The opening ceremony | Photo: National Archives of Zimbabwe

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 12 September 1905
12 September 2011

More info on the Victoria Falls Bridge Here

Fifty years ago David Livingstone and Oswell reached the Zambesi, and for the first time the most wonderful waterfalls in the world were seen by European eyes. Livingstone gave them the name of the Falls of Victoria. They had heard of the falls ever since they had entered the country.

“Have you smoke that sounds in your country?” they were asked by the natives, who had christened the falls “Mosi oa Tanya,” which means “smoke does sound there.”

To-day Professor G. H. Darwin, in the presence of over 400 members of the British Association, will declare open the Zambesi Bridge, which passes over the river in full view of the falls. It is the highest bridge in the world.

The passengers on the trains that will cross it will look down to a greater depth than would a person who had succeeded in placing himself on the golden cross of St. Paul’s or on the flag-pole of the Park Row skyscraper that is the glory of New York.

The total length of the bridge is 659ft., its single span is 500ft., and the weight of the structure is 1,650 tons, yet this great and difficult undertaking has been completed in a little over a year.

The difficulty of riveting the plates of the bridge has been one of the greatest problems, and there have been repeated hitches, but the work has been completed without, we understand, the loss of a single life.

A net was stretched below, such as, on a small scale, is set below trapeze performers in circuses, and a considerable quantity of material fell into and sometimes through it.

Of the part that the bridge is expected to play in the development of Central Africa we shall hear this week from those competent to speak. The beauty and wonder of Victoria Falls, which it has brought within reach of the tourist with time and money, have been sufficient already to bring many prominent people to this far-distant place, and several of these have given their impressions to the world.

David Livingstone, who had certainly seen as many marvels as any man of our time, was moved to write of what he saw as he gazed for the first time at the great Falls, that the beauty of the scene could not be imagined from anything witnessed in England.

“It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

These archive extracts are compiled by members of the Guardian’s research and information department. Email: