than one Reason
more than one reason "six of one and half a dozen of the other" could
be the motto of the University of Bristol Expeditions Society Trans-Continental
expedition (1960-61), which will leave Bristol next week.
the material sense, the sixes and half-dozens of equipment, stores and personal
baggage are making a mountainous heap (surely too much for our two vehicles?),
and metaphorically speaking we often find ourselves tending to edge between alternative
explanations for the reasons of our project.
must not be taken as an indication of an apologetic attitude. The whole trouble
is that the expedition has almost as many reasons for its existenance as the individual
members have reasons for being with it.
observation? Adventure? Curiosity? Commercial inquiry? A little of everything.
about the reasons for our expedition generally follow certain definite paths.
They run something like this - Why? Where? Who? How? What? Or more fully, Why
are you going in the first place? Where do you hope to get to? Who is in the party?
How on earth did you manage to find the necessary money? (Once it was "How
do you expect to find the money?"!). What do you hope to achieve?
is a catechism with which we are becoming familiar, but it would be inaccurate
to say that we objected, since we ask nothing better than the chance to bore people
with our plans - I hesitate to imagine what we will be like on our return, when
we really have something to tell!
the organisation of a venture such as this has its own fascination if sometimes
a perverse one, and one can learn almost as much from the preliminaries as from
the journey itself. In particular, we have discovered a good deal about the way
things work in our own country, and this should be considered an essential before
venturing abroad, presumably to observe, compare and even criticise in the casual
way that travellers have.
are we going?" One of our advisers (at the Medical Research Council) said,
baldly, that the desire to make an expedition always came first, the reasons afterwards.
Curiosity mainly, I suppose. Informed curiosity, we hope.
spending three or more years herded into lecture rooms, or crouched, however unwillingly,
over text-books, it is natural to wish to see what these theories or hypotheses
mean in terms of the world itself. Our darker thoughts have often insinuated that
they are hardly related to life at all; this will be our chance to find out.
do we hope to get to?" central India and Bolivia. Why? Because these are
two very different tropical regions where earnest efforts are being made to increase
agricultural yields to help to stablise the national economy.
the time of departure gets nearer, the operative word becomes "tropical."
Many arms are sore from injections, and most hearts are a little tremulous at
the thought of an un-English animal and insectlife - in fact "scorpion,"
"snake," "spider" and such have almost become swearwords among
these two regions of study are on opposite sides of the world, in a manner of
speaking, thus the journeying between them takes us all the way round - overland
to India (driving our own vehicles and sleeping in tents), by boat to Peru (calling
at Singapore, Freemantle, Sydney and Wellington), into Bolivia, then up through
Central America, the west coast of the United States, across Canada and back home
over the Atlantic. The journey is 30,000 miles on land and another 16,000 over
water. It will take 14 months to complete.
is in the party?" The whole affair is sponsored by the University of Bristol
Expeditions Society. The team consist of six graduates - a geographer, an economist,
a doctor, a zoologist/photographer, a recording engineer/cameraman and a writer.
no one gets off as lightly as that; there is more than one job each. These work
out quite easily; the writer is P.R.O. the recording engineer is the mechanic,
the zooloist will drive off the snakes, the geographer looks after the routes,
the economist will look after the money and the doctor will look after us. Everyone
is his own housemaid; the cook has yet to be appointed.
think this is an unusually well balanced team, and should the lure of tropic nights
pale, there seems to be no limit to what we might teach each other. Indeed we
should learn more in the coming 14 months than in any number of university courses.
on earth did we manage to find the necessary money?" Well, of course, we
didn't. Much of the expedition is arranged in kind: We have received a great deal
of assistance in the way of equipment and stores.
some cases, test reports will be prepared showing the performance of the articles
under the extremely varied usages that will be encountered (such as sheepskin
jackets in the Persian desert or the ability of pens to write over 12,000 feet)
most of the goods we take with us are of standard type, so most of the gifts and
loans are prompted by generosity rather than commercial research. Without help
of this kind, it would not be possible to organise this type of expedition, or
indeed, any large-scale unorthodox undertaking - such as single-handed boat races
or long-distance marches.
of us who take advantage of this altruistic assistance can repay only by thinking
well and speaking well of the products and by continuing our patronage when the
commercial arrangement is one of purchase, not loan or gift!
many of the items need to be paid for in hard cash and we have received donations
of approximately £4,500, in addition to the money contributed by members
of the team.
in influential positions also have interested themselves on our behalf and greatly
to our advantage.
course, it sounds very simple when a recital is made of the successes, but there
were very many failures, perhaps a ratio of ten to one, and days when what had
once seemed reasonable expectation began to look more like hysterical optimism,
and the press cuttings describing our probable success gazed reproachfully down
at us from the walls of the office.
this, the first expedition from Bristol has not gone the same way as do many student
ventures; it is well founded and supported, for which we are indeed grateful,
and its success now depends upon our powers of organisation.
is a subject on which no one saw fit to instruct us at the university. It is made
more difficult by the attitude of those with whome one must deal. Undoubtedly
our transactions are sometimes a little tardy and hurried (in spite of 15 months
of preparations). In fact much of our negotiation is being conducted in a tearing
example, it was a very worried P.R.O. who flew to Rotterdam to plead with the
owners of the only ship could posssible link our land routes. The MV Willem
Ruys would cross the Indian and Pacific oceans at the right time and was reputedly
full. This 20th century desperate ride was fortunately successful.
there are times when no amount of brisk and businesslike negotiation can persuade
the cautious administrator to curtail his normal working methods, that is five
days' consideration before he will put his signature to a document.
too much time is spent locked out of some embassy due to a misunderstanding of
international situations, or seething frustratedly in an anteroom awaiting a great
man's pleasure. Time is our chief currency, to waste it is to be spendthrift;
to use it for one's own purposes almost becomes embezzlement.
do you hope to achieve?" Well, our friend at the Medical Research Council
also thought that to bring back one hitherto unrealised fact would make such a
hope to make up in concentration what we lack in experience. Thus we will spend
three months in n Indian village and five months in Bolivia.
main points of our observations will be the changing village economy in the fact
of the attempts to apply modern methods, how much success these plans are having,
and what is the effect on the traditional lives of the people.
hope to reproduce our observations accurately and vividly on film - cine, for
television and popular education, still photographs, for illustrations and lectures,
and film strips for use in schools.
Bolivia we are merely coming home. We have chosen to do this by road through the
Americans partly for our own interests and partly in order to fulfil our dual
function. We shall be abroad as representatives of our country and our city, and
are sure to be questioned about both.
we have designed our journey through the U.S. and Canada largely with the commercial
aspirations of Bristol and the West of England in mind. We shall be carrying letters
from the Lord Mayor to various municipalities en route, and shall visit as many
as possible of the 23 townships and cities in America and Canada called Bristol.
hope to find other things in common, not the name only, and I am sure we shall
do so. In the 20th century when we all live in each other's back gardens, people
like myself are often moved to philosophise on the duties of man. This I can spare
you since we all pay at least lip-service to the same ideals. Perhaps our journey
will show us how these ideals can be worked out.