First Report On The Geology And Mineral Resources Of British Somaliland

First Report On The Geology And Mineral Resources Of British Somaliland With Map
British Somaliland MAP: Route and mineral occurrence map: scale, 1:1,000,000, showing the route followed, the positions of the mineral occurrences dealt with, and the areas worthy of further prospecting


From time to time since 1901, specimens of minerals obtained in the Protectorate by British officials, either from Somalis or as the result of information given by natives, had been sent by the Administration for examination to the Imperial Institute, London, and, as the reports on the analyses of these specimens indicated that some of them were of economic value, it was considered important by the Governor not only that the individual occurrences should be authenticated by an expert, but that a general investigation should be made of the prospects of different parts of the country with reference to its mineral resources, and that, if possible, other minerals of value should be discovered. Accordingly, it was suggested by the Governor to the Colonial Office that the services of a highly qualified Geologist should be obtained in order that this work should be carried out. Towards the end of 1922, the present writer was appointed to the position created.

According to the official files, the appointment of the Geologist was “for one year in the first instance, because he should be able to get a good idea of the prospects in one year, and if they were promising, possibly (the Colonial Office would) arrange for an extension.”

The scope of the investigation was to some extent laid down in a letter from the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury, dated April 27th, 1921, in which it is stated that “it would appear to be desirable that investigations should be directed for the present to the areas which would be accessible for commercial operations.”


Owing to the nature of the topography of the Protectorate, this expression of opinion, undoubtedly based on common sense and a knowledge of all the conditions — of transport, of population, of communications, and of the political situation – obtaining in the country, restricted the geological work to areas lying north of a line drawn from Somadu in the west, through Borama, Hargeisa and Sheikh to the Eastern boundary at the bottom of the escarpment south-east of Las Gori.

The writer arrived in Aden on January 31st, 1923, and in Berbera on February 5th, and left Berbera en-route for London on February 11th, 1924. Practically the whole of the intervening period was spent in trekking and geological surveying and matters directly connected with one or the other.

During the first two weeks, a search was made of all the files dealing with the occurrence of minerals and water supplies in the Protectorate, all available information was collected, and the whole of the necessary equipment, instruments, stores, etc., assembled. It was originally intended that Berbera should be made a headquarters and that trips should be made from it to each district in turn. As a brief consideration, however, of the topography of the country showed that by adopting this scheme it would be necessary to traverse repeatedly the coastal plain and considerable tracts almost devoid of water and feed and of no value whatever so far as a mineral survey was concerned, this intention was abandoned, and it was decided that, in order that the maximum amount of ground should be covered in the least time and the most comprehensive examination of the country possible in the time should be made, anything but a nominal headquarters should be dispensed with, that arrangements should be made for repairs, rationing of men and animals, re-engagement and payment of camel men and coolies and all official correspondence and accountancy to be done either on trek or, if convenient, on arrival at a hill station.

On account of the political situation, it was decided by the Governor that the Gadabursi district of Western Somaliland should be examined first and that the work should begin from Zeyla. At His Excellency’s request, a program for the years work was submitted to him, and it was approved subject to a recommendation that in the interests of health and comfort, the traverse of the country from Las Gori to the Italian frontier and back through Hais to Berbera, proposed for August and September, should not be undertaken until towards the end of the year.

By these arrangements, it was possible to examine, during the hot season of the Kharif wind, those areas of high elevation least affected by it, and to a large extent to leave the low-lying “Guban”[1] country until the cool season, though, as it turned out, owing to the fact that the work could not be begun before the end of February, nearly two months’ experience of the heat and humidity of the hot season had to be undergone in order that an investigation could be made of the country between Sheikh and Ankor, and between Ankor and Bihendula.

As, particularly in Western Somaliland, it was known that the existing maps were very incomplete and to a large extent inaccurate, as many wells, pools, and “durdurs”[2] were not shown, as many names on the map signified nothing on the ground, as no permanent villages existed and there were few named peaks on the maps as distinct from ranges or ridges, and as even the main tracks in use were only partly or not at all mapped, it was advisable that data should be obtained for the preparation of a fairly reliable topographical map on which not only these important features but the locality of any mineral occurrences could be set out. To this end, a careful prismatic compass and plane-table traverse was made of all the routes followed[3] on a scale of four miles to one inch. It had also been intended, as no triangulation of the district had ever been made, to check the traverse from time to time by observations for latitude, and for this purpose, a theodolite was ordered from Berbera. Unfortunately, an inspection of it at Zeyla showed that not only was it hopelessly out of adjustment, but that essential parts were either missing or did not fit the instrument so that this method of check was not practicable. The traverse, however, was started from Somadu, the position of which had been previously fixed by Major Craster, R.E., and carried on to Borama. At Borama, on the allowable assumption that the position of Jifa Medir and of Jifa Uri on the Abyssinian border were fairly correct, bearings were taken from the top of Sher Laga Mahdi, 6,200 feet high, to these two peaks and to all the more important peaks of the Gadabursi district, and these bearings were used to check the traverse from Borama through the district. Other check-bearings made use of were that from Hemal to the summit of Manda Hill, the position of which was fixed by Major Craster, and the closing bearing on Gebilay Police Station on the Hargeisa-Borama track.

The routes followed are shown in the accompanying plan. Exclusive of the sea-trip from Berbera to Las Gori, the trip to Kirrit and back to Berbera, which was accomplished by motor-truck, and the distance traveled in the ascent of hills and ranges and in examining the country on each side of the track and in the neighborhood of each camp, the total distance covered on pony, on mule, on foot and with camel or donkey transport was 2,066 miles.

The general geology of the country, the locality of each of the mineral occurrences, and the position of those areas which show sufficient promise to justify further systematic prospecting are shown on the accompanying plans.[4]

In view of the existing differences of opinion with regard to the age of the various limestones in the Protectorate, as opportunity offered, collections were made of the fossils obtainable on the track and near each camp. Altogether, forty-eight separate collections were made, and these, by arrangement through the Colonial Office, are now being examined at the Natural History Museum. Moreover, a typical collection was made of the chief rocks met with on the whole tour. An accurate detailed account, therefore, of the geology of the country will only be possible when these fossils and rock specimens have been determined; but it is hoped that, when those results are available, an opportunity may be afforded of writing up the more strictly scientific results of the investigation, especially as the outcome of the recent work is ultimately of more than mere local significance, and the scientific, as distinguished from the economic results, have ultimately an important bearing on the latter.

Numerous photographs were taken on the various treks of the chief features of topographical and geological interest met with.

The survey party contained, besides the writer, five armed police, an interpreter, one or two guides who were usually headmen of tribes, personal servants, sixteen camel-men and camels for the transport of equipment and rations, and a pony and mules.

The writer wishes to take this opportunity of acknowledging the cordial assistance given him on all occasions by the officials of the Protectorate. To the District Commissioners and police officers he has been especially indebted, as, to the arrangements made by the former for the cordiality and assistance of the tribes and by the latter for the peaceful conduct of the party and the peaceful relations between it and the natives met with all over the country, is to a large extent to be attributed the fact that the work has been carried out without a hitch from start to finish.

To Mr. O’Byrne, Chief of Customs, also, special acknowledgment is due, not only because his collection of Somaliland minerals, amassed during more than twenty years’ residence in the Protectorate, gave useful clues as to the nature of the various minerals that exist in the country, but because it is largely owing to his long-continued interest in its mineralogy that sufficient information was at length obtained to render it advisable that a mineral survey should be made.

Finally, the writer desires to place on record the zeal, loyalty, and intelligence displayed— frequently under very difficult conditions—by the native members of his party, and particularly by those in the pay of the Government.

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