Andrew Harper

desert walker : explorer : conservationist : photographer

Andrew Harper has been walking and exploring the Australian deserts since 1995 and has journeyed over 15000 kilometres across all of Australia's nine major deserts either as a solo explorer or as leader of commercial camel expeditions with the Outback Camel Company.

In 1999 he brought to fruition a 17 year dream of walking across Australia along The Tropic of Capricorn, a 229 day, 4637 kilometre journey raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Stage 2 of Capricorn Expedition across South America begins in September 2017.

In 2007 he founded Australian Desert Expeditions, a Not-For-Profit Registered Environmental Organisation that partners with leading universities and national research institutions to conduct scientific & ecological surveys in the far reaches of the inland deserts. Andrew believes that Australia's long cameleering exploration heritage can successfully partner with modern science to further our ecological knowledge of Australia's great arid wilderness.

A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, he has crossed the Simpson Desert - the worlds largest parallel sand ridge desert - 12 times in various directions, the latest solo journey being  reconnxpedition, a 35 day, 700 kilometre crossing in 2012. 

On Australia Day 2015, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for his service to environmental science, research and adventure tourism.

When not walking deserts, he takes to the water and kayaks the inland rivers and has been actively campaigning for the introduction of a container recycling scheme in NSW. 

"The desert deserves to be approached gently, so its mood is revealed. The way people have always approached the desert was on foot, as we have done today. That reveals the country - the continuum of country."

Andrew has a wonderful way of bringing the audience along with him as he tells his amazing story. His images are spectacular and he masterfully balances his presentations between being fun and entertaining, whilst remaining informative and sharing an important message about our deserts. I would get Andrew to speak at another Explorers Club event in a heartbeat.
— Clark Carter, Explorers Club, Australia/New Zealand Chapter
Andrew gave an enthralling and superbly illustrated talk to a packed house.
— Royal Geographical Society of South Australia

Andrew lectures regularly at functions across Australia. Using video and stunning images from his desert journeys as commercial expedition leader, solo explorer or working with scientists on ADE surveys, he can tailor his presentation to suit your specific interests and requirements. 
To book Andrew to speak at your event in Australia, be it for a school group of 30 or a corporate audience of 300, please use the form on the Contact page. 

2016 Lectures

March 17 - Sydney, Trailblazers, Australian Museum POSTPONED - TBA
www.australianmuseum.net.au
April 12 - Hong Kong, Royal Geographical Society
The Hong Kong Club, 1 Jackson Road, Central 1830
www.rgshk.org.hk
August 17- Melbourne, Robert O'Hara Burke Lecture
The Melbourne Club

2015 Lectures

United States

October 5 - Los Angeles, Australian Consul-General, Tree People Conference Center
www.treepeople.org
October 7 - Phoenix, Arizona Museum of Natural History
www.azmnh.org
October 8 - Flagstaff, Arizona, Explorers Club SW Chapter
www.facebook.com/groups/swexplorers/

United Kingdom

October 21 - Bristol, Wilderness Lecture
www.wildernesslectures.com
October 22 - London, Tales Of Adventure
www.talesofadventure.co.uk
October 24 - London, Yestival (Say Yes More)
www.facebook.com/events
October 26 - London, Explorers Club UK Chapter
www.britishexplorersclub.org
October 27 - Birmingham, Royal Geographical Society Midlands
www.rgs.org
October 28 - Manchester, Manchester University Expedition Society
www.manchesterexpeditionsociety.wordpress.com
October 29 - Cheltenham, Royal Geographical Society West and South Wales
www.rgs.org
November 2 - Cambridge, Cambridge University Expedition Society
www.expeditionscambridge.co.uk
November 3 - Norwich, Royal Geographical Society East Anglia
www.rgs.org
November 4 - Bristol, Explorers Connect
www.explorersconnect.com
November 11 - Canford, Royal Geographical Society Southern
www.rgs.org
November 12 - London, Explorers Connect
www.explorersconnect.com
November 13 to 15 - London, Royal Geographical Society Explore Weekend
www.rgs.org

"Andrew Harper's appearance in Bristol's Wilderness Lectures 2015/16 series characterised all the hallmarks of a great presentation that our audience has come to expect in nearly 30 years of our operation. Stunning photography, the tragedy of a vanishing way of life, a combination of personal achievement and adventure, and a recognition of the value of wilderness environments to both scientific understanding and the human psyche."
- Dick Willis, Wilderness Lectures

2014 lectures & appearances

February 4 - Royal Geographical Society of Queensland
www.rgsq.org.au 

March 21 - Explorers Club ANZ Chapter, Sydney
www.anzec.org

TRACKS Film pre-screenings - Q&A session joining author Robyn Davidson and photographer Rick Smolan
February 26 - Palace Norton Street, Sydney
March 2 - Carlton Nova, Carlton, Melbourne
March 2 - Cinema Como, South Yarra, Melbourne
March 5 - Sun Theatre, Yarraville, Melbourne

November 1 - Cowra Regional Art Gallery
The Great Australian Arid Wilderness. Treading Lightly - Applying 19th Century Desert Exploration to 21st Century Desert Knowledge
www.cowraartgallery.com.au

2013 lectures

September 19 - Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum, Port Augusta, South Australia
Talk: Walking the Simpson for Science
 www.lebmf.gov.au

September 27 - Royal Geographical Society Singapore
Treading Lightly - Reinventing 19th Century Desert Exploration for 21st Century Desert Knowledge
www.rgs.org

September 30 - Night of Adventure, Manchester
Taking a straight line Across Australia  
www.nightofadventure.co.uk

October 1 - National Geographic Store, London
Exploring Australia's Great Arid Wilderness
www.nglondonstore.co.uk

October 2 - Plymouth Explorers, Plymouth
Exploring Australia's Great Arid Wilderness
www.explorersconnect.com

October 3 - Education Through Expeditions, Plymouth
reconXpedition2012 - exploring the Simpson Desert
www.etehome.org

October 4 - University for Creative Arts, Farnham
Walking The Talk. Adventures in the Australian Desert: personal passion, team work and leadership
www.responseabilityalliance.com

October 10 - Explorers Connect, London
Exploring Australia's Great Arid Wilderness
www.explorersconnect.com

 

Andrew presented "Transformations: The Simpson Desert from Drought to Flood and Fire" at the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland’s first Lecture for 2014, on 4 February. Andrew’s presentation attracted an audience of over 110 Members and Guests and was of special interest to a large number of Members who have visited the Simpson Desert and or contiguous areas and contributed to Scientific Studies.

Andrew’s passion for, and intimate working knowledge of the Simpson Desert was evident in his enthusiastic presentation which was accompanied by spectacular photography.  It was most instructional to see the dramatic transformations of the desert through flood, drought and fire, and to hear how this company is contributing to our scientific understanding of the region.

- Bernard Fitzpatrick, Executive Officer, RGSQ

My current range of lecture themes include:


Desert Discovery: The Living Outback

  • Simpson Desert Transformations: Bust to Boom and Back to Bust

Australia's driest area experienced record and repeated rains and floods from 2009 to 2011. Over the three years, Andrew led scientific expeditions right across this huge wilderness which documented the incredible proliferation of flora & fauna, including the massive plagues of native rats and mega swarms of budgerigars. A rich, visual and informative presentation on a remarkable transformation of the world's largest parallel sand-ridge desert.

  • Treading Lightly – Reinventing 19th Century Desert Exploration for 21st Century Desert Knowledge

The grand days of 19th Century desert exploration were pivotal in the development of inland Australia, and as the young colonies launched major scientific expeditions into the blank parts of the map, the camel quickly became the choice of transport to explore the inland. Nearly 70 years after the last great desert scientific expedition, Andrew profiles how Australian Desert Expeditions has tailored a 150 year heritage to furthering our desert knowledge in the 21st Century.

 


Walkabout with TC: Working with the Ships of the Desert

Lead camel TC (Tall Camel) has been Andrew's uncomplaining (most of the time) shadow since 1995 and is unquestionably Australia’s most travelled dromedary. He has walked right across the country from coast to coast, crossed all 9 of our great inland deserts (including the Simpson Desert over 20 times) and as far as the other camels in Andrews team are concerned, is the Chairman of the Board. 17 years of working alongside and living with the ultimate cross-country exploration vehicle has afforded Andrew a delightful insight into the musings of these majestic creatures and faithful workmates.


229 days holding the rope: Across Australia on 23 twenty-six

It took 17 years to ‘get around to it’, and was a story of determination and endurance, eventually proving to be part panacea to the frustrations of having a serious illness. But ultimately it was, in many ways, just a walk.


reconnXpedition: solo but never alone - exploring the Simpson Desert 

Andrew could not have ‘chosen’ a better year to finally cross the Simpson Desert solo. The conditions were perfect, plenty of feed for the camels and some ecological projects to conduct for Sydney University along the way. Solo? Alone? You are never alone when travelling with animals. And it was not the intention to simply walk across the desert - the intention was to go exploring. In life there is always another dune to cross . . . 

"He leads the most remote treks in the country and works in conjunction with research institutions and indigenous groups to enhance the database of desert knowledge. Questions from the enchanted audience included the topics of feral camels, precautions against snakes and the Aboriginal response to such activity. There was no disagreement to President Rod Shearings remark that the camels were the stars of this show. Grateful thanks to Andrew."
Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, February 2013


...a well-illustrated exposition of the idiosyncrasies of life in the desert.
— University of the Third Age
A Harper.jpg

"To most of us it was a revelation about areas we had never been to. The lecture was well planned and professionally delivered. Andrew gave a well-illustrated exposition of the idiosyncrasies of life in the desert, the great physical endurance, and the transport capacity of Australian camels and the problems experienced. Most of the spectacular film and photography that illuminated his talk had been taken by Andrew himself, and exposed the hard country, camaraderie and joint experiences of the cameleers and adventurers that accompanied him on trips. One fact that became obvious was that the journeys were not particularly by thrill seekers but by scientists on important specific missions to study aspects of desert life, and required very detailed planning."
Robert Apedaile, Publicity Officer, University of the Third Age, February 2013


 "The Rotary Club of Albury is indeed grateful for the opportunity, given by Andrew, for the wonderful film show of his walks with camels throughout the Australian deserts. The collection of botanical specimens, bird surveys and scientific research undertaken with his journeys was fascinating and exciting - a most informative and enjoyable evening."
Brian Maginnity, President Rotary Club of Albury, April 2013


He is an accomplished public speaker, with a good sense of an audience, a matter-of-fact style and a fine sense of humour.
— National Museum of Australia

Andrew Harper ('Harps') is the real mcoy: calm, organised and unflappable in a crisis, he has operated strings of camels - exploring some extraordinarily remote parts of the Australian desert - for more than a decade now. He has a superb ability to navigate hundreds of kilometres cross-country, and pick his way through complicated terrain. His quiet confident handling of his camels is a mark of the man. He is an accomplished public speaker, with a good sense of an audience, a matter-of-fact style and a fine sense of humour. There is not an ounce of self-boosterism about this bloke. He speaks with the self assurance of a man with bucket-loads of experience in operating expeditions in isolated places, relying on his own skill and resources to ensure the safety of his party."
Dr Mike Smith, AM FAHA FSA
Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Historical Research, National Museum of Australia 

 


We have run our “Evening of Adventure” series on numerous occasions now. Few have been as engaging as Andrew Harper’s presentation on the Simpson Desert Transformations. From his light-hearted yet informative style plotting the history of the use of camels in exploration, to his work with scientists in furthering the pursuit of knowledge, to his own personal insights and reflections on the desert and exploration - Andrew never failed to hold the audience’s attention. By the end of the presentation you came away from it with a sense that you had learnt something, been inspired, and entertained all at the same time. Testament to his connection with the audience, was the limitless questions they continued to throw at him long after the event was over. I would not hesitate to recommend Andrew as a guest speaker for any organisation looking for a thoroughly entertaining, insightful, and educational presentation.
— Roger Chao, Explorers Club, Australia/New Zealand Chapter