In 1893, intrepid Englishwoman Mary Kingsley decided to visit West Africa, where she collected beetles and fishes, negotiated the Ogowé River rapids in a canoe, and climbed the Great Cameroon. One evening she was forging through some underbrush when she found herself “in a heap, on a lot of spikes, some fifteen feet or so below ground level, at the bottom of a bag-shaped game pit.”
It is at these times you realise the blessing of a good thick skirt. Had I paid heed to the advice of many people in England, who ought to have known better, and did not do it themselves, and adopted masculine garments, I should have been spiked to the bone, and done for. Whereas, save for a good many bruises, here I was with the fulness of my skirt tucked under me, sitting on nine ebony spikes some twelve inches long, in comparative comfort, howling lustily to be hauled out. The Duke came along first, and looked down at me. I said, ‘Get a bush-rope, and haul me out.’ He grunted and sat down on a log. The Passenger came next, and he looked down. ‘You kill?’ says he. ‘Not much,’ say I; ‘get a bush-rope and haul me out.’ ‘No fit,’ says he, and sat down on the log. Presently, however, Kiva and Wiki came up, and Wiki went and selected the one and only bush-rope suitable to haul an English lady, of my exact complexion, age, and size, out of that one particular pit. They seemed rare round there from the time he took; and I was just casting about in my mind as to what method would be best to employ in getting up the smooth, yellow, sandy-clay, incurved walls, when he arrived with it, and I was out in a twinkling.
Of her Rudyard Kipling said, “Being human, she must have been afraid of something, but one never found out what it was.”
(From her 1897 book Travels in West Africa.)