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Rwenzori Range

The Rwenzori Mountains, previously called the Ruwenzori Range (the spelling having been changed in about 1980 to conform more closely with the local name) is a mountain range of central Africa, often referred to as Mt. Rwenzori, located on the border between Uganda and the DRC, with heights of up to 5,109 m (16,761 ft) at 0°23′09″N 29°52′18″E / 0.38583°N 29.87167°E / 0.38583; 29.87167Coordinates: 0°23′09″N 29°52′18″E / 0.38583°N 29.87167°E / 0.38583; 29.87167. The highest Rwenzoris are permanently snow-capped, and they, along with Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the only such in Africa.


Geologic history

Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley is the highest point in the range

The mountains formed about three million years ago in the late Pliocene as a result of an uplifted block of crystalline rocks such as: gneiss, amphibolite granite and quartzite,[1] "pushed up by tremendous forces originating deep within the earth’s crust".[2] This uplift divided the paleolake Obweruka and created two of the present-day African Great Lakes: Albert and Edward[1] and George[3] on the flanks of the Albertine (western) Rift of the East African Rift, the African part of the Great Rift Valley.

The range is about 120 km (75 mi) long and 65 km (40 mi) wide. It consists of six massifs separated by deep gorges: Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m), Mount Baker (4,843m), Mount Emin (4,798m), Mount Gessi (4,715m) and Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627m).[2] Mount Stanley is the largest and has several subsidiary summits, with Margherita Peak being the highest point. The rock is metamorphic, and the mountains are believed to have been tilted and squeezed upwards by plate movement. They are in an extremely humid area, and frequently enveloped in clouds.

Human history

House and people in Kasese District, Uganda

The Rwenzori range is the home of the Konjo and Amba peoples. In the early 1900s, these two tribes were added to the Toro Kingdom by the colonial powers. The Konjo and Amba agitated for separation from Toro beginning in the 1950s, a movement that became an armed secessionist movement, known as Rwenzururu, by the mid-1960s. The insurgency ended through a negotiated settlement in 1982, though the Rwenzururu Kingdom was acknowledged by the government in 2008.

The first modern European sighting of the Rwenzori was by the expedition of Henry Morton Stanley in 1889 (the aforementioned clouds are considered to explain why two decades of previous explorers had not seen them). On June 7, the expedition's second-in-command and its military commander, William Grant Stairs, climbed to 10,677 feet, the first known non-African ever to climb in the range. The first ascent to the summit was made by the Duke of the Abruzzi in 1906.

Flora and fauna

Lower Bigo Bog at 3400m in the Rwenzori Mountains with giant lobelia in foreground

The Rwenzori are known for their vegetation, ranging from tropical rainforest through alpine meadows to snow; and for their animal population, including forest elephants, several primate species and many endemic birds. The range supports its own species and varieties of Giant groundsel and Giant lobelia and even has a six metre high heather covered in moss that lives on one of its peaks. Most of the range is now a World Heritage Site and is covered jointly by The Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda and the Parc National des Virunga in Congo.[2]

Vegetation zones
There are 5 different Vegetation Zones found in the Rwenzori Mountains. These are grassland (1000–2000m), montane forest (2000–3000m), bamboo/mimulopsis zone (2500–3500m), Heather/Rapanea zone (3000–4000m) and the afro-alpine moorland zone (4000–4500m). At higher altitudes some plants reach an unusually large size, such as lobelia and groundsels. The vegetation in the Rwenzori Mountains is unique to equatorial alpine Africa.[4]
Flora vs altitude
1500 2000 2500 3000 3200 3400 3600 3800 4000 4200 4400 4600 4800 5000 5100
Lamiales Mimulopsis elliotii
Mimulopsis arborescens
Rosales Prunus africana Hagenia abyssinica
Alchemilla subnivalis
Alchemilla stuhlmanii
Alchemilla triphylla
Alchemilla johnstonii
Alchemilla argyrophylla
Fabales Albizia gummifera
Cornales Alangium chinense
Malpighiales Casearia battiscombei
Croton macrostachyus
Neoboutonia macrocalyx
Symphonia globulifera
Hypericum sp
Hypericum revolutum
Hypericum bequaertii
Asparagales Scadoxus cyrtanthiflorus
Disa stairsii
Asterales Dendrosenecio erici-rosenii
Dendrosenecio adnivalis
Helichrysum sp.
Lobelia bequaertii
Lobelia wollastonii
Helichchrysum guilelmii
Helichchrysum stuhlmanii
Senecio transmarinus
Senecio mattirolii
Apiales Peucedanum kerstenii
Myrtales Syzygium guineense
Sapindales Allophylus abyssinicus
Gentianales Tabernaemontana sp. Galium ruwenzoriense
Ericales Pouteria adolfi-friedericii Erica arborea
Erica trimera
Erica silvatica
Erica johnstonii
Brassicales Subularia monticola
Primulales Rapanea rhododendroides
Ranunculales Ranunculus oreophytus
Arabis alpina
Santalales Strombosia scheffleri
Poales Yushania alpina Carex runssoroensis
Festuca abyssinica
Poa ruwenzoriensis
Lecanorales Usnea
1500 2000 2500 3000 3200 3400 3600 3800 4000 4200 4400 4600 4800 5000 5100

Sources: [4][5][6]

Glacial recession in Rwenzori

Ornithologist James P. Chapin on a Rwenzori expedition, 1925

A subject of concern in recent years has been the impact of climate change on Rwenzori's glaciers. In 1906 the Rwenzori had 43 named glaciers distributed over 6 mountains with a total area of 7.5 km²., about half the total glacier area in Africa. By 2005, less than half of these survive, on only 3 mountains, with an area of about 1.5 km². Recent scientific studies such as those by Dr Richard Taylor of University College London have attributed this to global climate change, and investigated its impact on the mountain's vegetation and biodiversity. In general, though, glacier growth and recedence are not necessarily tied to trends in temperatures as much as trends in precipitation.


  1. ^ a b "Climate Change and the Aquatic Ecosystems of the Rwenzori Mountains". Makerere University and University College London. 2007-09-15. Retrieved 2008-05-06.  
  2. ^ a b c "Rwenzori Mountains National Park". Rwenzori Abruzzi. 2006-05-27. Retrieved 2008-05-06.  
  3. ^ Wayland, E. J. (July - Dec., 1934). "Rifts, Rivers, Rains and Early Man in Uganda". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 64: 333–352. doi:10.2307/2843813. Retrieved 2008-05-06.  
  4. ^ a b H. Peter Linder and Berit Gehrke (2 March 2006). "Common plants of the Rwenzori, particularly the upper zones" (PDF). Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zurich. Retrieved 2008-05-06.  
  5. ^ "RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, UGANDA". Protected Areas and World Heritage. United Nations Environment Programme. March 1994. Retrieved 2008-05-08.  
  6. ^ "Forest Resources of Tropical Africa". Tropical Forest Resources Assessment Project. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. reprinted 1984. Retrieved 2008-05-12.  

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RUWENZORI, more correctly Runsoro, said to be known also as Kokora, a mountain range in Central Africa, lying just north of the equator, and intersected near its eastern edge by 30 0 E. It has a length of about 65 m., with a maximum breadth of about 30 m., and its highest peaks rise above the limits of perpetual snow. The range as a whole, the major axis of which runs a little east of north, falls steeply on the west to the Central African rift-valley traversed by the Semliki, the western headstream of the Nile, while on the east the fall is somewhat more gradual towards the highlands of western Uganda. The upper parts are separated by fairly low passes into six groups of snowy summits, lying a little to the west of the central line, rising in each case more than 15,000 ft. above the sea and reaching, in the culminating point of the western group (Mount Stanley), about 16,800 ft.

The origin of the range seems connected with that of the rift-valley on the west, both being due to vertical displacements of the earth's crust. Ruwenzori has been formed by an upheaval en masse of a portion of the archaean floor of the continent, bounded east and west by lines of fracture, but resulting in a general dip from west to east. A further upheaval seems to have produced an ellipsoidal anticline, causing the strata to dip outwards at a generally high angle. Traces of volcanic action are almost non-existent. Composed in its outer parts of gneisses and mica-schists offering no great resistance to denudation, in its centre the range consists of much more refractory rocks (amphibolites, diorites, diabases, &c.), to which fact, coupled with the existence of vertical fractures, the persistence and separation of the higher summits is probably due. The snow-clad area does not now extend more than ten miles in any direction, though there is abundant evidence that the glaciers were formerly far more extensive.

The upper region is almost entirely enveloped by day in thick cloud, which descends on the east to about 9000 ft., and lower still on the west. It sometimes lifts towards evening, giving a sight of the snowy peaks, but by 9 a.m. these have l The later Viscounts Galway are descended from John Monckton (1695-1751), who was created viscount in 1727. His first wife's mother, wife of the 2nd duke of Rutland, was a daughter of Lady William Russell, and thus a connexion of the Ruvignys.

once more been hidden. As a result, the climate is very humid, the rainfall being probably at least ioo in. annually, and the slopes are furrowed by numberless streams, the most important fed by the glaciers of the upper region, and afterwards flowing in deeply cut valleys between the outer spurs. From the innermost recesses between Mounts Stanley, Speke and Baker, the main branches of the Mobuku descend to the east, while the four principal streams on the west unite to form the Butagu, the drainage on both sides ultimately finding its way to the Semliki, either directly or through Lake Dweru and the Albert Edward Nyanza.

of the British Museum scientific expedition of 1906-7: -

Zones. Upper Limits (East Side).

Grass .

6,500 ft.

Forest .

8,500 „

Bamboos .

10,000 „

Tree heaths .

12,500 „

Lobelias and Senecios

14,500 „

As in other ranges of Central Africa the vegetation displays well-marked zones, varying with the altitude; but owing to the lower level to which the cloud descends on the west (probably an outcome of the general climatic regime of Central Africa, as the range lies between the east African plateau and the relatively low-lying basin of the Congo), the limits of the several zones reach a lower level on the west than on the east. They have been defined as follows by Mr R. B. Woosnam above which is the summit region of snow and bare rock. The boundaries between the zones are not of course hard and fast lines, but merely indicate the levels between which the respective forms are specially characteristic, though they occur also in higher or lower zones. The forest zone is perhaps the best marked, being visible from a distance as a dark ring. On the west it merges in part with the low-lying forest of the Semliki valley. Owing to the abundance of moisture, mosses, hepaticae and lichens are prevalent in several of the zones, and bogs, with Vaccinium and other low-growing plants, are common above the forest zone. Helichrysums are abundant in the zone immediately below the snow, where they form large bushes. The larger mammals are found chiefly on the lower slopes, but bushbuck, pigs, leopards, monkeys, a hyrax and a serval cat occur at higher altitudes. The birds include kites, buzzards, ravens, sun-birds, touracos, a large swift, and various warblers and other small kinds. The upper limit of human settlement, with cultivation of colocasia and beans, has been placed at 6700 ft.

Attempts have been made to identify the range with the "Mountains of the Moon" of Ptolemy and other ancient writers, the snows of which were thought to feed the Nile lakes. But in view of the extreme vagueness of the statements and the absence of all detailed knowledge of the geography, it is far more likely that the rumours of snowy mountains really referred to Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro, especially as they seem to have been obtained rather from the east coast than from the direction of the Nile. In modern times the existence of a snowy range in this part of Africa was first made known by Sir Henry Stanley during the Emin Pasha relief expedition of 1887-89, though hints of high mountains had been obtained by Stanley himself and by Romolo Gessi in 1876 and by others from the neighbourhood of the Albert Nyanza. Stanley named the main mass Ruwenzori, and outlying eastern peaks he called Mt. Gordon Bennett, Mt. Lawson, Mt. Edwin Arnold, &c: - the last named lying N.E. of Lake Dweru. Subsequently Stanley's own name was given to the chief summit. One of Stanley's officers, Lieut. Stairs, ascended the western slopes to over Io,000 ft. in 1889, and partial ascents were afterwards made by Dr Stuhlmann, Mr Scott Elliot, Mr J. E. Moore, Sir Harry Johnston, Mr Douglas Freshfield, and others. Early in 1906 some of the secondary ridges above the snowline were scaled by Messrs Grauer, Tegart and Maddox, and by Dr Wollaston and other members of the British Museum expedition, while later in the year the duke of the Abruzzi led a well-equipped expedition, including various scientists, to the upper parts of the range, and with the help of trained Alpine guides ascended not only the culminating twin summits (which he named Margharita and Alexandra after the queens of Italy and England), but all the principal snow-clad peaks. The expedition produced for the first time a detailed map of the upper region, and threw much light on the geology and natural history of the range.

Authorities.-Sir H.M.Stanley, In Darkest Africa (London,1890); F. Stuhlmann, Mit Emin Pasha ins Herz von Afrika (Berlin, 1894); G. F. Scott-Elliot, A Naturalist in Mid-Africa (London, 1896); J. E. S. Moore, "Tanganyika," &c., Geog. Jnl. (January 1901); To the Mountains of the Moon (London, 1901); Sir H. H. Johnston, The Uganda Protectorate (London, 1902); The Duke of the Abruzzi, in Geog. Jnl. (February 1907); R. B. Woosnam, ibid. (December 1907); F. de Filippi, Ruwenzori (London, 1908), the general account of the Abruzzi expedition, and Il Ruwenzori, Parte Scientifica (2 vols., Milan, 1909); A. R. F. Wollaston, From Ruwenzori to the Congo (London, 1908); R. G. T. Bright, "The Uganda-Congo Boundary," Geog. Jnl. (1909). (E. HE.)

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