Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daily Photo - 8 Bells

The word "Eight Bells" and an arrow pointing north are spelled out in empty cans of aviation fuel at the south of the Gilf Kebir. The cans mark an aircraft landing site, which was used during the Second World War by the RAF in Egypt. The need for a landing area in this remote part of the world was due to the importance of the Libyan oasis of Kufra. It had been agreed that intermediate landing grounds would be required which would store petrol, and two of these were established by the Long Range Desert Group. The other was at Bir Terfawi, 200km to the east. Eight Bells is named for a topographical feature in the desert - outliers of the Gilf Kebir plateau itself, isolated from the main plateau by the actions of ancient drainage systems. Today nearly all of the cans, which themselves represent wartime archaeology, have been pierced with dots that spell out messages and signatures from visitors who want to be part of the story.

One of the best books that explains the modern history of the Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uweinat areas is Saul Kelly's excellent The Lost Oasis: The Desert War and the Hunt for Zerzura. If you want to see some classic photographs from this era taken in the area you need look no further than Andras Zboray's pages on the FJ Expeditions website (under the side heading Libyan Desert in the left hand menu bar, go to the subheading History and Explanation, and then use the expanded set of titles in the menu bar to visit different sections showing lots of different photographs).

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