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Wednesday 9 January 2013

Explorer and Cartographer ~ Ignazio Nicolas Dracopoli

Ignazio Nicolas Dracopoli
December 6th 1887
Ex Umbris Et Imaginibus
In Veritatem
January 7th 1923
~ From out of the shadows and images into truth ~ 

When I took this photo of a rather plain and uninspiring altar tomb in Bishops Stortford Cemetery, I had no idea that its owner had lead a rather incredible life as an Explorer and Map maker. Who had in fact charted parts of Africa that no other white man had set foot upon.

The following Obituary therefore is that of Ignazio Nicolas Dracopoli and comes from the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 84

Ignazio Nicolas Dracopoli was born on 1887 December 6 at the Cape d'Antibes, France. He was educated at Malvern College and University College, Oxford and played Cricket for Dorset Minor Counties Championship in 1906.
In the summer of 1908 he set out for Arizona, where he roamed about for several months and then became a cowboy on the ranch of an old Frenchman, about forty miles from Tucson. He remained there until the summer of 1909 and then returned to his home in England. 
His experiences in Arizona had made him more anxious than ever to travel and he immediately began to prepare for a trip to East Africa. He set out with his younger brother in the beginning of 1910 for Nairobi, where he did some big game shooting.

With his desire to become a scientific traveler and explorer, Dracopoli joined the Royal Geographical Society and studied surveying  under Mr. E. A. Reeves, the map curator of the R.G.S. He soon became proficient and started off for the Pinacate Mountains in the Sonoran desert in Mexico. Here he made a map of the surrounding country, while his brother secured three specimens of the rather rare Sonoran mountain sheep.

In October 1912, very soon after his return from Mexico, Dracopoli left for England and again went to British East Africa. He went with the intention of exploring and mapping the country between the Lorian swamp and the Indian Ocean and to find out what happened to the River Vaso Nyiro after it entered the swamp.
As that part of Jubaland was unknown, the natives unfriendly and dangerous, he had very great difficulty in getting permission to carry out his plan.
However he managed to do so at last and starting from Kismayu on the coast, he crossed Jubaland and reached the Lorian swamp from the East which no white man had yet done.

He suffered from severe illness and hard ships of all kinds, but in spite of all difficulties he made an excellent map of the country through which he traveled, fixed the course of the Vaso Nyiro and brought back much valuable information.
He described his journey in the Journal of the R.G.S and was asked to give a lecture before the Society. He also published a book 'Through Jubaland to the Lorian Swamp'
In the 'World Atlas' published by The Times in 1922, Dracopoli's map has it's place. He was given the Bronze Medal of the Back Bequest and elected a member of the Geographical Society.

A last expedition was made to British East Africa in 1914 and on August 5th of that year he was married. He immediately offered his services to the country of his adoption, for although of Italian descent, he had become a naturalised British subject shortly before the outbreak of the war.
His health had been seriously impaired by his exploration of Jubaland and he was unfit for the fighting forces. He was given a post in the Royal Air Force, first in England and later in Egypt, where his exceptional gift of organisation had full scope. He was awarded the M.B.E for military service.

In the Spring of 1919, Dracopoli returned to England and bought a house in Bishops Stortford and went into business in the city.
He died on January 7th 1923 of a cruel disease, the seeds of which were sown during his hard journey to the Lorian swamp. He left two sons.
He was elected a Fellow of the Society on June 13th 1919.  


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