IN THE DESERTS OF THIS EARTH by Uwe George

IN THE DESERTS OF THIS EARTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Uwe George combines the knowledge of the ""desertologist"" with the spirit of the adventurer in this remarkable account of the Sahara, the Mojave, and others of the world's most desolate places. George establishes how varied deserts are. Sandy dunes, yes, but more often gravel and rocks, rubble, old coral basins, dried river beds, salt domes, tablelands, mountains. All that diversity has given rise to awesome adaptations of life forms. George describes plants that stake out territories--even to the extent of putting out toxic roots to discourage near neighbors. He describes how tree forms evolved into cacti and the extraordinary durability of seeds, shrimp eggs, or bacteria which remain viable after long droughts. For eventually water does come to the desert, even if it sometimes falls as ""ghost"" rain--drops which evaporate before reaching the ground. There are birds which hibernate, snakes whose sidewinding motion prevents burns, burrowing toads, and, of course, the redoubtable camel whose broad feet act like snowshoes, whose long legs elevate the viscera from steaming surface heat, whose hump swells with fat-bound water enabling two weeks' survival, and whose long neck keeps the camel's head above the level of most sandstorms. There is a grim geological message in all this, however. Deserts are old phenomena and are destined to expand. Worse, through oxidation of surface minerals they may rob the atmosphere of oxygen. Man's technology has only made matters worse. A word about the book's organization: the chapters are very long with major digressions on the origin of the solar system or of life, and, later, discussions of the moon or Mars. While these are relevant, they tend to frustrate the reader totally fascinated by the description of desert phenomena and the personal narrative. George and his wife have seen strange things and tell about them with spine-tingling delectation. Therein lies the book's real charm.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich