Sunday, January 25, 2009

More of Namibia - The Living Desert

The Namib is a very dry desert but not at all dead. Many thousands of species live here from strange looking plants to colorful, adaptive animals. Here is a sampling of some of the things we saw.
Trips out into the Namib are faciltated by great guides and here is one of the best - Tommy of the Namib. Deserts seem to draw out the little kid in everyone and although Tommy is in his 50's chronologically, he is a kid at heart. What a trip we had with him at home in "his office".

This is a plant known as Welwichia. It has only two leaves that grow away from a central stem but it looks like many more since the wind shears them apart. Some welwichias can be 1500 years old.

The welwichia is a diaceous plant meaning that it has male and female plants. Here is a picture of the female plant.

Tommy loved to find snakes, scorpions, chameleons - anything that moved and he was an expert in finding them! Here is a venemous sidewinder snake that he found in a clump of bushes.

Check out the feet on this little transparent gecko! It can dig into the sand and breath while buried to escape the summer heat. Tommy followed a faint trackway that disappeared into the sand and dug this little guy up from down below. Awesome!

If people have heard anything at all about the animals in the Namib, it is probably about this beetle that climbs the crest of a dune, puts its butt in the air where fog droplets coalesce and run down its body into its mouth. Water without rain. Tommy collected about 6 of these along the way as they scurried about.

And then we saw a chemeleon! Fadcinating creatures that have independent eye sockets that can look with one over its back while the other looks forward. Who would have thought that something this large would live in the Namib?

And then we learned why Tommy was collecting all of those beetles.

He called them "chameleon hamburgers"

Ouch! Look at that tongue. It all happened so quick too. I am sure that this chameleon just waits by the side of the dunes for Tommy to bring his guests by every afternoon, knowing that lunch will be delivered by his favorite guide.

It's a about the dunes out here though - they are fantastic and they are a great modern analog for many ancient sandstones we see exposed in the American Southwest. In fact these coastal dunes are great analogs for the Schnebly Hill Formation in Sedona or the the Toroweap Formation in the Grand Canyon.

Here's the crest of a dune. The windward side in on the left with the wind ripples and the leeward side is the steep slope down to the right. These are cross-beds in formation!


  1. Tremendous Blog Post, Wayne! AAA+++!
    Fabulous photos and pithty perspectives. You're giving great gifts to us armchair travelers. Your dune panorama is an evocative cross between Serena Supplee and Georgia O'Keeffe! Thanks for bringing the Namib Desert alive.

  2. Anonymous11:09 AM

    You these things, I have read twice, for me, this is a relatively rare phenomenon!
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