One day, French President Gaston Doumergue mentioned to André Citroën and Georges-Marie Haardt that a regular rail link between the North African French colonies and Madagascar, a French territory isolated in the Indian Ocean, would be advantageous to France. André Citroën organized the “Black Cruise”, to survey rail routes, and no doubt, to publicise his automobile company. After 10 months of preparation, 8 Citroën half-tracks left the southern terminus of the Algerian Railway on 28 of October 1924. It appears that the half-tracks were based on Model “B” Citroëns - the same as used on the trans-Sahara expedition previously discussed here. This time, each half-track towed a trailer. The expedition was again led by Georges-Marie Haardt, and each half-track carried three men. A motion picture producer and a camera operator, an artist, a medical doctor who also took care of taxidermy, scientists, nine factory driver/mechanics, and other staff (some military) were on the expedition.
In June of 1926, an article written by Georges-Marie Haardt, the leader of the expedition, appeared in the National Geographic Magazine.
The article was 70 pages long, and as is typical of National Geographic articles, it is short on technical details. Some details of the journey are intriguing. On one leg of the journey through the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), the Belgian authorities employed 40,000 natives to clear a trail and build bridges through 375 miles of jungle. The job was completed in less than a month.
As the expedition progressed, groups of two half-tracks split off to survey different routes.
Georges-Marie Haardt led a two vehicle group to Mozambique.
One photograph shows Georges-Marie Haardt’s group crossing a river on three native pirogues with timbers thrown across them. Three men had to frantically bail during the crossing.
Most of the expedition members and vehicles ended up in Cape Town, Union of South Africa, and were shipped back to France from that point. The expedition lasted nine months. The half-tracks must have performed well, since it appears that mechanical problems did not cause any significant delays.
The expedition created a sensation in Europe, and the film made during the journey was widely shown.
André Citroën was riding a wave of publicity, and from 1925 to 1934 his name appeared in lights on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.