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Narrow Crocodile Escapes by William Charles Baldwin | One of The Great Hunters

As a novice hunter at St. Lucia Bay in Zululand in 1852, Baldwin underestimated the wiliness of the crocodile.

I shot a goose, almost full grown, though a flapper, and he was drifting nicely to my feet, when he unaccountably disappeared. Not taking particular notice at the time, I thought he might possibly have partly recovered and dived. Gibson(1) was with me at the time, and, disappointed of our intended roast, as we had not breakfasted, I shot another, and he likewise disappeared in the same place and manner. There being plenty, I shot a third, and, determined not to lose this one, went gradually into the river to meet him, armed with a heavy lance-wood loading- rod shod with iron, and had nearly got up to my middle, making a tremendous noise and splashing to scare the crocodiles (2), when, just as I was stretching out my arm to reach my goose, he suddenly went under water. I had no fear in those days, and did not know the real danger, so I made a grasp and caught the goose by the leg, striking the water as hard as ever I could. In an instant the goose came in halves, the legs, back, and some of the entrails falling to my share, Mr. Crocodile getting the better half, and two or three violent blows of the nose into the bargain. I need hardly say I lost not an instant in getting ashore again, and did not think much at the time (which is often the case) of what a foolish thing it was to do, and what a narrow escape I had had.

It is only once in a mans lifetime he does these dare devil sort of things, and it is wonderful how lucky he invariably comes off; but a few more years, and a wider experience, make him as cautious as those whom he once thought timid. It is equally difficult for youth and age to hit that golden mean, which is no doubt the best way in hunting, as in other things, to attain the main object bagging your game.



Gibson. A hunting companion on the 1852 expedition. Gibson and Baldwin were the only two of a party of nine white hunters who survived the adventure. The others died of Malaria.

The Crocodiles. The African or Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). A large reptile found in virtually all the rivers and lakes with which the hunters of this period came into contact.

Tugela. The Tugela River rises on Mont aux Sources in the Drakensberg and flows for 320 km, to enter the Indian Ocean north of Durban. At this time the Northern boundary of Natal Colony.

Three Hartebeests. (Bubalis cama or Bubalis Lichtenstein). An antelope reaching up to 1,22 metres at the shoulders. Extremely fats runner.

 An eland bull. (Taurotragus oryx). Large antelope. Bulls reach 1,83 metres at the withers and carry corkscrew shaped horns attaining 0,91 metres in length.

Buffalo bull. (Syncerus caffer). The bull is powerfully built, standing about 1,52 metres at the shoulder. The horns extend sideways and downwards from a bony boss on the head.

The Pongola. The river rises in Swaziland and forms the Northern border of Zululand. Joins the Mapula River which enters the Indian Ocean at Delagoa Bay.

My companion. Possibly the Zulu Mahoutcha, a splendid fellow, formerly in Elephant Whites service.

The Entumeni Bush. This is recounted on Baldwins 1857 expidition to the Transvaal Republic, the Marico country etc.

Veldt shoes. Velskoen or soft hide shoes were originally made by the Hottentots and readily adopted by the first colonists.