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How Drowned was my Valley: Exploring the Zambezi before Lake Kariba

5 April 2024

Geoffrey Bond (1912-83), author of this curiously titled book, headed the geology department of the University of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) as Inaugural Professor from 1960 to 1977, before becoming Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor until retiring in 1982. Based on a private family memoir, tributes from close associates, two formal obituaries, and the author’s 60-odd geological publications, the book first describes Bond’s early years (late 1930s to mid-1940s) of graduate studies at Imperial College, London, which were interrupted by conscription into the Royal Air Force in Southern Rhodesia. These years both kindled his love for the southern African country and gave him his first job – Keeper of Geology at the National Museum in Bulawayo – in 1946.

The book outlines a key project in Bond’s life: secondment to a coal project in the mid-Zambezi River Valley in 1950-51. Bond helped with mapping 4000 miles2 of Karoo sediments, deciphering the rock succession, and proving the presence of glaciation in the Dwyka Group from approximately 270 million years ago. Thereafter, the Zambezi River Valley became Bond’s prime research interest, such that, with the construction of the Kariba Dam in 1958, the consequent flooding of the Valley upstream was keenly felt, which explains the book’s title. The chapters devoted to work in the Valley are accompanied by many random digressions on, for example, the business of drilling, prowling lions, crocodile hunts, and local mythology, as well as the Rhodesian Geological Survey and the author’s personal views on politics and democracy.

The book also covers Bond’s later years at the University of Zimbabwe, during times of intense political unrest, and show how his qualities of diplomacy, tact, and fairness proved invaluable. Additionally, we hear of his lasting achievement in devising a 4-year honours degree in geology; graduates with this degree have met wide success in industry and academia.

On a more critical note, the book’s illustrative material is surprisingly deficient. Many photographs lack captions, while maps of areas covered by the author’s geological research and those subsequently flooded by the Kariba Dam are absent.

Geologically, How Drowned was my Valley will mainly interest those concerned with coal-bearing Permian system rocks. From a societal perspective, this wide-ranging book may also provide clues to how youthful countries transition from conflict to concord and how they develop their educational systems from the work of the early pioneers.

Reviewed by Martin Prendergast



BY: Geoffrey Bond (2022). Weaver Press. 338 pp. (pbk)

ISBN: 978-1-77922-422-4

PRICE: £26.92 www.weaverpresszimbabwe.com