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 2 of 18)
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on the larger forms of insect life. Near the huts, as happy and con-
tented as children, were the natives, the women clothed in colored
prints of decided patterns, draped around their sturdy bodies in a
peculiarly graceful style, while the men wear either a long loose shirt
of white or some pale color, or simply a white cloth fastened at the
waist. Both go bareheaded, as a rule, though the Fez cap is fre-
quently worn, while the women love to carry an umbrella as a sign
of opulence.

Gradually the scene of people and cultivation passed and gave
way to wilder and more hilly country, where thorn bush, tangles
of vigorous vines, the strange euphorbia, and other vegetation of
varied size and color were passed as the train hurried along toward
the upland country. All signs of habitation ceased as we entered
the dry region late in the afternoon. No more rich grass or tropical
foliage. Everything was parched and gray, and almost the only
tree was the ubiquitous thorn, which manages to eke out a living
from soil which apparently contains no vestige of moisture or power



8 CAMERA ADVENTURES

of sustenance. We reached Voi, one hundred and thirty-three miles
from Mombasa, in time for dinner, which is served in the railroad
room. Here, at one thousand eight hundred and thirty feet above
sea level, the air was still fairly warm, but, as night advanced, and
we climbed slowly but continually, the temperature dropped to a
point where every bit of bed-covering we possessed was put to use,
and we wished for more! The railroad supplies in these combina-
tion sleeping and day carriages only a canvas-covered mattress, so
the traveler must provide himself with what bedding he requires,
also with soap and towel. It is not advisable to wear good clothing
on this journey, as the red dust permeates everything, and all cloths
become red. Hard-textured clothing is preferable to that of soft
surface, as the dust can then more easily be brushed off. Long
before the sun rose the following morning we were awake, and on
the lookout for the game which, according to all accounts, we should
see in such abundance. At the first glimmer of daylight we could,
by straining our eyes, distinguish the indistinct forms of animals here
and there. Gradually the tropical dawn made things clear, and
to our intense satisfaction we found that the indistinct forms taking
shape proved to be Coke's hartebeest, zebra, impala and others of
the many wild beasts that inhabit this natural zoological park. Our
excitement knew no bounds as we caught sight of each new animal.
Here it would be a graceful gazelle, and there a grotesque wildebeest,
which would stand gazing at the passing train, and then with a shak-
ing of its long tail run away with a peculiar rocking canter so charac-
teristic of these strange buffalo-like antelopes. Hartebeest and
Grant's and Thomson's gazelles would scamper along, the perpetual
wagging of their tails, the strong black, white and yellow markings




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vv-^ita ." ; i*a': V& ' ' -c *fc\-

THE AUTHOR AND HIS MASAI GUIDE



JOURNEY THROUGH THE GAME COUNTRY 9
of their coats making them conspicuous even in the soft morning light.
With the rising of the sun all became more beautiful and infinitely
more wonderful, for now, as far as eye could reach, far off into the
distant purple haze, we could see countless herds of animals. The
word "countless" is used with due consideration of its meaning, for
that alone expresses the apparently limitless number which met our
surprised eyes. The stories we had heard did but faint justice
to actual facts, and for once in my life I saw far more than I had
expected. But one scarce dare tell the truth where conditions are
so extraordinary, and instinctively one tries to modify one's statements
hoping to be believed. The habit of exaggeration is so common
that one frequently finds oneself quite inadvertently adding little bits
here and there, either to make the story better, or because, as time
goes on, one's enthusiasm naturally makes events more wonderful
than they really were. It is for this reason that a carefully kept
diary is of so much value to any traveler, especially if he intends
writing. It serves as a potent, and very necessary, check on the too
vivid imagination, but here was a case where one's imagination
needed no home-made additions. A simple statement of the plain
facts was wonderful beyond the power of improvement. Our excite-
ment reached its highest pitch when we discovered a large giraffe
standing complacently, scarcely one hundred and fifty yards from
the snorting train. How different the huge creature looked in his
natural state from those we had seen in zoos or menageries! How
different the deep, rich coloring, and the dark, well-defined mark-
ings from the faded coat of the beast in captivity! This splendid
animal, towering above the small trees, after watching us for a few
seconds ambled away to what he considered a safe distance. What



io CAMERA ADVENTURES

an extraordinary gait neither trot nor gallop, but a combination
of both, described by some as "awkward." Surely some better
adjective could be used. Awkward it certainly is not; grotesque
possibly, but so absolutely suited to the peculiar structure of the
animal that one cannot imagine how it could travel in any other way.
Later on we saw more giraffe, and more and more of the commoner
animals. Frequently a herd of hartebeest, or some "Tommies,"
would dart across the track directly in front of the engine, or some
zebra would race with us. They looked like painted ponies with
their strongly defined black stripes, and were beautiful beyond words.
It is curious how they appeal to the new arrival, while, if you speak
to the settler of the zebra as being even worthy of notice, he smiles
sadly, and commences a torrent of abuse against what he considers
one of the worst pests of the country. They would like to see them
wiped off the face of the earth, and the handsome creatures are killed
in great numbers to be used as food for the native workmen, or even
for the dogs. And yet they can scarcely be said to be decreasing
except in very restricted areas. The cause for this common dislike
of the zebra is his objectionable habit of disregarding fences. A herd
will stampede, and ten or twenty panels of barbed wire fence are
down like a flash, and then, as likely as not, they will wheel round
and repeat the operation at another point. In places where fences
are measurable by miles, it is of the most importance that they should
be kept in a good state of repair. The destruction of a few panels
may mean immense damage to crops, and perhaps the loss of valuable
ostriches, hence the settlers' lack of love for the cantankerous, though
beautiful, zebra. So far no practical use for the animal has been
discovered. They are not easily tamed and, generally speaking, are



JOURNEY THROUGH THE GAME COUNTRY 11

extremely bad-tempered, so that they are most difficult to break or
handle, and it is almost certain that they are not worth the trouble,
owing to their lack of stamina. Contrary to popular opinion, they
are not very fast, and have no staying power, a short, and only fairly
fast run. After, they are done. Whether they will ever be success-
fully crossed with either horses or donkeys remains to be seen. The
idea that such a cross would produce an animal immune from
horse fever, alone justifies the experiments in this direction.

Our enthusiasm each time we came particularly near to a herd of
animals caused much amusement to a fellow-passenger who joined
us at one of the small stations. He was a professional hunter and
guide, and when we waxed eloquent over some hartebeest he smiled
broadly, venturing to remark that it would not be long before we
would be abusing these interfering nuisances as fervently as our
stock of abusive language would permit.

We stopped for breakfast at one of the stations, and I could not
help remarking upon the tidiness of the place. What a contrast to
the railroad stations sometimes seen in America, where slovenliness
and disorder, and even filth, are allowed to exist! Here, perhaps
in the midst of a desert, where, besides the native, only an occasional
white passenger may stop, where to grow anything means untiring
work in keeping the ground moist, one sees well-kept gardens, in
which geraniums, roses and other familiar flowers flourish. The
railroad platforms are as tidy as possible; here is never any disorder.
Well, indeed, might the example be followed in many places I know
of. Game was frequently seen within a few hundred yards of the
stations, and even on nearing Nairobi, a fair-sized town, and head-
quarters of the railroad and government, we noticed a double row



i2 CAMERA ADVENTURES

of fencing, which we heard later had been found necessary in order
to keep the great herds of game out of the town. This fence is often
broken by the animals, and it is no uncommon thing to see zebra or
hartebeest gallop through the streets.

We arrived at Nairobi shortly before noon to find the station packed
with people. Trouble with the so-called Mad Mullah had made it
necessary for the Government to send troops into Somaliland, and
the King's African Rifles were then entraining at Nairobi. Train
after train went out filled with these smart-looking Negro
soldiers, while the British officers, in fine spirits at the prospect
of active service, were busy saying good-bye to wives and
friends.

The outfitters, with whom I had arranged for my trip, met us at
the station, and, notwithstanding the surrounding confusion and
excitement, soon had our luggage off for the hotel. The street
through which we drove was crowded with as great a variety of people
as one would wish to see - Europeans, Indians, Goanese, each
more or less in national costume, while hundreds of natives, mostly
Masai, Wakamba and Wa-Kikuyu, gave the place its distinct African
appearance. It seemed somewhat queer to see almost naked people
in a modern town, and Nairobi is modern in every sense of the word,
being but ten years old, and having all modern improvements, such
as fine streets, stone buildings, electric light and water-works. It
will not be long, however, before great changes will take place so
far as the natives are concerned. Already they are being forbidden
to carry their decorative spears, and something is being done, I believe,
in the way of making them use more clothing. Even the number of
them that may come into the town is being greatly restricted, and




ATHI RIVER STATION. AN EXAMPLE OF THE WELL-KEPT STATIONS OF THE UGANDA RAILWAY




A HERD OF TAME OSTRICH. THIS PROMISES TO BE ONE OF THE SAFEST AND BEST-PAVING INDUSTRIES OF

THE EAST AFRICA PROTECTORATE



JOURNEY THROUGH THE GAME COUNTRY 13
when the plans for the new arrangement of Nairobi are effected the
native will no longer be seen lounging about the European part.
They will have their own section, to which they and the bazaars
will be relegated.

Ten minutes' drive brought us to our destination, and after our
experience with the hotel at Mombasa we were delighted to find
ourselves in the comfortable quarters which awaited us. As it was
Sunday we were unable to do anything toward outfitting, but early
the following morning we were up and at it, trying to settle on a plan
of campaign, which was no easy task. After much discussion we
decided to take advantage of the permit kindly granted to me by the
authorities to work on the reserve. This reserve comprises the
immense tract of land from the railroad to German East Africa, and
from Tsavo to Nairobi, covering in all about ten thousand square
miles. In this region no shooting is allowed, and, in fact, I believe
there is some talk of forbidding any one going on it with a rifle. Of
course a person may claim the right to shoot any animal in self-
defence, but there is danger that some, who are over-enthusiastic,
might cause animals such as the rhinoceros, for instance to
charge in order that they may have an excuse for shooting. Any
trophies, regardless of how they have been taken, are confiscated
by the Government, so it looks as if the reserve might serve its purpose
exceedingly well, and not be a reserve in name only. One cannot
help admiring the forethought which, profiting by the stupidity of
other nations in the past, has led to watching over the animal popula-
tion before it is too late, for there is no question as to the monetary
value of these animals, which bring in so many sportsmen from all
parts of the world. We may confidently expect that game of most



i 4 CAMERA ADVENTURES

kinds will be abundant in the greater part of East Africa for many
years to come. The rhinoceros will probably be the first to go, for
unless he overcomes his reckless aggressiveness, which so often
renders him annoying and even dangerous, he will be wiped out as a
public nuisance. Antelopes and gazelles of most species will, with
even moderately careful restrictions, last a long time. Lions, though
they appear to be on the increase, are bound to be greatly reduced,
judging from the persistent hunting of them during the past year.
The buffalo, which were nearly wiped out by the frightful ravages
of the rinderpest only a few years ago, are on the increase, and owing
to their apparently growing tendency to become entirely nocturnal
in their habits, bid fair to more than hold their own, unless some-
thing unexpected attacks them. At present they are by no means
as rare as some people imagine, but, considering their numbers, no
animal is so seldom seen, as they usually spend their days in places
which are practically inaccessible to the hunter. The lowland
buffalo (for one might almost divide them into two classes those
which live in the hills, and those which live in swamps) spend the
day in the thick papyrus, or other swamp growth, while those of the
upland go into the thickest forest, where they are practically
safe from any chance of being molested. In the great reserve may be
found most every one of the more important species of native game
except Grevy's zebra, and perhaps the roan and sable antelope.
Where we planned to go was about forty-five miles from Nairobi.
There we expected to find a fair assortment of game, including
numerous rhinoceros. We would not be allowed to shoot except in
case of extreme danger, but the trip was an easy one, and we should
learn enough about the methods of handling the outfit, both human



JOURNEY THROUGH THE GAME COUNTRY 15
and photographic, to place us in better position for the three months'
trip which was to follow.

Accordingly we made up a small "safari" of twenty porters, head-
man, cook, camera bearer, our two boys, and a Masai guide. With
this little outfit and provisions for two weeks we left Nairobi on Feb-
ruary 5th. The train took us as far as Kiu, where we arrived about
four o'clock. It was too late to make a start from the station to the
Olgerei River, which was about seventeen miles, or one day's march,
and where we should first find water.



CHAPTER II
OUR FIRST "SAFARI." EXCITING ADVENTURES WITH

RHINOCEROS

WE CAMPED not far from the station, and enjoyed our first night
under canvas in tropical East Africa. Never was any one more sur-
prised than we were at the conditions. We had imagined there would
be countless insect pests and suffocating heat, instead of which the
night was cool and refreshing as an early autumn night at home, and,
what seemed more surprising, there were no insects of any kind to
annoy us. We sat outside the tent watching the big clear moon, and
wondered at it all. Was this an exceptional night, or could we expect
such superb conditions to prevail throughout our trip ? We found
later on that hot nights were almost unknown, and insect pests so
rare that only during a very short period, toward the end of the rainy
season, did we have any trouble at all, and then it was but an occa-
sional mosquito that would buzz around in the evening, and cause us
to wonder whether he or rather she was carrying some malarial
germs for our special benefit.

We were very anxious to make an early start next morning, so as
to finish the march before the midday heat, but our headman proved
utterly useless, and had not the slightest idea of arranging the loads
for the men. It ended in our having to leave some loads at the station
to be sent for later, and we finally got off just before sunrise. Our
supply of meat, in the form of live sheep, proved most difficult to

16




PAIR OF RHINO DISTURBED DURING THEIR SLEEP. (TELEPHOTo)




PAIR OF RHINO MEDITATING A CHARGE. THE BIRDS ARE STILL ON THEIR BACKS AND ONE BIRD MAY BE
SEEN FLYING FROM ONE ANIMAL TO THE OTHER. A MOMENT LATKR THEY CAME FOR US. (TELEPHOTo)




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A RHINO GETTING READY FOR HIS NOONDAY SLEEP. ON HIS BACK MAY BE SEEN SEVERAL BIRDS



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A CHARGING RHINO










RHINOCEROS PHOTOGRAPHED AT A DISTANCE OF FIFTEEN YARDS WHEN ACTUALLY CHARGING THE

AUTHOR AND HIS COMPANION. AS SOON AS THE EXPOSURE WAS MADE A

WELL-PLACED SHOT TURNED THE CHARGING BEAST








THE UPPER PICTURE SHOWS RHINO WHEN THEY FIRST DISCOVERED US. THE BIRDS ARE STILL ON THE1P
BACKS. THE LOWER PICTURE IS OF ONE OF THE SAME PAIR IN THE ACT OF CHARGING US




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1ELEPHOTOGRAPH OF A HERD OF GRANT S GAZEI LE





HERD OF GRANT'S GAZELLE, THE THIRD ONE FROM THE RIGHT CARRYING WHAT is PROBABLY A RECORD

PAIR OF HORNS. KILIMANJARO, OVER EIGHTY MILES AWAY, CAN BE DIMLY
SEEN NEAR THE TOP OF THE PICTURE. (TELEPHOTO)



ADVENTURES WITH RHINOCEROS 17

manage. Their natural dislike for the cook, who tried to drive them,
was decidedly amusing, and the number of directions those three
sheep could travel at the same time was really wonderful. Our tall
Masai guide marched ahead with the long stride characteristic of his
race, and a finer or more picturesque figure would indeed have been
difficult to find. He was armed with the inevitable long spear, knob-
stick and knife, and dressed with a red blanket hung from one shoul-
der; on his head a close-fitting cap, made from the stomach lining of
some animal, a circlet of beads around his neck, and a delicate
beaded bracelet completing the simple and effective attire. At the
time I imagined the long, gleaming spear was purely for ornament, but
before our trip was finished I had reason to bless it; in fact, I am not
at all sure that I did not owe my life to this supposed ornament.

The rolling country through which we were traveling was covered
with sun-dried grass and scattered thorn trees. What lay beyond
we could not see for several hours, as the mist hung heavily over the
land and made the air cool and refreshing. As the sun rose, this mist
was gradually dissipated, and shortly after nine o'clock we could
distinguish the more distant country, endless low hills, some covered
with the characteristic flat-topped trees, others bare rock, or clothed
with yellow grass. Game we also saw, but it was not very abundant,
at first only occasional herds of hartebeest and impala. Later we
saw zebra, wart-hogs, ostrich, fringe-eared oryx, some Grant's and
Thomson's gazelles, and, to our great delight, a rhinoceros and a
giraffe. The rhinoceros was of especial interest, as he was the first
we had ever seen outside of a zoo, and how different it appeared in
its wild state! The huge, ungainly beast was several hundred yards
away, walking slowly along through the park-like scenery, and



i8 CAMERA ADVENTURES

paying not the slightest attention to us as we were down wind. The
giraffe, on the contrary, was most interested. For over two hours
it never let us out of its sight. Usually, only its head would be visible
as it peeped over the top of a hill. Then, as we would approach to
within perhaps six hundred yards, off it would go, to appear again
half a mile farther away. About noon we reached the Olgerei River,
and pitched our camp near a filthy water hole, for the river bed was
nothing but dry sand, and the water in the hole was polluted by the
immense numbers of Masai cattle, which drink there morning and
evening. The water we used was obtained by digging holes in the
sand, but what little filtration took place did not in the least reduce
the disgusting taste, which savoured only too strongly of barnyard
drainage. The signs of animals in the vicinity scarcely justified our
staying in this camp, so next morning we moved farther down the
dry river, where the guide assured us we should see all we wanted.
With hopeful hearts we marched ten miles to two more water holes,
and there made camp on a high, shady bank overlooking the river
bed. By digging very deep holes in the sand we were able to obtain
an ample supply of fairly clear but rather strongly flavored water.

During the afternoon we arranged two flashlight cameras near
one of the water holes. Early next morning we visited them, and
found they had been sprung by some nocturnal birds. This was the
beginning of a long period of flashlight trouble, and we finally gave
up all attempts at automatic flashlight near water holes, as it
invariably ended in disappointment, owing to the birds. No matter
how close to the water's surface we placed the trigger string, the birds
would manage to strike it as they hunted their insect prey. Imme-
diately after breakfast we started in search of animals to photograph.



ADVENTURES WITH RHINOCEROS 19

We had not gone more than a mile before we discovered three rhin-
oceros, which, unfortunately, were down wind of us, and about five
hundred yards away. That they had our wind was apparent, they
moved about in a very uneasy way. We made a large circle to get
below them, and then came up a slight rise to where they were.
Beyond the high grass there was scarcely any cover, and no trees to
which we could retreat in the event of trouble, so we were not par-
ticularly happy when we came on the three big brutes standing in
defensive, or, I might say, offensive, attitudes, sniffing the air, and
snorting in a petulant way that boded ill for us. Rhinoceros rely
almost entirely on the sense of smell, for their eyesight is lamentably
weak. Anything much over one hundred yards is practically beyond
their range of vision unless it moves, in which case it is doubtful
if they can make it out from a distance of more than two hundred
yards. Our three rhinoceros a bull, cow, and nearly full-grown
youngster suddenly decided to investigate us, and with an extra
loud grunt they rushed at considerable speed directly past, not
more than sixty yards from where we were standing in a somewhat
perturbed state of mind. I made an exposure which unfortunately
was aimed with great precision at an intervening bush. The sound
of the shutter brought all these animals up with a start. They
drew together, the youngster in the middle and the two on either
side, staring at each other in the most comical way. As they were
almost down wind of us, and in a condition of mind that would require
but little to cause them to charge, I decided, after carefully focussing
the camera, not to make the exposure, as the sound of the shutter
would unquestionably expose our position, and the inevitable charge
would have been impossible to escape unless we shot to kill, and



20 CAMERA ADVENTURES

that was what I wanted to avoid. So we stood absolutely still,
and after a few minutes the three creatures ran toward the spot
where we had come up the hill, while we took the other direction.
After they had gone some distance to windward, we turned and
followed, as the bull had left the others and was traveling alone.
For miles we kept on his tracks, and at length saw him taking his
bath in a muddy hole. While he was thus engaged we got within
two or three hundred yards before he continued his way. Finally,
I approached within less than one hundred yards and made several
exposures. Unfortunately, owing to the tall grass, I was unable to
get satisfactory photographs, as the animal was partly hidden.
While trying to get him to a clear place an eddying gust of wind
told him of my presence, and he went off at full speed. So ended
my first but by no means last experience with rhinoceros.

The following day we were out in good time, and after going a
few miles discovered two rhinoceros asleep under a tree. By some
careful stalking we had arrived within eighty yards, when the two,


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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 2 of 18)