VICTORIA NYANZA, the largest lake in Africa and chief reservoir of the Nile, lying between o 20' N. to 3 S. and 31 40' to 34 52' E. Among the fresh-water lakes of the world it is exceeded in size by Lake Superior only and has an area of over 26,000 sq. m., being nearly the size of Scotland. In shape it is an irregular quadrilateral, but its shores, save on the west, are deeply indented. Its greatest length, taking into account the principal gulfs. N. to S. is 250 m., its greatest breadth 200 m. Its coast-line exceeds 2000 m. It fills a depression in the central part of the great plateau which stretches between the western (Albertine) and eastern rift-valleys (see AFRICA, i), and has an elevation of about 3720 ft. above the sea. 1 Its greatest ascertained depth is some 270 ft., which compares with soundings of 2000 ft. on Tanganyika and 2500 ft. on Nyasa. Victoria Nyanza is remarkable for the severe and sudden storms which sweep across it, rendering navigation dangerous. It contains many groups of islands, the majority being near the coast-line. The lake is full of reefs, many just below the surface of the water, which is clear and very fresh. It is abundantly stocked with fish. Geological research shows that the land surrounding the lake consists of gneiss, quartz and schistose rocks, covered, in the higher regions, with marl and red clay, and in the valleys with a rich black loam.
Shores and Islands. The shores of the lake present varied aspects. The western coast, which contains no large indentations, is, in its southern part, backed by precipices of 300 or more ft. high, behind which rise downs to thrice the height of the cliffs. Going north, the hills give way to papyrus and ambach swamps, which mark the delta of the Kagera. Beyond the mouth of that river the hills reappear, and increase in height, till on reaching the N.W. corner of the nyanza they rise some 500 ft. above the water. This western shore is marked by a continuous fault line which runs parallel to the lake at a short distance inland. The northern coast of the lake is very deeply indented and is marked throughout its length by rocky headlands jutting into the waters. This high land is very narrow, and the streams which rise on its northern face within a mile or two of the nyanza drain north away from the lake. On a promontory about 30 m. east of the Katonga (see below) is Entebbe, the port of Uganda and seat of the British administration. The chief indentations on the north side are Murchison Bay and Napoleon Gulf, the entrance to the last named being partly filled by the triangularshaped island of Buvuma or Uvuma (area 160 sq. m.). Napoleon Gulf itself is deeply indented, one bay, that of Jinja, running N.W. and being the outlet of the Nile, the water here forcing its way through the rock-bound shore of the lake. The north-east corner of the lake is flat and bare. A narrow channel, partly masked by islands, leads into Kavirondo Gulf, which, with an average width of 6 m., extends 45 m. E. of the normal coast-line a fact taken advantage of in building the railway from Mombasa to the lake. A promontory, 174 ft. above lake-level, jutting into the small bay of Ugowe, at the north-east end of Kavirondo Gulf, is the point where the railway terminates. The station is known as Port Florence. On the south side of the gulf tall hills approach, and in some cases reach, the water's edge, and behind them towers the rugged range of Kasagunga with its saw-like edge. Proceeding south the shore trends generally south-west and is marked with many deep inlets, the coast presenting a succession of bold bluffs, while inland the whole district is distinctly mountainous. At the S.E. corner of the lake Speke Gulf projects eastward, and at the S.W. corner Emin Pasha Gulf pushes southward. Here the coast is barren and hilly, while long ridges of rock run into the lake.
The largest island in the lake, Ukerewe, on the S.E. coast, immediately north of Speke Gulf, is almost a peninsula, but the strip of land connecting it with the shore is pierced by two narrow channels about j of a mile long. Ukerewe is 25 m. long, and 12 broad at its greatest width. It is uninhabited, wooded and hilly, rising 650 ft. above the lake. At the N.W. corner of the nyanza is the Sess6 archipelago, consisting of sixty-two islands. The largest island jn this group, namely, Bugala, is narrow, resembling the letter S in shape, and is almost cut in two in the middle. Most of these islands are densely forested, and some of them attain considerable elevation. Their scenery is of striking beauty. Forty-two were inhabited. 1 Buvuma Island, at the entrance of Napoleon Gulf, has already been mentioned. Between it and as far as the mouth of Kavirondo Gulf are numerous other islands, of which the chief are Bugaia, Lolui, Rusunga and Mfwanganu. In general characteristics and the beauty of their scenery these islands resemble those of the Sesse' archipelago. The islands are of ironstone formation overlying quartzite ana crystalline schists.
Rivers. The Kagera, the largest and most important of the lake 1 For the altitude see Geog. Jour., March 1907 and July 1908. * To prevent the spread of sleeping sickness the inhabitants were removed to the mainland (1909).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)