James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Friday Photo: The Empty Quarter

Of all landscapes, the desert and it’s vast and unfamiliar incomprehensibility, must make it perhaps the most difficult to write about. With all the will in the world, I’m not sure how to describe it. So forgive me for taking the easy option and borrowing words from Thesiger, through whose writing I first heard of the Empty Quarter.

“In the deserts of southern Arabia there is no rhythm of the seasons, no rise and fall of sap, but empty wastes where only the changing temperature marks the passage of the year. It is a bitter, desiccated land which knows nothing of gentleness or ease. Yet men have lived there since earliest times. Passing generations have left fire-blackened stones at camping sites, a few faint tracks polished on the gravel plains. Elsewhere the winds wipe out their footprints. Men live there because it is the world into which they were born; the life they lead is the life their forefathers led before them; they accept hardships and privations; they know no other way.”



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