- Historic Sites
The Great African Safari Bust
OR HOW THE BOY SCOUTS CAME TO AMERICA
April 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 3
Finally Boyce stopped answering the frantic queries from Chicago with hopeful promises. From Camp Number Seven at the south end of Victoria Nyanza he ordered the man in Chicago in charge of both papers to remove the name W. D. Boyce from the stationery, which then read simply “African Balloonograph Expedition,” and went on from there with a list of things that had gone wrong: FAILURE NO. . Balloon no good. … Lawrence … had to take gas from his balloon and put it into [another] to save it. Brought w hole outfit to Kijabe and hauled sulphuric acid and iron 80 miles into desert to first water. Then he informed me that the wind was too high to do anything with a captive balloon. Will send the whole outfit (balloon) and acid back from Aggett’s to Kijabe and realize whatever I can on acid for mining purposes. There is a limited amount of acid used at the south end of Victoria Nyanza lake. There is plenty of wind to put up his kites, but he has done that only once and his picture was not very good. … NO. 2 . You could not get any pictures of game from a balloon or kite if they did work all O.K. as he DID NOT BRING ANY TELEPHOTO LENS OR TELESCOPE WITH HIM . He says Eastman fell down on him at the last minute. … NO. 3. His big camera with six foot bellows that would photograph 100 to 500 yards is so heavy and long and takes so many porters to carry that you scare all the game out of the country trying to get near and all he has got is one zebra and its legs are cut off in the picture. … NO. 6. Ever since I met Lawrence and his party at Naples, Hughes and I have been coaxing, requesting, ordering prints but can never get them on time. … [Lawrence] uses up a good deal of time telling what he is going to do and then about the same amount of time explaining why he failed. … The flashlight experiment, including outfit, transportation, safari expenses and salary and expenses of Caywood, whom Lawrence, as you remember, insisted upon adding, amounts altogether to $4500. AND HAVE NOT ONE PICTURE YET .
The best picture they had was not from a balloon or taken by flash but was a posed portrait of two baby ostriches that the owner of an ostrich farm had brought over to the camp.
Boyce went on to tell the man in Chicago that if it hadn’t been for the worry over the business end of it, he would have been having the time of his life. The only trouble with the hunting was that the vast quantity of game made it almost impossible to be selective, particularly when there were only a few specimens that he needed to round out his collection.
There were frantic attempts to salvage something from the disaster. Boyce wrote to Chicago that he knew the schemes weren’t going to come to anything but that he didn’t stop them, because if he did, the others would always have it in mind that if they had only tried such and such, they would have gotten the sensational pictures after all.
They had high hopes for a game drive, which did result in the world’srecord Thomson’s gazelle that hung in our sun-room but hardly did anything to threaten the pre-eminence of William Randolph Hearst.