It starts as deposition on the bleak and rugged Atlantic coastline where Cape Fur Seals and Bank Cormorants abound and gorge themselves on the abundance of one of the ocean’s richest and most fertile oceanic currents…the Benguela. The pounding surf deposits layer upon layer of sand onto this most inhospitable burning shore and the sand in turn is instantly dried and windblown adding a layer to the nearest of a vast series of progressively bigger and steeper dunes as they continue their ever-ponderous march inland.
The sand changes colour the longer it is exposed to the air thanks to its ferrous composition. The further inland the dunes moves the more of a burnt copper hue they attain until at some point deep within Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park they become something surreal and ethereal particularly in the angled half light of dawn. Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei are probably the most famous examples of this otherworldly colour pallet. A walk into Dead Vlei at dawn feels tantamount to awakening inside a bizarre dreamscape painted by Dali. The chalk white salt pan forms a vivid foundation to a backdrop of electric orange and bronze on the surrounding dune field with the sky a brilliant cerulean blue behind and above. Standing silent and twisted within the pan are a regiment of dark, desiccated and skeletal Camelthorn trees that whisper on the desert breeze of a more fertile distant past. The silence overwhelms the eardrum and is all consuming. Sounds…when they happen…take on a different timbre in the arid dunescapes of central Namibia as if someone has somehow stolen the earth’s ability to provide resonance. Wildlife finds a way here too living both on and within the dunes from rapier horned Gemsbok to Shovel Snouted Lizard and Sidewinder Adder…delicately marked gazelle-like Springbok to the unlikely Palmatto Gecko and Namaqua Chameleon…specialized desert denizens perfectly adapted to a parched and yet beautiful world that is so utterly and completely devoid of moisture.