Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Waw an Namus: An Oasis in a Volcanic Crater

Waw an Namus is an extinct volcanic crater located in one of the remotest destinations in Libya, deep in the Sahara desert almost at its geographic center. Waw n-Namus volcanic field is about 4 km wide, surrounded by a 10 to 20 km wide dark-black deposit of ash that stands out starkly against the yellowish desert. On the floor of the caldera there is a 120 meter high cinder cone, the apparent source of the ash, as well as three small salty, colored lakes. The name “Waw an-Namus” means the "Oasis of Mosquitoes", or according to other interpretation "The Crater of the Mosquitoes" , from the fact that the surrounding small lakes are infested with mosquitoes, and therefore camping nearby requires nets or repellents.

A common phenomenon in the Sahara is the occurrence of reasonably potable water close to, and at nearly the same elevation as, salt lakes. This scarce source of water feeds the lakes and was also used by travellers in the old days. Due to the presence of fresh water at this remote volcano, Waw An-Namus was always an important watering point for the caravans en route from Waw Al-Kabir to Rebiana and Al Kufrah oases further southeast in Libya.

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Photo credit: George Steinmetz

The scenic volcano was first reported to the outside world by Karl Moritz von Beurmann (1862) and Gerard Rohlfs (1881), although they never visited the site. Probably the first European to visit this volcano and report it was a Frenchman, Laurent Lapierre (1920). Lapierre was a military officer who was captured in combat and taken in captivity to Kufra via Waw Al-Kabir and Waw An-Namus, and so had the opportunity to report his adventure after his release a few years later.

About eleven years later an Italian geologist, Ardito Desio, reached Waw An-Namus during his famous long camel journey. On his geological expedition, Desio also visited Jalu, Maradah, Waw Al-Kabir, Tmassah and Kufra and published a geological description of the volcano for the first time in 1935.

After the Second World War, several scientists visited the volcano, including the geographer Nikolaus Benjamin Richter who undertook several trips to the volcano and published a book on his journey to the area in 1960. Since that time, and as the Libyan government began awarding petroleum concessions in Libya, several geologists, geophysicists and tourists have visited Waw An-Namus, either to explore the adjacent areas or because they were attracted by descriptions of the volcano. In the last two decades, Waw An-Namus has became one of the main destinations for most tourists who visit the Libyan desert in general and the Fezzan region in particular.

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Sources: Libyaherald, Temehu,

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful story! Amazing pictures! Now if you could only decide on how to spell the name. I counted 4 different versions.

    ReplyDelete

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