Photographer's Note

Deadvlei must surely be one of the most photographed locations in Namibia. It is an ‘otherworldly’ place where the skeleton trees point back to a time of plentiful water. The bottom of the ‘remnant pan’ displays polygonal mud cracks, which were formed by the shrinkage of clays during the drying process. The dead camelthorn trees give a radiocarbon age of ca. 900 years

Sossusvlei is often wrongly called a saltpan. Those who have seen the Etosha Salt Pan, will immediately recognize, that Sossusvlei represents another geological situation, the formation of a clay pan. The water of the Tsauchab with its dissolved salts quickly oozes away into the sands (the opposite to the Etosha Pan), thus no time is available for salt precipitation on the surface. This water collects in pore spaces in the underlying Tshondab Sandstones and is funneled along old river courses, which are the remnants from when the Tsauchab still poured its floods into the Atlantic, underneath the dunes to the coast. These now subsurface ‘rivers’ are the explanation for the fresh water occurrences along the Namibian coast for example near Meob Bay (Tsauchab River) or south of Walvis Bay in the Sandwich Lagoon (Tshondab River).

The line of camelthorn trees, which you can see along the broad valley of the Tsauchab River on your way to Sossusvlei show evidence of the subsurface flowing water occurrences of the Tsauchab. The many dead trees prove however, that in more recent times lots of water courses in the subsurface have dried up. The reason for this is not only the poor rainy seasons, but also people have caused a general drop of the groundwater level in the area of the entire Namib Desert by ever increasing extraction. Therefore, even the good rainy seasons which fill up Sossusvlei with their water masses do not changed the long-term situation.

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Additional Photos by Rosemary Walden (SnapRJW) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2818 W: 85 N: 6957] (31629)
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