A. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) Dugmore.

Camera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life online

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 14 of 18)
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tion was attracted to some vultures sitting on the dead branches of
a tree. Where vultures congregate there is likely to be meat, and
the meat is more than likely to be a lion's kill. If there was one
thing more than another that we wanted to find it was a lion's kill,
so we hastened toward the vultures, but for a long time were unable
to find any sign of meat. At last our search was rewarded by the
discovery of some animal's entrails. Following the sign of blood


-'- ?;






we soon came to the remains of a hartebeest hidden among the grass
under a high grass-covered bank, below which was the dry bed of
a small stream. The animal had been partly eaten. Nothing
remained but the shoulders, head and fragments of the hindquarters.
From the condition of the grass we were unable to determine whether
the carcase had been eaten where it lay, or whether it had been
dragged and hidden there after the lions had had their meal. The
latter seemed the more probable, as the grass had been much trampled
in a little depression about forty yards from the bank. If we had
arranged the sitting to suit the requirements of flashlight photography
we could not have found a spot more entirely satisfactory for the
position of the kill than where the lions had placed it. Not only
was the background excellent, with the high bank of grass over-
shadowed by two overhanging thorn trees which made the com-
position nearly perfect, but there was a knoll on the opposite bank
where the boma could be built in such a way as to control the situa-
tion completely. The gully was valuable as a protection against
a surprise attack by the lions, for they would be under great dis-
advantage in having to come up the steep bank, where a long spring
would be practically impossible. Then, too, there were splendid
positions for the cameras, where they would be near the boma, and
clear of any intervening brush. Altogether we were more than
pleased with our good fortune, and our trip to the Thika was aban-
doned in view of the comparative certainty of seeing lion pictures
where we were. How much good luck was in store for us we did
not know, but we were about to enjoy the finest night's sport that
had yet come to us the crowning night of the twenty-eight which
we had spent in our endeavors to obtain flashlight pictures of the


African beasts. Time was valuable, as we had much to do before
dark, for it was noon when we had this lion's kill, and we were three
miles from camp. The photographic outfit had to be brought, a
boma built, and everything put in perfect readiness for the night's
work. So we hurried back to camp, had lunch, and returned with
the outfit, and men to build the boma. The illustrations show how
everything was arranged. Three cameras were placed in a line
about eight or ten feet apart, and nine yards from the kill. They
and the flash were all on one electric circuit, so that they would
operate simultaneously. In the boma, which was ten yards from
the kill, were two more cameras, and an extra flash to be used in case
the others failed, or in the event of a lion remaining after the first
flash had been fired. They might even be used if a lion should
charge. We had everything ready by about half-past five, when the
boys brought us our much-needed dinner. After eating it we crawled
into the boma, put up the bars of the opening, and settled ourselves
down to enjoy a cup of hot coffee and a quiet smoke. We had just
finished, and darkness was settling fast on the country, when to our
surprise we heard a slight sound in the grass beyond the dead harte-
beest. Very soon we were able to distinguish a light shadowy form
coming slowly through the grass. Then another and another.
Lions they were without doubt. Three were more than we had
bargained for, and to have them all within twelve or fourteen yards
was, to put it very mildly, exciting almost too much so. The
night was so intensely dark that it was only with the greatest difficulty
that we could see anything under the shade of the trees. The lions
looked unreal; their ghostly forms blended with the grass so that
we could scarcely tell where they were. Two seemed to be above the






kill, and one lower down, and to the side. They were making
strange noises which sounded like the crunching of bones, and I
feared there was one lion at the carcase, and that he would carry it
away. If that happened we should lose all chance of any more
pictures, as I for one would not care to go out in the dark to haul
back the lion's kill immediately after they had carried it away. To
satisfy myself I turned on the little electric pocket lamp, and by its
light could see that there were three lions sure enough, but that only
one was near enough to the kill to be within the field covered by the
cameras. This one was a lioness, and as the light fell on the big
creature her eyes gleamed with the brilliancy of jewels. I was so
interested in the wonderful picture, and so excited, that for the
moment the idea of pressing the electric button scarcely entered my
head, but soon I realized that if I did not soon act trouble might
come our way, and I might, through several causes, lose the oppor-
tunity of securing a picture, so I pressed the button, and, with a
report like a shot, the blinding flash illuminated the scene with its
unnaturally brilliant bluish light, which was followed by darkness
more intense and more inpenetrable than ever. The lions, startled
and frightened by the sudden interruption, retreated in haste, utter-
ing low growls as they went, but as we had three photographs of
them we were delighted. The next question was the filling of the
flashlamp and re-setting of the shutters. Should it be done at
once before the lions had recovered from their surprise, or should
we wait till they had gone farther ? The former course was the
better, as we had no means of telling how far they had gone, and
if we waited they might return and catch us outside, in which case
the consequences would perhaps be unpleasant; so with reluctance


we both went out of our comfortable shelter to do the most disagree-
able part of flashlight work. Needless to say no time was wasted.
The three cameras and the flash were put in readiness, and we
crawled into the boma with a feeling of intense relief. For two
hours nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of the night except the
occasional roaring of lions and the distant barking of zebras. My
companion was asleep while I kept watch. It was about nine o'clock
when I heard sounds of something approaching, and I awoke my
companion so that we should both be ready for anything which
might occur. Soon the form of a lioness was discernible coming
slowly toward the kill. Nearer and nearer she came until she
appeared to have reached it. Instantly I pressed the button, and
secured some of the best pictures I have made of lions. She was
broadside to the cameras, crouching as though about to commence
the meal when the flash went off, and she was only ten yards from
us. She went away with a bound and a growl, and we hoped she
had taken herself off to a respectable distance, for the cameras had
to be reset again in case any more might come. It seemed scarcely
possible that they would after the two bad frights they had received,
but as there was absolutely no telling what these fearless animals
might do, it was best to be ready. Accordingly, armed with rifles
and lights, we went out and completed the task. For a long time
after that we saw no more of the hungry creatures, but they kept
us constantly on the qui vive by their roaring, which sounded in
every direction. There could be no doubt that we were in a thor-
oughly good lion region, for there must have been at least a dozen
of them within half a mile of us. At two o'clock, when we were
about to change watch, for I was very tired and badly in need of



some sleep, we heard a low growl, then more growling, and sounds
as though some animal or animals were coming through the dry
grass. For a long time we could see nothing, but the growling
continued until it got on our nerves. There is something decidedly
uncanny in the sound of a lion growling when you cannot see the
animal, but know it is probably within fifteen or twenty yards of
you. At last three lions came within sight. They were on the
bank overlooking the kill, and as they moved about they would
mysteriously appear and disappear among the high grass and dark
shadows of the trees. The horrible growling never ceased for a
moment. It was evident the beasts fully realized that our presence
was a menace to them, while we, on our part, had come to the con-
clusion that they were a decided menace to us. To make matters
worse, even though more interesting, a fourth lion approached
from the back of the boma. He, too, growled as he came along,
and we felt that we were really in for trouble. At one time he could
not have been more than three yards away from us. The situation,
though not by any means pleasant, was exciting; but we could not
help wondering as to the possible outcome, either photographic or
otherwise. Home certainly seemed a long way off, and I wondered
whether I should ever see it again. It looked as if the four lions
would never make up their minds what to do. They were prob-
ably debating whether to attack us or go to their meal, and, after
what seemed an interminable time, one of the growling animals
a lioness came down the bank. When she was within a few
feet of the kill we turned the electric light on her, and almost at the
same moment released the flash and shutters. After the severe
strain which we had been undergoing the sudden report of that


flash sounded so loud that it actually startled us. The lions, instead
of rushing away as they had done on previous occasions, retreated
most deliberately, growling ominously as they went. What became
of the one which had been behind us we could not tell, as the flash
had silenced him. If, earlier in the night, we had been averse to
leaving the comparative safety of our boma, it may be easily under-
stood that after all the excitement of the last hour we absolutely
dreaded facing the outside darkness. The attitude of the lions had
been decidedly threatening, and the idea of four of them being
about caused us to wonder whether it would not be better to give
up the chance of any more pictures for this night rather than take
the risk of leaving the boma. For that it was a risk there could
not be the slightest doubt. The lions were unquestionably enraged
at being interrupted in their meal, and if they decided to attack us
we should have very small chance of defending ourselves against
four, or even more of them. After much deliberation we concluded
that as we might never again have such an opportunity it would be
foolish not to make the most of it, and so with fear and trembling
(I confess it) we pushed down the bars and went out. How fright-
fully dark it was! The little light from the electric lamp seemed
rather to accentuate than relieve it, and the deep roars of the
lions could be heard in all directions. It was altogether weird
and horrible. We carefully scrutinized the immediate surround-
ings, but could discern no sign of the dreaded creatures. So the
cameras were once again set, and the flash filled, while we
wondered what the next pictures would be. It did not take us
very long to complete our task, and we were soon safely ensconced
once more in our little boma.


Less than two hours passed before our next visitors arrived -
only two this time, and a noisy two they were. Such snarling and
growling as they indulged in was highly disconcerting. Back-
ward and forward they walked, always keeping on the bank over
the kill, but never coming within range of the cameras. For more
than an hour they kept us in suspense, and we were beginning to
become used to their menacing tones when they quieted down, and
we could see them crouching alongside one of the trees. They
were facing us, and we felt most uncomfortable. The sudden silence
was really more disconcerting than their growls had been, for a lion
is always supposed to be quiet when about to do mischief. Instinc-
tively we both cocked our weapons and held them ready. I also
had a heavy revolver convenient in case of a fight at close
quarters, for that is what we had every reason to expect. Several
seconds passed, long seconds which seemed more like minutes
or even hours, but nothing happened, and the deathly stillness
was appalling. Those two shadowy forms were as motionless
as the tree near which they crouched. Should we fire, and so
perhaps avert the onrush ? In that dim light it would have been
risky, as we should probably have missed, and the firing would
most likely precipitate the attack. There was still a chance that
their attention might be diverted by some occurrence, so we
waited, while our eyes tried vainly to penetrate the darkness. All
at once there was a sound, and the two creatures came down
the bank with a rush and a growl, straight toward us. The
seriousness of the situation was alarming, but just as we were
expecting to receive them, they changed their minds, and as
they reached the sandy stream bed, not more than five or


six yards from us, to our intense relief they turned and beat
a rapid retreat up the gully, and that was the last we saw or
heard of them.

The night's work was ended, and it was a relief to see the gorgeous
tropical dawn after the hours of darkness and intense excitement.
No one who has not undergone the experience can have any idea
of the nervous strain that such a night's work implies. If one were
simply shooting the tension would be of comparatively short dura-
tion, but where a shot would probably spoil the opportunities for
the whole night, it should not be fired except in extreme emergency.
The slightest sound or movement might result in the loss of a pic-
ture, so it is necessary to stay absolutely quiet while the ferocious
beasts sit and look at you, practically within springing distance,
for minutes at a time. Although nervous it is fascinating to the
utmost; but it is better to have the help of the moon, for if the night
be dark the strain of listening for the almost noiseless footsteps of
a lion going through grass, and the vain endeavors to pierce the
blackness with one's inefficient eyes is so great that it plays havoc
with the nerves. There are several experiences of my African trip
which will linger in my memory for many a year, but the night of
the twenty-first of May will outlast any. Not only was it thrilling,
but it resulted in my securing no less than ten photographs of lions,
an achievement which I shall probably never equal.

On returning to camp after the night's work I immediately com-
menced developing the plates, as we were both impatient to see if
everything had gone well. No words can express my delight as
negative after negative came up clear and crisp, and I found that
all ten were satisfactory beyond my most sanguine expectations.


The rest of the morning was devoted to Morpheus, and late that
afternoon we returned to the lion boma in the hope that perhaps
we might have another good night's sport. We were, however,
doomed to disappointment. Hour after hour passed slowly along,
but nothing occurred to break the absolute stillness of the starlight
night. Not even did we hear the lion's roar, nor did any animal
visit the lions' kill; and so the long hours dragged. We dared not
sleep, for who could tell at what moment the lions might come to
avenge the disturbance of the previous night, and if they came
with evil intent there would probably be no roars or growls, so that
unless we kept our ears constantly and keenly alert, we could not
hear their stealthy approach. A dark form that would fill the
opening of the boma would be our first intimation of the creature's
presence, and then it would be too late to save ourselves. The
lions, however, did not trouble us, and we returned to camp at dawn,
no richer in pictures or experiences.

After thinking the matter over we decided to make another attempt
at lion photography. But three nights remained before we must
leave Simba camp. That left us only two for work, as it would be
necessary to have a whole night's rest before going on our march.
As it was, I was beginning to feel the effects of lack of sleep, for,
unfortunately, I was seldom able even to doze during the daytime,
and at night I scarcely ever had more than two or three hours of
broken, restless sleep.

We were unable to secure a zebra for bait, so we had to content
ourselves with a hartebeest, which is a very poor substitute. To
enhance the value of this generally despised antelope we dragged the
remains of the lions' kill for a mile and a half to our new boma, so


that any lions crossing the track would be more than likely to follow
it. As the nights were still moonless, and there was every indication
of this one being overcast, and consequently very dark, we placed
the kill only eight yards from the boma, in order that there might
be a better chance of our seeing and hearing any animal that
approached. There was no gully or other safeguard against the
attack of lions, so that if any came we should have to be prepared
for extremely quick action. The first few hours passed quietly
enough. In the distance we occasionally heard the deep roar of a
lion, but apparently none was near us. Between one and two
o'clock a slight sound reached my ears, and I listened more atten-
tively than ever. Then the distinct crunching of bones could be
heard, but the darkness was so intense that nothing could be seen.
Had it been a lion we should without doubt (so we thought) have
been able to distinguish its large bulk against the skyline. Probably
it was a jackal, or possibly a hyena. As I had not any good photo-
graphs of either, I determined to take this opportunity, and accord-
ingly pressed the button. The flash failed to ignite, and the sound
of the shutters frightened away the animal, which to our surprise
proved to be a lion. It went off growling in a much disgusted manner.
As soon as the noise ceased we went out to see what had gone wrong
with the flash lamp. Just by way of precaution I glanced round,
and to my surprise, the electric light revealed a pair of eyes. The
horror of the situation may well be imagined. We were out in the
open with a lion watching us not more than twenty yards away.
At first both of us wanted to fire, but on second thought we realized
that by so doing we should lose all chance of any more pictures; so
instead of shooting I reset the cameras, and discovered and cor-



D a!

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reeled the cause of the flashlight failure. We then immediately
crawled into the boma. No sooner was the light put out than the
blood-curdling roars of two lions broke the stillness of the night.
The one we had seen had evidently been joined by his mate, and
the two stood looking at us and roaring. For two hours they moved
about, apparently never more than a couple of hundred yards away
and often within thirty yards or less. All the time they sang their
nerve-racking duet, making the hills around us echo with the
horrible sounds. But never once did they come near enough to be

In listening to the roaring of lions at close quarters one can hear
with great distinctness the long low rolling ending to the very loud
two-note beginning. This ending lasts fully twelve or fifteen seconds,
becoming gradually softer and softer until it finishes in a sort of purr.
It has been truly said that no sound in nature is so impressive as the
lion's roar. It is positively fascinating, but strikes terror to the
hearer only when it is delivered at very close range. Then the
volume of sound actually makes the air vibrate.

We returned to camp soon after dawn without having had any
more exciting experiences, and rather discouraged with the results,
or lack of results, of the night's work. One more night was spent
in the boma, but we had no visitors to relieve the dreary monotony,
and when morning came we were glad to return to camp. The day
was devoted to preparations for our departure. Our stay in the
neighborhood was ended. We had had but one stroke of luck
since our return, but that had more than paid for the visit, and the
camp had rightly earned the name we had given it during our pre-
vious visit Simba (lion) Camp.



SOME days before leaving Simba camp I had suggested to the
headman the advisability of sending two or three men to see whether
we could make a straight course to Punda Milia by going over the
hills to the west of our camp. He, however, insisted that both he
and one of the askaris knew the way perfectly, and that by going
northward to the Tana we should find a trail which would take us
straight to Punda Milia, and from there we could go to Juja, where
I hoped to find the brindled gnu. According to this information
it would be two days of easy marching about twenty-six miles
altogether. So when we left on the morning of May 25th we expected
a march of thirteen or fourteen miles.

On reaching the Tana we found a trail, which we followed for a
few miles, then some natives passed us, and from them we learned
that we must bear to the right on coming to the next trail. The way
was through hilly country, more or less densely wooded. Game
was very scarce; in fact, after the first three or four hours we saw
none. About two o'clock we came to a place where the trail divided,
and found then, just as we had suspected, that none of our men had
any idea of the way. By good luck we noticed three natives on an
adjoining hill, so we engaged one of them to act as guide. At four









I <


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o'clock this man said he must leave us, for as we were then on the
Fort Hall Road we had simply to follow it till we came to Punda
Milia, which was only a short distance to the southward. At that
time we must have been about as near to Fort Hall as to Punda
Milia, for we walked steadily till after five o'clock, when from a hilltop
we sighted the settlement fully seven miles away. It was terribly
discouraging, as we were very tired. The men were miles behind
us, so there was nothing to do but wait at the first stream and make
camp as soon as the "safari" arrived. We were ravenously hungry,
having had nothing since five o'clock breakfast, and our water was
all gone, so altogether we felt sorry for ourselves, and even more sorry
for the wretched men who had been so badly misled by the stupidity
of the headman. The only food we could procure while waiting
for the porters was some sugar-cane, which proved most refreshing.
It was almost seven o'clock when the tired men began to arrive.
They were wonderfully good-natured about it, but so used up that
they could not have gone much farther; and no wonder, considering
they had been on the march for thirteen hours, and yet we were still
over two hours from our expected destination. It was almost exas-
perating, as we need only have traveled in a straight line ten or twelve

At nine the next day we reached Punda Milia to find it was nothing
but a farm. There was no store, though we had been told there
was one by our ill-informed headman. The farm is one of the biggest
in the country, and successfully grows maize, wheat and potatoes,
and is having excellent luck with a species of sisal. Whether or

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 14 of 18)