Gurbantünggüt Desert

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Location of the Gurbantünggüt Desert

The Gurbantünggüt Desert (Chinese: 古尔班通古特沙漠; pinyin: Gǔ'ěrbāntōnggǔtè Shāmò) occupies a large part of the Dzungarian Basin in northern Xinjiang, in the northwest of the People's Republic of China. It is also called by some sources as Dzoosotoyn Elisen Desert, presumably from a Mongolian language.[1][2]

It is approximately 50,000 square kilometers (19,000 mi²), and located around 300 to 600 meters above sea level. It is China's (and Xinjiang's) second largest desert, after Taklamakan Desert, which is located in the Tarim Basin.

A remote, arid, and rugged area, Gurbantünggüt Desert is separated by the Tian Shan mountains from the Ili River Basin, Turfan Depression, and the Tarim Basin of the southern Xinjiang. A chain of cities, the largest of which is Ürümqi, are located within a populated strip (the route of the Lanxin Railway) south of the desert, which is irrigated by glacier-fed streams flowing from the Tian Shan. The Irtysh–Karamay Canal, constructed during the first decade of the 21st century, skirts the deserts northwestern edge; the Irtysh–Ürümqi Canal crosses the desert's central part.

Several salt lakes are located in the western part of the Gurbantünggüt desert. This includes the Manas Lake (45°48′00″N 85°56′00″E / 45.80000°N 85.93333°E / 45.80000; 85.93333), which was in the past fed by the Manas River, but now has mostly dried out,[3] and the Ailik Lake (45°56′00″N 85°47′00″E / 45.93333°N 85.78333°E / 45.93333; 85.78333), which receives water from the Baiyang River (which in its turn is replenished by the Irtysh–Karamay Canal).

China National Highway 216 crosses the desert in the north-south direction, from Altay City to Ürümqi. China National Highway 217 and the Kuytun–Beitun Railway skirt it from the west and northwest. The Ürümqi–Dzungaria Railway reaches into the desert's southeastern corner, known locally as Jiangjun Gobi (将军戈壁, "General's Desert").

The climate of the area is temperate, but very continental. The desert's ecological environment is very fragile, and the impact of human activities on the environment, including the building of a trans-desert highway, has been increasingly significant.[4]

It is in this desert that the remotest point of land from any sea is located. According to some calculations, the precise point is at 46°16.8′N 86°40.2′E / 46.2800°N 86.6700°E / 46.2800; 86.6700. It was pin-pointed and reached on 27 June 1986 by British explorers Nicholas Crane and Richard Crane; the location was described as being in the Dzoosotoyn Elisen Desert. This position is over 2,600 kilometers (1,600 mi) from the nearest coastline.[5]

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Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ E.g., the Great Soviet Encyclopedia has "Дзосотын-Элисун"
  2. ^ The Library of Congress lists a few spelling variants, such as Dzosotön Elisun etc.
  3. ^ PetroChina Xinjiang Oilfield Emission Reduction and Afforestation Project, p.5
  4. ^ "Study on disturbance of engineering activities to eco-environment of the Gurbantunggut Desert". SPIE Digital Library. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  5. ^ Guinness Book of World Records, 1991. By Donald McFarlan, Norris McWhirter. P. 138

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