The Gobi is the central part of the Mongolian Basin. It is an extensive flat plateau averaging 1,500 m above sea level. According to the character of the vegetation, it is a semi-desert with a severe continental climate.
The Gobi is only sparsely populated by wandering ranchers with stately herds. They live in traditional yurts and live on their dairy and meat products. The ancestral land of Genghis Khan, who created the greatest world empire, is in the northeast of the Gobi.
The Mongolian Basin – a flat plateau
The Gobi is part of the Mongolian Basin, which encompasses the vast northeast of High Asia. These include the Republic of Mongolia (historically Outer Mongolia), the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China and the part of the Chinese province of Gansu (Kansu) located west of the Huanghe (Hwangho).
The Mongolian Basin is a spacious, wide-span high basin that is flat over large stretches and is framed by mountains (Fig. 1). In the east, towards the Great Chingan, the Mongolian Basin rises. In the west there are passages to the Tarim Basin and to Djungary. In the south, the Nanschan and the Ordos are the border mountains. From the northwest, the Altai and Sajan mountain ranges stretch far into the Mongolian Basin. In the north and northeast rivers have broken through the mountains to reach the Yenisei and the Amur via the Angara. The mountains in the north-west, Mongolian Altai (4362 m) and Changai Mountains (3905 m), include basins with end lakes (e.g. the Uvs Nuur) between them, which are often salt lakes.
The Mongolian Basin extends from northwest to southeast over 2,400 km and from southwest to northeast over 1,600 km. On average, it is 1580 m above sea level. The highest point with 4374 m is in the northwest, it is the Tawan Bogd Uul, the border mountain on the triangle of Russia, China and Mongolia. The lowest point (552 m) is in the northeast at the inflow of an end lake. Two thirds of this large area lie outside the world watershed, i.e. i.e. they belong to the Central Asian inland drainage system. Only in the north and northeast are the Selenga, Orkhon, Onon and Kerulen tributaries of tributaries to the world’s oceans.
The Mongolian Basin is also the only point in the world where the permafrost penetrates farthest south and the extra-tropical desert farthest north, latitude 47 ° north (Ulan Bator / Budapest) or latitude 50 ° 30 ‘north (middle Mongolian Northern border / Prague).
The Gobi Desert – central part of the Mongolian Basin
The Gobi desert (Mongolian Gow = “desert”, Chinese Hanhai = “dry sea” or Schamo = “sandy desert”) forms the central part of the Mongolian basin. It occupies an area of approx. 2 million km² (5.6 times the size of Germany) and is on average 1500 m above sea level.
The interior of the Gobi is covered by glacial (Pleistocene) deposits. In the peripheral areas, especially in the north, the rocks of the subsoil come to the surface, which are rich in mineral resources. In the north of the Gobi the steppe still dominates. However, the vegetation quickly becomes sparse, so that the condition of a semi-desert soon occurs. The desert-like areas then predominate further south. The Gobi-Altai (3957 m), which is the continuation of the Mongolian Altai, takes on a certain border function between semi-desert and desert. In the extreme south of China, semi-desert-like conditions are emerging again.
The Gobi has a strict continental climate. In summer there is great drought and drought with temperatures around +35 °C. The winters are very cold with little snow and have temperatures of -30 °C and a maximum of -49 °C. The annual precipitation remains below 200 mm. The average temperature of the warmest and coldest month in Dalanzadgad, capital of the Mongolian aimaks (district) South Gobi, is e.g. B. 22 °C (July) or -16 °C (January). The annual precipitation is 152 mm. Of this, 125 mm fall in the months of June to August.
Intensive explorations were carried out on the edge of the Gobi in the second half of the last century. Valuable ores (including copper, lead, molybdenum, iron and gold ore), hard coal and lignite as well as petroleum were discovered. This led to the industrial development of the otherwise extensively agricultural country. In this context, the Transmongolia, completed in 1955, was built, which crosses the Gobi and connects Beijing with the Trans-Siberian Railway via the shortest route. This development was interrupted with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The industrial facilities have largely collapsed. At that time, a large number of wells were drilled in the center of the Gobi, which are only partially maintained today.
The Gobi desert and tourism
Increasingly, the Gobi was also used for tourism opened up. This began in the 1960’s. From Ulan Bator one drove by jeep to Dalanzadgad, 500 km south, or flew with a small propeller plane into the Gobi. The machine landed on the natural surface that had dried as hard as concrete. If there was a storm, it had to be pegged, if it rained, it could not start in the mud for days. From there they drove 70 km west to a first yurt camp for foreigners: three sleeping, one eating and one kitchen yurt. In the 1970’s, the first camp was built with around 30 yurts, a large magnificent yurt for meetings, a supply building, wells, and power generators. The planes now landed next to the yurts. Today there is a second, similarly sized, modern camp nearby that is privately operated.
Various excursions can be undertaken from the camp:
- Sand field: untouched sickle dunes (Barchane) can be visited here. The locals call these active shifting dunes “Singing Dunes” because of the constant wind movement (Fig. 8).
- Adler Gorge: a 200 m deep and at least 3 m wide gorge in the Gobi-Altai. A perennial ice body can be viewed in a sun-protected place. On the mountain slopes, mouflons, ibex, semi-wild mountain goats and in the foreland marmots and ground squirrels can be observed. Bearded eagles and vultures sometimes soar in the air (Fig. 9).
- Dinosaur canyon: Bay in a mighty clearing zone of Ice Age deposits (Fig. 10). On the surface are fossils from the skeleton of huge, highly developed vertebrates (reptiles) from the Jurassic period (Fig. 11). A scientific expedition was first active here in 1922, followed by numerous other expeditions (including 1930, 1965, 1971, 1994). The first expedition already found remains of nearly 100 dinosaur nand, as a sensation, fossilized dinosaur eggs. This proved that these animal giants reproduced via eggs. Three skeletons of saurian species have also been found and could almost completely be put back together from original parts. A dinosaur skeleton is one of the showpieces in the Central Museum in Ulan Bator today.
- Nunataks (or Nunatakr): The term actually comes from rocks that protruded isolated from the inland ice. However, it could be applied here to the remnant or witness mountains or island mountains, which have remained as lonely pillars in the clearing zones of Pleitocene deposits and tower over their surroundings by 100 m and more. On the one hand, they drown in their own weathered debris and, on the other, they are covered by the drifting sand that is deposited on their slopes. This in turn is held in place here as elsewhere by the Saksaul plant (Fig. 12). The up to 6 m high, often stunted shrub with inconspicuous leaflets has about 10 m long roots. The calorific value of the hard, tough roots exceeds the calorific value of brown coal.