Dune 45: a case study of effect of desert temperatures on Scotsmen

The psychological and physiological limitations of humans in extreme heat have been extensively documented. These effects are known to be drastically exacerbated with even light or moderate exercise. One potentially unexplored aspect of these relationships is the effect of Namib Desert temperatures on Scotsmen – a race of people not traditionally adapted to high temperatures. The present exploratory study sought to remedy this knowledge gap.


One adult male (B.R.) was selected to participate. To investigate the effects of the heat of the Namib Desert and moderate exercise on his well-being, he was tasked with climbing Dune 45 in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert in Namibia at 1pm local time. Temperatures were well in excess of 40 centigrade. The subject was well-fed and hydrated before the ascent.


Approximately 3/4 of the way up Dune 45 B.R. complained of searing sand in his sandals, mild hallucinatory phenomena and the dehydrating effects of the desert temperatures. Of his own volition, the subject curtailed the experiment, returning to base camp to begin a protracted recovery process by ingesting a chilled Powerade.


This case study clearly demonstrates that, for this subject at least, Scotsmen are unwilling, and potentially unable, to tolerate even moderate physical exertion in the Namib Desert due to its high temperatures. Whether this finding extends to all deserts is unknown and we plan to conduct a similar study in the Sahara in the coming months.

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