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Camping in Style in a Jungle Yacht

AtomicToasters March 21, 2012 Nostalgia 23 Comments

The International Harvester 'Jungle Yacht'

Good afternoon everyone.

The picture above is of a vehicle known as a ‘jungle yacht’, and was used by the Italian explorer Attilio Gatti in his 10th and 11th African expeditions. The expedition used two streamlined trailers designed by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and using 1937 International Harvester D-35 chassis, and were 44 feet long and weighed 9 tons. The vehicles were built by the International Harvester company, who was evidently one of the sponsors of the expedition.

The trailers were pretty luxurious accommodations for camping out in the boonies of British East Africa. They were joined together in camp as a deluxe 5-room apartment on wheels,  and served as headquarters while the expedition’s personnel sought out the secrets of the dim heart of Africa.

One of the vehicles in transit from the IH factory to New York

The camps were equipped with electricity and air conditioning and had a workshop, a photographic lab, and a ham radio station (Gatti was an enthusiastic ham radio operator). Electricity was supplied by a 110 volt generator mounted behind the cabs of the trucks. Each night a single wire 4500 volt electric fence was put up to dissuade the large specimens of the local wildlife from approaching the camp.

Cocktails in the deepest heart of Africa.

It might well have been nice to camp in the trailers when they stopped for the day, but as big as they were, they must have been a real bastard to maneuver through the jungles.


Wisconsin Historical Society


Goodbye forever to Africa


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  • Number_Six

    "I'll wait in the Land Yacht while Jim bags me a leopard."

    /pickled Marlin Perkins watching Jim hard at work

  • Having a hard time visualizing this underway. Is there no articulation between truck and trailer? That would indeed make for a ridiculous turning radius.

    • dukeisduke

      There appears to be some kind sliding joint between the cab and the trailer. Just don't get your fingers in there! Ouch!

    • The Professor

      I couldn't find a diagram of how the jointed area worked. It's probably ridiculously complex.

      • jamjar107

        probably the artists drawings are inacurate. I suspect that these wee an early version of the 5th wheeler concept.

    • Feds_II

      As my mom once said:

      "If there's a joint here, I want to know about it!"

      • PotbellyJoe

        Full disclosure is always a good policy…

    • texlenin

      It looks to be an articulated fifth wheel.
      Look at the ad, second pic down on the
      right, where it's being offloaded via crane.
      Maybe the truck has scalloped bodywork?

  • I am pretty sure my awesome meter just exploded.

    DAMMIT HOONIVERSE! These things aren't cheap!

  • dukeisduke

    I can't see how these could operate reliably off of dirt roads or paved roads. No 4WD, no mud/snow tires, plus it's huge.

    • Agreed. Seems better suited to the concrete jungle and Commaner Gotti.

      • dukeisduke

        At least it has a bar in it. What do Italian explorers drink, anyway?

        • PotbellyJoe

          Gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth?

    • Feds_II

      I was easier to get around back then. People didn't even know about 4wd until dubya dubya two, but still managed to get around, even in snowy, godforsaken places like Flin Flon.

  • dukeisduke

    I wonder if it's too late to order one of the illustrated booklets?

  • The Professor

    My first thought, when I came across these things was, "They took these things into the African jungle?" I'd hate to have been one of their porters, I'll bet these things were always buried up to the hubs in something.

  • Marcal

    I can't imagine dragging a 9-ton sled through the jungle on bicycle tires.

  • Mike England

    this is incredible. If you cannot live without your very own color pictures you MIGHT find something at http://www.autolit.com.
    I just found a color catalog for the D-35 – they have more than 1000 cornbinder items.

  • smurfswacker

    I seem to recall seeing pictures of these things in a National Geographic story, but I no longer have my NG collection. Am I remembering aright?

  • By all honesty, it looks like someone welded a camper into the back end of an old school milk truck. Still, if it's well-furnished and comfortable inside, then I don't see why this can't be a solid choice for an outdoor trip even today.

  • These were seen as accommodations when they shot the original Tarzan on film. This was a a very noisy vehicle and quite heavy in payload capacity.

  • This thing looks a little tough to maneuver – even if it does have some articulating joint or hidden mechanism. The vehicle is definitely one you'd prefer to drive in a straight line as much as possible.