Sunday, 22 December 2013

Strange eyes in the desert - The domes of Iran's Dasht-e Kavir

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I first read about the famous Salt Desert of Iran when I was a student 15 years ago, so when I realised that my recent flight back from Australia flew directly over this spectacular landscape I booked a window seat and hoped for a clear day. I was not disappointed.

Roughly 300 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Tehran lies Iran’s Dasht-e Kavir, or Great Salt Desert. From the air it is a mesmerising landscape of parallel and concentric lines which resemble the rings of jupiter, on the ground it is one of the hottest and driest places on earth. Dasht-e Kavir may be a desert now but these geological structures tell a tale of wetter times. Tens of millions of years ago, a salt-rich ocean occupied this region, surrounding a microcontinent in what is now central Iran. The subsequent evaporation of this ancient ocean left behind a layer of salt up to 7 kilometers (4 miles) thick. Salt has a fairly low density, and as layers of younger rock buried it — the salt slowly pushed up like a lava lamp, deforming the younger rock into domes. Wind and rain continue to wear away the top of the domes to expose them in cross-section, like slicing an onion, to reveal geological works of art that are particularly striking when seen from the air.

Factual Reference: Nasa. All images taken through a plane window by Paul Williams - unless stated.

'Desert Eye' - a salt dome in cross section (Paul Williams)

This is a NASA satellite image of the desert, I can identify some of the domes that I photographed.
USGS/NASA description: This image was acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on October 24, 2000. This is a false-color composite image made using infrared, green, and red wavelengths. Nasa Earth Observatory

Any ideas what the structure in the top left might be? Strangely I can't find it on Google maps.