At midday the entire plain suddenly seems to move in a bizarre way. In some way the Zeiss binocular has metamorphosed into a kaleidoscope. The gravel pavement is disintegrating in vapors of heat reflected from the baking ground. We’re passing through scenery full of lakes but they’re just phantoms under a quicksilvery sky. In the hazy heat, small pebbles turn into palmy islands. Like objects of an evil charm they shrink to their natural size as we approach. On the featureless plain only the wheels seem to roll but not the car itself. Flat as a pancake, the billowing environment provides no scale to indicate our movement. Due to the straining visibility conditions we quit and stop for lunch.
At noon in April the Hammada is everything but a pleasant summer resort. Al Samum, the hot wind from the northeast, blows steadily, turning one’s throat into sandpaper a minute after the last sip from the ghirba. When the wind turns south, like right now, things get even worse. Al Dschumdschab, the Uburi Sand Sea’s glowing breath, haunts the plain as if a giant oven was combusting behind the southern horizon. As we man the car at three in the afternoon, the temperature inside is still 132 F°.
Our first sighting this afternoon turns out to be a bullet-holed jerrycan. Originating from an improvised Italian airfield from the North African campaign, the canister bears the German army inscription “Wehrmacht 1941”. Although our party is focusing on extraterrestrial litter, we take coordinates and examine the place closer, since battle relics are quite uncommon in the central desert. Pierced Italian equipment, empty M 38 Carcano clips as well as plenty of British calibre 303 rounds add to the on-site findings. Back home the research will lead to the assumption that we came across the remains of a skirmish the T-patrol of the British Long Range Desert Group fought in late 1942. The desolate landing strip once served as an outpost on the air route to Murzuk and it was presumably not the most glorious day in the Duce’s Army when the LRDG raided the place.