Field science is an integral part of any meaningful expedition; considerable scientific research took place on the original journey of 1930/1931; in addition to creating the first maps of the interior of Arabia, meticulous records were kept of sightings, be they biological, or archaeological, and many specimens were gathered and carried out of the desert for analysis by experts.
Contributing to ongoing scientific research, and stimulating interest and curiosity in field science are key elements of Crossing the Empty Quarter project. To this end we will be working with two leading institutions, in the areas of expedition psychology and archaeology, and will be using our communication technology to engage with global experts, and as wide an audience as possible.
1. Green Arabia
Based at the University of Oxford, under the guidance of Michael Petraglia, Professor of Human Evolution and Prehistory, the Palaeodeserts project has been examining the relations between humid and arid climatic periods and population expansions, contractions and extinctions in the Arabian Desert. As part of this research, archaeological investigations have recently been undertaken in the Empty Quarter. Stone tools indicate that human populations were residing along ancient freshwater lakehores, in an area now characterised only by dunes. Between 100-80,000 years ago, human occupations occurred along the shores of the ancient lake, which is estimated to have been up to 40 kilometres in length. After this time, the desert re-advanced, and water sources dried up. Later on, about 10,000 years ago, Neolithic populations returned to this area, only to disappear once again once the lake receded.
The Palaeodeserts project is conducted as part of a five-year agreement between the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities and the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, and is funded by the European Research Council. Our contribution will be to work closely with the Palaeodeserts team, to share with them, and the public, images and locations of artefacts we observe and discover as we traverse from sea to sea, across the Arabian Peninsula. The Palaeodeserts team, along with global experts, will be invited to comment on the discoveries via our on-line community.
To find out more about the Palaeodeserts project, see www.palaeodeserts.com
2. Extreme Environments Psychology
How individuals respond to extreme and isolated environments is a key issue in contemporary psychological research. These environments provide a natural laboratory to examine fundamental psychological processes such as the link between personality, stress and coping. Understanding how people react when exposed to extreme conditions, such as those experienced in the remote Empty Quarter desert, is of increasing value particularly given the growing possibility of travelling to remote parts of the Earth and beyond. Led by Dr Nathan Smith (University of Northampton, UK) and in collaboration with Professor Gro Sandal at the University of Bergen in Norway, the research team will examine the personal factors and coping responses used by the expedition team members. A daily log will be completed to examine changes in mood and strategies used to manage expedition stressors during the planned 60-day journey.
This extreme environments project is funded by Santander and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Institute of Health and Well-being at the University of Northampton and the research team at the University of Bergen in Norway. The overall aim of the research programme is to understand optimal functioning in extreme environments and how to promote positive responses when returning from journeys into such conditions.
For an overview of some of the research conducted to date, please see http://psyched4sport.com/players-lounge/.