National Geographic : 1966 Jan
KODACHROMESW NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY "We are Bedouin," he said. "It is our life." They were still chanting Bedouin songs when Lynn and I laid out blankets under the blazing stars. Next morning we explored the 250-foot crater. Sand had nearly filled it. On the higher, western rim we picked up torn chunks of limestone bedrock and fragments of glassy slag-sand melted by the impact of a meteor. "Here! Over here!" It was Jabr's voice in the distance. We followed his footprints a quarter of a mile across the sand. Rumor had become reality; the biggest iron meteorite ever found in Arabia lay at our feet (page 35). It was too big. Shaped roughly like a saucer, it measured about four feet in diameter and two feet thick at center. A little quick geom etry put its weight at almost two and a half tons. We couldn't possibly bring it back. Breakdowns Force a Desert Detour The great nugget rang like a bell as I chipped a sample off the edge. Meanwhile, Lynn made a sketch map of its location. We surveyed the crater; then, our work finished, we retreated northward. The last item packed up was my thermometer. It read 127° F. Troubles plagued our return trip; the heat and rough terrain of the Empty Quarter are hard on the best of vehicles. The Power Wag on threw a fan blade. I used up most of my first-aid kit on a torn radiator hose. Ali, the driver, patched the radiator with a mixture of barley flour and camel dung. Then a short circuit in the Land-Rover burned out the generator, which began to screech. We decided to detour and stop for repairs at "Seismo-4," an Aramco exploration camp. I had the address in my notebook: Lat. 23° 40' 00" N., Long. 49° 32' 24" E. The camp manager, Bob Anderson, greet ed us with dishes of chocolate ice cream, promises of spares, and bunks for the night in one of the camp's air-conditioned trailers. Like a black ghost at Halloween, a Bed ouin woman peers through a slit-eyed veil. Henna stains her work-worn hands. Pat terned drapery on the tent, hand-woven from dyed wool and goat's hair, partitions off the harem. Moslem law allows a man four wives -but only if he can treat them equally. Bawling for water, thirsty camels await their turn to drink at Nadqan Well. Men sip coffee in the shade of goat-hair tents, while women tend to early-morning chores.