|The one indispensable item was a really
superb pair of sunglasses. Unfortunately, I went without mine for one hour
once and suffered for days. The reflected radiation off the white talc
desert and the light sand is incredibly intense. You would literally go
blind in a few hours without eye protection.
Besides good sunglasses, I brought what I figured were the perfect shoes for sand dunes - light-weight hiking boots with high-relief, Vibram soles. Good traction on the sand, and all that. Wrong. The best possible shoes turned out to be either plain tennis shoes or cowboy boots with really smooth leather bottoms - anything that didn't break the crust of the sand. Once you broke through the surface crust, you floundered around like a cow on roller skates. Naturally our mountain bikes were completely useless, since there was no sand hard enough to bike on and you exhausted all your energy in about a minute and a half trying.
|As it was, we got the vehicles stuck every
day. Sometimes we got stuck three or four times a day. We carried big
sheets of aluminum poked full of holes to put under the tires to get out.
Sometimes, when it was really bad, we might only go a few feet before we'd
get stuck again. It all depended on the orientation of the sand grains.
Sand going one way - hard as a parking lot. Sand going the other way? Wooft!
Down you went to the axles. Again. Dig, push, all together.
Another interesting aspect of driving in almost white sand is that you can't drive at noon. There are no shadows. Therefore there is no relief, no contrast and no depth perception. Everything is the same color. You might drive right off an eight-foot drop and never even see it. And that would be a bad thing.
There were plenty of non-cosmic surprises in the desert. One day we were zooming along
|when someone yelled stop. We had just driven
past multiple caches of ancient terra cotta jars, arranged in circles, about
eight to ten pots per cache. All that could be seen of them without excavation
was a series of black and rust-colored circles in the hard packed sand.
pictures, made notes and shot the exact location of the caches using a
GPS unit (ground positioning satellite) that measured latitude and longitude,
for a report to Egyptian archeologists upon our return to civilization.
Another fun discovery was desert fulgerites. These bizarre artifacts are like "fossilized" lightning. Lightening, which is hotter than the surface of the sun, actually strikes the ground quite often and the desert is no exception. When this happens, a perfect record of the shape of the lightning is preserved in the melted sand or dirt, then it can be lifted or dug out. Generally these fulgerites look like petrified roots or perhaps the
|burrows of snakes, but of course are neither. We
were able to collect several wonderful, branched specimens to bring home.
Some are hollow, like flutes.
When we finally spotted the first specimen of Libyan desert glass we were somewhat unprepared. It was nearing sunset and the sunlight was streaming across the white sand at a low, oblique angle. Suddenly someone shouted and pointed. On the sand ahead of us was an eerie, glowing green light. It looked almost radioactive. When we got there, we found a big beautiful chunk of desert glass glowing in the sunset. We found many more in that fashion and also in the mornings when the sun was still low in the sky.
In all, even with the dangerous extremes of the desert to contend with, it was one of my favorite adventures. Not only did we actually find what
|we were looking for, but we found lots of
things we weren't looking for, and sometimes, that's the best part. Friend-
ship, excitement, the blood pounding in your ears as you scream down a
sand embankment side- ways, wondering if the Land Rover is finally going
to roll over, the fabulous panorama of the night heavens, like mirrored
image - sparkling sand dunes in the sky -these are the things that make
life as the Meteorite Man the best adventure imaginable!