National Geographic : 1931 Jun
THE TRANS-ASIATIC EXPEDITION STARTS BY GEORGES-MARIE HAARDT Leader of the Expedition AUTHOR OF"THROUGH THE DESERTS AND JUNGLES OF AFRICA BY MOTOR," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE CROSS desert wastes and wind swept plateaus, over snow-clad Mountain passes, through strange lands where ancient civilizations flourished, and into vast, mysterious, teeming China such will be the route of the Citroen Trans Asiatic Expedition which left Beyrouth, Syria, early in April. After traversing the countries near the cradle of Christianity and those marked with the exploits of Alexander and Gen ghis Khan, we shall borrow in large part the itinerary which Marco Polo followed. With Syria, Iraq, and Persia already traversed, we shall now push through Af ghanistan by way of Herat and Kabul, and thence to Srinagar, capital of Kashmir. Our way will then lead northward to Gilgit, over high passes to Kashgar, and on to Peiping (Peking). Here we shall turn south to Saigon, in Indo-China. We shall make this crossing of the great continent in automobiles especially con structed to meet the unusual demands that will be put upon them. Long convinced of the feasibility of using automobiles for desert transporta tion, during the winter of 1922-23 I led an automobile caravan from Touggourt to Tombouctou to achieve the first motor crossing of the Sahara. A journey which formerly called for many weeks, and some times months, of arduous travel was ac complished with track-type machines in 20 days, and the camel was no longer lord of the desert. Numerous experimental trips followed until, in 1924-25, with the aid of my friend M. Audouin-Dubreuil, I organized another expedition to go by motor from Algeria to Madagascar, Dar-es Salaam, and Cape Town. This journey, which we called "The Black Crossing," was productive of impor tant scientific and pictorial results, and an account of it was published in the NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.* * See "Through the Deserts and Jungles of Africa by Motor," by Georges-Marie Haardt, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for June, 1926, and "The Conquest of the Sahara by the Automobile," January, 1924. The tests to which these travels on the Dark Continent put our cars were conclu sive, for with their track-type treads they overcame rough ground, desert sand dunes, and tropical marshes. Their suitability for such work was established. Our ap petites were whetted for broader fields to conquer. THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY COOPERATES With our African experiences behind us, Audouin-Dubreuil and I set out to per fect our present plans. M. Andre Citroen, whose never-failing interest in scientific exploration made possible by his spon sorship our previous expeditions, again placed at our command his expert staff of technical and construction engineers as well as very generous financial support. The Pathe - Natan Society contributed trained personnel and apparatus for the making of talking pictures, and also gave the expedition important financial assist ance. The French Government and various scientific organizations lent their encour agement, too; but interest in our project was not confined to the borders of France. I was especially proud and happy to re ceive the aid and cooperation of the Na tional Geographic Society. This splendid organization assigned to accompany us the Chief of its Foreign Staff, Dr. Maynard Owen Williams, who by means of radio dispatches will keep its far-flung connec tions throughout the world informed of our progress. It is a genuine pleasure to welcome Dr. Williams to our personnel. In the course of our journey we shall encounter every variation of temperature, from wintry blasts in the lofty Pamir to the sultry heat of an Indo-China summer; and nearly every kind of terrain, from tropical marshes and desert of sand and rock to high mountain passes. Because of these vagaries of climate and topography, it is necessary to have two complete sets of equipment-one for gen eral use and one especially designed for negotiating the difficulties attendant on crossing the high Pamir.