Command of a ‘gunboat’ in the nineteenth century provided valuable experience for the Royal Navy’s junior officers. On the West Africa station the duties carried out by such vessels included intercepting slave runners at sea, close blockade of slave ports, exploration, trade security and the furtherance of British foreign policy in the region. Throughout Investigator’s ascent of the River Niger in 1864, Lieutenant Charles George Frederick Knowles kept a detailed journal containing a narrative of the voyage and a comprehensive study of the people met and places visited. The peculiar management problems of commanding an independent vessel in a potentially hostile river environment far removed from any form of support are well illustrated in Knowles’s journal. The main areas of concern were fuel, water, food, health, security, and navigation. Food and water whilst sometimes difficult to obtain in any quantity were among the least of Knowles’s problems.