Blue Veils, Black Mountains: Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria
We climbed out of the valley to stop at a gap in the rocks for our first view from the geographical rim of the Sahara. That first view was a surprise, almost a disappointment. We had expected a sea of sand, its tumultuous waves stilled, perhaps, but all sand nevertheless. Instead we looked south down the crumbling
rock and beyond to a barren, flat plain that stretched away to the horizon. This austere landscape was slashed by a narrow winding ribbon, the road that wound its way down from our ridge and across the plain beyond the horizon.
– Alonzo Pond
So began Logan Museum of Anthropology curator Alonzo Pond’s journey into the Sahara Desert. The year was 1925 and the specially built six-wheeled motor cars would be the first to cross the Sahara from north to south and back again. For six weeks the car caravan rolled south carrying an eclectic group of men that, in addition to Pond and college trustee W. Bradley Tyrrell (1906), included a stuffy French colonial administrator, a one-armed translator, a New York Times reporter, and an American adventurer who claimed to be a Polish count. Along the way, Pond collected archaeological and ethnographic materials that remain among the museum’s most important collections.
The story of this expedition is the subject of the latest exhibit at the Logan Museum. Blue Veils, Black Mountains draws upon rich archival materials including both Pond’s and Tyrrell’s diaries, Pond’s memoir, scores of photos both men took, and motion-pictures filmed by Tyrrell. The exhibit features ethnographic materials collected from the nomadic Tuareg people in Southern Algeria and archaeological material found at several sites along the way.
Blue Veils, Black Mountains will run through December 2 in the Shaw Gallery on the Museum’s second floor. And join us for a talk on Monday Nov. 9 by Wayne Turmel, the author of a recently published historical novel titled The Count of the Sahara which is set during the expedition. Check the Terrarium for details.
Two men of the Tuaregs made a distinct impression on us. A blue-black veil covered each man's ears and hung down over his forehead to the bridge of the nose, the lower folds hid his neck, his mouth and the tip of his nose. Only a slit between upper and lower folds of the veil allowed a view of the direct, piercing, black eyes.– Alonzo Pond