Knowledge for a sustainable world

The famed explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger died on 24 August 2003 in hospital at the age of 93. In a lifetime of travelling and exploration in the Middle East and Africa, often willingly enduring hardship and eschewing modern methods of transport, Sir Wilfred took a spartan approach to sharing the austere lives of others. His lasting legacy is his eloquent writing about his travels and his renowned collection of photographs from places and cultures now changed beyond recognition by technological advance. He is most famously known for his crossings by camel of the 'Empty Quarter' of Saudi Arabia in the late 1940s in the company of a group of Bedu tribesmen. What is less well known is that these expeditions were sponsored by the Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC), one of NRI's forerunners. The explorer had approached ALRC's Dr Boris Uvarov (later Sir Boris Uvarov FRS), who provided funding from ALRC for him to map the desert area and particularly to locate the outbreak centres of locust swarms in the region. Sir Wilfred Thesiger's book on his exploration of the 'Empty Quarter' ("Arabian Sands" 1959) is widely regarded as a classic of serious travel writing and as giving an exceptional insight into the lives of the Bedu at that time. Several of Sir Wilfred's original reports, annotated maps and photographs from these travels are retained in NRI's Locust Archives at Chatham.