FLOYER, ERNEST AYSCOGHE (b. Lincolnshire, England, 1852; d. Cairo, Egypt, 1903), explorer, writer, and the first station chief of the Indo-European Telegraph Line at Jāsk (FIGURE 1).
After the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, the need for swifter communication between London and India was strongly felt. Efforts began in 1859 to establish direct telegraphic links between the two countries. In 1862 a telegraph line was built by the British government running from Karachi westward along the Makrān coast of Baluchistan, as far west as Čāhbahār (qq.v.) in Persia. It was extended in 1868 to Jāsk, and thence by submarine cable to Būšehr (q.v.), where it joined a line northward to Tehran. Known as the Indo-European Telegraph Line (IETL), its director from 1864 was General Sir Fredric Goldsmid (q.v.), who, after 1870, was also involved in the Persian-British boundary commissions.
The IETL had substations in Karachi, Pasnī, Gwādar, Čāhbahār, Jāsk, Būšehr, and Fao. Floyer became the first station chief at Jāsk in 1870, although he was only seventeen, and served until 1877. Goldsmid encouraged his station and substation staff to explore their surroundings, and Floyer was one of those who responded, taking a long leave of absence in 1876-77. Although not in good health, he organized three long journeys from his base at Jāsk at his own expense (the Company did not finance him): the first north-east into Baluchistan as far as Fannūč, Maskūtān, Bampūr, and back; the second a tour of the Persian Gulf, including Hangām Island, Bandar ʿAbbās (q.v.), and Mīnāb; and the third of these into previously quite unexplored Bashkardia (Pers. Bašākerd, q.v.) north of Jāsk, which was the most adventurous. He was fluent in both Persian and Baluchi, but the potential difficulties and dangers were uncertain, since no one had any definite knowledge of the area beyond rumors that the local people were very unfriendly to outsiders and given to robbery and murder. Floyer, undaunted, set out without police protection andwith only a small caravan of camels and donkeys and a Baluch crew he had recruited both in Jāsk and en route. He traveled first to Angohrān, the capital of Bašākerd, and then visited Sardašt, Šahrbāvek, Jaḡdān, Darpahn, and Senderk, before proceeding to Kermān. In each place he made friends with the inhabitants and recorded extensive observations of the local flora, fauna, geography, customs, and language. He published the information in Unexplored Baluchistan (1882), in Appendix A of which he also provided a survey of short phrases in six languages, including Baluchi, Pashto, and, for the first time, Baškardī, mostly recognizably correct. In other appendices he gave lists of plants, detailed meterological information, and the latitudes and longitudes of places he visited. After his appointment as inspector general of Egyptian Telegraphs in Cairo in 1878, he left the area.
Fluent also in Arabic, Floyer was very active in Egypt, turning the telegraph into a profit-making enterprise, studying the economic development of desert land during the last ten years of his life, and making several journeys of exploration into Upper Egypt. From 1884 to 1898 he published many articles in scientific journals, especially the Journal de l’Institut Egyptien, on Egyptian geography, geology, and botany. He remained in Egypt until his death twenty-five years later.
From Floyer’s travel narratives one gets a strong impression of a man of untiring good humor, disarming modesty, and great resourcefulness in overcoming obstacles ranging from petty official obstructionism to manifest physical hardship and murderous local chiefs. Floyer married in 1887 and left three sons.
E. A. Floyer, Unexplored Baluchistan, London, 1882; repr. Quetta, 1977.
I. Gershevitch, “Travels in Bashkardia,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 46, 1959, pp. 213-24.
V. Cornish, “Obituary Notice: Ernest Ayscoghe Floyer,” JRAS, April 1904, pp. 381-86 (with bibliography of works by Floyer).
P. M. Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia, 1902.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: January 31, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 1, pp. 63-64