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Camels

Sketch of a camel

The camels imported for the expedition were not an absolute novelty to Melbournians. George Coppin, well-known actor and showman, had been displaying camels in his Cremorne Gardens pleasure-park. The expedition actually purchased ten of his beasts to supplement those brought from India by George Landells. One of these, a particularly troublesome animal, was later nicknamed 'Master Coppin' by Wills.

As the expedition's chief camel-wrangler, Landells enjoyed unusual authority, but quickly eroded his credibility by directions which his fellow explorers considered preposterous. Notably, the provision of pepper and twenty gallons of rum to be used as stimulants to revive the animals when they were tired.

The camels caused a great deal of trouble to their handlers. Ludwig Becker was lifted bodily off the ground by one which managed to get its teeth into the seat of his trousers. Even an experienced cameleer like Dost Mahomet was later permanently disabled when another camel similarly lifted and shook him. The explorers seem to have been unable to stop them from wandering at night, and on many mornings hours were wasted mustering them. Specially made camel shoes, to help the animals traverse stony ground, soon proved virtually impossible to fit.

Overall, however, the camels performed well. Burke took six camels on his dash to the Gulf of Carpentaria, but returned with only two, Rajah and Landa. Some had strayed, and the rest had been worked to exhaustion then shot and cut up for meat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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