La Croisière Noire (The Black Cruise) was a car expedition that crossed the African continent from North to South between October 28, 1924 and June 26, 1925. Also called the “Citroën Center Africa Expedition” or “2nd Haardt Audouin-Dubreuil mission”, it was conceived by André Citroën in order to make his brand better known and to open a regular motorized line crossing the African continent.
Beyond the simple advertising aspect, it was also an expedition with political, cultural and scientific scope. Black cruising thus made up for the stagnant “Trans-Saharan” project by resorting, as André Citroën pointed out in 1925, to lower initial investments and over a shorter period. The expedition allowed 8 half-tracks, equipped with the Kégresse-Hinstin propulsion system with rubber treads, to travel 20,000 km across Africa. The mission, comprising 17 members, was headed by Georges-Marie Haardt with Louis Audouin-Dubreuil as deputy. Also included for the cinematographic part were Léon Poirier, director and Georges Specht, operator, Eugène Bergognier, former professor at the West African medical school, Charles Brull for mineralogy and geology and finally the painter Alexandre Iacovleff. The participants of the expedition showed a certain imagination. Indeed, each half-track has a nickname: the Golden Scarab for that of G.-M. Haardt and the Silver Crescent for that of L. Audouin-Dubreuil were the best known. However, these names were not without meaning. Emblems were painted on the sides of cars and on trailers to prevent hitch errors. The eight half-tracks were divided into two groups. The first group briought together the Golden Scarab, which carried maps, weapons and documents, the elephant in the tower, which had on board the archives and the treasury, and the Sun in motion as well as the snail. Winged were the two cinema cars.
The second group brought together the Silver Crescent, which was driven by Chief Engineer Maurice Penand, the Colombe who carried medical equipment and supplies, the Centaur and finally the Pegasus, a broom wagon transporting spare parts. Leaving Colomb-Bechar on October 28, 1924, Georges-Marie Haardt and his companions crossed Algeria, Niger, Chad, Oubangui-Chari and the Belgian Congo. Opening a motorized route on this continent was not the easiest, given that you have to cross the desert, the savannah, the swamps, the route of which was not yet been mapped. However, Citroën half-tracks did very well, which benefited the brand’s reputation. The participants of the expedition did not return until the fall of 1925 to Paris, where they were received triumphantly by the French population. Various exhibitions, notably at the Louvre museum, were organized to allow visitors to discover the half-tracks, as well as the various objects brought back by the expedition. From a scientific point of view, this was also a success. 300 botanical plates, 15 books of sketches and samples of more than 300 mammals, 800 birds and 1,500 insects, most of them never inventoried, were thus collected. The black cruise has also set a photographic objective of an ethnographic nature supported by the Geographical Society. The latter explained that it was ‘’the most urgent task which now falls to all travelers, to note by all possible means, in particular through photography and cinema, the anthropological types and manners’’. Thus, 27 kilometers of film were impressed and 6,000 photographs taken, but the staging of the reports was often preferred to the scientific aspect. It is thanks to these files that Léon Poirier could make the silent film of the expedition, lasting 70 minutes, which was released on March 2, 1926. This film was very successful, as was the expedition as a whole.