Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter or Rub al Khali is a vast sand-sea of huge dunes and desolation. Nobody goes there except the occasional bedouin and oil exploration crews from ARAMCO. I jumped on board an ancient Dakota aircraft to visit one of these remote rigs, found a seat at the back of the aircraft that was reserved for humans. The other half was for goats and other livestock, drilling equipment and whatever else they might need out there. The pilot told me they had recently lost a chopper near where we were headed. It's still lost in the dunes somewhere, ditched through lack of fuel because it missed the directional beacon for the camp. It wasn't the first and it won't be the last. People and machinery just disappear, swallowed by the unstoppable moving waves of huge dunes.  

In 40 degree heat, I was happy for the air-conditioning until I realised the A/C was in fact a hole in the fuselage. This was a real workhorse aircraft, no frills or in-flight movie provided. The pilots were ex-military, and ex-commercial American guys with the kind of laconic demeanour of Indiana Jones bred into their bones. Nothing fazed them. We arrived at the desert landing strip uneventfully and I had only a couple of hours to wander around and grab some shots as best I could. It would have been interesting to have camped overnight, see some of the vast dunes, but that wasn't possible.  These are just three rejected transparencies from the dozens shot, the only ones to survive the years. I haven't cleaned them up, too much dust and marks to make it worthwhile. All the others went to the client. 
Nikon F3, 24mm f2 and 80-200mm, Ektachrome 64.

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