Expeditions to the Libyan Desert


1873 - 1874 winter

A German expedition, led by Gerhard Rohlfs, and backed by the Khedive Ismail of Egypt, attempts to cross the Great Sand Sea to reach Kufra from Dakhla Oasis. Their heavily laden camel caravan is unable to cross the high dunes, and the party is forced to turn north and travel in the dune lanes to Siwa. At the point of the turn (named 'Regenfeld' on account of the rain shower experienced there) Rohlfs builds a cairn and leaves a note of their visit, dated 5th February 1874. Later, in 1879 Rohlfs succeeds in reaching Kufra from the north as the first European.

ROHLFS, G., "Drei Monate in der Libyschen Wüste", Cassel 1875


1900-1910

Llewellyn Beadnell surveys much of the Libyan Desert lying between the Nile and the Egyptian oases.

BEADNELL, H.J.L., "The Sand-dunes of the Lybian Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:25 (1910), pp:379-395


1907 January - June

The New York Museum of Natural History organises a fossil hunt expedition, led by Walter Granger, to the Jebel Qatrani region to the north-west of Lake Fayoum.

Unpublished, parts of Walter Granger's expedition diary may be read on The Granger Papers Project website, maintained by Vin Morgan


1909-1912

W.J. Harding King makes several camel trips out of Dakhla Oasis , reaching 'Two Peaked Hill' some 200 kms to the South West of Dakhla in 1909. In 1911 He attempts to go further south, but only reaches 50 kms beyond 'Two Peaked Hill', thwarted by a native guide loyal to the Senussi tampering with his water supplies. He makes a remarkably accurate map of the Libyan desert based on information gathered from natives, including the 'oasis' of Owenat. He also predicts oases somewhere 400 kms to the south west of Dakhla based on the stomach content of migrating birds. King published several articles in the Geographical Journal, and wrote a book about his travels, published in 1925.

HARDING KING, W.J., "Travels in the Libyan Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:39 (1912), pp:133-137;192
HARDING KING, W.J., "The Lybian Desert from native information", The Geographical Journal, Vol:42 (1913), pp:277-283;320
HARDING KING, W.J., "The Farafra Depression and Bu Mungar Hattia", The Geographical Journal, Vol:42 (1913), pp:455-461;516
HARDING KING, W.J., "A Study of a Dune Belt", The Geographical Journal, Vol:51 (1918), pp:17-33;251-258
HARDING KING, W.J., "Mysteries of the Lybian Desert", London, 1925


1916-1918

The british Light Car Patrols are formed to patrol the north western desert frontier of Egypt against the Senoussi threat. The Australian No 1. Light Car Patrol hoists the British flag in Dakhla on 18th December 1916, and conducts several surveying patrols to the south & west of Dakhla till June 1917. (The pass 60 kms to the south of Dakhla along the Darb el Terfawi is named 'Australia Pass'). In 1917 Siwa is captured from the Senoussi by an armored car division making the crossing accross the desert from the Mediterranean coast to Siwa in a surprise attack.

No.1 Light Car Patrol (Australian) War Diary, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)
MASSEY, W.T., "The Desert Campaigns", Constable & Co., London, 1918
DUN, Major T.I., "From Cairo to Siwa across the Libyan Desert with armoured cars", E. & R. Schindler, Cairo, 1933


1917

On a surveying trip with the Light Car Patrols, John Ball & Moore discover 'Pottery Hill', later termed 'Abu Ballas' by Prince Kemal el Din. Skirting the southern edge of the Sand Sea, Ball & Moore reach the broken foothills of the Gilf Kebir without recognising the true nature of the plateau beyond.

BALL, John, "Problems of the Lybian Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:70 (1927), pp:21-38; 105-128; 209-224


1920 November - 1921 February

Rosita Forbes (disguised as a bedouin woman) and Ahmed Hassanein, with a permission from Sayed Idriss al Senussi, make a visit to Kufra Oasis. Rosita Forbes describes this remarkable journey in her book, 'Kufara, the secret of the Sahara'

FORBES, Rosita, "Kufara, Secret of the Sahara", Cassel, London, 1921


1921, 1922-1923, 1924

Lt.Colonel N.B. de Lancey Forth makes several camel journeys into the Great Sand sea, reaching 200 km to the south of Siwa, and Rohlfs' Ammonite Hill from Bir Abu Mungar.

LANCEY FORTH, N.B. de, "More Journeys in search of Zerzura", The Geographical Journal, Vol:75 (1930), pp:48-59


1923 January - June

Starting from the Egyptian port of Sollum on the Mediterranean coast with a camel caravan, Ahmed Hassanein crosses the Libyan Desert from north to south via Kufra Oasis, reaching el Fasher in the Sudan. During this trip Hassanein discovers the 'lost oases' of Jebel Arkenu and Jebel Uweinat, and makes first mention of the rock art at Karkur Talh. The account of the journey was published in the Geographical Journal, the National Geographic Magazine, and a book, 'The Lost Oases'.

HASSANEIN BEY, A.M., "Through Kufra to Darfur", The Geographical Journal, Vol:64 (1924), pp:273-291; 353-393
HASSANEIN BEY, A.M., "Crossing the untraversed Lybian Desert", The National Geographic Magazine, September, 1924 (Vol:46), pp:233-277
HASSANEIN BEY, A.M., "The Lost Oases", Cenbtury, New York & London, 1925


1923 September - October

Douglas Newbold explores the south Libyan Desert with camels, reaching the Wadi Howar and Bir Natrun. On his way he discovers Jebel Tageru, with numerous rock engravings.

NEWBOLD, D., "A Desert Odyssey of a Thousand Miles", Sudan Notes & Records, Vol:7 (1924), pp:43-92


1923 October-November

Bruneau de Laborie crossed the south Libyan Desert with camels from Tekro to Kufra following the caravan trail via Sarra well, then continued to Siwa via Zighen and Jalo.

LABORIE, Bruneau de, "Du Cameroun au Caire par le desert de Libye", Paris, 1924.


1923-1924

Prince Hussein Kemal el Din makes several desert trips with Citroen half-tracks and Ford motorcars, accompanied by John Ball and major Jarvis. In february 1924, the party rediscovers Rohlfs' cairn and document at Regenfeld.

KEMAL el-DIN, Prince Hussein, "L'exploration du Désert Libyque", La Geographie, 1928 , pp:171-183;320-336
KEMAL el-DIN, Prince Hussein, "Á la Recherche des Vestiges laisses par l'Expédition Rohlfs dans le Désert Libyque", Bulletin de l'Institut d'Égypte, 1925, pp:53-61
JARVIS, Major S.C., "Three Deserts", John Murray, London, 1936


1925 January - March

Prince Hussein Kemal el Din, accompanied by John Ball, makes a motor car expedition, starting from Kharga, via el Sheb and bir Terfawi to Jebel Uweinat. They continue to Ennedi, and discover Merga Oasis on the return journey. Kemal el Din is the first to make a scientific report on the numerous rock art sites he discovered at Karkur Talh.

BOVIER-LAPIERRE, R.P. Paul, "Les Explorations de S.A.S. Le Prince Kemal el Din Hussein", Bulletin de l'Institut d'Égypte, Vol:10 (1927), pp:33-44
BREUIL, M. H., Prince Kemal el Dine, "Les Gravures Rupestres du Djebel Uweinat", Revue Scientifique Illustre, Vol:66 (1928) pp:105-117
KEMAL el-DIN, Prince Hussein, "L'exploration du Désert Libyque", La Geographie, 1928 , pp:171-183;320-336


1926 January-February

Prince Hussein Kemal el Din makes a second journey to Jebel Uweinat, this time staring from Dakhla, via Abu Ballas (where he discovers some rock engravings), then along a great plateau he names Gilf Kebir. From Uweinat he continues to Sarra well.

BOVIER-LAPIERRE, R.P. Paul, "Récentes Explorations de S.A.S. Le Prince Kemal el Din Hussein", Bulletin de l'Institut d'Égypte, 1930, pp:121-128
KEMAL el-DIN, Prince Hussein, "L'exploration du Désert Libyque", La Geographie, 1928 , pp:171-183;320-336


1926 March

László Almásy makes his first motorcar trip in Egypt, driving along the Nile valley from Cairo to Khartoum with Prince Eszterházy. They continue with their Steyr till the River Sobat in southern Sudan.

ALMÁSY, László, "Autóval Szudánba (With Motorcar to the Sudan)", Budapest, 1928


1927 Spring (?)

Almásy drives from Cairo to Baharya, returning the following day.

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1927 June

John Ball publishes his definitive article 'Problems of the Libyan Desert' in the Geographical Journal, inspiring explorers for the next decade with the quest for the mythical 'Zarzura' oasis.

BALL, John, "Problems of the Lybian Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:70 (1927), pp:21-38; 105-128; 209-224


1927 autumn

Ralph Bagnold and company make a direct traverse with motorcars accross the desert from Cairo to Siwa.

BAGNOLD, Ralph A., "Lybian Sands", Immel, London 1935


1927 november - december

Douglas Newbold and W.B.K. Shaw make a 1000 mile camel journey exploring the southern part of the Libyan Desert (north west Sudan) from el Obeid to Wadi Halfa, definitively mapping the region, and discovering several archaeological and rock art sites.

NEWBOLD, D., "Rock Pictures and Archaeology in the Lybian Desert", Antiquity, Vol:2 (1928), pp:261-291
NEWBOLD, D., W.B.K. Shaw, "An Exploration in the South Lybian Desert", Sudan Notes & Records, Vol:11 (1928), pp:103-194


1927 - 1928

H.J. Llewellyn Beadnell surveys the Egyptian desert south of Kharga Oasis and west till Jebel Kamil, and sinks the well of Bir Missaha to test Ball's groundwater theory (with success).

BEADNELL, H.J.L., "Zerzura", The Geographical Journal, Vol:77 (1931), pp:245-250


1928 September - 1929 March

An Italian medical mission is invited to Kufra by the Senoussi to cure some ill family members. The small group, led by Dr Giovanni Brezzi, reaches Kufra by way of Jalo and Zighen. After thee months of silence news were received in Benghazi that the Kufra natives have taken them prisoner despite the orders of the Senoussi. After several month's negotiations the prisoners were released after the payment of a hefty ransom, and returned by way of Siwa.

BREZZI, Giovanni, "Cento Giorni di prigiona nell'Oasi di Cufra", Mondadori, Milano, 1930


1929 June

Almásy, with Prince Ferdinand Lichtenstein, drives from Wadi Halfa to Selima Oasis, then follows the untraversed part of the Darb el Arbain till Kharga.

ALMÁSY, László, "By Motor Car from Wadi halfa to Cairo", Sudan Notes & Records, Vol:13 (1930), pp:269-278
ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1929 November

Bagnold and company explore the Sand Sea to the west and south west of Ain Dalla, penetrating 100 kms into the Sand Sea due west, then reaching Ammonite Hill.

BAGNOLD, R.A., "Journeys in the Lybian Desert 1929 and 1930", The Geographical Journal, Vol:78 (1931), pp:13-39
BAGNOLD, Ralph A., "Lybian Sands", Immel, London 1935


Photos courtesy Stephen Bagnold


1930

Colonel Wilson (Chief Staff Officer, SDF) reconnoiters a motorcar route from Dongola to Laqiya and then on to Merga Oasis

SDF documents, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)


1930

Almásy conducts motorcar trials for the Sudan government between Wadi Halfa (?) and Uweinat (there is a sinlge line reference to this in Almásy's book, it's not clear how this relates to Colonel Wilson's trip. Almasy notes that the trials were unsuccessful, and in some documents Wilson also refers to some unsuccessful trials, without mentioning Almasy.)

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1930 October - November

Bagnold and company traverse the Sand Sea from Ain Dalla, breaking out at the north west corner of the Gilf Kebir, then continue to Jebel Uweinat. They return via Selima Oasis.

BAGNOLD, R.A., "Journeys in the Lybian Desert 1929 and 1930", The Geographical Journal, Vol:78 (1931), pp:13-39
BAGNOLD, Ralph A., "Lybian Sands", Immel, London 1935


1930-1931

Patrick Clayton carries the triangulation from the Nile valley to Jebel Uweinat. On April 2nd 1931 on a single day he makes a 200 km run north along the western edge of the Gilf Kebir till Wadi Sora point (he does not see the main rock shelters, but discovers some faint engraved Giraffes near the mouth of the adjacent wadi)

CLAYTON, P.A., "The western side of the Gilf Kebir", The Geographical Journal, Vol:81 (1933), pp:254-259
CLAYTON, P.A., "The South-Western Desert Survey Expedition 1930-1931", Bulletin de la Société Royale de Géographie d'Égypte, Vol:XIX (1934), pp:241-265
CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998


1931 January

After several extensive recconnaissance missions starting from Jalo and Wau Kebir in the autumn of 1930, the Italian army occupies Kufra. Many of the inhabitants flee to Uweinat, then try to make their way accross the desert to Dakhla or the Nile. Hundreds perish in the desert, many were saved by Clayton and the Mamur of Dakhla who mobilised all the available motorcars to search for the wandering refugees.

Governo della Tripolitania e Cirenaica, "L'Occupazione di Cufra", Tipo-Litografia del Comando R.C.T.C. della Tripolitania, Tripoli, 1931
ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste") This Chapter was left out of the 1939 German edition, but included in the 1934 Hungarian and 1997 Austrian editions.
CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998




1931 August

Almásy purchases a de Haviland Gipsy Moth airplane to be used for exploring the Libyan Desert in search of Zarzura. He makes arrangement with a Cairo - Capetown expedition, led by captain G. Malins, to make a detour and accompany him to Uweinat and northern Sudan. Accompanied by Count Nándor Zichy, they take off from Budapest on the 21st of August. Four days later they crash in a storm near Aleppo. Both survive with scratches only, but the airplane is a total wreck. The Syrian papers report them dead, and the Malins expedition leaves Cairo without them. (De Haviland re-purchased the wreck, which, rebuilt, was sold to Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton)

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1931 June - September

Italian geographer and explorer, Ardito Desio, accompanied by Vittorio Ponti, make a 3000 kilometre scientific surveying and collecting trip in the Western Libyan Desert on foot and camelback, starting from Jaghbub, visiting the Kufra group, Arkenu and Uweinat, then continue to Wau Namus, preparing the first published account of the volcano.

DESIO, Ardito et al., "Missione Scientifica della reale Accademia d'Italia a Cufra (1931 - IX)", Vols. I-III, 1934-1939
Ardito Desio website (Italian)


1931 November - December

The Sudan Defgence Force and the RAF organise a major exercise to recconoiter Bir Natrun and Merga oases (the supposed hideout of Senussi & guaraan bandits) involving aircraft and motor car columns starting from El Fasher. Both Bir Natrun and Merga are found to be deserted. (both Col. Wilson & Douglas Newbold are involved in the operations)

SDF/RAF documents, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)


1932 April

A major expedition is organized by Almásy and Sir Robert Clayton East, with Patrick Clayton and H.W.G.J. Penderel, taking a Gypsy Moth aeroplane to the western side of the Gilf Kebir. To replenish their water supplies, Almásy makes a daring solo trip to Kufra and back. In the meantime, an aeroplane flight reveals a vegetated valley in the northern Gilf Kebir. Attempts to enter the valley on the ground fail.

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")
ALMÁSY, László, "Recentes Explorations dans le Desert Libyque", Royal Geographical Society of Egypt, Cairo, 1936
CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998
RODD, F.J.R., "A reconnaissance of the Gilf Kebir by the late Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton", Vol:81 (1933), pp:249-254


1932 October - November

Bagnold and party drive to Uweinat (Bagnold, Boustead, Paterson & Shaw are the first to reach the summit on 11th October), explore Jebel Kissu & Yerghueda hill (where they discover rock paintings), then continue to Sarra Well, Erdi & Ennedi before reaching El Fasher. On their return journey they explore parts of the south Libyan Desert along the darb el Arbain till Selima and Wadi Halfa.

BAGNOLD, R.A., "A further journey through the Lybian Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:82 (1933), pp:103-129
BAGNOLD, Ralph A., "Lybian Sands", Immel, London 1935
SHAW, W.B. Kennedy, "The Mountain of Uweinat", Antiquity, Vol:8 (1934), pp:63-72


1932 October - November

H.W.G.J Penderel makes several RAF reconnassaince flights over the Gilf Kebir & Uweinat (lands to meet Bagnold & party at Jebel Kissu), discovers that the Gilf is in fact divided into two parts by the 'Gap' a broad valley, apparently reachable from the east by cars.

PENDEREL, H.W.G.J., "The Gilf Kebir", The Geographical Journal, Vol:83 (1934), pp:449-456


1932 - 1934

The Italians set up a permanent garrison at Ain Doua, claimed by Britain to lie within Sudanese territory, but do not hinder the movement of british explorers in the area.

BAGNOLD, Ralph A., "Lybian Sands", Immel, London 1935


1932 December - 1933 February

Patrick Clayton makes the first successfull east - west crossing of the Great Sand Sea from Ain Dalla (building 'big cairn' at the western edge), then proceeds south to enter Wadi hamra and Wadi Abd-el Melik, the wadis glimpsed from the air in the spring, but never entered on the ground. On his way south, at the southern edge of the sand sea, Clayton discovers a courious mineral, the Lybian Desert Glass, now thought to be the result of an extraterrestial impact.

CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998


1933 February

Orde Wingate makes a camel trip into the Sand Sea starting from Abu Mungar, and returning to Dakhla (and meeting Clayton on the way).

WINGATE, Orde, "In search of Zerzura", Vol:83 (1934), The Geographical Journal, pp:281-308


1933 February - May

An Italian topographical mission led by Capitane Oreste Marchesi, and including professor Lodovico di Caporiacco, survey Zieghen, Taiserbo and Buseima, then spend two months at Uweinat making the first detailed survey and map of the mountain and adjacent Arkenu. A party climbed the summit, calculated to be 1934 metres, and names it Cima d'Italia. (Their deposited Peak Log was found by us in October, 2002) Near the end of the mission Almásy and di Caporiacco together discover the paintings at Ain Doua, and later enter into a dispute on who is to claim the discovery.

CAPORACCIO, L. di, P. Graziosi, "Le pitture rupestre di Ain Doua", Edit. centro di Studi Coloniali e Institi. Geogr. Milit., Firenze 1934
CAPORACCIO, Lodovico di, "Nel cuore del Deserto Libico - a Cufra, a Uenat ed oltre con la spedizione Marchesi", Firenze, 1934
"Italian Mission in the Libyan Desert (The Monthly Record)", Vol:84 (1934), The Geographical Journal, pp:176
MARCHESI, Oreste, "Otto mesi di vita nel deserto", L'Universo, Vol. XV No. 3 (March, 1934)




1933 March - April

In the company of Lady Dorothy Clayton (Sir Robert Clayton East's widow) Patrick Clayton retraced his crossing of the Sand Sea, and explored the northern Gilf, including the wadis. They made a side trip to Kufra, and concluded the trip by driving north from the silica glass area to Siwa accross the Sanmd Sea.

CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998


1933 March - May

Almásy & Penderel, with austrian author Richard Bermann & photographer Hans Kasparius, organise an expedition to explore the 'Gap' and the northern valleys. At the start, Almásy, waiting for his companions at Abu Ballas, drives north and finds the cairn at Regenfeld with the note of Prince Kemal el Din. They discover the drivable 'Aqaba pass leading from the western plains up to the 'Gap', and succeed entering two of the northern wadis, Wadi Abd -el Melik and for the first time Wadi Talh. At the southern tip of the Gilf Almásy erects a memorial to Prince Kemal el Din, his longtime patron who passed away the year before. Towards the end of their trip, while camping at Ain Doua at Uweinat, Almasy discoveres rock paintings on boulders above the spring (later the discovery was hotly disputed with di Caporaccio).

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")
ALMÁSY, László, "Recentes Explorations dans le Desert Libyque", Royal Geographical Society of Egypt, Cairo, 1936
BERMANN, Richard., "Historic problems of the Lybian desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:83 (1934), pp:456-470
CAPORACCIO, L. di, P. Graziosi, "Le pitture rupestre di Ain Doua", Edit. centro di Studi Coloniali e Institi. Geogr. Milit., Firenze 1934
HOELLRIEGEL, Arnold (Richard Bermann), "ZARZURA, die Oase der kleinen Voegel", Zürich 1938
KÁDÁR, László, "A study of the Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:83 (1934), pp:470-478
PENDEREL, H.W.G.J., "The Gilf Kebir", The Geographical Journal, Vol:83 (1934), pp:449-456


1933 October - December

Almásy leads Leo Frobenius, Hans Rhotert & artist Elisabeth Pauli to the known rock art sites at Uweinat & the Gilf Kebir, then on to the sites of the south Libyan Desert discovered by Newbold & Shaw. During this trip (DIAFE XI) a great number of new sites are discovered, most importantly the two painted shelters at Wadi Sora, and many unknown engravings and paintings at Karkur Talh. Rhotert published the results of this (and the 1935 DIAFE XII) expedition in 1952: "Libysche Felsbilder"

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")
ALMÁSY, László, "Recentes Explorations dans le Desert Libyque", Royal Geographical Society of Egypt, Cairo, 1936
ALMÁSY, László, "Bir Bidi", Sudan Notes & Records, Vol:18 (1933), pp:259-276
RHOTERT, Hans, "Libysche Felsbilder", Darmstadt, 1952


1933 December

The Egyptian Aero Club (Chaired by Taher Pasha, Almásy's patron) organises a two day air race along the 'Oasis Circuit', Cairo - Assiut - Kharga - Dahkla - Farafra - Baharya - Cairo. Much of the preparation and surveying for the course was done by Almásy.

ALMÁSY, László, "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937


1934 January - August

In December 1933, the Sudan Defence Force and the RAF receive orders to occupy Merga Oasis, and the well at Karkur Murr at Uweinat, in response to the Italian's claims to the Sarra triangle. On the 15th January the RAF (from Egypt) lands a small party at Uweinat, while the SDF organises a more permanent post. The No.2 Motor Machine Gun Battery commanded by Guy Prendergast (companion of Bagnold on all earlier trips)reaches Merga from El Fasher on 18th January. On 9th February the No.1 Motor Machine Gun Battery commanded by F.G.B. Arkwright reaches Karkur Murr from Wadi Halfa via Selima, after a two week struggle to find a passable way among the dunes and cliffs. Both posts are maintained till August.(Three SDF parties climbed the peak of Uweinat, as attested by their note found in November 2001, and the Peak Log entries found October 2002). The occupation of Karkur Murr ends following the demarcation of the Libya - Sudan boundary in early August.

See the Arkwright photographs page for a complete documentation.

SDF/RAF documents, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)


1934 March-April

Almásy leads a group of Cairo socialites and journalists to the Gilf Kebir & Uweinat.

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1934 March-April

Italian geologist Prof. Umberto Monterin and party explore the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat. In the company of Major Ottavio Rolle, commander of the Kufra Garrison, they ascend the Emeri Highland (South West Uweinat) and discover Ain Duarmé, the little-known fourth spring of the mountain.

MONTERIN, Umberto, " L'esplorazione del Tibesti settentrionale e delle zone confinarie del sud libico", Boletino del Società Italiana per il Progresso della Scienza, 1935 (pp. 113-130)


1934 July-August

In the Rome Treaty signed the 20th July, Britain cedes the Sarra triangle (formerly considered a part of Sudan) to Italy, making the larger part of Jebel Uweinat (west of 25th East Longitude) a part of Libya. A boundary commission was formed, the British side appointing Bimbashi E.T.Wyatt and surveyor Sweeting, colonel De Angostini heading the Italian party. The commission demarcated the boundary at Uweinat during August, the signposts remain to this day.

SHAW, W.B. Kennedy, "International boundaries of Libya", The Geographical Journal, Vol:85 (1935), pp:50-53


1934 December

Patrick Clayton organises an expedition with L.J.Spencer, Keeper of Mirerals at the British Museum, and other mineralogists to the Libyan Desert Glass area.

CLAYTON, Peter, "Desert Explorer", Cargreen, 1998


1935 January - April

W.B.K. Shaw and party make an extraordinary journey, traversing virtually all major parts of the Libyan desert. They start from Kharga, reach the Gilf Kebir via Abu Ballas, make the first crossing of the dune belt in the 'Gap' to enter Wadi Hamra, discover two major wadis transversing the southern Gilf (and locate a cave with rock paintings on the col between them), then continue via Selima and Erdi to El Fasher (where they meet Almásy and party). On the northbound leg they traverse the southern Libyan Desert, continue to Uweinat, pass the western side of the Gilf, then traverse the Great Sand Sea to reach Siwa. A member of the party, Michael Mason described his experience in his book 'The Paradise of Fools'.

MASON, Michael H., "The Paradise of Fools", London 1936
SHAW, W.B. Kennedy, "An expedition in the southern Lybian desert", The Geographical Journal, Vol:87 (1936), pp:193-221
SHAW, W.B. Kennedy, "Rock Paintings in the Lybian Desert", Antiquity, Vol:10 (1936), pp:175-178


1935 February - March

Almásy leads a hunting party from Wadi Halfa, along the Darb el Arbain to Wadi Howar, then on to El Fasher and back. Count Széchenyi makes an account of the trip, "Rolling Sands".

MASON, Michael H., "The Paradise of Fools", London 1936
SZÉCHENYI, Zsigmond "Hengergġ Homok (Rolling Sands)", Budapest, 1964


1935 April

In the company of Hans-Joachim von Esch, a german living in Alexandria, Almásy explores the Great Sand Sea from Ain Dalla to Siwa, the last remaining 'blank spot' untouched by earlier explorers or Clayton's surveys.

ALMÁSY, László, "Az ismeretlen szahara" (The Unknown Sahara), Budapest, 1934 and "Levegġben, homokon" (In air and on sand), Budapest, 1937 (The abridged version of the two volumes was published in German as "Unbekante Sahara", Leipzig, 1939, re-published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste")


1935 April-May

The German DIAFE XII expedition (Leo Frobenius, Hans Rhotert and others, this time without Almásy due to the row over the attribution of the earlier discoveries), starting from Ain Dalla, visits the Gilf Kebir, discovering a rock art site in Wadi Hamra, and several new sites in the Wadi Sora area. They proceed to Kufra, continuing the expedition in the Fezzan.

RHOTERT, Hans, "Libysche Felsbilder", Darmstadt, 1952


1935 December 20.

Almásy refused permission by Sudan Government to travel from Wadi Halfa to Uweinat then on to El Fasher with prince Ferdinand Lichtenstein, due to suspicion about him 'having friends on both sides of the border' (referring to both his Italian and German/Egyptian friends, neither of which were looked upon favorably by British authorities). After this rebuttal Almásy concentrates on setting up a gliding and aviation school in Cairo sponsored by Taher pasha, and makes only short desert trips with von Esch, mainly in the north.

Foreign Office documents, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)
See the Almasy Documents page for details.


1938 February - March

Bagnold & the Egypt Exploration Society organise a scientific expedition to the Gilf Kebir & Uweinat. Hans Winkler records rock art at Karkur Talh, Oliver Myers excavates two main neolithic sites in the Gilf Kebir, in Wadi Bakht and Ard al Akhdar. Bagnold & Shaw discover a new rock art site in Karkur Murr, and one also in wadi Abd el Melik in the Gilf Kebir. The results are published in Winkler's 'The Rock Drawings of Upper Egypt, vol. II.

BAGNOLD, R.A., O.H. Myers, R.F. Peel, H.A. Winkler, "An Expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938", Vol:93 (1939), pp:281-313
MCHUGH, William P., "Some Archaeological results of the Bagnold-Mond expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uweinat, Southern Lybian Desert", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol:34 (1975), pp:31-62
WINKLER, Hans A., "The Rock Drawings of Soutern Upper Egypt II.", Egypt Exploration Society, Oxford, 1939


1940-41

In 1940 July, Bagnold forms the Long Range Desert Group. Shaw, Patrick Clayton, and many others of the former exploring trips are involved with the preparations & subsequent exploits. In 1940 October the LRDG attacks and captures the Italian post at Ain Doua. In 1941 January the LRDG and the Free French from Chad attack Murzuq Oasis in Libya. (On the return journey Clayton was captured after a skirmish with the Italian Auto Sahara Company at Jebel Sherif). In 1941 March the Italian garrison of Kufra surrenders to General Leclerc.

BAGNOLD, R.A., "Early Days of the Long Range Desert Group", The Geographical Journal, Vol:105 (1945), pp:30-46
SHAW, W.B.Kennedy, "The Long Range Desert Group", London, 1945


1941 June

The Kufra Garrison is taken over by the Sudan Defence Force, who set up a system of convoys supplying Kufra from Wadi Halfa via Jebel Kamil, "Eight Bells", then along the western side of the Gilf to Kufra. LRDG headquarters are moved to Kufra, then to Siwa as action centers on the north coast.

SDF Kufra Garrison War Diary, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)
SHAW, W.B.Kennedy, "The Long Range Desert Group", London, 1945
WRIGHT, J.W., "War time Exploration with the Sudan Defence Force in the Libyan Desert", The Geographical Journal; Vol:105 (1945), pp:100-111
The Bagnold Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge (unpublished)
See the Kufra Convoys page for details.


1942 May 4.

3 Blenheim aircraft of the South African Air Force 15th Squadron stationed at Kufra become lost and force land on their first training flight. Despite an extensive air and ground search utilising all mobilisable forces, the aircraft are only found 7 days later, by which time all but one of the 12 man crew are dead. A court of inquiry convenes at the end of May in Kufra.

SAAF 15th Squadron Detachment War Diary, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)
SDF Kufra Garrison War Diary, Public Records Office, London (unpublished)
Court of Enquiry proceedings, RAF/SAAF (unpublished)
See SAAF Blenheims Page for details.


Photos courtesy Jim Howey


1942 May 15 - 29

Almásy, assigned as a Hungarian Air Force officer to the German Abwehr (Military Intelligence), starting from Jalo, delivers two German spies, John Eppler and Hans Stansteade accross the Gilf Kebir and Kharga to Assiut, and safely returns to Jalo. His feat may have been unknowingly aided by the comotion caused by the loss of the three Blenheims. The British are alerted to his presence by his intercepted wireless messages decyphered and transated at Bletchley Park, but the warning arrives too late. Kufra garrison and the LRDG only sends out patrols to intercept him in early June.

GROSS, Kuno, Michael ROLKE & András ZBORAY, "Operation Salam - László Almásy's most daring Mission in the Desert War", Belleville, München, 2013
EPPLER, John, "Operation Condor", McDonald & Jane's, London 1977
SHAW, W.B.Kennedy, "The Long Range Desert Group", London, 1945
See also the Almásy Documents page for more details.


Photos courtesy Michael Rolke


1942 May 25 - July 8

Captain Robert Dubois organises and leads a convoy of 42 vehicles from Faya in Chad to Wadi Halfa and back, via Sarra, Uweinat and Selima, to supply arms and amminition to the Free French Forces based in Chad..


Photos courtesy Alain Godec


1962 August, 1963 August-September

In 1962 a Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst expedition explored and mapped Jebel Arkenu, and discovered several rock art sites ignored by previous explorers in favor of it's larger neighbor, Uweinat. In 1963 the Sandhurst Expedition explored two large unmapped plateaus lying in the south Libyan Desert between Kufra and Sarra well. During this, the wrecked cars of the LRDG G patrol were located at Jebel Sherif (The patrol was attacked by the Italian Auto Saharan Company, and Patrick Clayton was captured).

WILLIAMS, M.A.J., D.N. Hall, "Recent Expeditions to Libya from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst", Vol:131 (1965), pp:482-501




Photos courtesy Roger Breese


1965 January

The Belgian Trans Sahara Expedition (the first to accomplish an entire west to east crossing of the Sahara from Agadir to Port Safaga in a period of two months) passed by Jebel Uweinat. It was during this expedition that J. Leonard formulated the plans for a more extensive scientific survey of Uweinat.

LÉONARD, J.,"The 1964–65 Belgian Trans-Saharan Expedition", Nature 209 (08 January 1966), pp: 126-128
STASSE, Jean, "Coup d'éclat au Sahara", Novicta, Bruxelles, 2011


Photos courtesy Jean Stasse


1963 November - December

A joint archaeological survey expedition of the Southern Methodist University and the Geological Survey of Egypt survey a large area to the west of the Nile and south of Kharga, including Dungul Oasis, Bir Nakhlai and Bir Sheb.

HESTLER, James J., Philip M. Hobler, Rushdi Said, "Prehistoric settlement Patterns in the Libyan Desert", University of Utah Anthropological Papers, No. 92, Nubian Series No. 4, April 1969


1967 April

The US NAMRU-3 expedition spends some days at Uweinat studying it's fauna and flora.

OSBORN, Dale J., Karl V. Krombelin, "Habitats, Flora, Mammals, and Wasps of Gebel Uweinat, Libyan Desert", Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 1969 Number 11.


1967 April & 1969 August

The Desert Rescue Team of the RAF, based at El Adem near Tobruk, made a number of expeditions to the south during their annual exercises. In 1967 April the DRT visited Jebel Sherif, where the wrecked LRDG trucks were still there, intact. In August 1969 the DRT visited Jebel Uweinat where they found several rock art sites near Ain Doua, and the remains of two Italian Savoia bombers wrecked by the LRDG in 1941. The team also visited the spring at Arkenu, which was reported dry.

ZELENY, Adolf P., "The Desert Rescue Team", After the Battle, Number 51, 1986


1968 November - 1969 January

The Belgian Scientific Expedition spends two months at Uweinat. In Karkur Talh, they discover a series of rock shelters with paintings that are among the most spectacular of saharan rock art. Francis van Noten publishes the findings in his book "Rock Art of the Jebel Uweinat"

LEONARD, J. et al, "Expedition Scientifique Belge dans le Désert de Libye", Africa - Tervuren, Vol:15 (1969), No:4
VAN NOTEN, Francis, "Rock Art of the Jebel Uweinat", Graz, 1972


1972 - ongoing

The Combined Prehistoric Expedition, led by Fred Wendorf, carried out excavation at several prehistoric sites in the southern part of Egypt: Bir Sahara, Bir Terfawi, Dunqul Oasis, Nabta Playa. The work is ongoing at Nabta Playa.

WENDORF, Fred, et al., "Egyptian Prehistory: Some new concepts", Science, Vol:169 (1970), pp:1161-1171
WENDORF, Fred, et al., "The Prehistory of the Egyptian Sahara", Science, Vol:193 (1976), pp:103-114
WENDORF, Fred, Anthony E. Marks (eds.), "Problems in Prehistory: North Africa and the Levant", Dallas, 1975
WENDORF, Fred, et al., "Late Pleistocene and Recent Climatic Changes in the Egyptian Sahara", The Georgaphical Journal, Vol:143 (1977), pp:211-234.


1977 Spring

The Saviem Croisiere des Sables expedition traverses the whole width of the Sahara with five Saviem TP3 trucks and two Saviem SMB four-wheel drive trucks , starting in Mauritania, and crossing to the Nile. On the last leg of the trip they crossed from Kufra via wadi Gubba to Egypt, skirted the southern end of the Great Sand Sea and continued via Kharga to the Nile. At several spots along their route they set up markers or "balises". Two of these remain in the Libyan Desert till today, Balise 21. just north of the Gilf Kebir, and Balise 22. a little west of Hill With Stone Circles.

GALISSIAN, C., "Croisiere Des Sables", Arthaud, Paris, 1977


1978 September - October

A multidisciplinary group including Farouk el-Baz, Vance Haynes and William McHugh visits the Gilf Kebir & Uweinat, retracing Bagnolds' 1938 expedition. The team made new exploration in Wadi Bakht and Ard-el Akhdar, and made a comparison of desert landforms and those on Mars.

EL-BAZ, Farouk et al., "Journey to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, Southwest Egypt, 1978", The Geographical Journal, Vol:146 (1980), pp:51-93


1980 - ongoing

The Heinrich Barth Institut of the University of Cologne, under the auspices of the B.O.S. and AKACIA projects led by Rudolph Kuper, carried out surveys and excavation at several prehistoric sites in the Libyian Deserts: Sitra Oasis, Great Sand Sea & Silica Glass Area, Abu Ballas, Wadi Hamra, Wadi Bakht, Ard el Akhdar, Jebel Kamil, Wadi Howar. The work is ongoing.

Heinrich Barth Institut


1987-88 winter

Dr Carlo Bergmann makes the first of his solo camel expeditions to the Libyan Desert, walking from Dongola via Selima and Burg el Tujur to Uweinat, then returning via Abu Ballas to Farafra Oasis. Since then, Bergmann has made several solo treks to the Western Desert, making a number of startling new discoveries.

BERGMANN, Carlo et al., Die Suche nach dem Stein des Tutanchamun, GEO Magazin, 10/00.
BERGMANN, Carlo and Klaus Peter Kuhlmann, Cheops' Expedition, GEO Special 05/01 - Ägypten
BERGMANN, Carlo, Der letzte Beduine, Reinbek, Rowohlt 2002