Index

Index
The153 Club
The Agades Cross
People of the Sahara
Saharan Landscapes
Books on the Sahara(1)
Books on the Sahara(2)
Books on African Art
Saharan Salt Trade
The Gundi
Illizi Festival 2000
Sahara Freeze-up
Camel Cheese
153 Club Newsletter
153 News Update
Join the 153 Club
Today's African News

Père de Foucauld
L'Arbre du Ténéré 1
L'Arbre du Ténéré 2
Saharan Forts 1
Saharan Forts 2
Saharan Rock Art
Giraffe Engravings
Leo Africanus
Battuta's Saharan travels
Shabeni's Timbuktu
Timbuctoo the Mysterious
Heroditus & Pliny on Libya
Timbuktu, a poem

Joliba Trust
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 1
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 2
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 3
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 4
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 5
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 6

Old Michelin Maps
Early NW Africa Map 1
Early NW Africa Map 2
Early NW Africa Map 3
Early NW Africa Map 4
Early NW Africa Map 5
Saharan Exploration

Henry Barth 1
Henry Barth 2
Henry Barth 3
Denham & Clapperton 1
Denham & Clapperton 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 1
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 3
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 4

External Links

Jim Mann Taylor's Home Page ___________________________

Index

Index
The153 Club
The Agades Cross
People of the Sahara
Saharan Landscapes
Books on the Sahara(1)
Books on the Sahara(2)
Books on African Art
Saharan Salt Trade
The Gundi
Illizi Festival 2000
Sahara Freeze-up
Camel Cheese
153 Club Newsletter
153 News Update
Join the 153 Club
Today's African News

Père de Foucauld
L'Arbre du Ténéré 1
L'Arbre du Ténéré 2
Saharan Forts 1
Saharan Forts 2
Saharan Rock Art
Giraffe Engravings
Leo Africanus
Battuta's Saharan travels
Shabeni's Timbuktu
Timbuctoo the Mysterious
Heroditus & Pliny on Libya
Timbuktu, a poem

Joliba Trust
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 1
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 2
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 3
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 4
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 5
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 6

Old Michelin Maps
Early NW Africa Map 1
Early NW Africa Map 2
Early NW Africa Map 3
Early NW Africa Map 4
Early NW Africa Map 5
Saharan Exploration

Henry Barth 1
Henry Barth 2
Henry Barth 3
Denham & Clapperton 1
Denham & Clapperton 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 1
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 3
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 4

External Links

Jim Mann Taylor's Home Page ___________________________

Index

Index
The153 Club
The Agades Cross
People of the Sahara
Saharan Landscapes
Books on the Sahara(1)
Books on the Sahara(2)
Books on African Art
Saharan Salt Trade
The Gundi
Illizi Festival 2000
Sahara Freeze-up
Camel Cheese
153 Club Newsletter
153 News Update
Join the 153 Club
Today's African News

Père de Foucauld
L'Arbre du Ténéré 1
L'Arbre du Ténéré 2
Saharan Forts 1
Saharan Forts 2
Saharan Rock Art
Giraffe Engravings
Leo Africanus
Battuta's Saharan travels
Shabeni's Timbuktu
Timbuctoo the Mysterious
Heroditus & Pliny on Libya
Timbuktu, a poem

Joliba Trust
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 1
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 2
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 3
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 4
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 5
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 6

Old Michelin Maps
Early NW Africa Map 1
Early NW Africa Map 2
Early NW Africa Map 3
Early NW Africa Map 4
Early NW Africa Map 5
Saharan Exploration

Henry Barth 1
Henry Barth 2
Henry Barth 3
Denham & Clapperton 1
Denham & Clapperton 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 1
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 3
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 4

External Links

Jim Mann Taylor's Home Page ___________________________

L'Arbre du Ténéré—(2)

The Arbre du Ténéré is unique in being the only tree to be shown on a map at a scale of 1:4,000,000

 

The Tree of Ténéré after being hit by a truck, being loaded on another truck and taken to Niamey Museum. Photograph © Roger Balsom, 8 November, 1973.


The first abstract below was written by Commandant des A.M.M., Michel Lesourd, of the Service central des Affaires sahariennes, 21 May 1939.

From Agadez, going to the post at Bilma, our automobile convoy arrives at 14.30 at the Tree of Ténéré. It is awfully hot—we are welcomed by the chief sergeant Lamotte who is in charge of the construction of a well at the foot of the Tree. Such an enterprise seems a challenge—a utopian idea. Why the Touareg or the Toubous didn't think of the idea of building a well before us in this desolate place in the Sahara is not known. Chief Sgt. Lamotte has been here since January. He has a good chance of finding water. He has already dug to a depth of 35 metres and the water has started to ooze. At that depth the roots of the Acacia can be seen, which explains, it seems, some reason for its existence.

Lamotte is thinking of ditching to 50 metres to find water in sufficient quantity. At the moment, every day he is getting up 8 estagnons (a copper tin) of water. The workmen are blackmen, real athletes. When they emerge, they breathe with difficulty, sweat merging with the white of the clay they are digging at the bottom of the well. They look like devils who jump from a spring box. They earn only 9OFF monthly. They take it in turns to go down. When one of them fills the bucket, two others, with the help of a steel cable, bring it to the surface. The two blackmen withdraw progressively pulling the chain to a distance equal to that already dug.

One must see the Tree to believe its existence. What is its secret? How can it still be living in spite of the multitudes of camels which trample at its sides. How at each azalai does not a lost camel eat its leaves and thorns? Why don't the numerous Touareg leading the salt caravans cut its branches to make fires to brew their tea? The only answer it that the tree is taboo and considered as such by the caravaniers.

There is a kind of superstition, a tribal order which is always respected. Each year the azalai gather round the Tree before facing the crossing of the Ténéré. The Acacia has become a living lighthouse; it is the first or the last landmark for the azalai leaving Agadez for Bilma, or returning.

The birds rest at the foot of the Tree. Attracted from afar by its presence, they come to shelter, thinking they will find water and green foliage.

Unfortunately, it is death that is waiting. It is not a mirage, but just the same it is not a spring where turtledoves and crows and the pressing sparrows can drink.

Lamotte told me that one day a caravan was passing near his tent. Some turtledoves were flying over the caravan like seabirds following a ship. Some of these turtledoves carried on with the caravan, others gave up and landed at the foot of the Tree. They were manna for the well builders.

When I left Chief Sgt. Lamotte, I was thinking about his way of life at his place of birth, the Touraine, known as the Garden of France. And I was telling myself that in 20 years it is possible that his name will not be known. But at least he deserves the colonial medal with citation, Sahara I kept in memory of my visit an envelope containing a letter addressed to the Chief Sgt. on which was written this address: Lamotte - Tree of Ténéré.



The Tree of Ténéré whilst still alive.

The following extract is by Raymond Mauny at Ifan—Dakar, 1959

The Berliet-Ténéré Mission was going straight to the Tree of Ténéré on November 26 1959 and was very near when they deviated in order to stop nearly 2km west, near a caravan of 400 camels escorted by numerous camel drivers. They were the first men we had seen since leaving Djanet, after having driven some 1066km. The cameramen and the photographers didn't wish to miss the opportunity of seeing them, and scorned the famous Tree...

But several among us wished to see the Tree, and were driven to it. We didn't know that the Tree was going to have the honour of being mentioned in the Bulletin de liaison saharienne (no. 36 December 1959 pp 300-302).

To be precise about things, the Tree is an Acacia tortilus Hayne, (kandili in Touareg) situated on the large piste for camels Agadez-Fachi-Bilma, about 70 km close to ENE de l'Adrar Azzouager, in a full sandy region. It is an incredible point, which is shown on all maps—though there are other trees in the Ténéré, of course.

It was surely known by the French before 1914, when the first escorts of azalais started. M. Abadie in La colonie du Niger (1927) relates his visit on October 29 1921: 'The stump is entirely covered with sand, only the superior branches can be seen'. I do not think that can be true, because the surface of the sand seems stable in this sector. The best proof is the comparison between the photo taken by the Commandant N. Lesourd in 1939 with the one I took from a different angle, unfortunately, in 1959. The level of the sand seems identical and uniform, the curbs of the wells are not under sand.

Today, two wells exist there, separated only by four metres; one dated 1939 as M. Lesourd related—Deeper than 35m they contained, when we went there, more than 4m of water relatively less salt than other Sahara water.

One, entirely lined with cement, echoes when one speaks. The other is not the same. On the curb of the well there is a tifinar inscription. A few names are engraved or pencilled on the Tree, but that of my friend from Touraine, Lamotte, compatriot who dug the first well.

One thing must also be noted which struck me when comparing the 1939 and 1959 photographs. The Tree is singularly diminished in volume over the last 20 years. It was the victim of an automobile accident; a military lorry, backing, had broken one of its principal branches. This branch had been sawn up and used, and the bit of trunk that remained had been trimmed. The lower branches visible to the right of the 1939 photo cannot be seen on the left of the 1959 photo taken on the opposite side. Is it not still considered to be taboo?

Perhaps the explanation can be that it appeared to be dead, M. Berliet certainly carefully examined it, and discovered a branch with green leaves...

The Tree is still alive, but it is seriously menaced. How long can it survive?

Coming back from Agadez, the Berliet-Ténéré mission stopped 75 km south-west of the Tree on the 3rd December for the evening halt before crossing the erg in the direction of Gossolorom and Termitt.

We discovered there several Neolithic and Palaeolithic strata in the sand-hills containing snail shells. So, some 6000 years ago this was a verdant land. The Tree of Ténéré is the last descendant of the Acacia forests which certainly must have covered the country. A real relic of vegetation of better times where snails could venture without damage for hundreds of kilometres from the actual habitat.