Several maps of Africa created in the 1800s featured a mountain range that never existed: the Mountains of Kong. Obviously, modern maps do not contain this mountain range, which was previously deliberately included on world maps.
So how did this imaginary mountain range end up featuring on geographical maps, which lasted a century? It all started with British geographer James Rennell, who referenced the accounts of the Scottish explorer Mungo Park in order to draw up a map of Western Africa in 1798. The explorer claimed to have discovered these mountains, which he described as “belonging to the great and powerful Kingdom of Kong”, situated to the north of the current Ivory Coast.
However, on maps, the Mountains of Kong were located on the dividing line between the Niger basin and the Gulf of Guinea, spreading over more than a thousand kilometers. They then join up with the Mountains of the Moon in the east, as can be seen in the English map drawn up by John Carry in 1805 (see below).
In fact in reality, James Rennel knowingly modified the coordinates provided by Mungo Park, so that the localisation of the Mountains of Kong would support his thesis on the Niger River. Furthermore, 19th century geographers reproduced the same coordinates in their maps, especially as other explorers also claimed to have encountered these mountains during their expeditions. Some even claimed to have crossed what appeared to have been an imposing massif with altitudes varying from 760 to 4,200 meters.
As incredible as it may seem, there is a great deal of information available on the Mountains of Kong, especially of a geographical nature. According to many authors of the time, the peaks were covered in snow, composed of granite or limestone and some of them even contained gold deposits.
A geographical work even mentions the Mountains of Kong: La Géographie de l’abbé Gaultier (1833). The mountains were described and presented as being one of the eight main mountain massifs in Africa. They were also mentioned by Jules Verne in the 12th chapter of his work Robur le Conquérant (1886).
Officially, the myth ended in 1888, when French explorer Louis-Gustave Binger reached the city of Kong in the north of the current Ivory Coast. He showed that no such mountain range existed in the region.