Egypt Radar field trip - September 2010

MODIS image of the Nile delta region. The Qattani dunes are longitudinal (seif) dunes west of Cairo, about 50km north of the Birket Qarun lake seen towards the bottom with heart-shaped oasis. The dunes lie on an extensive gravel and sand plain of Pleistocene delta deposits. They are described as follows in the memoirs of the Intelligence Officer of Bagnold's Long Range Desert Group (Kennedy Shaw, 2000): "A treeless, plantless, waterless, manless world, almost featureless too save for poor, nondescript Gebel Hamid ahead, appearing and disappearing over the rolling gravel, and further on the long dune lines of Qatania and Rammak, their saw-toothed sand peaks like a string of battleships in line ahead at sea." The site was visited in September 2010 in order to study the dune internal structure with Ground Penetrating Radar and to ground-truth the detailed geomorphology for the interpretation of spaceborne radar imagery since these dunes appear to resemble those found in Cassini radar imagery of Saturn's moon Titan. The dunes we visited were the easternmost ones. Typically 2 hours to reach from Cairo.
01pyramidCIMG0158 Of course, we had to visit the Pyramids. L-R Chris Savage, Steve Wall, Jani Radebaugh, Steven ?? and myself. We went inside the 2nd Pyramid - not for the claustrophobic! 02camelCIMG0110 Local transport at the Pyramids was provided for a fee. Most preferred the horses, but I really quite liked the camel - nice and high, like a quadruped SUV 03yardangCIMG0196 We visited the 'Valley of the Whales', a former marine basin where fossils of many marine mammals (precursors to modern whales and crocodiles) are found. There was some neat weathering - this material has aqueous honeycomb weathering on top, but are undercut by aeolian erosion to form these 'mushrooms'
04deltaCIMG0208 We inspected some Nile delta deposits (~10 kyr old) on our way to the dunes at Ghard el Quattaniya. Tom Farr at left, Chris, Steve, Diane Evans and Essam Heggy. 05treeCIMG0210 There were many petrified trees in this area - Essam for scale 06woodCIMG0211 closeup of the wood, with my magnifier. Almost done like a real geologist!
07meduneIMG_7051 Me and the Seif dune. These dunes in spaceborne radar resemble strongly the 'Cat Scratch' dunes seen by Cassini RADAR on Titan on flyby T3 08janiduneIMG_7060 Seif with Jani for scale. 10gprdragIMG_7027 The crew drags a ground penetrating radar across the wide plinth at the margins of the dune
10lunchCIMG0228 Lunch break in the heat of the day. Our driver Mohammed always prepared excellent food 11breakingCIMG0269 We examined another dune (in fact a merging pair of dunes) a little to the west. Seen from the (upwind) east, the dune crests look like those of a breaking ocean wave 12jeepradarIMG_7070 A later experiment dragging a longer-wavelength GPR from the landcruiser near the nose of the seif dune.
13sandchannelsIMG_7065 We got stuck, and had to use the 'Bagnold' steel channels to drive out. I'd always wanted to see these in action... 14timelapseMG_7064 My timelapse camera setup. See movies on Home Page 15kiteduneIMG_1763r I got a decent aerial shot of the dune from my kite camera looking north. Notice that the plinth is much narrower on the eastern side. The dune slip faces were all on the west side, suggesting most recent transport is towards the west, although a brief inspection of archival satellite data suggests the dunes are not moving or changing rapidly.
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