National Geographic : 1962 Mar
There are no individual operators; each family belongs to a cooperative. But private owner ship still exists. In the north country a family in a cooperative can have 50 head of livestock to do with as they please, accounting to no one for their profits. In the steppe country and in the Gobi, individual ownership of 70 head is permitted. Some who graze the steppe in summer and fall move into the Gobi for the winter. A few live the year round in the western Gobi. A brigade of 145 families - a unit of a large co-op in the steppe - permanently occupies the part of the Gobi we visited. They run 3,000 camels, 90,000 goats, and 40 horses. Six springs and two small creeks provide wa ter. These, however, would not be enough without 120 wells recently dug. Water Lies Close Underground Gargal, a weather-beaten herdsman with thin chin whiskers who had been in the Go bi for years, told me: "Gobi has much water. Two meters, three meters underground. Sometimes we go seven meters." His face lighted up. "It is cold, clear, sweet water." Nowhere in the Gobi, according to the Hun garian engineers who are drilling wells, is it difficult to find water. Nine out of ten borings strike water less than 500 feet down. The brigade of which Gargal is a member roams a part of the Gobi that stretches 120 miles from east to west and about half that distance north and south. The brigade grazes the high ridges of the Gurban Sayhan in sum mer and moves for the winter into the Gobi lowlands, where the elevation is only about 3,000 feet. The Gobi blazes with flowers in April and May. Gargal's face was bright when he described them. Natural Airstrips Dot the Gobi Heavy rains come to the Gobi in July and August. Then the ravines often know flash floods. The rest of the year little moisture falls. A jeep can go almost anywhere. Apparently no glacier ever moved across the Gobi.* Yet there are many rounded rocks. Pebbles are flat; some areas are packed so tight and smooth that a small plane could land and take off with ease. There is much evidence of volcanic action. Remains of ancient lava flows are common; quartz crystals and gray, red, and bluish sedi mentary rocks, all flat and highly polished, lie everywhere. The Gobi is ever-changing. Low, rolling ridges, occasional isolated knolls a hundred *In the 1920's and 1930's the famous explorer Roy Chapman Andrews roamed the Gobi for the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, and found dinosaur eggs 95 million years old at the Flaming Cliffs of the Gurban Sayhan. He wrote of his adventures in the June, 1933, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.