SHIRE RIVER, a river of East Central Africa, the only tributary of the Zambezi navigable from the sea. The Shiré (length about 370 m.) issues from the southernmost point of Lake Nyasa and almost immediately enters a shallow sheet of water called Malombe or (Pa-Malombe), 18 m. broad and 12 or 13 m. long. A shifting bar of sand obstructs the end of Malombe nearest Nyasa, but does not prevent navigation. Below Malombe the bed of the Shiré deepens. The river flows through a mountainous country, and hi its descent to the Zambezi valley forms rapids and cataracts, rendering its middle course for a distance of 60 m. unnavigable. The most southern and the finest of these cataracts is called the Murchison Cataract or Falls, after Sir Roderick Murchison, the geologist, who identified himself during the midVictorian epoch with geographical exploration in Africa. In passing the cataracts the Shiré falls 1200 ft. From the station called Katunga, a short distance below the cataracts, shallowdraught steamers can navigate the river when in flood ( JanuaryMarch) to its junction with the Zambezi, and thence proceed to the Chinde mouth of the main stream. About 130 m. above its confluence with the Zambezi the Shiré is joined from the east by a smaller stream, the Ruo river, whose headwaters rise in Mount Mlanje. At the junction of the Ruo and Shiré is the town of Chiromo, and here is an extensive swampy region and game reserve known as the Elephant Marsh. The scenery of the lower Shiré is very picturesque, the spurs of the plateau forming bold, rocky crags overhanging the water. The river is studded with small islands usually covered by thick grass. A little before the Zambezi is reached the country becomes flat. The Shiré joins the main river in about 35 25' E., 17 50' S., at a point where the Zambezi is of great width and presents in the dry season many narrow winding channels, not more than 3 ft. deep, with intervening sandbanks.
The lower part of the Shiré is in Portuguese territory; the upper part is in the British Nyasaland Protectorate, to which it is the natural highway. At the lowest point in British territory, on the west bank of the river, is Port Herald, whence a railway runs past Chiromo to Blantyre. Below Port Herald the Shiré is navigable all the year round.
See ZAMBEZI and BRITISH CENTRAL AFRICA.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)