ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 44 – GEOLOGIST IN THE MOUNTAINS OF OMAN (MONO)


Geological research in the mountains of Oman; and a friend of mine, a fellow geologist, whose name I have now forgotten; 1976/77.

To say that this area is rugged is vast understatement.  But, as the song goes, “we were much younger then”, and we had excellent, tough Land Rovers to transport us into remote places – this very rigorous off road driving stood me in good stead when, a few years later, I was in Kenya.

But I look at this picture now and wonder what on earth would have happened if we’d had an accident or some other disaster – we had no radios or mobile phones – how we would have notified the outside world, or been extricated from these wilds, doesn’t bear thinking about.

As part of our preparation for this work, we all had to learn to administer, to others and to ourselves, intravenous injections of serum in case of snake bites or scorpion stings – I can’t remember encountering any snakes, but scorpions were commonplace under stones and pebbles.  The great weak link in all of this medical preparation was me, for as soon as I saw the hypodermic needle probing about trying to find a vein, my head started to feel like it was bursting – and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of people laughing down at me!

We never had any of these bites or stings – although I remember a hornet sting on my neck – but the scenario would have been all too predictable >>> whether one of my colleagues was stung, or I was alone and stung >>> out would come the needle and one british geologist would have been flat out on the ground – very likely killing whatever had stung him by collapsing on it!

UPDATE 2021: looking back on this now, I can only say that I feel both very grateful and very privileged to have been able to be in such wild, remote and desolate places.  The experiences have stayed with me, and have really influenced my whole outlook on the world and, indeed, on Life in general.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: Practica LTL with 50mm Tessar lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; converted into mono, and toned, in Silver Efex Pro 2.



17 comments

  1. That’s quite a photo – really beautiful – and it’s a great story, from another time, as you said. Worth reposting! Even with GPS and phones we still have people being rescued or going missing here in the mountains frequently. There are still lots of places where the phones don’t work. It gives one pause sometimes (especially if “one” is a little older!).

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    • Thank you, Lynn. Yes, older is a big thing here. Looking back now from my early 70s, I’m aghast at many things like this I did with a thought or worry in the past, age brings such perceptions I think. 🙂

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  2. Hey, Oman 1976/1977? Fantastic! I was there from 1985 – 1988, and it was still much as it would have been hundreds of years ago. When you were there it would have been even more so. I’ve brilliant memories of so many trips to the interior.

    Which particular part of the mountains was your photo taken?

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    • This is interesting, Mick, what were you doing in Oman? Yes, when we arrived in 1976, the interior of Oman was just like going back into biblical times, it was a real experience and extremely interesting. Without much delving I can’t recall exactly where this was now, but we were often in the mountains on either side of the Wadi Jizzi, but also west of the mountains, and further south around ?Nizwa?. We were sometimes in Muscat, but our base was up the Batinah coast, in Sohar. 🙂

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      • I was a seismologist in those days, working for Shell (to my shame – I’ve recanted now!). I knew the Batinah pretty well, and often visited Nizwa – often on my way to interesting jebels and wadis. Wadi Jizzi sounds vaguely familiar, but I’ve no idea whether I ever went there. I just looked it up and saw it has outcrops of pillow lava which I don’t remember.

        I’ve often wondered about going back, but having seen some films of how much development there’s been, I doubt I will. It would be rather a shock.

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        • Seismology, ah right! Wadi Jizzi, in those days at least, was the single big tarmac road through the mountains, from near Sohar to the UAE etc. Yes, pillows, we were working on the ophiolite complex. As to going back, I think you’re absolutely right not to. There will have been enormous development, eg a university in Sohar now, whereas it was a small and very basic place when I was there. People you might have come into contact with: Pete Jeans? John Smewing??? And I feel very much t he same about going back to Kenya, I never shall; remote, arid areas may still be the same but, for example, Maasai tribesmen now have mobile phones. 🙂

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          • I don’t think I ever came across either of them. We were contracted by Shell and based just outside Muscat, processing the data and liaising with particular geologists depending upon which area we were working in, and I don’t recognise those ones. I can’t remember any particular names now, but I’m sure I’d recognise them if I heard them…Bert Heima was a Dutch geologist I worked with, I believe.

            Yes, it’d be very different now. I look at my photos and they seem almost, well, magical.

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