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Old January 8th, 2013, 11:30 PM
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Default Exploration-Age of Victoria

Traveling through the Egyptian Desert, extracted from Sir Samuel Baker' book, THE NILE TRIBUTARIES OF ABYSSINIA AND THE SWORD HUNTERS OF THE HAMRAN ARABS, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

A few hours from Korosko the misery of the scene surpassed description. Glowing like a furnace, the vast extent of yellow sand stretched to the horizon. Rows of broken hills, all of volcanic origin, broke the flat plain. Conical tumuli of volcanic slag here and there rose to the height of several hundred feet, and in the far distance resembled the Pyramids of Lower Egypt—doubtless they were the models for that ancient and everlasting architecture; hills of black basalt jutted out from the barren base of sand, and the molten air quivered on the overheated surface of the fearful desert. 114 degrees Fahr. in the shade under the water-skins; 137 degrees in the sun. Noiselessly the spongy tread of the camels crept along the sand—the only sound was the rattle of some loosely secured baggage of their packs. The Arab camel-drivers followed silently at intervals, and hour by hour we struck deeper into the solitude of the Nubian desert.

We entered a dead level plain of orange-coloured sand, surrounded by pyramidical hills: the surface was strewn with objects resembling cannon shot and grape of all sizes from a 32-pounder downwards—the spot looked like the old battle-field of some infernal region; rocks glowing with heat—not a vestige of vegetation—barren, withering desolation.—The slow rocking step of the camels was most irksome, and despite the heat, I dismounted to examine the Satanic bombs and cannon shot. Many of them were as perfectly round as though cast in a mould, others were egg-shaped, and all were hollow. With some difficulty I broke them, and found them to contain a bright red sand: they were, in fact, volcanic bombs that had been formed by the ejection of molten lava to a great height from active volcanoes; these had become globular in falling, and, having cooled before they reached the earth, they retained their forms as hard spherical bodies, precisely resembling cannon shot. The exterior was brown, and appeared to be rich in iron. The smaller specimens were the more perfect spheres, as they cooled quickly, but many of the heavier masses had evidently reached the earth when only half solidified, and had collapsed upon falling. The sandy plain was covered with such vestiges of volcanic action, and the infernal bombs lay as imperishable relics of a hail-storm such as may have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Passing through this wretched solitude we entered upon a scene of surpassing desolation. Far as the eye could reach were waves like a stormy sea, grey, cold-looking waves in the burning heat; but no drop of water: it appeared as though a sudden curse had turned a raging sea to stone. The simoom blew over this horrible wilderness, and drifted the hot sand into the crevices of the rocks, and the camels drooped their heads before the suffocating wind; but still the caravan noiselessly crept along over the rocky undulations, until the stormy sea was passed: once more we were upon a boundless plain of sand and pebbles.
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