Charles John Andersson

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Karl Johan Andersson
Born (1827-03-04)4 March 1827
Värmland, Sweden
Died 9 July 1867(1867-07-09) (aged 40)
Omutwe-Onjambu, Angola
Occupation Trader, hunter, explorer

Karl John (Karl Johan) Andersson (March 4, 1827, in Värmland, Sweden – July 9, 1867 in Angola) was a Swedish explorer, hunter and trader as well as an amateur naturalist and ornithologist.

He is most famous for the many books he published about his travels, and for being one of the most notable explorers of southern Africa, mostly in present day Namibia.


Early life[edit]

Karl Johan Andersson was born on March 4, 1827, in Värmland in Sweden. He was the illegitimate child of the English bear hunter Llewellyn Lloyd and Lloyd's Swedish servant.

Andersson grew up in Sweden. Early in his life he went on hunting expeditions with his father, experienced the Swedish nature and started a collection of biological items.

In 1847 he started at the University of Lund.


Charles John Andersson.

In 1849 he set off for London, aiming at selling his collection to raise money for travels around the world. In London he met with the explorer Francis Galton. Together they made an expedition to Southern Africa. On midsummer day in 1850 they arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. From there they traveled to Walvis Bay, in modern-day Namibia, traveling deep into the interior of the vast area, then little explored by Europeans. They aimed at finding the Lake Ngami, but they never made it on that trip.

Galton returned home to England, while Andersson stayed in the area, and managed to reach Lake Ngami in 1853. In 1855 he returned to London, where he published his book "Lake Ngami", in which he describes his travels. He returned to Africa the same year.

Back in Namibia Andersson was hired as manager for mines in what was then called Damaraland and Namaqualand. Howevered, he only stayed in that position for a brief time, and soon continued his explorations. In 1859 he reached the Okavango River, an expedition that he wrote down in his book "The Okavango River".

After his returned he traveled to the cape, where he married. Together with his wife he settled in Otjimbingwe.

Andersson had often economical problems. Even though his main interest were exploration and naturalism, he had often to pick up trade and hunting instead to be able to make a living. He had problems to publish his books since he did not have the money for it. He tried to borrow money from Galton, who declined.


In 1867 Andersson traveled north towards the Portuguese settlements in Angola, to be able to find better communications with Europe to make his trade easier. Since he did not manage to cross the Cunene River he was forced to turn back. On his way back he died, on July 9, 1867. He was buried by another Swede, Axel Eriksson in modern-day Namibia.

His wife and children continued to live in Africa, in the Cape Colony, after his death.

After his death, his father published notes from some of his expeditions in the book "Notes of Travel in South-Western Africa".


Cover of the American edition of one of Anderssons books. Note that his name is misspelled - there should be two "s".
Title page of the same book as above.

Publications by Andersson[edit]

  • Andersson, Charles John (1855). "Explorations in South Africa, with the Route from Walfisch Bay to Lake Ngami". Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 25 (25): pp. 79–107. doi:10.2307/1798105. 
  • Andersson, Charles John (1856). Lake Ngami, or Explorations and Discoveries in the Wilds of Southern Africa. New York. 
  • Andersson, Charles John (1861). The Okavango River, a Narrative of Travel, Exploration and Adventure. London. 
  • Andersson, Charles John (1873). The Lion and The Elephant. London. 
  • Andersson, Charles John (1875). Notes of Travel in South-Western Africa (PDF). New York. 

Published letters and correspondence[edit]

  • Andersson, Charles John. (1987) The Matchless Copper Mine in 1857: Correspondence of Manager C. J. Andersson, edited by Brigitte Lau. Windhoek: National Archives, Namibia.
  • Andersson, Charles John. (1989) Trade and Politics in Central Namibia 1860-1864: Diaries and Correspondence. Windhoek: Archives Services Division, Dept. of National Education.

Publications about Andersson[edit]

  • Wallis, J.P.R. (1936). Fortune my Foe: The Story of Charles John Andersson, African Explorer 1827-1867. London. 
  • Bjelfvenstam, Bo (1994). Charles John Andersson: Upptäckare, jägare, krigare Explorer 1827-1867 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Carlsson. ISBN 91-7798-898-1. 
  • Pettersson, Christer L (2008). In the footsteps of Mr Andersson - milestones in Swedish-Namibia relations. Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing. ISBN 9780981404295. 

See also[edit]