Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday, February 24: A school field trip to the Empty Quarter

This morning we went to the big sabkha (salt flat) that we found last night along the road to Tel Moreeb.  We were joined by about 30 students and teachers from Cambridge High School in Abu Dhabi, an international school.  The students were from all over:  Germany, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Emirates, etc.  They were very engaged and they helped us collect some methane samples and make some measurements at this very interesting site. 

There was standing water in puddles, colored by pink and orange halophilic bacteria.  More bacteria, mostly green and pink, live in layers just under the salt crusts.  They are using the salt crust like a greenhouse window.  The salt lets some light through, but not too much.  It also protects against desiccation, and limits competition from other organisms.

After collecting our samples and saying goodbye to Cambridge High School, we continued south on this dead-end road into the Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter.  This is the world’s largest area of continuous sand dunes, stretching about 600 miles into Saudi Arabia.  Jon Rask and I climbed a dune, and the heat was so intense it was hard to breathe.  It was at least 30 degrees F hotter on the dune than it had been on the sabkha, and it was warm enough on the sabkha.

1 comment:

  1. Very exciting, very inspiring...I'm getting an itch to do some research about these halophilic bacteria. Great pictures Mike!