National Geographic : 1990 Feb
LAST-DITCH attempt by desperate fisher men to hold on to the dyingAral Sea, a dried-up canal to the retreating shoreline is strewn with their abandoned boats. Drained of life, 11,000 square miles of former seabed, like this along the south ern shore, have become deserts of sand and salt. Still Asia's second largest body of land locked water, after the Caspian Sea, the Aral has lost more than 40 percent of its surface area since 1960. Worse yet, what remains has become too saline to support any of the native species that once filled its waters. A cause celebre for the Soviet Union's newly vocal environ mentalists, the sea is an ongoing environ mental tragedy-at least on a par, say many, with the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe of 1986.