Science & Tech, Home & Lifestyle, Community & Government

The Breakthrough

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 13:30 min

Dr. Jane explains the challenges she faced during her initial work in Gombe and how she arrived at the one breakthrough that changed everything.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Arriving in Gombe • Observing the Chimps • The Breakthrough • Communicating with David Greybeard


I shall never forget arriving at Gombe and going along the lake in this little boat. It just had a small outboard engine. We had very little money. Everything was on a shoestring. And looking up at the hills and these valleys coming down with thick forests and more open ridges between, and it climbs steeply up to the rift escarpment, and I remember so well looking at this forested area and thinking, how on earth am I going to find the chimpanzees in this place? Because there was no precedent. There was nobody to tell me. Louis Leakey didn't come. I was on my own. It was all up to me. And arriving, setting up the camp, and it was an old fashioned army tent and a secondhand one, which my mother and I had to share-- very different from the camps that people go camping in today. It had just a piece of canvas on the ground as a groundsheet, so if you wanted it to get cooler, you rolled up the side flaps and tied them with tape. And in came the air, but also the snakes and the spiders and the scorpions, which didn't really bother me, but my poor mother-- there she was, and she's always been afraid of spiders, and scorpions can be a bit nasty. Let's admit it. At any rate, that was the camp. And the food was mostly cans that we brought with us from the nearest little town, which is Kigoma. But also, there's a village. It's a very small national park, and the shoreline of Gombe is only about 12 miles. And to the north, there's a small village called Wamgongo. And the British authorities told us, don't go there. It's a very dangerous place. There's a lot of people there who are making trouble. But the person I was introduced to in those very early days, who was asked to go into the hills with me for the first while to show me some of the trails and so forth, and he came from that village. And so he took Mom and I. We were welcomed there, and that's where we bought some fresh things like fresh eggs and some fruit and bananas and things like that. So it was a very simple diet. And in those days, I was still eating fish, and the fish came from the fishermen along the lake shore. I, from the beginning, realized that if I was going to learn about these chimpanzees, I had to spend every daylight hour out there. And in fact, sometimes I would always come down in the first four months to have supper with Mom, but sometimes I'd go up again afterwards with my little flashlight, my little torch. And up on this peak, I'd found-- I took a tin trunk, and in there, there was a kettle hanging from a chain on a tree, box of matches, some instant coffee and so forth so that I could make coffee and so on. And that I did if the chimps were nesting nearby, so I could be close in the morning. And that was every day, so people said, what about the weekend? I said, what weekend? So there were two things that were important. One was to be out there every ...

About the Instructor

There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.

Explore the Class
Sign Up