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Unknown Unknowns in the Desert

Camel Navigation


There are many things that I am excited about discovering in the Sahara and some of these are what Donald Rumsfeld might have called the ‘known unknowns’. Another thirty degrees of night sky will be offered up, including such important treats as Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky (after Sirius). It is impossible to see under any conditions from Britain.

Although I must not waste the precious liquid, it is also mouth-watering to try to imagine some of the ‘unknown unknowns’. I will be keeping the senses fully alert and hoping to catch the smell of oases on the wind, but perhaps there will be some surprises too. R. A. Bagnold, a desert expert and scientific pioneer, once found a water hole by following the smell of a single camel he picked up from eight miles away. My method of travel makes it very unlikely that I will be able to use this method. I suspect that shortly after setting off I will begin the process of smelling more like a camel than a human being myself.

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