Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent in the world and has the largest desert region in the southern hemisphere. More than a third of the continent is effectively desert; over two thirds of the continent is classified as arid or semi-arid with the ten recognised deserts comprising 18% of the mainland.
There are many plants and animals still to be discovered by science. It is estimated that three-quarters of Australia's biodiversity is yet to be identified and forty-five per cent of continental Australia has never been comprehensively surveyed by scientists.* Australian Desert Expeditions is facilitating to solve this problem by challenging the desert research status quo, initiating and conducting surveys in the most isolated desert regions that are inaccessible by conventional means.
Why do we use camels on our surveys?
Vehicle based surveys have their place and purpose for ecological field work but are severely limited in scope when it comes to exploring and documenting country (in that 18% of the mainland referred to above) between limited access points.
ADE founder Andrew Harper explains:
"Even in this day of 4WD travelling, the best way to see the deserts is to walk them. With the demise of the stockman and his horse, and the Aboriginal leaving of the Simpson and Western Deserts in the 1900s, very few people walk the remote desert any more for extended periods. Consequently, the stories the desert holds have been missed over the last few decades. The desert deserves to be approached gently, so its mood is revealed. The way people have always approached these (areas) was on foot, as we have done today. That reveals the country - the continuum of country."
Writer and journalist Nicolas Rothwell, who accompanied us on our inaugural 2007 expedition, also observed that:
"ADE is a small part of a revolutionary tide in thinking about the bush, and all inland Australia. The cameleering tradition has its place, as part of the Australian past, a threatened heritage: but there is another, more pragmatic reason for outback camel travel and this reason underlies ADE's march into empty country. It is simply this: scientific expeditions and surveys mounted by vehicle or helicopter move fast, and miss the context of what they see and find. The knowledge they gather is point by point and incomplete, whilst teams who walk on foot, with their equipment borne beside them, can reach deeper into country, and once there can proceed in slow, focused fashion, alert to all it holds."
* Source, Bushblitz 2010.
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