Airplane Shadow, Lake Natron, Tanzania.
       
     
Wau al Namus, dormant volcano, Libya's Sahara.
       
     
Salt works, Teguidda-n-Tessoumt, Niger.
       
     
Conical piles of edible salt near Colchani, Bolivia.
       
     
Irrigation Circles, Wadi Dawasir, Saudi Arabia.
       
     
Erta Ale volcano.
       
     
Mount Bagana, 1730M, an active volcano on Bougainville spewing sulfurous gases.
       
     
Ounianga Serir.
       
     
Iraqi tanks destroyed in the liberation of Kuwait.
       
     
Wadi Rum, Jordan.
       
     
Coast of Dry Valleys near Marble Point in McMurdo Sound.
       
     
Dead Sea, Zara Spring, Jordan.
       
     
Lake Nasser, Egypt.
       
     
Dead Sea, Israel.
       
     
Skeleton Coast, Namibia.
       
     
Bahía Independencia, Peru.
       
     
Takla Makan Desert, China.
       
     
Hoover Dam, Nevada.
       
     
McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica.
       
     
Twin frozen lakes in Bull Pass between Wright and Victoria Valley
       
     
Barchan Dunes, Paracas National Park, Peru
       
     
Safi, Jordan.
       
     
Airplane Shadow, Lake Natron, Tanzania.
       
     
Airplane Shadow, Lake Natron, Tanzania.

Salt-loving algae gives a red color to the hyper-saline waters of Lake Natron in the Great Rift Valley on the border between Tanzania and Kenya.  The lake has an unusual mineral content that is leached from the surrounding volcanos.  The temperatures in the salty mud can reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), and depending on rainfall, the alkalinity can reach a pH of 9 to 10.5 (almost as alkaline as straight ammonia).
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Wau al Namus, dormant volcano, Libya's Sahara.
       
     
Wau al Namus, dormant volcano, Libya's Sahara.

Volcanic crater of Wau al Namus, (Wau means hole, so Wau al Namus is hole of mosquitos). This massive (and apparently dormant) volcano can be easily be seen in satellite views of Southern Libya, as a large black smear in the wind-scoured sands of the Sahara. The inner crater is bordered by a chain of small salt lakes which are sumps for the r  w (seemingly potable, at least they tasted okay to me before I spat out a handful of brackish water from a depression adjacent to a palm tree) spring waters that feed the craters vegetation. Outside the outer rim of the crater are small black dunes of winblown volcanic ejecta.  The winds here were very strong, at sunrise they were averaging over 60 kph at 300m above the rim of the outer crater, and about 20 kph at ground level.
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Salt works, Teguidda-n-Tessoumt, Niger.
       
     
Salt works, Teguidda-n-Tessoumt, Niger.

Like a mosaic laid in the hard floor of the desert, pools of evaporating salt water are worked over by the people of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt.  Briny water is drawn from shallow wells and mixed with salty soil to produce slurries of different colors, whose hue depends on the color of the mud, algae, as well as the amount of salt that has hardened on the surface. 
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Conical piles of edible salt near Colchani, Bolivia.
       
     
Conical piles of edible salt near Colchani, Bolivia.

Conical piles of edible salt near Colchani, Bolivia, drying while awaiting loading on a truck for transport to processing plant in Uyuni. Members of a cooperative are paid 10 Bolivianos ($1.25) per ton to shovel wet salt for harvest.

The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world (approx. 10,500 sq.km.), with 10 billion tons of edible salt, of which some 25,000 tons is extracted annually.
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Irrigation Circles, Wadi Dawasir, Saudi Arabia.
       
     
Irrigation Circles, Wadi Dawasir, Saudi Arabia.

Center-pivot irrigation circles growing alfalfa (animal fodder) reach to the horizon near Wadi Dawasir at the edge of the Empty Quarter.  Each crop circle is about 1km in diameter and sprays water and fertilizer onto barren land to make it bloom. Irrigation water comes from wells 100-200M deep and is “fossil water” that fell as rain thousands of years ago.  Wells here start as artesian flow with high sulfur content, but soon has to be pumped to the surface.  After some twenty years, the water drops to a level that is no longer economic and the fields are abandoned. Crops are only viable here for four months a year, but fields need to be irrigated year-round to stop salt from building up on the surface.  The fields need 10,000 cuM water/hectare each year.
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Erta Ale volcano.
       
     
Erta Ale volcano.

Erta Ale volcano, which has one of the few permanent lava lakes in the world.  The volcano erupted about two months earlier, overflowing the rim, and the new crater is much narrower and closer to the rim than it has been for many years.  While we were there the volcano cycled through periods of greater activity, when cracks of red-hot lava could be seen through the scab-like surface.  The lava tends to bubble up and spit from the edges, and there was a constant release of sulfurous gasses that burned the nose and throat near the unstable rim.
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Mount Bagana, 1730M, an active volcano on Bougainville spewing sulfurous gases.
       
     
Mount Bagana, 1730M, an active volcano on Bougainville spewing sulfurous gases.

This picture was taken on a six-week trip by private sailboat through the seldom-visited islands north of New Guinea, in an area of the South Pacific known as the Solomon Sea.  Most of the islets here have no airport or regularly scheduled boat services, and their way of life is traditional by economic necessity. The region is also one of the most volcanically active in the world.
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Ounianga Serir.
       
     
Ounianga Serir.

Ounianga Serir, the third and largest lake in Northern Chad, is in the process of being cut into pieces by fingers of sand that blow through breaks in the surrounding cliffs.  The heat and strong wind cause a high rate of evaporation that has turned the potable ground water into a lake that is saltier than sea water, and devoid of fish.  The lakes here have slightly different elevations, and the higher ones are less salty.  The lake is punctuated by ship-like islands of Nubian sandstone, the permeable rock that stores and transports the water underground, and it is stained white by salts leaching out by evaporation. Maps from aerial surveys in 1954 show the lakes being larger and more connected, indicating that the water level has dropped.
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Iraqi tanks destroyed in the liberation of Kuwait.
       
     
Iraqi tanks destroyed in the liberation of Kuwait.

Millions of dollars of Iraqi tanks destroyed in the liberation of Kuwait are gathered near Ali al-Salem military airfield in Northern Kuwait. The military equipment left in working condition is rumored to now be used for target practice by the Kuwaiti armed forces. Each kind of destroyed Iraqi equipment was organized: a field for artillery pieces, for buses, for trucks, cars, etc etc. One prominent Kuwaiti told me the war cost the Kuwait government $23B, the clean-up and rebuilding $25B. It was a significant draw-down on their reserves, but the government is still said to own 20% of Daimler-Benz.
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Wadi Rum, Jordan.
       
     
Wadi Rum, Jordan.

Vacation home and private nature preserve of Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahiyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Constructed in 2002, it is rarely used by the crown prince, and I was told by his local staff of Pakistani workers that he was only here for one day during the past year. I was told that he occasionally goes hunting for birds, but it is primarily a nature reserve for birds and deer. I didn't see any deer here but noticed large caged aviaries and other facilities to support a wide variety of birds and terrestrial animals. The water for all of this is pumped from a network of wells that tap into groundwater.
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Coast of Dry Valleys near Marble Point in McMurdo Sound.
       
     
Coast of Dry Valleys near Marble Point in McMurdo Sound.

The cracked pattern of the ground shows the freeze/thaw pattern of permafrost, with the cracks filled in by blowing ice and snow. During the short Austral summer the shore here is usually open sea water.
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Dead Sea, Zara Spring, Jordan.
       
     
Dead Sea, Zara Spring, Jordan.

Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea near Zara spring, where waves have left a thick layer of salt crystals and stalactites.
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Lake Nasser, Egypt.
       
     
Lake Nasser, Egypt.

Abu Simbel Temple on the west shore of Lake Nasser.  This is the grandest of the ancient Nubian temples that were relocated to higher ground by UNESCO when the Aswan High Dam inundated the area.
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Dead Sea, Israel.
       
     
Dead Sea, Israel.

Sunbathers afloat at the beach resort of Ein Bokek, on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. A favorite pastime here is floating on one's back in the water to experience the lake's hyper-saline buoyancy. Dead Sea water is ten times saltier than sea water, and more dense than the human body. Thus feet, arms and head float effortlessly.
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Skeleton Coast, Namibia.
       
     
Skeleton Coast, Namibia.

Colony of some 30,000 Cape Fur Seals on the beach near Cape Fria on Namibia's Skeleton Coast. This is the Northern-most colony of Cape Fur Seals, which have congregated here to take advantage of the abundant fishery that relies on the last big upwelling of the Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the most remote sections of the Skeleton Coast, and access here is tightly controlled to protect wildlife and the delicate surface of the thin desert soils.
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Bahía Independencia, Peru.
       
     
Bahía Independencia, Peru.

Waves of water meet waves of sand in this aerial view of the Pacific Coast of Southern Peru. The beach sand has formed crescent-shaped barchan dunes, which are caused by strong winds always oriented in the same direction. 
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Takla Makan Desert, China.
       
     
Takla Makan Desert, China.

Lower part of Talimu River (south of Yuli) where it turns SE and forms the border of the Taklimakan dune field. The river is heavily used for irrigation upstream, primarily for growing cotton. Views looking downstream with diversifolia trees in yellow. I flew over this same area two weeks earlier and the water level was one meter higher in flood (due to irrigation controls.) The water in this section of river is potable with insignificant salt content.
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Hoover Dam, Nevada.
       
     
Hoover Dam, Nevada.

The Hoover Dam on the Colorado River was built in the 1930’s to control flooding and supply power and irrigation to California, Arizona, and Nevada. It is one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in the United States and provides the power for nearby Las Vegas. 
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McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica.
       
     
McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica.

Dirty Ice of the McMurdo Ice Shelf takes on a paisley pattern as it is deformed by flow between islands. The surface debris has been shaped into curved ridges by ice movement. The long summer days heat the grey debris and cause it to either melt or insulate the ice, depending on thickness. The insulated parts are less susceptible to melting and have formed ridges 10-20M above the melt pools, which were frozen when this photo was taken early in the austral spring.
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Twin frozen lakes in Bull Pass between Wright and Victoria Valley
       
     
Twin frozen lakes in Bull Pass between Wright and Victoria Valley
Barchan Dunes, Paracas National Park, Peru
       
     
Barchan Dunes, Paracas National Park, Peru

Paracas National Park, a sparsely inhabited section of the South Peruvian Coast, is almost totally lifeless above ground and one of the world’s richest fisheries off shore. Barchan dunes start their march into the desert as the coast bends away from the direction of the Humboldt Current. Barchan Dunes can be construed as the largest life form of the desert, as they fulfill the technical definitions of a life form: by moving, growing, responding to stimulation and propagating. 
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Safi, Jordan.
       
     
Safi, Jordan.

Aerial view of the Lisan Peninsula (Lisan means "tongue" in Arabic), which separates the Dead Sea into two parts. This small bay of turquoise-colored water was formed by the break of a dyke in an evaporation pond of the Arab Potash Works in the year 2000, when the hyper-saline water rushed back to the Dead Sea within a one hour-long catastrophic flow (perhaps caused by a sink hole, but nobody knows), causing damages of approx. 30-40 million US dollars. The beige ground is formed from recently revealed lake sediments which are rapidly eroding from wind and the occasional rain (less than 10 cm/year).
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