In ‘The New London Universal Gazetteer, Or Alphabetical Geography of the World’ (1826), Jedidiah Morse* listed the name Sangama, a river in Africa. He stated simply without much detail, “Sangama – A river of Africa which falls into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Formosa”. Cape Formosa is located in the territories of Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau on the north-western coast of Africa.

*Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) was a notable geographer whose textbooks became a staple for students in the United States. He was the father of telegraphy pioneer and painter Samuel F. B. Morse, and his textbooks earned him the sobriquet of “father of American geography.”

 Jedidiah Morse listed the name ‘Sangama’ in
 ‘The New London Universal Gazetteer,
Or Alphabetical Geography of the World’ (1826)

Historiographer to the British crown, James Playfair (1738-1819), had in the year 1814 detailed the geography of the rivers of Nigeria in the Sixth Volume of ‘System of Geography – Ancient and Modern’. About the geography of Sierra Leone western coast and what was then called Cape Formosa he wrote, “From the mouth of the Forcado river, a flat and wooded coast reaches southwards upward of 50 leagues to Cape Formosa. It is intersected by many rivers the principal of which are Ramos, or Zamos, and Dodo. Cape Formosa is a low point of land shaded with trees, the view of which from the sea is delightful. A few leagues northward are the village and river of Sangama.” 

In the satellite pictures of today, Sangama appears as Sengama and is situated on a river by the same name in Sierra Leone, close to Grand Cape Mount in Liberia.

Sengama  town on Sengama River in Sierra Leone
as it falls into the Atlantic.

The river is also sometimes referred to as the Sangana. Here is a satellite picture from 2005 of the region that was at the time called Cape Formosa, first by the Portuguese and later when it was explored by the British.

Cape Formosa and Sangana (Sangama) river.

Sangama appears once again in Africa, there is a town by the name Sangama in Nigeria, 3600 km away from the Sangama that Jedidiah Morse had written about. 

Sangama town in Nigeria

Sangama is located in the Rivers State, one of the 36 states of Nigeria. The state has innumerable rivers, which fall into the Atlantic Ocean. The name Sangama has no meaning in the local languages. Its closest cognate is ‘sangam’ (सङ्गम्), a Sanskrit word meaning ‘meeting’ especially in the context of ‘meeting of rivers’. 

A 1000 km away on the northern end of Nigeria is the city of Gaya – historically it served as an important terminus of a migratory corridor through which there was an influx of immigrating peoples especially from Eastern Sudan and the Middle East. 

900 km away westward is another Gaya, this one is right on the banks of the River Niger. There are many Indic names that occur on the river Niger such as the towns of Yamina, Gangu, Kanika and Kalimana.  

Gaya (left) on the River Niger in the country by the same name, and
900 km away Gaya in Nigeria.

Kanika, Yamina, Gangu, Calimana
Scottish Explorer Mungo Park’s map of survey of River Niger
 (Exploration in the years 1795 – 1805)

Suggested Links:

1. Atlantic Navigator (1854) By Anonym Anonym
2. The New London University Gazeetteer by Jediadiah Morse
3. System of Geography: Ancient and Modern by James Playfair


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