Updated 26 October 2010                          Page 12

The exploration of Awash river by Wilfred Thessiger. 

Extracts taken from Michael Asher's book.      

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The Awash river in Ethiopia is one of few rivers on earth that don't flow to the sea! It ends up in the sallow salty lake Adebad!
Read about this exiting story told in detail by the adventurer and explorer Wilfred Thesiger!
 As the caravan followed the line of the Awash  - a ribbon swilling through a humid cleft in the lava desert below them, its banks forested with a jungle of mimosas, junipers, wild olives and acacias, dripping with green lianas and shadowing the umber river stream like giant umbrellas- Thesiger recalled Cheeseman's words: this river never reached the sea ! Somewhere in the desert between Abyssinia and Djibouti, it disappeared and no one had been able to find out !
Wilfred Thesiger became a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and read all what was written  about Danakil country absorbing Ludovic Nesbitt's account in the Geographical Journal, only to discover that  all previous expeditions in that region met with disaster!
 The late Emperor Haile Selassie
 The idea of exploring Awash river by Wilfred Thesiger, started during a hunting trip immediately after Haile Selassie's coronation in 1930 !  Thesiger, while studying in Oxford received an invitation, probably the only personal invitation anybody got, from Haile Selassie to visit Abyssinia on his coronation day! Four years earlier Thesiger  had met Haile Selassie on another occasion and expressed his wish one day to return to Abyssinia,...  What other ruler would remember a 14 year old boy's wish and act upon ?  Thesiger's father was one of England's first ambassadors in Addis Abeba on 1911 and a good friend of Haile Selassie .
Tukuls, the houses of the first British Embassy
 in Addis Abeba established around 1902 !
The new British Embassy (Legation) in Addis Abeba 
around 1911 

  The Awash river exploration through the Danakil country, was achieved when Thesiger was only twenty three years old making his reputation as an explorer!   Three or four expeditions before him had been exterminated by the Danakil... It was a challenge that he could not resist...  The Awash rises from the mountains around Addis Abeba, curving along the side of  the escarpment until, beneath the still smoking Fantale crater, it crashes deafeningly down a narrow gorge in a waft of smoking water vapour !

 There, hundreds of feet below, Awash is slowing down through the jagged shoals and small islands and continues between narrow banks of thick forested jungle where even today crocodiles lay shyly on the warm rocks!


   The Awash area, red arrows showing the beginning and end !

  The tangled growth of acacias, oleanders and giant tamarisk is vibrant with calls of saffron coated bee-catchers and families of the indigenous Colombus monkeys ! 


Beyond the rim of the gorge lies a different landscape:  arid scrub merging with riffling acres of golden grass and an unstable volcanic country etched with dry gulches and covered with thorn brush and an occasional clump of towering trees !


Loading mules and camels just before starting the Awash river  exploration in 1933 / 1934
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