Oxford University Danakil Expedition Update



(c) David Lewis
In early August, after 10 months of planning, myself, Goobo Mohammed, an Urban Planning student from Addis Ababa University and Anthon Jackson, a freelance photographer from Utah met in the Ethiopian capital. After stocking up on last-minute essential supplies in Addis - bamboo poles and anti-biotics - we bumbled along about 900km north to Assaita, the former capital of the Afar region. It was in this dusty town that we picked up two new team members, our ships of the desert; Big Tony and Bolbirry. The temperatures were already trying by this point, breaking 50°C every day but this was only to be the beginning as we journeyed to the hottest place in the world.

David with his trusty Aquapac
Stormproof™ SLR Camera Pouch
(c) Anthon Jackson
From Assaita, we pushed on out into the bush and got an increasing sense of the wilderness into which we were entering, as heavily-armed, stern-looking Afar warriors would approach our camel train, lean back on their crooks and quiz our interpreter, Goobo, as to what exactly we were doing there. After a couple of days on the road we met two amicable Afar, Tur and Mohammed, who would later become the final two members of our fellowship with which we'd head on out of the bush and into the unrelenting desert of the Danakil Country.

For the next 3 weeks, hyenas, crocodiles, 'demon governments', imprisonment and a couple of raids from the nearby warring Somali tribes ensured the expedition was fraught with much excitement and unpredictable adventure. At the same time, we could also count on the Danakil to provide steady, blazing heat tickling 60°C most days. Our route took us loosely along the course of the Awash River, to its terminus at Lake Abhebad, through a volcanic wasteland interspersed with ominous, looming mountains. With the aim of the expedition to retrace a route undertaken by Oxford explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger and to get under the skin of the Afar tribe inhabiting the region, we spent the time amassing a great deal of footage of the Afar and their practices as one of the most traditional tribes left in Africa. Having learnt a tremendous deal about their way of life and, most importantly, their remarkable resilience in such a challenging environment, we journeyed back towards Assaita, towards refrigeration, two or three skin tones darker and almost 12kg lighter!
Aquapac Noatak Wet & Drybag
(c) Anthon Jackson

Just as before, the Aquapac products were just the job for the expedition and delivered on their promise of being 100% waterproof. As difficult as it is to review a map case, I can vouch for its sturdiness and we hadn't any problems. The best piece of kit was undoubtedly the SLR camera bag. This felt and performed like a really top-notch piece of gear and withstood all sorts of bashes and bruises out in the Danakil. I was very impressed with this product and its hardiness! 


All of the film and photography are the foundations of a short film we're beginning to produce called 'Among the Afar'. Within a few months we hope to be entering it into a number of film festivals, as well as use clips to feature in a couple of talks here and there in London, Bristol and Oxford.

David Lewis, Oxford University Exploration Club 

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