Martin Williams

The author of this book recounts, in layman’s terms and without resorting to technical jargon, the exciting journeys he took as part of his work as an earth scientist in some of the most inaccessible regions of the world’s arid and semi-arid regions. He wrote this condensed account of some of the work he has been involved in over the past fifty years in an effort to try to convey to the non-specialist some of the excitement and fun that is involved in doing fieldwork in the drier regions of the world. His goal was to do this by appealing to the reader’s sense of adventure. Martin Williams’ research into the soils, landforms, and recent geological history of arid and semi-arid regions has taken him to some extraordinary locations in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. Not only are the landscapes themselves frequently breathtakingly beautiful, but coming into contact with people whose histories and cultures are quite different has been an eye-opening and enriching experience. Because of his work, he has traveled to many remote locations around the world, including the rugged mountains of Ethiopia and northern China, the sandy deserts of the Sahara and Rajasthan, and the great river valleys of Somalia, central India, and the Nile. Even though they are presented in a somewhat chronological order, the chapters that follow are not meant to be read as a single, continuous story told in chronological order. It is more appropriate to think of them as vignettes or brief, evocative descriptions, much like the way Irish storytellers used to tell their tales in the olden days when they traveled from place to place. The author’s goal is to both entertain and educate readers, and she does so by operating under the assumption that one does not need to be solemn in order to be taken seriously.