African Queen boat takes tourists down the Nile

More than 60 years after Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn were first seen sailing through East Africa in the classic film, their steamboat is giving tours

The original African Queen captained by Humphrey Bogart in the Oscar-winning 1951 film is once again cutting her way through the languid, life-giving waters of the river Nile, according to reports.

New Zealander Cam McLeay, who has led expeditions to discover the source of the ancient waterway, claims to have restored the vessel more than 60 years after she was first seen on screen. He has been running Nile tours since December, after apparently discovering the African Queen was still in existence while in holiday in Kenya.

“I was looking for an authentic African boat to run on the Nile and I was thinking of buying a Swahili dhow,” McLeay told Agent France Presse. “Then this hotel owner said: ‘Why don’t you buy the African Queen? She’s from Uganda!'”

In John Huston’s first world war adventure film, Bogart’s rugged Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut finds himself piloting the wooden steamboat in German East Africa in the company of staid British missionary Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn). In the original novel by CS Forester, the river involved is the Ulanga, not the Nile. The pair negotiate crocodiles, rapids and Nazi soldiers as they head for an unnamed lake where they mount an ambitious plan to sink a German gun boat. The film won Bogart the Oscar for best actor and was nominated for a further three prizes in 1952.

“The African Queen belongs on the Nile,” said McLeay. “So it is so important to have the boat back home more than 60 years after the film was made.”

His suggestion that he has discovered the original African Queen calls into question similar claims by a Florida couple two years ago. Suzanne Holmquist and her engineer husband Lance told CNN in 2012 that they had discovered the boat in a Florida marina the previous year and restored her. The pair are also running tours, though in the rather different environment of the Florida Keys.

However, McLeay says two African Queen vessels were actually bought for the film. “One of them was in Congo and this is the Nile’s African Queen,” he explained.

The Florida Queen is said to have been built in 1912 for the British East Africa Railway Company. She was acquired by producers in 1950 and renamed The African Queen. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds