- File Size: 4369 KB
- Print Length: 228 pages
- Publisher: Eland Publishing (December 1, 2012)
- Publication Date: December 1, 2012
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00B9CO5H2
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,456 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Libyan Sands: Travel in a Dead World Kindle Edition
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Next came a series of long-range trips into the Western Desert in 1927-30. Bagnold and his companions solved a succession of problems --- lack of water (countered by an adaptation that recycled car radiator water losses), getting stuck in soft sand (rope ladders and metal chutes for providing tire traction, reduced tire pressure), navigation in featureless landscapes (invention of a sun compass), crossing sand dune barriers (discovery of sand properties that enabled cars to drive up certain kinds of dunes in certain conditions) --- and in the process explored vast expanses that had been unknown to modern science. At the conclusion of one of the trips, at a Greek café in Wadi Halfa, he and his companions founded the Zerzura Club of desert explorers, named for the last "lost" oasis.
A chance meeting with a travel colleague at the Royal Geographical Society map room, examining blank spaces on a map of North-East Africa, led to a return to Egypt. "The externals of Cairo change very slowly, and the atmosphere changes not at all." The 1932 expedition covered 6,000 miles, mostly across uncharted desert. Besides work on a plethora of `ologies --- geology, archaeology, ornithology, entomology, botany, topography --- the expedition was familiar with history (Herodotus, ancient Arabic texts, the Mahdi's uprising, preceding explorers) and took sympathetic note of human interaction: "The common-sense politeness of the people [of northern Sudan], their spontaneous helpfulness and their restraint in the display of any curiosity that might annoy are amazing in comparison with the people of other countries."
One of the most memorable incidents was meeting an Italian army contingent at a remote oasis, a meeting celebrated with a dinner invitation and excellent Chianti, but a prologue to the desert war to come.
The story is told with a vivid demonstration of practical scientific application, an impressive breadth of interests, contemplation on issues such as remoteness and exploration, and not a little lyrical appreciation of the desert.
An epilogue by the author and an afterword by his son put the narrative into perspective. Bagnold was the greatest of the Libyan Desert explorers (first among his fellows, including the now better-known Count Almasy), a scientist of the first order (his Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes has been a standard text on the subject for more than 50 years), and the founding leader of World War II's elite Long Range Desert Group (which arguably deflected the Italian army from overrunning Egypt and seizing the Suez Canal). These achievements are either described or foretold in this modest traveler's tale.
The Eland edition is a welcome reprinting of a classic.
The events took place in the years between the world wars and while we know the value these desert explorations would ultimately have, at the time the book was written none of that had yet occurred.
Top international reviews
The deserts of North Africa form the backdrop for the final three novels in the series, and Bagnold's works provide more and better background than any author of my knowledge.