Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

The meeting place which had been fixed was a small village lying on the edge of the sands from where we intended to begin our crossing. A month later we assembled at this appointed place and under the direction of Professor Skridlov set up a camp; and then each made his report on what he had found out. The order of the reports was decided by lot.

The first three to report were, first, Karpenko, the mining engineer, then Dr. Sari-Ogli, and thirdly, Yelov, the philologist. These reports were of such an intense interest on account of their new and original thoughts, and even for the way in which they were expressed, that they deeply engraved themselves on my memory, and I can even now reproduce them almost word for word.
Karpenko began his report as follows:

‘Although I well know that none of you like the ways of the European scientists, who, instead of coming straight to the point, usually spin out a long rigmarole going back almost to Adam, nevertheless, in the present case, in view of the seriousness of the question, I consider it necessary before telling you my conclusions to put before you the reflections and deductions which led me to what I shall propose today.’

He continued:

‘The Gobi is a desert whose sands, according to the assertions of science, are of very recent formation. Concerning their origin there exist two suppositions: either they are the sands of a former sea­bed, or they drifted down, blown by winds from the rocky heights in the Tian-Shan, Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges, and from mountains which once lay to the north of this desert but which no longer exist, having been worn away by winds for centuries.

‘And so, bearing in mind that we must first of all make sure of providing enough food for the entire length of our journey across the desert, both for ourselves and any animals we may find necessary to have with us, I took into consideration both of these suppositions and tried to think whether the sand itself might in some way be made use of for this purpose.

‘I deliberated thus: