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    Camel-train Navigation.
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2003 Nov 2, 17:35 +0000

    "Tanami", by Kieran Kelly.
    Those who enjoy unusual travel stories might enjoy "Tanami", by Nav-l
    contributor Kieran Kelly, just as much as I did. It describes the first
    crossing on foot of the Australian Tanami Desert, one of the Earth's more
    inhospitable places. Just two men, with a string of 5 camels to carry their
    pack (mostly cans of water), not for riding.
    The crossing, of about 800km, took Kieran and his camel-expert companion
    Andrew Harper from mid-July to mid-August 2002. The Tanami is almost
    entirely waterless and infested with a spiny undergrowth. It had been
    reached, but not crossed, in the 1850s, by explorers Gregory and, later,
    Stuart, both using horses. Stuart had got part-way across, but had to turn
    back, nearly losing his life and the lives of his party.
    The Tanami has since been crossed by motor vehicle, but never on foot.
    Kieran explains the extraordinary ability of a camel to do without water,
    which makes it the only animal to travel with in such conditions. Camels
    were introduced from Afghanistan in the 19th century, just for that purpose
    of desert load-carrying, and Andrew Harper organises camel-train
    expeditions for tourists to this day. It's rather surprising to find that
    the lashed wooden pack-harness remains identical to the Afghan design, and
    what's more, the commands, that the camels understand, are still the old
    Afghan words. Another surprise, to me, was that there were now estimated to
    be something like 700,000 wild camels in the Australian bush, so they have
    adapted with great success.
    Navigation wasn't a major problem for the expedition, as there was always a
    GPS receiver in the pack. Even so, it had its interest. Kelly would travel
    ahead, steering a course as one would a ship, using hills as marks when
    they existed, and steering a magnetic compass course when they didn't.
    Harper would follow a few yards back, leading the camel-string to pick the
    best path through the difficult scrub. Occasionally, sextant, chronometer,
    and artificial horizon would be brought out. For the initial part of the
    journey, the aim was to follow the magnetic courses that Stuart had
    recorded in 1860.
    Rather to my surprise, even modern GPS and modern mapping resulted in
    problems, in that several features recorded by the early explorers had
    become corrupted, with their names for certain hills transferred in error
    to other hills. Perhaps one shouldn't expect perfect maps in such a
    seldom-visited land.
    Kelly records the journey day by day, and each day turns out different from
    the last, even in such a desert, so his book becomes hard to put down. It's
    not one of those travel-books that give you a yen to go there when you read
    them, however. The Tanami Desert is now high on my list of Places Not To
    "Tanami" is published by Pan Macmillan Australia, in paperback, at Aus$30.
    Kelly's earlier book, "Hard Country, Hard Men- in the footsteps of
    Gregory", about exploring the Australian interior on horseback, was
    published in Australia by Hale & Iremonger.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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