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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2006 > Aug > Aug 3

African Desert Has Its Own X-Files

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2006 11:42:32 -0400
Fwd Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2006 11:42:32 -0400
Subject: African Desert Has Its Own X-Files

Source: The Star - Cape Town, South Africa


August 02 2006

African Desert Has Its Own X-Files

By Veruska de Vita

This is when you'll see them, round barren patches devoid of
plants and rocks.

Perfectly circular and mostly equidistant, they pockmark the
landscape like Leopard's spots.

The Himba people, native to the Namib Desert, believe they have
always been there, much the same way a zebra has always had its

Colonialists believe that they're made by fairies, yes, the
creatures of myth and folklore, that migrated across stormy seas
to find new breeding grounds.

In the Namib, evolutionary mutations cut deep into history.

White Ladies (sand spiders) do cartwheels down dunes, owls leave
their night time narrative printed in the sand like tattoos and
the sound of the desert turns introspective.

The enigma of fairy circles, much like Stonehenge and crop
circles, has attracted researchers from many schools of thought.

Theories have been flung about furiously, resulting in caustic
disagreements and years of extensive correspondence.

The circles have been dug up, the sand tested for geomagnetic
forces and radioactivity.

Two chefs from Carlton Food Network have even pitched a tent
smack in the middle of one of them, passing the night in
feverish dreams that in the morning had them itching with insect
bites. They blamed it on the fairies. Others looked to the
heavens for an explanation and when the alignment with the moons
of distant planets didn't quite match up, they threw up their
hands and blamed the circles on UFO landings.

Locals joke, saying that Bushmen have been playing golf. Others
like to blame highly creative desert dwellers wanting to get
onto the crop circle bandwagon and stir up some interest in

Ruth Amasubiya, who comes from the Caprivi Strip in the North of
Namibia, explains that in traditional beliefs, the circles were
made by a dragon's breath. "There is the opinion that beneath
the edge of the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world,
lies a crack in the earth's crust. A dragon lives there.

"Whenever he exhales, bubbles of fire rise to the surface,
burning the vegetation, causing it to completely vaporise,
forming circles."

There seems to be an invisible barrier in this area of
Sossusvlei that protects it. So evocative is the place that a
lodge was built here, appropriately called Sossusvlei Mountain
Lodge. In this part of the world there is no cellphone signal,
the skies are remarkable clear and relatively free of satellite
and radioactive interference, there are no telephone poles, no
electricity wires and there is only one road to get there.
Remote and pristinely special. Is the immigration of fairies any
wonder then?

It seems that concentric circles attract eccentricity. Bob
McGown, a geophysicist from Portland University in the US, lay
awake at night with an eye on the stars. But at the break of
day, his telescopic gaze would turn to the fairy circles.

As the resident astronomer at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge, McGown
was affectionately known as "MadBob". He came in search of
meteorites but instead found "self-organising" natural craters
made by teen social creatures. Instead of fairies he found a
community more endemic to the area - termites.

In his correspondence with Vernon Swanepoel, a ranger at
Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge, Bob admits that he is an amateur at
studying termites. "Just the discussions with Carl Sagan and
Miles Paul and the popular Nova show called From Telescopes To
Termites by Frank Drake have sparked my curiosity.

"The aspects that interested me the most are the complex
interactions going on to create these circles. Since we know
that termites live in these circular mounds their migration
underground may have an effect on the frequency and distribution
of the fairy circles.

"The fairy circles have been baffling scientists since the early
1970s," says Swanepoel.

A keen researcher himself, he's had many late night debates over
the organic essence of these rings.

"People have had a lot to say regarding the circles.

"I've heard everything from landing locations for flying
saucers, impact points for broken-up meteorites, tribal dancing
spots and fossilised termite mounds."

At first he's reluctant to discuss his theories, it's sometimes
difficult to let go of the shroud hiding the natural
explanation. And then he reveals the piles of neatly filed
papers and books he's collected over the years.

The papers reveal the correspondence between him and a
pharmacologist called Carl Albrecht in which each guided the
other towards a more probable explanation.

In 1993, as the fairy circles kept evolving, each waxing and
waning over a period of 30 years, Albrecht stepped into the
Namib Desert.

He researched like an insomniac by night. Albrecht presented the
hypothesis that the circular barren patches were caused by a
chemical associated with termites.

A fraction of the size of a pinhead, these termites have a
protrusion coming out the top of their heads where a semi-
volatile chemical is stored. Precious in its ability to inhibit
dehydration resistance in plants, the termites release it into
the soil killing off the plants and creating a water trap.
Albrecht published his hypothesis in the South African Journal
of Science in 2001.

In the article he suggests that since termites are not covered
by an exoskeleton and are prone to rapid dehydration, they build
their nests many metres underground and only come out at night.
The reason for their disappearance when other researchers dug by

"Understanding the factors that cause circular barren patches is
principally driven by curiosity but may have relevance for an
holistic understanding of the evolution of deserts," writes

"It is possible a termite induced peripheral zone of barren
patches on the edge of the Namib, may help to extend the desert
in time."

"Perhaps the circles are the desert's way of creating breathing
space for itself," suggests Elizabeth Light, a journalist from
New Zealand.

From the top of a sand dune she looks down at the spotted
landscape, temperature dropping as the sun sets behind the
mountainous petrified dune.

Swanepoel, the unofficial keeper of the fairy circles, glances
over at her. Under the weight of the Atlantic, the desert had
held its breath for millions of years.

Perhaps, with the help of the creatures native to its warmth and
its harshness, it's ensuring its survival. Perhaps it is the
migrating fairies, as yet unphotographed, who in spring, bask in
the heat of the desert, remove their clothes to reveal their
true selves and fly amongst colonies of tiny winged termites.

[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://www.uforeview.net for the lead]

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