Namibia: Pitch Black

In my last post I talked about how dry The Namib Desert is. I didn’t fib, The Namib is, indeed, one of the driest places on earth, and dust is literally everywhere. But dry is a relative term.

Winters in Florida are ‘dry’, but there it means we get rainfall maybe a few times a month and the average relative humidity hovers around 40% instead of raining five or more times a week with humidity hanging above 80% in the Summer months.

In the Namib humidity can get as low as 10%, but that really depends on where you are. Coastal regions will get fog so thick that clothes left outside to dry can come back wetter than when you first hung them. When the conditions are just right the dry desert wind stops and moisture soaked breezes from the Atlantic will push inland, sometimes up to 100km, blanketing parched sand and rock with an almost viscous layer of fog. This may occur 2-3 times a month with moisture ladened air, not enough to form fog, wafting in a bit more often. It’s hard to predict when it will happen.

Nights in the Erongo Region are usually crystal clear. It’s amazing that there aren’t more optical telescopes here because the skies at night are so full of stars it looks unreal. The Milky Way is easily visible, there are so many stars that constellations are tough to make out.

Yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to climb Mt. Arandis and stay until after dark to get some night shots of the skies. I bought a nice little tripod for my Canon GX-7 Mark II, a head lamp, a snack and some water and set out, timing my climb so that I could also catch the sun as it settled in the west.

I did this alone. (Do NOT try this at home boys and girls!! I did tell people where I was going and was in near constant contact the whole time, but it is still not a wise thing to do.)

Long shadow in the setting desert sun


I’d climbed the small mountain before so I knew the paths and felt confident I could pick my way down in the dark with the help of my head lamp.

My destination


As I ascended I noticed that, of all nights, last night was one of those misty-but-not-quite-a-fog nights. I could see the heavy air as the orange sun settled behind it. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to see many stars or even the Milky Way given that the peak I was on was only 600 feet above the desert floor, but I stayed and took photos. Here are a few.

The sun setting behind a thick mist from the Atlantic

B2 Highway and part of Arandis after sunset

Misty Arandis


In that last shot you can see how thick the air was over Arandis, clear just a few hundred feet up.

As it grew darker I became aware that things look a lot different with just a small spotlight for illumination. I stayed anyway, waiting until it was dark enough to see the Milky Way. I got lucky and was able to capture a shooting star.

Milky Way and shooting stars

“It’s full of stars!!”

OK, photos taken, now I have to climb down in the dark with no defined path to guide me. It was slow going and the wind can make you hear all sorts of things, stoking the imagination.

I made it down without incident, but still had a 40 minute walk in the open desert with nothing but my little head lamp to guide me. I kept wishing I had bought a brighter light…, and a shotgun.

I focused on the red light of a mobile phone tower in the distance, a familiar landmark. My pace was a quick one and all the while I kept feeling like I was a extra in the SciFi movie, Pitch Black, waiting for the spot in the script where one of the monsters would swoop in out of the darkness and make a meal of me, and not even Vin Diesel could save me.

I’m happy to report that no monsters, lions, or even an ill tempered gecko bothered me. While the shots are not perfect they aren’t bad and are worth the adrenaline rush.

I may try it again, and maybe the next time it’ll be drier, and I’ll have a brighter light…, and a maybe a baseball bat. Just in case.

Stay tuned,

Vern

2 thoughts on “Namibia: Pitch Black

  1. OMG, I loved those photos Vern. I have yet to see a shooting star, so it was cool seeing one in your photo. Glad you made it back safely. I wanted to ask if you were getting your walking in there. Sounds like you are. Great blog. Interesting to hear about the weather. It’s raining here. Good for my garden. Keep the posts coming.

    Liked by 1 person

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