Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 90: Nov-Dec 1993

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Dune Circles Of Sossusvlei

The Dead Pan of Sossusvlei lies in the Namibian Desert some 50 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a 5-hour drive from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Geologically, this feature is a clay pan in the flood plain of the Tsauchah River, which flows on the average only once in a decade. Towering above the clay pan are sand dunes that reach 350 meters elevation above the river bed. They are veritable mountains of sand and the tallest dunes in the world. The potential anomaly at Sossusvlei is not the size of the dunes but rather the mysterious circles of grass that grow upon them. All we have to go on is a photograph showing a dozen or so of the circles situated at some unspecified distance from the photographer. Somewhat irregular in shape, the circles seem to be on the order of 100 meters in diameter. No grass at all grows within the rings of thick grass, but outside grow sparse, evenly distributed grass clumps. The writer of the Sossusvlei article labels the circles "unusual phenomena." (Pupkewitz, Tony; "Sossusvlei," Optima, 36:136, 1988. Cr. P.A. Hill. Optima is a South African publication.)

Comment. Are these circles akin to the "fairy rings" found in moister climates? Perhaps also pertinent are the clones of creosote bushes which grow outwards in expanding circles, as mentioned in a fascinating recent article on giant aspen clones, which may be a million years old! (Grant, Michael C.; "The Trembling Giant," Discover, 14:82, October 1993.)

From Science Frontiers #90, NOV-DEC 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987