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Sahara Map

The "Deadly Road"

Once ranked among the world's illustrious explorers, Hanns Vischer had become a faint footnote by the time John Hare, a fellow countryman and founder of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, came upon Vischer's 1910 book, Across the Sahara. The book detailed a grueling journey through the world's largest sand desert. A Swiss-born educator who worked for the British Colonial Service in Nigeria, Vischer had become intrigued by the "deadly road"—the centuries-old route used to herd slaves, most of whom perished, from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean coast. Accompanied by religious pilgrims and newly freed slaves, the 30-year-old administrator—and amateur painter—traveled the route in reverse, from Tripoli to Lake Chad. Vischer faced torrid heat and the threat of tribal raiding parties; amazingly he lost none of his team. After completing his journey in 1906, Vischer went on to devise an innovative curriculum for African schools, for which he was eventually knighted. Yet Sir Hanns never forgot the Sahara. "I had entered it frivolously, like a fool," he wrote. "I left it as one stunned, crushed by the deadly majesty I had seen too closely." Hare traveled south to north, bettering his predecessor's time because of shorter oases stops. Equipped with a global positioning system, Hare more often turned to Vischer's map. Vischer himself, according to Hare, seemed close at hand: "He was with us most of the way."

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