The Aral and the Ustyurt Plateau: Terra Incognita

 

aralIn the Year of Ecology, the Museum of the World Ocean and the Association of Peredvizhniki Art Photographers invite you to the project "The Aral and the Ustyurt Plateau: Terra Incognita" devoted to the tragedy of the Aral Sea. 

From November 1, the exposition Depth will turn into a unique area of Central Asia – the desolate Ustyurt Plateau which used to be a seabed of the Tethys Ocean 20 million years ago and the Aral Sea-Lake, one of the largest lakes on the Earth, which is disappearing rapidly in full view of the present generations. Michael Flint’s and Vladimir Onopko’s photographs will show the desert of Ustyurt in spring when accumulated during winter, scant moisture gives short life to plants; how delicate flowers “flutter out” of barren soil and on bushes like butterflies; how the Aral Sea appears blinding blue under the Central Asian sun; how lifeless are its shores and surface that used to be an oasis beyond imagination.
The world’s attention to the Aral Sea, its environment and nature of Central Asia was provoked by the environmental disaster that has changed this land beyond recognition. As far back as 40 years ago, the sea area reached 70 thousand km² and was nicknamed “fish barrel”. It was a source of life for hundreds of thousands of people and home for the enormous bird kingdom. By the present moment, the Aral has shriveled, its area has tenfold reduced in comparison with 1960, the south shore has moved 100 km northwards, the seafloor has turned into a salted desert with the city of Mo‘ynoq, a former fish capital of Karakalpakstan, in the centre. Sandstorms scatter the Aral salt over hundreds of kilometers and so depriving soil of fertility. The rich Aral ecosystem died – there is no fish in the water anymore and birds left this former land of plenty.
aral1Located to the west of the Aral, the Ustyurt Plateau, almost lifeless rocky desert, extends for hundreds of kilometers right up to the Caspian Sea. It is an unknown world – the world of aloof beauty and inaccessible desert. 200-meter steeps and slopes keep the memory about the ancient ocean Tethys and reveal the geological history of the plateau: limestone, sandstone, dolomite, gypsum and shell rock of diverse colours — from dazzling white, coffee-coloured and pale pink to green, blue and brown-red. It is striking and unexpected combination of colours in the desert.
The history of civilization in this land is also amazing. Covered with 20-meter layer of water not so long ago, the Aral seabed hides settlements and mausoleums of the 11th-15th century. And the Silk Road ran across the Ustyurt Plateau.
Sixty photographs of the exhibition The Aral and the Ustyurt Plateau: Terra Incognita at the Museum of the World Ocean will portray beauty, diversity, uniqueness and variability of the wonderful world of nature.

 

The exhibition will last from November 1 to December 10.

 

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