17-Aug-2007 -- Saviour Brincat, a.k.a Sammy, party-manager of seismic crew Nageco 206, had dreamed about recording a new Confluence point for the 18 years that he had been working in Libya. For various reasons, he never managed to fulfil this dream, but his opportunity arrived when his crew was posted in the Libyan desert near Darna. Confluence point 32N 23E, 40 km southeast of his crew's camp-site, was still available for 'discovery'.
To be honest, nothing would have happened if yours truly (Duncan Psaila, admin on the same crew) had not taken matters into his own hands and organized the whole expedition in time for Sammy's 50th birthday (Happy Half-Century, Sammy).
The third member of the expedition was Muftāḥ Ramaḍān Sadawiyy, surveyor on Nageco 206, who came along because firstly, we needed a Libyan driver, and secondly, because we begged him on our knees.
We made the trip on 17 August for the following reasons:
- It was the last day of my hitch... the next day I was on the plane to home, sweet home, and alcohol (Libya being an alcohol-free country)
- The next day was Sammy's 50th birthday... and it seemed a fitting birthday present for Sammy after an 18 years' wait for a Confluence point!
- My relief on the crew, Marcus Lindner, had just arrived from Malta, and very kindly offered to hold the fort while we went on our trip. It should be noted that today, almost 10 weeks later, Marcus is still in the desert waiting for his residency visa to exit Libya. So, if any reader is acquainted with anyone working in the Libyan Immigration Ministry, Marcus would be really happy to hear from you!
We left camp at around 14:30 hrs. Our equipment for this trip included a Toyota Landcruiser, a Garmin V GPS, a Thuraya satellite phone, a Motorola 2-way VHF radio, a Sony N1 digital camera and tripod, and a cardboard placard with the Maltese flag and the Maltese cross drawn on it (Sammy and myself being die-hard Maltese patriots).
32N 23E may be only 40 km away from camp, as the crow flies. However, the land around 32N 23E is a high-risk area because of unexploded ordnance, mostly from World War II. Thus, we could only proceed along pre-cleared tracks which made the journey much longer. Special thanks is due to Chris Snaith, a British EOD (Explosive Ordnance Deminer) who kindly cleared the final portion of the track to 32N 23E for us.
The day was clear and hot, and the terrain was flat, rocky desert. The going was made easy by the absence of wādiys (occurring further north), sabkha, and dunes. However, the ground is strewn with small rocks, some of them sharp, and flat tyres are a very common occurrence in this area. Indeed, we carried 2 spare wheels, as specified by Nageco policy. The journey itself was uneventful. I had promised Sammy and Muftāḥ that I would entertain them with dirty jokes during the drive to 32N 23E. However, Sammy did not let me smoke in the vehicle, and I retaliated by sleeping during the entire drive. We did not meet anyone during the trip, apart from a solitary herd of camels.
We did not have much time at the Confluence point itself, because we had to be back at the camp before dark. So, we took out our camera, tripod and cardboard placard, and recorded the evidence of our visit there. Obviously, we congratulated each other on entering the annals of world navigation, along with folk like Columbus, Magellan, and Marco Polo! When we were able to control our euphoria, we went back to the Toyota to go back to camp. Needless to say, Sammy still refused to let me smoke in the car, and so I slept all the way back, too.