SCOTTISH explorer Mungo Park will be the latest fascinating figure to come under the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's microscope at an event in Helensburgh.

The talk will be led by renowned historical geographer Professor Charles Withers in the Victoria Halls on Thursday, February 1.

In the late 18th century, the river Niger was to Europeans a two-part geographical problem: in which direction did it run, and where did it terminate?

The first was solved by explorer Mungo Park in 1796. But Park’s death in 1806 in failing to solve the second prompted other expeditions to determine the cause of his death - and to trace the Niger’s course to its end.

Drawing upon his acclaimed book Majestic River, Prof Withers will reveal why the Niger was once the world's greatest geographical puzzle, and the role Mungo Park played in solving this 2000-year-old geographical mystery.

He will examine Park’s achievements, the many expeditions that followed him, and his enduring ‘afterlife’ as an explorer.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Professor Charles WithersProfessor Charles Withers (Image: Professor Charles Withers)

Just one of these legacies includes RSGS’s appropriately named Mungo Park Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to geographical knowledge through exploration or adventure in potentially hazardous physical or social environments.

Professor Withers is a former Geographer Royal for Scotland and held the Ogilvie Chair of Geography at the University of Edinburgh from 2010 to 2019.

His latest book Majestic River: Mungo Park and the Exploration of the Niger offers the first full length biography of Mungo Park for over 40 years.

Professor Withers also hit the headlines in 2018 when he gave his last undergraduate lecture to students at Edinburgh University while dressed as Darth Vader.

Speaking about the upcoming talk, RSGS chief executive Mike Robinson said: “Professor Wither’s account of the life and adventures of Mungo Park are as eloquent and detailed as they are thrilling and it will be a delight to hear him speak for the RSGS Inspiring people talks.”

RSGS Inspiring People talks are open to all: tickets for face-to-face talks are free for RSGS members, students and under 18s and £10 for general admission.

Tickets are available to book online in advance at, or at the door for cash only.

Professor Withers’s talk takes place at the Victoria Halls at 7.30pm on Thursday, February 1.