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The nature of deserts ensures that the story of their exploration is filled with tragedy. Many expedition members met their deaths due to the harsh conditions. Unlike earlier naval exploration and later space exploration, there was little hope of financial reward, and desert expeditions were generally undertaken for scientific purposes, in search of earlier explorers who had vanished, or for the challenge alone.
The following sections list deserts around the world, and their explorers. Expeditions are listed by their leaders; details of other expedition members may be found via the links.
- Kalahari Desert
- Sahara Desert
- Michael Asher & Mariantonietta Peru - made the first known crossing of the Sahara from west to east, by camel and on foot, from Nouakchott, Mauretania, to Abu Simbel, Egypt, 1986–87, a distance of 4500 miles Ref: The Modern Explorers. Thames & Hudson. London 2013 Michael Asher lived for 3 years with the Kababish nomads in the Sudan.
- Eva Dickson - was the first woman to cross the Sahara Desert by car. In 1932 she met the former spouse of Karen Blixen, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, in Kenya, and they became lovers. After her meeting with Blixen in 1932, she took a bet and drove by car from Nairobi to Stockholm in 1932, thus becoming the first woman to have crossed the Sahara by car.
- Heinrich Barth - crossed the Sahara during his travels in Africa and the Middle East during 1845-1847.
- James Richardson - explored the Sahara and Sudan he died in the notorious hamada (a stony desert) in the Western Sahara.
- Friedrich Gerhard Rohlfs - German geographer. First person the cross Africa north to south. Named a place Regenfeld near Dakhla Oasis in southern Egypt after experiencing a rare occurrence of desert rain.
- Karl Alfred von Zittel German palaeontologist who accompanied Rohlfs.
- Henri Duveyrier - He undertook a number of fossil-hunting explorations in the Sahara.
- Albert-Félix de Lapparent - Explorer of the northern and western parts of the Sahara.
- Victor Loche - first identified the sand cat (Felis margarita) while exploring the North Sahara.
- Joseph Ritchie - sent to find the course of the River Niger and the location of Timbuktu. He died in Murzuk.
- Helen Thayer - 20th-century walker and explorer.
- Jeremy Curl - youngest known European to walk across the Sahara from north to south. Explored areas of the Tanezrouft, Hoggar mountains and Adrar des Ifoghas, living with the indigenous Tuareg.
- Taklamakan Desert China - Charles Blackmore 1993
- Gobi Desert Mongolia
- Rub' al Khali or the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula:
- Central Australia - general term covering the arid regions in the Australian interior
- John Muir - made the first ever unassisted crossing of the Australian desert on foot
- Edward John Eyre - expeditions to Lake Eyre and the Flinders Ranges in the 1830.
- Charles Sturt - expeditions from Adelaide in the 1840s
- John McDouall Stuart - accompanied Sturt 1844-1845; expeditions 1859 & 1860 (South Australia), 1861-1862 (south-north crossing of Australia)
- Ludwig Leichhardt - expeditions 1844-1845 Moreton Bay to Port Essington, 1846–1847 and 1848 west from Moreton Bay, where the entire expedition vanished
- Burke and Wills (Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills) - south-north crossing of Australia 1860-1861 where both died on the return journey
- Augustus Gregory - searched for Leichhardt in 1858
- Ernest Giles - expeditions 1872-1876
- Gibson Desert
- Ernest Giles - crossed the desert in 1874
- Great Sandy Desert
- Great Victoria Desert
- Nullarbor Plain - desert plain on the western part of the south coast of Australia
- Edward John Eyre - expedition 1840-1841
- Tanami Desert
- Simpson Desert and Sturt Stony Desert
- Charles Sturt - expedition 1844-1845
- Cecil Madigan - expedition 1939 across the Simpson Desert
- Warren Bonython and Charles McCubbin were the first North to South traverse on foot in 1973 They pulled a cart with supplies and utilised two air drops of water and supplies.
- Louis-Philippe Loncke - unsupported expedition 2008 across the Simpson Desert on foot from North to South
- Western Australia - a large and generally arid region