Alexandrine Tinné


Alexandrine Tinné

Alexandrine Petronella Francina Tinne (alternative spellings: "Pieternella", "Françoise", "Tinné") (October 17, 1835August 1, 1869) was a Dutch explorer in Africa and the first European woman to attempt to cross the Sahara. She was born at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Early life and education

Alexandrine was the daughter of Philip Frederik Tinne, a Dutch merchant who settled in England during the Napoleonic wars and later returned to his native land, and of Baroness Henriette van Capellen. Henriette, daughter of a famous Dutch Vice-Admiral, Theodorus Frederik van Capellen, was Philip's second wife, and Alexandrine was born when he was sixty-three.

Young Alexandrine was tutored at home, and showed a proficiency at piano. When her wealthy father died when she was ten years old, it left her the richest heiress in the Netherlands.

Travels in North Eastern and Central Africa

She and her mother travelled extensively in Norway, Italy and the Middle East, and visited Egypt. She is best known for her ascents of the Nile river near Gondokoro, joining in the search for the source. Miss Tinne became an excellent photographer in the early years of glass-plate photography and left Europe again in 1861 for the Nile regions. Staying at the famous Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, and accompanied by her mother and her aunt, she set out on January 9, 1862. After a short stay at Khartum the party ascended the White Nile to a point above Gondokoro, and explored a part of the Sobat, returning to Khartum in November. Theodor von Heuglin and Dr Hermann Steudner having meantime joined the women at Khartum, the whole party set out in February 1863 for the uncharted Bahr-el-Ghazal. The intention was to explore that region and ascertain how far westward the Nile basin extended; also to investigate the reports of a vast lake in Central Africa eastwards of those already known, most likely the lake-like expanses of the middle Congo.

Ascending the Bahr-el-Ghazal, the limit of navigation was reached on March 10. From Meshra-er-Rek a journey was made overland, across the Bahr Jur and south-west by the Bahr Kosango, to Jebel Kosango, on the borders of the Niam-Niam country. During the journey all the travellers suffered severely from fever. Steudner died in April and Madame Tinne, Alexandrine's mother in June, and after many fatigues and dangers the remainder of the party reached Khartum in July 1864, where Miss Tinné's aunt died. Miss Tinne was devastated by the deaths, and returned to Cairo by Berber and Suakin, taking with her the corpses of her aunt and her mother, who were later buried at the Oud Eik en Duinen cemetery in The Hague.

The geographical and scientific results of the expedition were highly important, as will be seen in Heuglin's "Die Tinnésche Expedition im westlichen Nilgebiet" (1863-1864 (Gotha, 1865), and "Reise in das Gebiet des Weissen Nils" Leipzig, 1869). A description, by T Kotschy and J Peyritsch, of some of the plants discovered by the expedition was published at Vienna in 1867 under the title of Plantes Tinnaennes, and introduced 24 new species to science, including 19 species in the mint family.

At Cairo Miss Tinne lived in Oriental style during the next four years, visiting Algeria, Tunisia and other parts of the Mediterranean.

aharan Expedition and Death

In January 1869 she started from Tripoli with a caravan, intending to proceed to Lake Chad, and thence by Wadai, Darfur and Kordofan to the upper Nile. In Murzuq she met the German explorer Gustav Nachtigal, with whom she intended to cross the desert. As Nachtigal wanted to go to the Tibesti Mountains first, she set out for the South on her own.

On the 1st of August, however, on the route from Murzuk to Ghat, she was murdered together with two Dutch sailors in her party, allegedly by Tuareg in league with her escort. There are several theories as to motive, none of them proven. One is that her guides believed that her iron water tanks were filled with gold. It is also possible that her death came as a result of an internal political conflict between local Tuareg chiefs. Another explorer, Erwin von Bary, who visited the same area in the 1870ies, met participants of the assault and learnt that it had been a blow against the "great old man" of the Northern Tuareg, Ikhenukhen, who was to be removed from his powerful position, and the means was to be the killing of the Christians - just to prove that Ikhenukhen was too weak to protect travellers any more. In the context of the internal strife between the Northern Tuareg that lasted until the Ottoman occupation of the Fezzan Province (Southern Libya) this version is the most probable explanation of the otherwise unmotivated massacre.

Tragically, her collections of ethnographic specimens housed in Liverpool, England were destroyed in the bombing raids of World War II, and the church built in her memory in The Hague was similarly destroyed. A small marker near Juba in Sudan commemorating the great Nile explorers of the 19th century bears her name, as well as a window plaque in Tangiers. Many of her remaining papers, including most of her letters from Africa, are stored at the Nationaal Archief in The Hague. Her photographs are at the Haags Gemeentearchief (Municipal Archive of The Hague).

Alternate spellings: Alexine Tinne, Alexandrine Tinné.

Further reading

* "Geographical Notes of an Expedition in Central Africa by three Dutch Ladies", John A Tinné (Liverpool, 1864)
* "Travels of Alexine", Penelope Gladstone (London, 1970)
* "Tochter des Sultans, Die Reisen der Alexandrine Tinne" (in German only), Wilfried Westphal (Stuttgart, 2002)
* "The Nile Quest", ch. xvi. Sir HH Johnston, (London, 1903).
* "Die Tuareg. Herren der Sahara. Ausstellung der Heinrich-Barth-Gesellschaft" (in German only), Cornelius Trebbin & Peter Kremer (Düsseldorf 1986)
* "Alexandrine Tinne (1835-1869) - Afrikareisende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Zur Geschichte des Reisens", Antje Köhlerschmidt (Magdeburg 1994; Ph. D. thesis.) - Hitherto the only serious and scholarly account of Alexine's travels and achievements in the context of 19th century African exploration.

External links

* [http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198301/alexine.and.the.nile.htm Saudi Aramco: 'Alexine and the Nile']
*nl icon [http://www.inghist.nl/Onderzoek/Projecten/DVN/lemmata/data/Tinne Tinne, Alexandrine]


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