National Geographic : 1967 Nov
ONE DOES NOT SPEND 14 years of his life in the desert with impunity. I am under its spell; I know this, I recog nize it. It is there, as Ernest Psichari, grand son of our French writer Renan, has said in his Appel du Silence, that I knew my first hours of real solitude, there for the first time that I "listened in reverence to the hours falling in the eternal silence of the desert." During all my service as a French Army officer in western Africa, I had dreamed people have always reproached me for dream ing too much!-that men might set forth into the desert in sailing machines, as on a genuine ocean, to measure themselves against a wind to whose furious assaults they had so often been forced passively to submit. When at last 698 opportunity came, I organized the First Trans-Sahara Sand and Land Yacht Rally, and last February came to Bechar, Algeria, ready to attempt the first mass crossing of the Sahara under sail. With me in the pretty oasis are 22 men and one charming lady, fresh from the comfort able countries of France, Great Britain, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, and West Germany. None are familiar with these parched sands. All are here in response to invitations mailed to every land yacht club whose address I could find. Thus I am respon sible for them and worry about them. What demon drives me to lure people with out any experience of the desert into this mad adventure? Why do I not try it alone, mine alone the risks and dangers, to be the lone hero or the lone victim?