Sec. iii) ACROSS THE SALT-ENCRUSTED LOP SEA-BED 3ot
against each other, as if torn asunder by some force acting from below. I was unable to arrive at any clear conclusion as to their exact origin.
It was with real relief that, after a weary tramp of twelve miles, we sighted a line of white Yardangs far away, set off against the darker fringe of rising ground in the distance. The appearance of these salt-coated terraces was now gratefully welcomed as a sign that ` land ' was near. For another five miles we had dragged ourselves painfully onwards, after which the surface of shôr became somewhat less hard and crumpled ; and at nightfall, having marched a little over nineteen miles in all, we reached the edge of the salt-coated Yardang belt. Here I discovered a delightfully soft patch where brown shôr was overlying a soil of coarse sand ; the camping-place it offered was a great boon for men and beasts alike, and I felt profoundly grateful for it. I appreciated it even more when the camels arrived much belated in the dark, realizing what it meant to have escaped a night's halt on ground where neither beast nor man could have found a spot to rest in comfort. And when the next days' marches proved that we had crossed this forbidding sea of hard salt at the very point where it was narrowest, I had reason to be thankful for the indications that had led me to select this line.
One of the hired camels had broken down some miles out ; the men whom I sent back from camp could not find it in the dark, and it was only brought in next morning. The feet of most of the others were cracked and sore, and the ` re-soling ' of the worst sufferers kept the men busy during the night, though a bitter north-east wind made the work doubly trying. The camels themselves now seemed to feel hunger more than all the rest of their trials, and could with difficulty be prevented, on the march, from eating the reed-straw off each other's saddles. As soon as they had arrived and were unloaded, they took eagerly to eating the soft salty soil. When the abandoned camel was recovered in the morning neither feeding with oil-cakes from our reserve of emergency fodder nor a fair drink of melted ice could restore the poor animal's strength. Ultimately, as it was unable, though unladen, to keep up with the rest, it had to be shot a few miles from the start. This was the only loss ever incurred on all my desert crossings.
Our march was resumed on the morning of March 2nd with the previous south-easterly bearing. It led first between salt-encrusted Yardang ridges of the same type as those we had encountered along the opposite shore of the sea-bed. They rose from twenty to twenty-five feet and standing in closely serried lines for the first couple of miles forced us to make constant detours. The Nullahs between them showed a hard crust of salt. But its cakes were big and fairly flat, and after the preceding day's experience the going seemed comparatively easy. Farther on, the lines of Yardangs grew wider apart, and the patches of shôr-covered ground between them, one hundred to two hundred yards broad, were marked only by low swellings of salty soil or small hillocks with gentle slopes. The ridges themselves all retained their wall-like appearance and showed a uniform bearing from N. 3o° E. to S. 3o° W. For the first four and a half miles from camp they continued to be heavily coated with shôr, as if they had been submerged for a long period in the salt sea. Yet the shôr between them grew gradually less hard, and was in places overlaid with coarse sand and a thin coat of gravel, no doubt blown down from the Sai eastwards. The ends of the ridges still adjoined so closely that passages practicable for camels had to be sought by detours.
Beyond this distance the intervals between the lines of Yardangs grew wider and wider, and the Yardangs themselves less heavily impregnated with salt. They were in consequence far more exposed to the erosive action of the winds, and this had left its clear mark upon them by shaping their tops into fantastic forms suggesting domes, pinnacles, &c. The ridges themselves became lower and lower as we continued our march to the south-east, and after having covered close on nine miles from Camp C. ciii, we reached with true relief the edge of a wide plain. Its level surface,