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Film Screening - Crossing the Empty Quarter

Crossing the Empty Quarter

Following flag 160 on a 49 day, 1,300 km journey on foot and by camel across the biggest sand desert on earth

The documentary, much of it shot using drone technology, will tell the tale of the recreation of the first ever crossing of the largest sand desert on earth, the Empty Quarter of Arabia. The journey of 1,300 km reached Doha in Qatar on January 27th 2016, after 49 days on foot and by camel through Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Until 2016, all requests to repeat the historic first crossing that took place in 1930/31 had been denied by the Saudi Arabian government. Thanks to high level patronage, Explorer’s Club Fellow Mark Evans was able to secure the support of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and by Royal Command was allowed to enter and cross Saudi Arabia at a remote border crossing, and so complete the first ever crossing of the largest sand desert on earth since the original expedition 85 years before.

The original expedition, undertaken by British Explorer Bertram Thomas, who addressed the Explorers Club in February 1932 before being made an Honorary Member, described the central part of the Empty Quarter as an ‘Abode of Death’. In 2016, no rain had fallen for seven years, but thankfully the ancient wells remained full.

The 2016 expedition set off from Salalah in southern Oman on the same date, December 10th, as the original journey in 1931. Travelling on foot and by camel, the team spent 49 nights sleeping out under the desert stars, with no tents or shelter. Initially travelling through frankincense covered hills, after two weeks the journey reached the southern edge of the sands, where they met their camels, before entering the abode of death. The team survived sandstorms, rain and temperatures that dropped to zero degrees as they followed the wells used by Thomas and the 1931 expedition, chronicling a rapidly changing landscape and people as they went. Scientific research was undertaken for the archaeological Green Arabia project, and research was also undertaken into Extreme Environment Psychology.

Using satellite communication technology, the expedition used social media and traditional websites and blogs to communicate key values, and reconnect young people in Arabia to their rich culture and heritage. In doing so, an audience of more than 170 million people from 180 nations followed their progress across the sands.

Mark Evans ( is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London, and an International Fellow of the Explorers Club. 55 years old, Evans is the Executive Director of Outward Bound Oman, the only Outward Bound School in the Arab world. He has a passion for historical exploration; recent expeditions have seen him leading a two man crossing the Greenland Ice-Cap on the trail of Nansen, being surrounded by Arctic Wolves on the uninhabited Melville Island in the NWT of Canada, on the trail of the first ever overland journey in the Arctic by the British Navy in 1827, an spending a year, including 4 months of total darkness living in small tents on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, home to the largest population of Polar Bears. For the past 20 years Evans has lived in the Middle East, where he has explored and travelled extensively in Saudi Arabia, on in Oman, where he recently completed a 55 day solo kayak journey along the coast from Musandam, near Iran, to the border with Yemen.

Date: Friday, September 22

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Screening

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

Student Ticket Price: $5 with a valid academic ID at the door

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste