The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary: A paper read at the Evening Meeting of the Society on 1 June 1931, by LIEUT.-COLONEL J. H. STAFFORD, R.E., Senior British Commissioner

J. H. Stafford and C. L. Collenette

The Geographical Journal

Vol. 78, No. 2 (Aug., 1931), pp. 102-121 

Published By: The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

I SHALL deal with the actual demarcation of the boundary between British and Italian Somaliland; but before I start on this I would say a few words about the country itself. Somaliland lies to the south of the Gulf of Aden, in what is often known as the Horn of Africa. British Somaliland is bounded on the east by Italian Somaliland and on the south and west by Abyssinia and French Somaliland. It is with the eastern boundary that I shall deal with. The Somalis are said to be descended from inhabitants of Arabia who absorbed or drove out the previous Gala inhabitants. They are divided into several sections. The Darod, which consists of the Warsangeli, the Dolbahanta, and the Mijertein, inhabit this eastern side of Somaliland.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Commission, 1929-1930, Publisher Phipps, John Faviell, 1894-1964, army officer, Surveyor Stafford, John Howard, fl 1918-1966, army officer, Surveyor Taylor, Richard Harold Redvers, 1900-1975, army officer and artist, Surveyor – This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections. A full catalogue record for the item shown is available on the British Library website. See high-resolution version

From 1860 to 1884 the coast of Somaliland was in possession of the Khedive of Egypt. It was then evacuated and Berbera was taken over by the Aden garrison. In 1887 Protectorates were declared by England, France, and Italy over this part of Africa. In 1895 Muhammad ‘Abdullah, known later as the Mad Mullah, began to obtain influence in the east amongst the Dolbahanta. Operations against the Mullah were carried out from 1901 to 1904 without much success. In 1910 the interior was evacuated by us and only the ports were garrisoned. The Mullah’s influence spread westward to Burao. From 1913 the gradual reoccupation of the interior was commenced, and final operations in 1920 led to the dispersal of the Mullah’s followers. The Mullah himself died in Ogaden country in 1920.


Somaliland in the region of the 49th meridian consists of a low plain stretching inland from the coast for a depth of 15 miles. Out of this plain rises steeply a line of hills reaching a height of 1800 meters. The general level then falls away gently southward, terminating, as far as we were concerned, in the Haud, where the height is approximately 600 meters.

Taking this in more detail, there is first the coastal plain from the sea to the Maritime Hills. Near the frontier this plain is only from 1 to 2 miles wide; water is scarce, and there is no grazing. Then the Inland Plain is reached again a flat plain about 10 to 15 miles wide. After rain, there is fair grazing for a short time and water can be found in many wells and water-holes. The general vegetation is scattered thorn scrub and the height is about 150 meters above sea-level.

The hills, known as the Al Hills on the British side and El Masked on the Italian side, rise steeply out of the Inland Plain. The ascent is by a series of steep pitches with intermediate ledges. The summit is about 1800 meters. There is a gap through the barrier of hills known as the Dagan or Karin Pass. This lies in Italian territory. The Italians have made a road down this pass leading to Banda Kasim and there is a well-defined camel-caravan track leading from the interior to the coast. Some 10 miles west of the boundary the ends mass of hills is broken up into several ridges divided by deep ravines. To traverse this from north to south is very difficult, and a distance of about 4 miles on the map may mean a journey of some nine hours. On the south side of the range, the hills descend less steeply but are broken up by innumerable watercourses with steep sides.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Motor road up the Sheikh Pass
The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Waterhole at Bukh Shanle near Las Anod
The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Subtense bar at Darken Ghenyo, 47° E./8° N.

At the Surud Ad, which is northwest of Erigavo, there is a sheer drop of 2000 feet on the north side. Within the area of the range, there are a good number of wells and water-holes, with good vegetation round them. Gum trees are found on the slopes of the hills. The Somali does not cultivate these trees, but certain areas belong to certain families, and the mature trees are tapped for the gum, which is exported in fairly large quantities.

South of the Al Hills the general level of the country descends to about 800 meters in the neighborhood of Buran. The whole surface is very stony and grazing is scarce. When the grass, which is only found in patches, has dried up, the camels live on the thorn trees. The Somalis have a habit of cutting the high branches and letting them fall to the ground to provide additional grazing for their stock. In consequence, the number of trees is continually being reduced and the final result will be a complete disappearance of all trees.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Looking east along the boundary line from the final point, Darken Ghenyo
The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Italian motor road at Tishe

South of Buran commences the Sorl Haud, a plateau about 1000 meters above sea-level, which slopes gently south for 100 miles till the valley of the Nogal is reached. The soil is red in color and there are belts of thick tall grass with scattered trees. The rest of the ground is bare. For a short period after rain, there is excellent grazing here, but it soon dries up. There is no water except what collects in ballehs just after rain, and this dries up rapidly. East of the frontier the plateau breaks up and descends to a lower level El Laghodeh is situated here. On the south the plateau ends in a steep escarpment, and scattered hills with riverbeds in between, leading to the Nogal Valley. These riverbeds, or tugs, are dry except during rain when they come down in flood. The tugs run out into the plain of the Nogal and spread out into deltas, where they cease. The general level of the Nogal is 500 meters, and its width close to the Boundary about 80 miles. It is a flat, featureless plain, in general open, but with scattered belts of trees. The soil is gypsum and any water found in the area is salty. After rain, a grass springs up and provides good grazing for short periods.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Sketch-map of British-Italian Somaliland boundary

South of the Nogal Valley is another plateau which appears to be a continuation of the Sorl; it is known as the Haud. The soil is red and there are frequent outcrops of limestone. The level is undulating and the high ground is covered with thick thorn bush about 10 to 15 feet high, the lower has belts of tall grass with scattered trees. This area again yields good grazing after rain, but there is no water except that occurs in rain pools. The general level is about 600 meters, sloping southwards.

Rain occurs in Somaliland at certain seasons of the year. Generally, the period from November to March is dry, though rains do fall in December and January. The wind during this period is northeast and the temperature is mild by day and cold inland at nights. In April and May occur the principal rains, the weather being hot and sultry before the rains occur. The rains are very local and at one place may be good and at another a few miles off none at all.

The wind in May and June turns to the southwest. Locally known as the Kharif, it blows at certain fixed periods during the day and night. At Burao it seems to start at 7 a.m. and blow till the afternoon. At the coast it blew from about midnight to midday. Inland at Las Anod it blew the whole time, but hardest from about 9 a.m. to sunset. It raises whatever dust there is, and Burao during this period lives in a dust cloud. Its strength was so strong at Las Anod that the two aeroplanes that came there in July could only just be kept on the ground weighted with all the stones we could tie on. It is hard work to walk against the wind and quite impossible to keep an instrument up or read it.

Fortunately in the Haud the strength of the wind was broken by the trees. The temperature at Berbera from May to October is very high, but up country not too bad. In October occurs the change again to the north-east wind.

There are no flowing streams in Somaliland. Water is found in wells and in pools in the riverbeds. Generally, the water is bad in quality and insufficient in quantity. In the north, there is a lot of sulphur in the water, and in the south salts. The best water we found was at Buran spring. For a person moving from one source of water to another, there is sufficient, but for the purposes of the Commission where we had to go in a certain direction and only move as required for the work, the supply of water was difficult. Crossing the Sorl, the Survey party had to send back for drinking water to Buran and in the Haud they had to get all their water from the neighborhood of Las Anod. When in the Nogal at Halin, we used to send 100 miles to Buran to fetch drinking water. Water was transported in 12 ½-gallon iron tanks, two full tanks being a camel load. We were told that they would not stand up to the battering as well as tanks made of copper, but we found them perfectly satisfactory.

The Somalis are a nomad race. There are villages on the coast at the ports, but none up country except where the Administration has settled down, such as Sheikh, Burao, and Erigavo. The Somalis move with their camels, sheep, and goats to whatever spot will give the best grazing. Usually, they live on camel milk, but when they can get it they eat rice, dates, and ghi. They are quite content with their flocks and generally do not wish to undertake any manual labor. The men of certain tribes do emigrate and are found in most parts of the world, but they all eventually find their way back to Somaliland and return to their karias and live the simple life again. Their main relaxation seems to be raiding the flocks of other tribes. The men all carry a spear or rifle, and in general look after the camels while the women look after the sheep and goats. Only the male camels are used for burden.

We collected the coolies we wanted through the District Commissioner. Before they understood what was required of them they were not much use, but after a few weeks they settled down and worked very well. We gave them no special clothing but a ration of 1 lb. rice, ½ lb. dates, and 2 ozs. ghi.

The Somali is not very good at cutting timber. The local tool is a gudimo, which might be described as a miniature axe-head on a long handle. It is all right for cutting small branches, but not good for large trees. We found that they were unable to use European cutting tools, but succeeded rather inefficiently with a cross-cut saw.

The Somali has no written language, and so his memory is good. He knows to the anna what pay is due to him. He likes to have his grumble, but given a fair hearing, he will accept the verdict cheerfully. Throughout the time we were there we had no trouble with our natives. There was the occasional broken head, but nothing in the nature of a strike. They are on the whole a clean race and make good personal servants.

The Somali burden camels take a load of about 160 lb. each side. The loads are tied onto the saddle with rope made from a local plant. The saddle is known as a Heriot and consists of several grass mats laid on the camel’s back. The whole thing appears to be most unsafe, but the loads usually remain in position. It is the exception for a box to be tied on right side up, so all boxes have to be packed carefully. The camel transport required had all to be hired. The arrangements for this were made for us by the District Commissioner. When the whole Commission was on the move we required about three hundred camels. The bulk of these were not retained but were discharged on the completion of the move. The Survey party, which was moving almost daily, had to keep all theirs; but Headquarters, which had the bulk of the stores, was not required to move so often.

The Somaliland Government have a few Morris trucks, almost entirely Chevrolets. Motor tracks have been made which are quite passable in dry weather, but are impassable in wet. The track is made by clearing away any vegetation and filling up holes. A main track runs from Berbera to Burao, reaching the plateau up the Sheikh Pass. This is a very well-graded road and was constructed, I believe, by Indian Pioneers at the time of one of the operations against the Mullah. It has been greatly improved but is still frequently blocked in wet weather by falls of rock.

From Burao a track runs down the Ain Valley to Badwein, where there is a fork. One branch turns north and, crossing the Der Valley, goes to Erigavo and thence on to Buran. The other carries on to Hudin and then turns through the Urgiyu Pass and down the Nogal Valley, where it splits, one branch going to Halin and the other to Bihen.

We had with us two Morris six-wheeler trucks, which were invaluable. We could get very nearly anywhere with them except in the really hilly districts. The Somali is not a good motor driver; he cannot understand the use of gears or how to change down. We did not like to risk our six-wheelers, and so these were always driven by a member of the Commission. We had with no a sergeant R.A.S.C., who kept them throughout in excellent order. At the end of the time each truck had developed a crack in the chassis at the same place which indicates a weak point there. The tracks supplied with the trucks are useful, but can only be put on by reversing onto them, so you must put them on before you get bogged. Crossing the Nogal in May 1930 we struck a very wet patch after rain, and despite our tracks, we got badly stuck. After some time one truck was persuaded to cross the worst patch backwards and then pulled the other one through. On another occasion, one truck was crossing a tug in flood and suddenly dropped into a hole and the whole engine went underwater. It was towed out backwards, but several days had to be spent in taking the engine to pieces and clearing the mud and water out of it.

The Government have wireless stations at Berbera, Burao, and Erigavo. Communications east of Burao and Erigavo are by runners who travel about 25 miles a day. We had our own runners who took the mail in weekly to the nearest center. Mail from England took the same time to get to us from Burao as it took to reach Burao from England.

Turn now to the actual work of the Commission. The Anglo-Italian Protocol of 1894 defined the Boundary in these words:

“The Boundary of the spheres of influence of Great Britain and of Italy in the regions of the Gulf of Aden shall be constituted by a line which starting from Gildessa and running towards the 8th degree of north latitude skirts the north-east frontier of the territories of the Girrhi, Bertiri and Rer Ali tribes.

On reaching the 8th degree of north latitude the line follows that parallel as far as its intersection with the 48th degree of longitude east of Greenwich. It then runs to the intersection of the 9th degree of north latitude with the 49th degree of longitude east of Greenwich and follows that meridian of longitude to the sea.”

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Somali native types. Photo C. Barrington Brown

In a subsequent agreement between the two Governments it was settled that although the village of Banda Ziada had been found to be west of the 49th meridian, it should remain in Italian territory.

It was not till 1929 that it was finally agreed between the two Governments to carry out the demarcation of this frontier. Previous to this, at the urgent request of the British Somaliland Government, a party was sent out to do a preliminary survey and ascertain, for British information only, where the frontier lay. Accordingly, Major Phipps, R.E., and Mr. Taylor, R.A., were sent out from England and landed at Berbera on 31 December 1928.  It so happened that H.E. the Governor was giving a fancy dress dance at Government House, Berbera, that night, and these two officers were taken off the boat, assisted into their dress clothes, and taken to it. As most of the Administration of Somaliland were present, it was an excellent opportunity to meet everyone, and I gather they spent a very enjoyable evening.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Road through country south of the Al Hills. Photo. R.A.F.

Major Phipps’s party, which became known as the Eastern Boundary Survey, went up to Erigavo by truck and then trekked from there to Buran. They were accompanied by an escort from the Somaliland Camel Corps.

Buran was known to be somewhere near the frontier and was selected as the starting-point. Having fixed Buran, they carried a triangulation northward to the coast, which was reached on 6 April 1929. By this time the Commission had been agreed on, and Major Phipps, realizing that he would not have time to continue his triangulation, decided to run a traverse south from Buran, checking it by astronomical observations at important places. By July 1929 he had reached the Nogal Valley, having worked past El Laghodeh to the corner at 49°/9° and thence to Bihen. Meanwhile, on the other side of the frontier the Italian Government also had a party of surveyors at work.

In May 1929 it had been settled that work should commence in September 1929. The British Section was to consist of myself as Senior Commission, Major Phipps and Mr. Taylor (already in Somaliland) as Assistant Commissioners; Major Horsley, D.S.O. (who is a D.C. in Somaliland), as Political Officer; Major Twigg, R.A.M.C., Medical Officer; Mr. Barrington Brown, Geologist; three military surveyors, one motor mechanic, and one wireless operator. Hearing that this Commission was to proceed to Somaliland, the Director of Kew arranged to send a Botanist, and Mr. C. L. Collenette was selected.

Up to the time of departure from England, the personnel of the Italian Section was not known, but when finally we met they were found to be: Cavaliere (later Commendatore) Cerulli, Senior Commissioner; Cavaliers Mosconi, Assistant Commissioner; Capitano Cabitto and Tenente Borra, Surveyors; and Dr. Failla, Medical Officer.

It had been proposed by the British Government that the actual mapping of the frontier should be done from the air, to which the Italian Government agreed. The Air Ministry had consented to supply the machines and personnel. The details of the work were left to be settled on the spot, but the actual plotting from the air photos was to be done by the Geographical Section at the War Office. There was already a detachment of R.A.F., with two machines, stationed at Burao. Aerodromes had been cleared and existed at Erigavo, Buran, Halin, Bihen, and Las Anod. The Italians were known to have aerodromes at Banda Kasim, El Laghodeh, and Geroweh.

I began work M London in the middle of June. As time was short, stores had to he dispatched direct to Berbera without inspection. The Colonial Office were anxious that I should go out to Somaliland as early as possible to get in touch with the Italians. Actually, I left England in the middle of July and was followed on August by the remainder of the Commission. I was able to meet at Aden the officers of the R.A.F., who were to assist us, and Flight-Lieut. Shaw crossed to Somaliland with me. On arrival in Somaliland Flight-Lieut. Shaw and I proceeded by truck to Hudin, where we met Major Phipps, who had trekked back from Bihen, to discuss the future work in the light of the experience gained during his preliminary survey.

Buran seemed the most suitable place to concentrate the Commission, as it had good water and the temperature would not be too high. It was thought that if work commenced about September 15 that we should be ready for the Air Survey Flight to start photography about December 1. We finally arranged for Major Phipps to come back with us to Burao, and instructions were sent to Mr. Taylor to take the personnel of the Boundary Survey and be at Buran by September 1. On return to Burao, a conference was held by the A/Governor, and an escort and escort officer from the S.C.C. were arranged for. Flight-Lieut. Shaw then returned to Aden by air, and we went on to Sheikh and so to Berbera by August 11. The rest of the Commission arrived at Berbera on August 12.

Berbera harbor is very silted up and all stores have to be unloaded into lighters, which even then can only get alongside the piers at high water. At this season (August) the Kharif wind is still blowing, and at Berbera starts during the night and blows till midday; so as high water was then in the morning, the stores had to remain in the lighters till the 14th when there was just enough water to get the lighters alongside in the evening. All the stores had been packed in bulk in England, and these had now all to be unpacked and repacked in suitable loads for camels. Meanwhile, we were still in ignorance of the whereabouts of the Italian Section, so our plans were communicated to the Governor of Italian Somaliland.

We were hampered by the non-arrival at Berbera of many stores, and ultimately Major Phipps and one N.C.O. were left at Berbera to collect the two Morris six-wheeler trucks when they arrived and bring them up to Buran. The remainder left Berbera on August 29 and, traveling up by trucks via Burao, reached Erigavo on August 31. Here we found our first batch of camel-loads which had only just arrived, and no camels to take them on. However, we off-loaded the trucks and reloaded with essentials, and the next day I went on to Buran, where already the Political Officer, Escort Officer, Mr. Taylor, and his party had arrived. At Erigavo we got a wire to say that the Senior Italian Commissioner was in Abyssinia and was due to leave there on August 23. The rest of the Commission arrived at Boon on September 4. Throughout the rest of September, camel loads arrived, and by the end of the month, the Commission was complete except for Major Phipps and the six-wheelers.

On September 30 contact with the Italian Section was obtained, when it was arranged for Cavaliers Cerulli to come to Buran on October 2. Major Phipps also arrived on this day and was able to be present at the conference that took place on the future working. It was arranged for the survey parties to meet on October 7 on the frontier at Heglih Gab, which is east of Buran: they were to fix a point on the boundary and then carry the line northwards to the coast. Meanwhile, the Senior Commissioners as a Political Section assembled at Banda Ziada and subsequently during November and December at El Laghodeh, Hudin, and finally at Buran. Evidence was taken from the natives about their country and grazing areas. After this Major Horsley left us to begin work on the Claims Commission, which was being formed as part of the Boundary Commission.

The survey parties assembled at Heglih Gab on October 7. Using the triangulation carried out by the Boundary survey, Major Phipps fixed a point on the 49th meridian. The Italian surveyors took astronomical observations and also fixed a point. The mean of these two positions was taken as the 49th meridian, and observations for azimuth carried out to obtain the direction of the meridian. Work on the actual demarcation commenced on October 21. It had been laid down that the boundary was to be marked by a series of pillars which were to be intervisible. It was decided not to build these of masonry but to put a concrete mark in the ground and erect a cairn of stones over this to a height of about 6 or 7 feet. These cairns were roughly 1 kilometer apart, and in places where the vegetation was thick enough to warrant it, a lane 6 meters wide was cleared of trees and bushes as well.

In this part of the boundary from Heglih Gab northwards it was arranged for the two survey parties to work together. The Italian surveyors were to mark the line of the boundary with temporary cairns at suitable intervals, while the British surveyors, using the previous triangulation, should fix points about 8 kilometers apart along the boundary. These were to act as control points for the air photography and also served as a check on the line. The coast was reached at the end of November and further astronomical observations taken. The effects of local attraction on the values obtained are dealt with in an appendix to this paper.

The actual limits of the Banda Ziada Enclave had not been settled, so the demarcation could not be completed at the coast. The survey parties started working back along the line on December 16, replacing the temporary marks by numbered concrete marks and erecting cairns. The next section from Heglih Gab to the corner at 49°/9° was across the Sorl Plateau and was waterless except after rains. Both missions had already made astronomical observations at 49°/9° during the preliminary survey, and it was decided that as triangulation on this flat area was not justified, the work should be divided. The British were to start at Heglih Gab and work south, and the Italians were to take the mean value at 49°/9° and work north. It was hoped to meet in the latitude of El Laghodeh, where both sides had subsidiary astronomical points though not at the same place. The British party were able to complete the work, as they progressed, of numbering and erecting the cairns, but the Italians had to leave theirs to be completed later, so as to keep the numbers consecutive. Control points were made as before, about 8 kilometers apart.

For the first 24 kilometers south of Heglih Gab the country is hilly, and progress was good as there was little cutting to do. The weather was cloudy and observations could be continued till about 11 a.m. The line then reached the Sorl Plateau. Here observations, owing to mirage, were impossible after 7.30 a.m., and could not be resumed till after 5 p.m. The wood of the thorn trees is very hard and axes made little impression. After reaching the Sorl, one six-wheeler truck remained with the survey party to collect stones for building the cairns, as there were frequent patches where no stones were to be found close to the line.

The British party met the Italians on the 18th, and then moved to Halin to refit on February 28. It had been hoped that the Headquarters camp could keep in close proximity to the survey parties, but owing to the lack of water and the difficulty of keeping sufficient camels in an area of little grazing, this was found to be impossible. A move was made to Hormo; but when the surveyors had reached the Al Hills going north, the camp moved back to Buran, where there was good grazing and where the R.A.F. were due to establish their camp.

On January 20 Mr. Collenette, the Botanist, had suddenly gone down with blackwater fever. Thanks to careful nursing by Major Twigg, our Medical Officer, he recovered and was sent by air to Berbera on February 10.

Headquarters remained at Buran till February 12, when a move was made to Halin, the camels going straight across the Sorl and the trucks round by Erigavo and Hudin. The parties reached Halin within a few hours of each other. The trucks could have gone across the Sorl except for the descent on the southern edge, and with a little work this would be quite feasible.

The survey parties arranged to meet at Bihen to fix a point on the boundary there. The mean of the British and Italian values was accepted and a point marked on the ground. The arrangements were for the British to do from 49°/9° to Bihen and the Italians from Bihen to 48°/8°. Both parties to meet again at 48°/8°, which had not yet been fixed astronomically by the British Section. The British party left Halin on March 17 for 49°/9°, and on arrival started to work southwest towards Bihen. The first part was over hilly ground descending from the level of the Sorl Plateau. Then the plain of the Nogal was reached. As there was no stone in parts of this area a party was sent out from Headquarters with the two trucks to complete the cairns after the surveyors had passed. The British party joined the Italian work at Bihen on April 17 and then moved on (along the Italian work) to 48°/8°, making a sketch-map as they went. Unfortunately, air photography does not do everything for the surveyor. It cannot photograph the names of places, so a ground survey is still required to supplement the air photographs.

The Italian party had struck a difficult patch of country in their section. This was thick thorn-bush and very difficult to penetrate. To add to their troubles one survey officer was sick, and this left the other officer alone. The Italians reached 48°/8° on May 2, and the corner was fixed by May 8. Headquarters moved from Halin to Las Anod at the beginning of May. Las Anod was quite green when we arrived, but by June this had all dried up and returned to the normal dry, dusty appearance of Somaliland.

The survey parties now entered on the most difficult section of the line. The country near the line consisted of thick thorn-scrub about 10 feet high. The branches were much interlaced and the only tracks go north and south, so they had to cut their way along. Major Phipps left the Italians at 48°/8° to start working west and moved to a point which he hoped would bring him halfway to 47°/8°. Actually, the first point he took was considerably nearer 48°/8°, but as the second Italian officer had not yet returned, this was all to the good. A lane 6 meters wide was cut through the bush and pillars erected at the usual interval. It is hoped that the lane will last many years, as the growth of bushes and trees is very slow. Arrangements can easily be made to keep it clear. This lane shows up very clearly on the air photos. The British arrived in the vicinity of 47°/8° on July 6. The Italians arrived on July 11, but the final point 47°/8° was not settled till July 20.

The Air Survey Flight reached Buran at the beginning of December. Flight-Lieut. Shaw went to Banda Kasim and met the Italian Air Survey officers. It was then decided that each section should carry out the photography independently as, owing to the cameras being different and various other causes, it was not possible to divide the work. As the boundary was undefined on the ground it was not possible for the flight to take photographs and for the surveyors to fix subsequently points which could be identified on the ground. The flight had to rely on marks made on the ground to guide them in taking the photographs.

It was arranged to make these marks 4 or 5 miles apart, and to fix them so that they would act as control points for the subsequent plotting of the map. The width of ground to be photographed was about 5 miles, and this could be covered by three strips of photographs taken from a height of 12,000 to 15,000 feet. These marks were made in the shape of straight-sided letters and signs such as L, Y, ←, +, the actual point being the junction of the arms. The arms were normally 100 feet long for marks with two arms and 75 feet for three- or four-armed marks. To start with, the width of each arm was 6 feet, but this was later increased to 12 feet, which greatly improved their visibility. In the northern area, where stones were more common than bushes, and water was available, the marks were made of stones laid in the design and whitewashed. On the Sorl Haud and southward a clearing was made and the outline of the mark was constructed of bushes. If water was available the inside of the zariba was whitewashed. In two cases near the coast the mark was made by cutting a trench of the required shape in firm sand. In one case this showed up well, but in the other was barely visible, and this type was not used again.

These marks were accurately fixed along the boundary by ground survey (subtense traverse controlled by triangulation and astronomical observations). The heights of the marks and intermediate pillars of the traverse were found by theodolite and, in addition, the height of any other points which were likely to be recognizable in the photographs were taken whenever possible. The height control thus provided proved to be the very minimum that was necessary and should be increased. The flight commenced work near the end of December. They had difficulty in taking the part over the Al Hills, which was frequently covered in cloud. Having finished down to 49°/9° by February the flight moved to Halin and took the section from 49°/9° to 48°/8°, completing by May 10, which was the date the surveyors finished there.

The flight then returned to Aden, and it was arranged for Flight-Lieut. Shaw to return again with two machines to complete the last section from 48°/8° to 47°/8° as soon as this was ready. He came over in July, but there was a considerable amount of cloud over the Haud when he arrived, and the Kharif was so strong that it was not safe to leave the planes out in the open. He, therefore, returned to Aden and came back at the end of October, after we had left the boundary. The photographs were developed in Somaliland, and copies of them sent home to England. The actual plotting of the map from the air photographs is being done at the War Office by the Geographical Section, employing the Arundel method.

The equipment taken out by the Commission needs no particular comment. Major Phipps’s party were equipped with English pattern green canvas double-fly tents, which did not stand up to the Kharif wind and had to be replaced by the Indian pattern Swiss Cottage tents that I had obtained for the rest of the Commission.

Having completed the actual demarcation of the frontier Major Phipps spent a further two months in the Nogal surveying for the map to illustrate tribal grazing areas. The Medical Officer and some of the N.C.O.s left for England at the end of August 1930. The rest of the Commission was ready to return to England at the beginning of November, but actually, we proceeded by boat on November 3 back to Banda Ziada to have a final talk with the Italian Commission about the Enclave, prepared if an agreement was reached to demarcate that part which had not been done. We did not arrive at a solution, and so proceeded direct from Banda Ziada to Aden, where we were lucky enough to catch the P. & O. mail steamer, which was already in Aden harbor when we arrived. We caused some excitement by boarding the P. & O. still dressed in our normal dress of bush shirts and shorts.

Our relations with the Italian Mission were throughout very friendly. It was a great pleasure to work with them and we always met with great hospitality at any of their stations along the frontier. It has also been a great pleasure to welcome them here in England to finish off the work. Finally, I should like to thank everyone in Somaliland for their assistance and kindness to us. We received every help throughout our time in the country, and anything that we wanted was supplied to us.

Note on the spelling of names by the Ed. G.J.

The names on the map and in the paper have been spelled according to the decisions of the P.C.G.N., made on the authority of the Somaliland Government. The authors protest that some of these names are inconsistent with the results of their own studies on the ground, and would like us to adopt their alternative spellings. This we have been unable to do, being bound to follow P.C.G.N. decisions except for grave cause. The proper course seems to be to follow the P.C.G.N. lists in map and paper but to submit in this Appendix the author’s proposals for the favorable consideration of the Somaliland Government.

P.C.G.N. Boundary Commission.
Sorl Haud Sol Haud[1]
El Laghodeh El La-Ghodei
Geroweh Garowe
Heglih Gab Higle-Gab
El Maskad Al Mascad
Surud Ad Surad
Erigavo Erigabo
Badwein Ba’ad Wen
Urgiyu Urgiya
Taleh Tale
Hamud Hamur
Dodih Doddi
Bukh Shenleh Bukh Shanle
Barmodobeyeh Bar-madobe


Triangulation was employed in three areas: (a) between Buran and the sea; (b) between Barmadobeyeh (near 9°/49°) and Hamud; and (c) between Taleh and Damer.

In area (a) there were two bases: (1) in the Buran Valley, measured on surface of the ground by steel tape; surface very good; length 1325 meters; difference between two measurements= 1/28,400. (2) On the coast east of Elayu, measured on firm smooth sand by steel tape; length 888 meters; difference between two measurements = 1/15,700.

The maximum triangular error was less than 20″, and the difference in length of side T20-T22 obtained from the two bases =0.6 meter or 1/22,800. Marks were cement blocks or crosses cut on large stones.

In area (b) was one base near 9°/49°, and very rough single-handed triangulation, no permanent marks or beacons. The main object was to fix the comer at 9°/49° from the astronomical point at Barmadobeyeh.

In area (c) was one base near Biyo Gudud, measured on surface of the ground by steel tape; surface very good; length = 4472, feet; difference between two measurements =1/31,719. Triangular error: maximum 14″, average 9”; permanent cement marks and stone cairn beacons.

At the beginning only one theodolite was available; the second did not arrive till March 19. The country was very broken up, which often necessitated long detours to reach the required hill which in turn was often very difficult to recognize as the same one which had been seen from a distance. Mirage and haze were extremely bad except at dawn and dusk. The visibility from about 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. was usually excellent, but on several occasions, there was a thick mist over the hill-tops in the morning and rain in the evening. Since we had to observe at dawn and dusk the bulk of the trekking to and from trig. stations had to be done in the dark, and this added considerably both to the time and fatigue of the treks, owing to the nature of the going, which was always over loose stones and rocks. Later on the Kharif wind made it almost impossible to observe, but was not such a handicap as it might have been, for the only calm time during the day coincided with the time one could see through the telescope. When we tried to plane-table after the mirage got too bad to observe, the wind was often so strong that the whole plane-table was blown away and compass bearings had to be taken lying down.

No timber was available for beacons, and the Somalis are experts at removing anything in the nature of iron or cloth. Stealing lengths of the telephone wire and golf-club flags are quite popular sports, and even the metal tracks of the six-wheelers are coveted. Stone cairns had therefore to be made for beacons. They were not only very difficult to pick up, and extremely poor marks to aim at, but nearly every hill had at least one cairn on it already. An attempt was made to improve these beacons by whitewashing them, but this was not a success, as the sun shone on one side of them, and it was difficult to tell where the center of the cairn really was.

The projection used was Lambert’s Conical Orthomorphic, with origin at 10° N., 49° E., and calculated with Clarke’s figure of 1880. The metric units were used.

Astronomical observations were made at about twenty places by the British party: Latitudes by the circum-meridian method (four settings on each star). The average P.E. obtained was ±0.56”. Longitudes by altitude of E. and W. stars near the Prime Vertical (four settings to each star), the times recorded by a tape chronograph. The average time taken for the four settings on one star was about three minutes, and the average P.E. obtained was 0.33″. Azimuths by the Hour Angle of E. and W. stars near the Prime Vertical (two settings on R.O. and two on each star for each set). The average P.E. obtained was ±0.2″.

Normally six pairs of stars were observed for each determination of latitude, longitude, or azimuth, but at important points such as the Tri-junction Point at 8°/47° as many as twelve pairs were observed. Greenwich Time was obtained by the wireless time signals from Bordeaux and Rugby.

Local Attraction.—Six points were fixed astronomically between Buran and the sea, and the presence of considerable local attraction seems to be proved by the comparison between the astronomical values and the trig. values based on BP 15 Heglih Gab: mean of Italian and British values: 10° 21′ 06.10” N., 49° 00′ 00″ E.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary DemarcationA1 is not a very reliable point.

W/T Time Signals.—The Rhythmic Time Signals sent by Bordeaux and Rugby were used throughout, and the corrections issued by the B.I.H. were applied later as they were received. The delay which occurs before these corrections are received made it necessary to accept longitudes before the corrections were applied. As the accepted longitude was usually the mean of the British and Italian values the error due to correction was not of great importance, and, when the correction was finally applied to the British value, usually came closer to the accepted mean.

The method adopted for taking the time signals was that used by Major Phipps in West Africa. The main principle was that the observer did no counting, but merely booked the times of the long beats and coincidences. The number of beat intervals between the first beat and two coincidences was computed in one’s head by a very simple fool-proof formula. Similarly, the number of beat intervals between the other two coincidences and this last beat was also computed. The value in seconds of any number of beat intervals was obtained from a simple homemade table. Consequently one had two values for the error of the chronometer, at the first beat and at the last. The mean of these two values was taken as the error at the middle of the signal. A full description of the method employed is given in the new edition of Field Astronomy published by the S.M.E., Chatham. It is extremely simple and quick to use and it has been found from experience that a novice has no difficulty in using it. It is very similar to the method employed by the R.G.S., but differs slightly in that the formula has been specially designed to avoid complications due to faulty estimation of the beginning of the signal, and variation in the position of the minute in which there is no coincidence.

Since no counting of seconds or beats is done, the observer has very little to do while taking the signal and can concentrate on the times of the coincidences. Here, again, is another advantage, for when counting one must decide instantaneously on the coincidence in order to change over from counting beats to seconds. This is far from easy, as the coincidence appears to last over five or six seconds. In the method employed in Somaliland, one can book the beginning and end of the coincidence and take the mean at leisure afterwards. Moreover, this helps to prevent one anticipating when the coincidence will occur, for one does not realize at the time which the actual second was at the last coincidence.

As regards the actual recording of the signal an attempt was made to reproduce the beats on the chronograph. This method has been used elsewhere, I believe, but proved most unsatisfactory in Somaliland. It is, of course, the obvious way of recording a signal at an observatory, but in the field unless accumulators are carried to work a power valve one cannot make the W/T receiver record the beats on the chronograph through a relay. Any attempt to reproduce the beats by a telegraph key were defeated by the currents in the key circuit interfering with the W/T set, so that although one might appear to be pressing the key in perfect time with the beats it was really the W/T set repeating one’s own key beats. The comparison of the coincidences was therefore made by ear, and the chronometer microphone was connected to the headphone terminals of the W/T set so that the beats of the chronometer and the W/T beats were heard in both ears.

The Marconi R.P.II W/T receiver was most satisfactory. A phasing unit to cut out interference was also taken out, but was never used, as the signals were always received so loud, using only the frame aerial, that it was often necessary to cut down their strength to hear the chronometer beats.

On two occasions leads became unsoldered inside the set, but otherwise hardly any trouble at all was experienced. The set is scarcely suitable for camel transport unless packed in a substantial wooden case with plenty of padding to counteract jars when loading and unloading. The H.T. batteries are unnecessarily large and heavy. They did not last any longer than Hellesen ones about a quarter the size, which were employed in West Africa, a much worse climate for batteries. The Siemens inert dry cells did extraordinarily well. When new they would supply the filament current of the W/T set for about three months; they were then employed for a further two or three months to work the chronograph and microphone circuits.

Although the Marconi W/T receiver is an excellent instrument and most reliable, the set used in the Gold Coast was equally satisfactory and cost about one-fifth of the money. It could be carried by one man, complete with all accessories and spares for nine months. The Marconi set is a full camel load without spares, and would take at least three men to carry it.

The Mercer Sidereal Time chronometer gave no trouble at all. It was carried by hand normally, but occasionally in a six-wheeler. It was fitted with a device for stopping it during transit. This device locks the balance wheel and so renders the long hairspring, necessary for a one-second beat, less liable to damage. The one-second beat is not really a great advantage over a half-second beat, for the half-second chronometer can easily be made to mark whole seconds only on the chronograph. If anything goes wrong with the microphone circuit it is much easier to observe the time signal by the eye-and-ear method if the chronometer beats half seconds than if it beats whole seconds only. Either a half or a whole second beat is essential for taking the Rhythmic Signals. A half chronometer or watch is useless.

The rate was very steady over twenty-four hours at any particular place, but there was a distinct tendency noticeable for it to be higher during the night than during the day. The rate also became greater after crossing the Al Hills and descending to the sea. This increase was maintained on recrossing the Al Hills.

The Mercer tape-type chronograph was a great success. With reasonable care to see that the pens were adjusted level with each other, and kept clean and filled with ink, no trouble whatever was experienced. The machine was stopped while changing face on the theodolite; this saved a considerable length of tape and reduced the time spent in filling and winding the machine.

Theodolites.-The Watts M.M. Theodolite (Tavistock Model) has already been the subject of a paper at the R.G.S.; a few notes of its performance in the field may however be of interest. The Somali will not carry anything if he can help it, and is quite incapable of carrying anything at all heavy. This small instrument was therefore invaluable in Somaliland for triangulation and the traverse along the boundary.

For astronomical work it was not a success. The bubble is nothing like sufficiently sensitive to produce any reliable results. It is absurd to read the elevation of a star to 1″ and have a bubble which only reads 17″. Although one can set the micrometer so that one repeatedly gets the same reading within 2″ or 3″, the telescope is not sufficiently good to lay on the same point with anything like this accuracy. The prisms for illuminating the circles are fitted in such a way that it is often impossible to get any light on the circle, when one has to observe at dawn or sunset, as in Somaliland.

Although the theodolite was used throughout the two years, for most of the time the readings on the vertical circle were extremely awkward owing to some displacement of the indicator marks. Unless one was used to this defect one was almost certain to get the reading or minutes wrong. Dirt or fungus practically obliterated the seconds scale on one face. The electric lighting equipment, although quite good in its way, was nothing like as satisfactory as an ordinary flash-lamp torch and is not worth its cost. The switch and resistance should be on the theodolite to be of any use, not in the battery box. One of the best things about the instrument is that one can use it in the day-time without removing one’s helmet, owing to the length of the micrometer eyepiece.

The Cooke, Troughton and Simms 5-inch Theodolite was a standard instrument except that it was packed in one box instead of two, which was a mistake for Somaliland. In West Africa it was a light load for one man and much easier to carry in one box. In Somaliland it would have been more useful in two boxes, as the Somalis could not carry it more than a short distance. It was therefore necessary to carry it on a camel in its tin-lined packing-case to the foot of a hill, and then unpack it and carry it by hand to the top. It was used for most of the astronomical work and also for trig. stations near the camp.

The Cooke, Troughton and Simms 8-inch Theodolite is a beautiful instrument, but too heavy and bulky for general use in Somaliland. It was used four or five times for astronomical work, but then something went wrong with the bubble, possibly some distortion in the glass, and this caused so much waste of time that it was decided not to use it again.

The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
The Al Hills. Photo. R.A.F.
The Anglo-Italian Somaliland Boundary Demarcation
Halin: ground marks laid out for control of air photographs. Photo. R.A.F.

Paulin Altimeters.—Two of these were received when the Preliminary Survey Party were by the sea at Elayu. The daily wave charts were made out there and on several occasions later on. When these instruments were read carefully at least every half-hour and all the corrections applied, the heights obtained agreed extraordinarily well with those obtained by triangulation, especially if afternoon trekking could be avoided. A closing error of 30 to 40 feet is about the worst that can be expected over a three-or four-day march. Using two Paulin altimeters on different routes and taking the mean, the closing error on theodolite heights was only about 4 feet, over about 70 to 80 miles. As an example of the consistency of intermediate readings the two altimeters on one trek of 24 miles were read at several common stations and the heights obtained for these stations by each altimeter agreed within 1 foot in every case. Three smaller Paulin altimeters were received later.

The safety of these instruments depends entirely on a press clip. If this comes undone, the inner part of the leather case and the instrument fall out. If the inner part of the case is sewn to the outer this cannot happen.

The larger (4 ½ -inch dial) altimeters are much more reliable than the small (3-inch)size. One of each fell as described above. The 4 ½-inch fell from a galloping horse, but not even the glass broke, and after readjustment, it gave results agreeing to 1 foot with those of the undamaged one. The smaller instrument was however hopelessly damaged, although it only fell about 2 feet. Parts of both the other small ones broke without any ill-treatment.

Air Survey.—The R.A.F. detachment, lent from Aden for the Air Survey, consisted of 3 officers and about 18 N.C.O.s and men, with 2 aeroplanes, 3 six-wheelers, electric light plant, and a complete developing and printing outfit. This detachment took vertical photographs of a strip of country 5 miles wide along the entire length of the boundary, and in addition, a large number of photographs were taken to assist in making a small-scale map of the grazing areas.

The control marks were accurately fixed along the boundary by ground survey (subtense traverse controlled by triangulation and astronomical observations) and provided the necessary ground control for plotting the map from the photographs. The heights of the marks and intermediate pillars of the traverse were found by theodolite, and, in addition, those of any other points which were likely to be recognizable in the photographs were also found whenever possible. The height control thus provided proved to be the very minimum that was necessary, and should be increased if possible in future work of this sort. It was afterwards found by experience that even if the pilot could have found his way along the boundary without the artificial marks, it was extremely difficult, in a country like Somaliland, to identify exactly a point on the ground from a photograph. The identification on the photographs of a known point on the ground was not easy, but nothing like so difficult.

The R.A.F. detachment arrived at Buran and were ready to start work at the beginning of December 1929. Unfortunately, the demarcation of the boundary was a month late in starting, with the result that the marks in the first sector were not quite ready for photography, and throughout the work the R.A.F. were too close on the heels of the ground survey for comfort. In fact, if the detachment had not returned to Aden for the Kharif they would have had to wait several weeks before they could have commenced the photography of the last section. As it turned out, clouds and the Kharif wind prevented the photography being done till some two months after the demarcation was completed, although an attempt was made to do it as soon as the marks were ready.

The camera employed had a focal length of 7 inches, and each photograph covered a square of about 4000 yards side, when the camera was about 12,000 feet above the ground. Consequently, in order to cover the 5-mile strip of country it was necessary to make three photographic runs. The center run was made first, and then one on either side. Normally about 15 miles of the boundary was photographed in one flight, but the standard film of one hundred exposures was capable of dealing with twice this distance if necessary, allowing fora 60 percent forward and 25 percent lateral overlap.

The camera was calibrated at Buran and Halin at the commencement of work at these aerodromes. This calibration should have been carried out more often, but owing to various circumstances this was impossible. The method employed was to take two identical horizontal photographs on the ground, one with the instrument panel of the camera upwards and one with it at the side of the camera. A theodolite was then erected in exactly the same position as that previously occupied by the lens of the camera, and the angles subtended at the theodolite by five marks, which appeared in the photographs, were observed. From these angles, it is possible to calculate the position of the Principal Point.

Developing and printing was carried out in the field as soon as possible after the photographs were taken. An experiment made at Berbera, in which the photographs were taken above the town and then flown over to Aden for developing, proved that the film was completely ruined by the time it was developed. It was therefore essential for the R.A.F. detachment to work from landing grounds where a really good water supply was available. Buran, Halin, and Las Anod were chosen and samples of the water at these places were sent to Aden for analysis as to whether the water were suitable chemically. The water was always inclined to be too warm for good work, but this does not seem to have caused any serious trouble.

The photographs of the last section of the boundary were only developed in the field and were afterwards printed at Aden. This saved the necessity for an electric light plant. Normally a rough set of prints was available the following morning, and the last few photos of each strip were fitted together as a mosaic and taken up by the observer on the next flight to serve as a map of the starting-point. Two fair copies of prints were made later, one being sent to the ground survey party for annotation and the other direct to England for the use of the Geographical Section at the War Office who constructed the map from them.

Notes for Future Air Survey of a Boundary Line

A great deal of delay and complication can be saved if both nations send out a small survey party, well in advance of the rest of the Commission. (Two officers, a W/T set, and 5-inch theodolite.) The two parties can work along the boundary, fixing astronomical points at about 50-mile intervals or at corners, and agreeing on the position of the boundary at these points. Between astronomical points four separate time and compass traverses can be run without any serious delay. From the information thus obtained a very useful sketch-map may be constructed for the use of the Commission, and at the same time a thorough reconnaissance of the boundary has been made.

One can then decide with reasonable certainty how long the demarcation of each section of the boundary will take, and consequently when the R.A.F. should start work, so that the photography will never quite catch up the marking of the boundary until the end.

The position of the main control points agreed on, the demarcation is commenced with the full-sized survey parties: say with three more N.C.O.s. Party A does the first 50 miles and at the same time Party B does the second 50. Whichever party finishes first carries on with the third 50 miles and the other with the fourth 50. As a fair average in open country, the line will then be marked at the rate of about 100 miles in one and a half months. The R.A.F. reckon on photographing 100 miles a month, and therefore take half a month less for every 100 miles of boundary. This allows for any necessary moves of the R.A.F. base, bad weather, etc. Consequently, if there are no sectors with thick bush which will delay the ground survey the R.A.F. should start two months later for boundaries up to 300 miles, and an additional fortnight later for every additional 100 miles of boundary.

The main point is that the ground survey should have about 150 miles start, for although the R.A.F. allow a month for 100 miles they might take all the photographs in a week under specially favorable conditions. An example of this is the last sector of this particular boundary. Although from May to November no photographs were taken, the whole 70 miles were actually photographed in three days when favorable conditions were at last obtained.



The vegetation of North-East (British) Somaliland is of the same nature as the trans-African belt of “Thorn Scrub,” with a sparse covering of isolated thorn bushes as the chief feature, dry tufted grasses and herbs, and an evanescent herbaceous ground vegetation after rain.

The inland plateau, already described in Colonel Stafford’s paper, exhibits two fairly distinct types of flora: (1) that of the limestone and rocky country; and (2) that of the sandy soil which extends over the greater part of the area.

The former, which has the more varied flora, is dotted in many places with low-growing clumps of a member of the Chenopodiaceae, having small red flowers, which is apparently a new genus and species. Dominants among the thorn bushes are Balanites orbicularis Spr., Acacia misers Vatke, Acacia spirocarpa Hochst., and Acacia Bussei Harms. The bright green leaves of Zygophyllum Hildebrandtii Engl. are conspicuous after rain, while Sarcostemma viminale R. Br. and Aloe percrassa Tod. are prominent among the succulents. Grasses are not a feature of this area, but Schizachyrium Kelleri Stapf. forms occasional large clumps, and Elusive Robecchii Chiov, with its rigid and prickly leaves, is abundant away from the tug beds. Tamarix nilotica Ehrenb. is common wherever it can find sufficient moisture.

In sandy soil grass appears more extensively. Vegetation is fairly heavy along the lines of the tugs, and sparse on the higher ground. Acacia spirocarpa is the only common tree, and frequent bushes of Cadaba mirabilis Gilg. occur. Tamarix nilotica and Zizyphus Hamur Engl. are common in the neighborhood of the tug beds, with the grasses Amphilophis radicans Stapf. and Pennisetum orientale Rich. A mixed growth of other grasses often covers the surface for considerable distances, on the higher ground as well as on the lower.

Mention should be made of the edaphic vegetation dependent on the presence of permanent water, of which there are several instances in the area under review. Seepage cliffs above a rocky pool are usually covered with a growth of the maidenhair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris L., and near the water numerous species of rushes and sedges occur. In the oasis of Karin, Italian Somaliland (lat. 10° 57′ N., long. 49° 24′ E.), and also at Marojeh in the Al foothills, where marshy ground covers a small area, there is a growth of the tall Madah palm, with undergrowth of Phoenix reclinata var. somalensis Becc. and a species of Pluchea. The flora of the coastal range is of considerable interest. A visit of four weeks was made by the writer to the Al, in the neighborhood of the boundary, where the hills attain a height of 6250 feet, and another visit of sixteen days to the Surud Ad, 120 miles west of the boundary, in lat. 10° 45′ N., long. 47° 12′ E., where a height of 7250 feet is reached.

The northeast monsoon coming in from the sea impinges on the steep northern slopes of the range, resulting in considerable rainfall and cloud. On the more gently sloping southern side, heated by the sun, the rainfall very rapidly diminishes, and the lower slopes are reached only by occasional storms.

On the slopes which fringe many of the southern valleys of the Al up to 3500 feet, the sparse flora is largely composed of the frankincense tree Boswellia Frereana Birdwood, the Yigaar which yields the Maidi gum. It is not as a rule to be found on level ground and is not often seen above 3750 feet. Together with the less common and inferior Boswellia Carteri Birdwood, it is extensively exploited for its gum by the Warsangeli, who live in the hills. The trees are protected from harm and are never cut as firewood, and are left untapped until they attain a considerable size, but no attempt is made to increase their number.

Leaving out of consideration some minor types of vegetation at different heights, the zone which occurs from 3750 feet to the top of the southern slope of the Al, with sparse soil and full exposure to the sun, is characterized by a growth of low-growing succulents, among which are three species of Euphorbia. The curious Trematosperma cordata Urban, with its very large exposed rootstock, is also prominent.

The highest zone on the Al is marked by an abrupt division from the last mentioned, stretching across the broad summit of the range, at heights varying from 4000 to 6250 feet, and down the northern slope to about 3000 feet. It occupies the site of greatest rainfall and is sheltered throughout much of the year by clouds. Other factors are the more oblique rays of the sun on the northern slopes and the lower temperature due to elevation. A Box tree, Buxus Hildebrandtii Baill., clothes this area in almost unbroken cover, and makes up perhaps 90 percent of the larger vegetation. In its shade, and growing in the deep humus derived from its fallen leaves, is a carpet of small and delicate herbaceous plants and ferns, of numerous species. On the level floors of the valleys which intersect the summit are green lawns of Cynodon Dactylon Pers. with a few large trees of Ficus gnaphalocarpa A. Rich., under whose shade in the grass are numerous plants of a new species of Merendera, with crocus-like flowers.

On the Surud Ad mountain, somewhat different conditions prevail. Briefly, Buxus Hildebrandtii does not appear on the mountain, but on the broad summit, at an elevation of 6500 to 7250 feet (not attained on the Al), and covering the area of greatest rainfall down to 6000 feet on the northern slope, is an almost continuous forest of the cedar Juniperus procera Hochst., covered with long grey streamers of the lichen Usnea articulata Hofm. form trichodioides. There is considerable undergrowth of a new species of Sideroxylon, Cadia purpurea Ait., and Dodonaea viscosa L., while the green lawns of the valley floors are again to be noted.

Domestic animals – camels, sheep, and goats – undoubtedly affect the composition and development of the vegetation in the principal grazing areas of the inland plateau country, where edible species are handicapped as against protected and poisonous species. Moreover, in times of drought, the practice is frequent of cutting and bending over the stem of Acacia and other bushes to allow the animals to graze on the upper branches. The effect of domestic animals on the vegetation has been varied in the past by the fluctuation in their numbers, owing to the unsettled condition of the country. Although periodic drought is a controlling factor, under present more settled conditions a considerable increase in flocks and herds is to be expected, with an even greater influence on the vegetation.

Native names were obtained for the great majority of the plants collected, and in a number of cases, the meaning of the name was also noted, throwing light on the uses and attributes of the various species. In this connection, the writer would like to acknowledge his indebtedness to Major Horsley, whose knowledge of the language proved invaluable.

It was found that, while all the Somali tribes speak the same language, plant names in use by one tribe may vary considerably from those of another, and furthermore that the name of a common plant in one part of the country may be transferred to another species in some other locality.

Speaking generally, the plant names may be separated into two classes, those used by the Darod tribes (Warsangeli, Mijertain, Dolbahanta, etc.) and the Isaaq tribes (Habr Yunis, Habr Awal, Habr Toljalla, etc.). In some cases, however, it was found that individuals were acquainted with both sets of names, and appeared to use them indiscriminately.

It is hoped that a full account of the botanical work will be published in the Kew Bulletin during the present year.


[1] Sawl Haud is probably the correct spelling and may be officially adopted in the future.

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