About the book (from Goodreads):
The lake of Lop Nur, the “Heart of the heart of Asia,” is one of the world’s strangest phenomena. Situated in the wild Chinese province of Xinjiang, Lop Nur – “The wandering lake”- has for millennia been in a perpetual state of flux, drifting north to south, often tens of kilometres in as many years. It was once the lifeblood of the great Silk Road kingdom of Loulan, which flourished in this otherwise barren region 2,000 years ago and its peculiar movements confused even Ptolemy, who marked the lake twice on his map of Asia.
Sven Hedin became captivated by the Lop Nur’s peripatetic movements and for forty years his destiny was inextricably linked with that of this mysterious lake and the region surrounding it. His last journey to Lop Nur was in 1934. Travelling the length of the Konche-daria and Kum-daria rivers by canoe, Hedin embarked on his last Central Asian expedition and proved what he had always suspected – that Lop Nur did indeed shift position – and why. When he camped on its vast banks at night, Lop Nur was deep and full. Today, this once great lake – a a mighty reservoir in the desert – is nothing but windblown sand and salty marsh. The third in Sven Hedin’s Central Asia trilogy, The Wandering Lake is a gripping story of adventure and discovery but it is also a rare account of a now-vanished world; a masterpiece by one of history’s last great explorers.
About Sven Hedin (from Wikipedia):
Sven Anders Hedin (19 February 1865 – 26 November 1952) was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer and illustrator of his own works. During four expeditions to Central Asia, he made the Transhimalaya known in the West and located sources of the Brahmaputra, Indus and Sutlej Rivers. He also mapped lake Lop Nur, and the remains of cities, grave sites and the Great Wall of China in the deserts of the Tarim Basin. In his book Från pol till pol (From Pole to Pole), Hedin describes a journey through Asia and Europe between the late 1880s and the early 1900s. While traveling, Hedin visited Turkey, the Caucasus, Tehran, Iraq, lands of the Kyrgyz people and the Russian Far East, India, China and Japan. The posthumous publication of his Central Asia Atlas marked the conclusion of his life’s work.
From the end of 1933 to 1934, Hedin led—on behalf of the Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek in Nanjing—a Chinese expedition to investigate irrigation measures and draw up plans and maps for the construction of two roads suitable for automobiles along the Silk Road from Beijing to Xinjiang. Following his plans, major irrigation facilities were constructed, settlements erected, and roads built on the Silk Road from Beijing to Kashgar, which made it possible to completely bypass the rough terrain of Tarim Basin.
One aspect of the geography of central Asia which intensively occupied Hedin for decades was what he called the “wandering lake” Lop Nur. In May 1934, he began a river expedition to this lake. For two months he navigated the Kaidu River and the Kum-Darja to Lop Nur, which had been filled with water since 1921. After the lake dried out in 1971 as a consequence of irrigation activities, the above-mentioned transportation link enabled the People’s Republic of China to construct a nuclear weapon test site at Lop Nur.
His caravan of truck lorries was hijacked by the Chinese Muslim General Ma Zhongying who was retreating from northern Xinjiang along with his Kuomintang 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) from the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. While Hedin was detained by Ma Zhongying, he met General Ma Hushan, and Kemal Kaya Effendi.
Ma Zhongying’s adjutant claimed to Hedin that Ma Zhongying had the entire region of Tian-shan-nan-lu (southern Xinjiang) under his control and Sven could pass through safely without any trouble. Hedin did not believe his assertions. Some of Ma Zhongying’s Tungan (Chinese speaking Muslim) troops attacked Hedin’s expedition by shooting at their vehicles.
For the return trip, Hedin selected the southern Silk Road route via Hotan to Xi’an, where the expedition arrived on 7 February 1935. He continued on to Beijing to meet with President Lin Sen and to Nanjing to Chiang Kai-shek. He celebrated his 70th birthday on 19 February 1935 in the presence of 250 members of the Kuomintang government, to whom he reported interesting facts about the Sino-Swedish Expedition. On this day, he was awarded the Brilliant Jade Order, Second Class.