...SPINGS FROM AN OLD FILE.
CAMELS FOR EXPLORATION.
[As so?] many gallant pioneers of settlement in [the?] colony have lost their lives or suffered [?] from want of water while on exploring expeditions, any suggestion by which such a mishap may be avoided might possibly be of some benefit to parties intending to occupy distant inland country of which little is as yet known. I believe that all new country should be thoroughly explored by Government before it is open for settlement, and that it it should not be left to those to whom land has been allotted to grope their way through all sorts of dangers and hardships en route to their stations, their privations and losses leaving an unpleasant impression on the minds of others who might have the will and the means for taking up extensive areas of land. It may be said, "It is all very fine one sitting down in comfortable quarters and airing his opinion on what should or should not be done in exploration," but the writer having had some hard experienice in that line perhaps on the strength ot such experience may be permitted to pass a few remarks. In the first place there should be a well selected and well defined route to and through a new country, and this should be done at public expense. At every 10 miles or so along this route there should be, if possible, halting and watering stations for both man and beast, the country for 5 miles on either side of the route, and for 10 miles on either side of each station should be thoroughly explored and known, the average cost of each station being say £100, or at the rate of perhaps £10 per mile right through. This route might be for our Northern Division the one to be followed by the telegraph line, and thus form the base ot settlement operations as did the telegraph line in South Australia. The Russians in their advance on the the Turkomans adopted a similar system. Frequently we hear of explorers coming to grief from want of water, this I believe would [not] occur if camels were used instead of horses in exploration. Warburton's party found out how invaluable these animals are on their journey, and in the course of conversation with the Afghan driver he told me that there would not have been the difficulty they experienced if the camels had been left a little more to their own instincts. Ernest Giles too took his trip from Central Australia to this side and back again without considering he had done a wonderful feat, he was able to take long sketches [stretches?] in perfect comfort and safety with his camel train, and a week or so without feed or water didn't retard his movements. With these facts why do not explorers try camels instead of horses? They would pay hereafter in the carriage of wool alone from the far interior to the coast. I kept camels for some years and know very well what their powers of endurance are and how admirably they are suited for traversing a greater portion of this colony. Lightly loaded, 4 baggage camels would carry 1 ton weight of kit and do for 4 explorers travelling over moderately undulating country at the rate of from 15 to 20 miles a day, at a cost of something like 10s. When in good working order a couple of buckets of water would serve them for a week's journey. Baggage camels generally graze as they travel if passing through a harsh country and they can be kept in capital condition on the roughest scrub or grass, and one driver can take charge of from six to ten camels. The lighter built camels (Sandnee) are exactly the animals for a long express journey; they can do over sandy plains from 50 to 80 miles a day carrying a rider and 1 cwt. of kit with him, and this rate could be kept up for days in succession if the animal be properly treated, from my own experience I wouldn't mind laying a wager that an express on a running camel of the true breed could travel between this and the telegraph line within a month, if the post stations were not more than 100 miles apart. I never found any difficulty breeding and rearing kind of stock. When any female was about to drop a foal her load was lightened or taken off, and in two or three days after foaling she would be able to take her place again in the train with the foal at her side. They are very gentle animals, except the males, at one season of the year, when they are a little vicious. Perhaps Messrs. Elder of South Australia, who rear and work camels on their distant runs might dispose of some of their stock and send them over here, their price ought not to exceed that of a good horse. I am fully convinced that camels would be invaluable to an exploring party having to cross arid or waterless country, besides carrying a week's supply of water and provisions for a party, their tents, instruments. Besides which if they took some Norton's Abyssinian pumps for sinking in likely localtiies, there would then, with proper management, be little risk of loss of life from want of water, and no such painful instances to record as that recently reported from the north. O. F.
The Herald, Saturday 31 December 1881, p. 3
The 'only known early photograph of camels in Fremantle' is reproduced on page 19 of John Dowson 2011, Fremantle Port, Chart and Map Shop, Fremantle.
Garry Gillard | New: 31 October, 2015 | Now: 27 October, 2023