Ralph Bagnold

Ralph Bagnold explored the Western, or Libyan desert in the late 1920s and early ’30s before founding the Long Range Desert Group in 1940.

His film of exploring the desert in 1930 and 1932 is online at the BFI and his book Libyan Sands, 1935, was republished by Eland in 2010.

Film (49 minutes)Book (page number)
00:00 First Reconnaissance of the Great Sand Sea. November 1929. (Dunes found to be passible for cars). Members of Party:- Bagnold, Craig, Holland, Prendergast, Burridge, Fernie.98 Expedition of 1929
00:20 Map [no footage]
00:35 Expedition to the “Great Sand Sea”. “Uweinat”. October-November 1930. Members of Party:- Bagnold, Craig, Holland, Prendergast, Newbold, Shaw.116 Expedition of 1930
00:50 Map
01:00 The start from Cairo. The first stick in soft sand. [footage begins]
03:25 Ain Dalla, 300 miles south-west of Cairo. Petrol supplies arrive for the onward journey into the unknown dunes. Nothing more available for eleven hundred miles.124 At Dalla 21-23 October 1930
4:15 Map
4:30 The Edge of the Dunes. The country becomes choked with Sand Drifts.
5:15 Dunes of the Great Sand Sea, under which 100,000 square miles of the country lie buried.
8:10 Unsuccessful experiments in Navigation. Planting a sighting-balloon to take back-bearings, for plotting the course among the bewildering dunes.
10:10 “An Island”. A Lone Rock strewn with bird skeletons. The first solid ground seen for several days.
11:10 North of the Gilf Kebir. Normal Desert, after 700 miles of sand dunes. Signs of former human occupation, 200 miles from any known vegetation or water. A circle of upright stones.
11:40 The 6,000 ft. Massif of Uweinat, from 20 miles away129
12:00 Jebel Kissu130 ‘Across the open plain… another mountain, a solitary granite peak called Kissu, rises sheer out of the flat desert to a height of five thousand feet.’
12:45 Uweinat. The water hole at Karkur Murr, at the foot of the mountain.130
13:30 Uweinat. Old Herri’s slave, sent down to reconnoitre us.135 ‘a man walked quietly out of the gorge towards us, clad in the ragged blue garment of the Guraan.’
13:50 MAP – retn Cairo
14:05 Expedition beyond Uweinat. October and November 1932. Members of Party:- Bagnold, Craig, Prendergast, Shaw, Harding-Newman, Boustead, Paterson,164 Expedition of 1932
14:20 MAP
14:30 The First Halt. On the Nile Valley Road, South of Cairo.
15:05 Desert edge south of the Fayum. A visit from 216 squadron R.A.F. One of squadron Leader. Penderel’s Victoria Troop carriers.165,166
15:55 Over looking Kharga Depression, near top of Yabsa Pass.
16:40 800 ft. descent of Yabsa Pass into Kharga Depression. The old route down the cliff, used by the Arba’in Road slave Caravans. Rediscovered by us in 1930, as a motor road into the Oasis of Kharga.
18:30 Country on the 450 mile stretch between Kharga and Uweinat.
19:35 Arrival at Kissu. Stores dumped before departure of empty cars for Selima Oasis, to fetch petrol.168 5th October 1932
20:00 Journey to Selima. Across 300 miles of desert, practically without land marks; and return to Kissu Dump.171
20:10 Map
21:05 Map
21:45 Penderel arrives in first R.A.F. machine to reach Uweinat and Kissu. Repacking at Kissu Dump. An aerial visit from Italians camped at Uweinat. Departure of Penderel.173
23:30 A 900 mile journey Westward, into the Sarra Triangle, another sand dune country.
23:35 Map
24:10 The Evening Work.
27:00 The Day’s Work.
28:30 Return to Kissu Dump before the 1000 mile journey south to El Fasher.184
29:20 Map
29:40 Yerguehda Hill. 70 miles south of Kissu. Shady cliff, painted with ancient rock pictures. Semicircle of round platforms on the plain below.
30:20 300 miles further south, life begins on the sand. A Desert Fox, A Baby Oryx Antelope, A Herd of Oryx, Ostrich, Ostrich chicks.188
32:25 The Wadi Howa.
34:10 Shaw Looking for Archᴂological Remains.
34:35 Further South still. Country of annual rains, but no permanent wells. Gom Gom villagers who get their water by donkey from sources twenty miles further south.
36:20 Map
36:30 The Homeward Journey from El Fasher. Intertor [Interior] of Malha crater, below desert level. Meidob tribesmen with their cattle.190 Arrived El Fasher 3rd November 1932
39:30 Malha Crater. A flock of sheep, pouring down the lava cliff.194 Crater of Malha
40:10 Back into the Desert.
41:30 The Salt lake at Merga. 400 miles further homeward.199
43:15 Another 400 miles on. Selima Oasis.
45:00 Back to the Nile, after a journey of 5000 miles. Wadi Halfa and the temple of Abu Simbel.203 Wadi Halfa 19th November 1932
45:55 Map
46:00 Desert between Halfa and Dakhla.
46:54 Ascent of the great escarpment North of Dakhla and Kharga. Dakhla Pass.
48:50 Baharia Oasis.204
49:10 The End.