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Our History

Andrew Harper and camel

ADE founder Andrew Harper OAM explains how Australian Desert Expeditions was born:

"The winter of 2005 marked 10 years of my walking the Australian deserts, and in that year we were conducting commercial expeditions in the vast Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts of Western Australia.

Though always mindful of the great desert scientific expeditions of the 19th Century, it was during the

30-day Gibson Desert Expedition that I began to realise that our deserts were now more empty of human habitation than they had been since humans first arrived in Australia approximately 60,000 years ago.

And added to that, no one walked the remote desert anymore: I realised that our camel team was the last living link to true desert exploration. It was clear to me that if we were going to spend the considerable time, effort and resources to mount these expeditions, then we should be getting as much out of the endeavour as possible. We should be liaising fully with our First Nations people,

and taking the leading desert experts with us and studying, documenting and interpreting all that we see.

So Australian Desert Expeditions was born, initially trialling expeditions over a 3 year period - one in 2007 and 2008, then two expeditions in 2009. In 2010 and 2011 we conducted 7 surveys in each year, then in 2014 switched entirely to a full winter trekking season of scientific & ecological surveys.

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 anymore, let alone on major walking expeditions like these.

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 this landscape was on foot, as we continue to so today.

This reveals the country - the continuum of country."

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The inaugural Arid Rivers Expedition

Kallakoopah Creek, Simpson Desert

South Australia 2007

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 between limited access points.

Writer and journalist Nicolas Rothwell, who accompanied us on our inaugural 2007 Arid Rivers 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."