View Full Version : Info about deserts

10-01-2004, 03:44 AM
Part of my novel is a trek across a desert and I'm looking for info on, well, traveling across a desert: What it's like physically for the people, clothes they would wear, even what kinds of land would surround a desert. I've googled every key word/phrase I could think of and haven't found anything I can use. I thought maybe someone here might know of a resource. Anyone? I think I might go to the kid's section of the library when I have a chance.

10-01-2004, 04:19 AM
Of course, children's books are great resources for just about anything; they describe problems and situations in simple, unaffected language.

As to your desert problem, doesn't it depend on what kind of desert your characters find themselves in? I live on the edge of what's called the "High Desert" in central Oregon. Yet the area is vastly different from the Saraha or the Mojave. I believe the definition of desert is barren terrain and low rainfall. Thus, the Antarctic qualifies, but is as different from what most of us conceive as 'desert' as is the Saraha. The surface of the Moon also qualifies.

Assuming your characters are in a Saharan-type desert, sand, hot climate, no water, etc., the biggest problem they'll face is dehydration. They'll want a good supply of water, which to mammals, anyway, is in a desert, the more valuable than gold. This is why in North Africa, oases are so crucial. Commerce revolves about them, wars are fought over them, all roads lead to them ... You get the picture.

As for clothing, think of pictures of North African nomads; they wear loose clothing in layers that almost completely covers them (unlike golfers in Palm Desert, Arizona :lol ). They would wear some sort of sturdy foot covering.

Questions: How are they travelling? On foot? In some sort of vehicle? On the back of an animal? Is this trek a source of conflict? Are they perhaps without some necessity that would make the journey across the desert comfortable?

10-01-2004, 06:37 AM
In older usage, desert simply meant a deserted place, so somewhere like a forest could be described as a desert. But even the hot deserts seem to vary a good deal - somewhere like the Kalahari (I'm sure that's not the right spelling) is far less extreme than the Sahara.

10-01-2004, 06:43 AM
I wasn't even thinking about there being different types of deserts! :smack I was thinking Sahara.

They will be on foot, I think (I'm still in the middle of the first draft, so things could change) and I'm thinking they'll have a camel(or something) to carry supplies. There is a native guide. They need to cross it to find a city that is believed to be only a myth. So the desert needs to be so harsh that people don't go poking around those parts too much. The city is also guarded by magic, so it doesn't have to be impossible to get to, just not pleasant.

10-01-2004, 06:49 AM
Guess I wasn't thinking much last night. I just went to yahooligans and found a good start.

Terra Aeterna
10-01-2004, 06:51 AM
You could always rent the movie "A Far Off Place". That's Australian desert and of course movies aren't exactly reliable research, but it might help with atmosphere. :)

10-01-2004, 07:22 AM
Or see "Rabbit Proof Fence" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252444/) -- another film about the Australian wilderness.

10-01-2004, 07:27 AM
Laura, are your people accustomed to this desert? Or do they live in a more friendly clime and are just visiting the desert? That would make a big difference in how they dealt with the harsh environment along with all the other problems you throw at them. ;)

10-01-2004, 07:49 AM
They are visitiors (except the guide, who is a native). I'm finding alot on the climate, geography, etc. but not much on traveling through (except with modern convieniences). I did find a few books referenced that I will look up. I also found some info on clothing. I found a site (http://mbgnet.mobot.org/) that had info on different biomes and ecosystems that was a BIG help in figuring out what type of desert I was thinking of (I'm leaning towards the Arabian Desert and the Bedouins)

I guess I'm looking for info on how nomads traditionally traveled and how outsiders would reacted to it. Just want to keep the facts realistic.

10-01-2004, 08:31 AM
There are also deserts in the oceans. Those are places that the fish and mammals avoid because there's no plant growth to form the base of a food chain. Consequently, if you're on a liferaft in one of those few sections, your chances of survival will be even lower.

10-02-2004, 11:19 AM
Try researching the Tuareg (also spelled Tawarek) for info about how to live/travel in the desert without modern conveniences. I researched them once and found a very interesting account by a German professor of living with them. Anything you find will be culturally specific, of course, but you can always extrapolate.

I've found university libraries can be very helpful. My favorite technique is to look up some books on my topic, then write down the call numbers and go browse in that section (that's assuming you're allowed in the stacks). I tend to find stuff I didn't come across in the catalog.

I've found kids' books about deserts helpful in learning about the flora and fauna - and they have pictures. :)

10-02-2004, 07:13 PM
I did come across the Taureg online, not much indepth information. I will have to get out to a larger library. To give you an idea, the local one I use is in the basement of an elementary school and the SciFi section is in the closet (which my kids think is neat) I may check out the library at the community college.

10-02-2004, 08:06 PM
Movies are good resources -- they've already done the research for you, and it's visual.

10-03-2004, 03:11 AM
It actually does sound kinda cool to have the SF section in a closet. Maybe they keep it there behind a false back wall because the neighborhood witch-hunters are convinced that SF/Fantasy is all the work of the devil... Watch out if they catch you writing it! :D

10-03-2004, 03:51 AM
Or maybe if you go far enough in, you find another world inside it. :)

10-03-2004, 04:03 AM
Hmmm...I've only gone in far enough to find their storage stuff (which is actually right in the middle of the floor). If both my husband and I are looking for a book, we almost have to take turns. I'm guessing they don't have many requests for SF/Fantasy.

10-03-2004, 05:01 AM

Back issues of National Geographic. Check your local used bookstore. I know they've had a number of articles on deserts.. I've read a few of them.