters of the equatorial basin, the river issues at once as the great White Nile. - See Speke's "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" (1863), and Baker's "Albert N'yanza" (1866; new ed., 1870), and "Ismailia " (1874). (See Nile.) '