Thursday, December 20, 2012

Uganda Allows Drilling in the African Queen Papyrus Swamp

Drilling and Flaring in the African Queen Papyrus Swamp

Oil - 1.7 billion barrels has been discovered under and around Lake Albert. One of the Rift Valley African Great Lakes, it is shared by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

The film masterpiece African Queen directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn was shot in 1951 on a number of locations including papyrus swamps at the mouth of the Victoria Nile in Uganda. Available for years in video it was rereleased as a DVD with much hullabaloo. Now from Africa where the film was made comes disturbing news of changes caused by a multibillion barrel oil discovery on Lake Albert.

Exploratory drilling has already begun in earnest, a pipeline to Lake Albert from Mombasa on the Kenya Coast is being built, a refinery is planned and the governments concerned are standing by to rake in the profits.

It was in the papyrus swamps in this part of Africa on the Victoria Nile just before it enters Lake Albert where the famous scene was captured of Bogart shimmying up the mast of the African Queen and yelling out: Nothing but grass and papyrus as far as you can see!

Part of the northern oil block region on the Ugandan side lies inside the Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of the Lake. It is here that the Nile enters the Lake after traveling northwest from Lake Victoria. Once there it exits the Lake a bit further north, after which it is called, the Albert Nile.

At the place where the Nile enters Lake Albert is a delta and papyrus swamps that were shown in the film. Just south of here is a point of land called Port Butiaba, which was the Uganda location of the Kungdu Village and Mission Church in the film.

You remember the scene where Bogart first has dinner with Hepburn and Morley as his stomach grinds away making horrendous noises. That small lake port and surrounding village will be redeveloped by, Tullow Oil, a London-based oil company exploring the Lake. They intend to use this port for the transportation of heavy machines for offshore oil drilling in Lake Albert.

Sammy Tuja in Afronline, a news alert Internet agency distributed by Telpress (, also informs us that the companies involved are conducting exploratory drilling within Murchison Falls National Park, a crucial site of biodiversity, and that gas flaring will be allowed in both Blocks 1 and 2 along the northeastern end of the Lake in full view of the Park.

Terry Macalister in the Guardian, Daniel Howden in the Independent and also Pete Browne in the NY Times (Green Inc.) in February, 2010, all reported concerns that gas flaring on Lake Albert has the potential to release huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as impacting adversely on the Murchison Falls Park.

The Park is one of the world’s most precious biodiversity resources, and the potential is here to cause massive pollution in the water of the Nile and the Lake, as well as in the papyrus swamps which abound on both the river and lake.

© Copyright J. Gaudet, 2010, all rights reserved.
(Photos from Wikimedia Commons.) 

For more information visit:

1.  Uganda Travel Guide  @balukusguide Oil drilling in National Park

2.  The British environmental and human rights organization, PLATFORM, at   

3. Uganda Radio Network:

Papyrus in the Congo Basin

Papyrus in the Congo an Extraordinary Swamp and River
      Papyrus abounds in central Africa.  The good news is that many papyrus swamps are found inside  a 16 million acre site that contains several rivers, nine lakes, extensive rainforests and flooded grasslands.
     Recently declared a Ramsar wetlands site, it is an area more than twice the size of Belgium, 25,365 square miles (6,569,624 hectares) of marshy rainforest punctuated by rivers and lakes.
      Also good news is that the new mega-dam (Grand Inga) on the Congo will be a run-of-the river type with minimum impacts upstream, but who knows what other impacts will occur?   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 Papyrus Among The Stars
 Hapi, the god of the Nile inundation appears as Aquarius the constellation from which the arrival of the annual flood in ancient Egypt was predicted. 

Hapi was shown as a prosperous, fertile, blue-colored, chubby man with pendulous breasts, a Pharaoh’s fake beard and a belly hanging over his girdle.   His wife, Wadjet gave birth to the first papyrus plants in the Delta so presumably Hapi was the father of papyrus. He also wears a striking crown that looks like a large clump of papyrus growing from his head. Appropriate because the major papyrus swamps came to be synonymous with Lower Egypt, the Delta, and his wife, Wadjet’s name is written using the heraldic plant of Lower Egypt, the hieroglyph of a papyrus plant. 

Amazingly, Hapi’s hairy crown and strange anatomy is transformed into a straw blonde woman or hermaphrodite, who appears on the 17th Tarot card as “The Star,” but he/she is still wielding two water jugs. 

So when you look up and see Aquarius in the night sky you are looking at papyrus writ large, papyrus among the stars.

The antelope that walks on water

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Fine Place for Birds

Papyrus Swamp - A Fine Place for Birds

Papyrus and Birds - They love it!
The ancient Egyptians hunted birds in the early papyrus swamps along the Nile, a favorite place for Pharaoh to get away from it all. They found that birds like papyrus flowering heads, or umbels, which are up to three feet wide, provide fine nesting material and are full of tiny seeds -- while fish and aquatic invertebrates abound in the swamp water.