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In the Heart of the Desert

The Story of an Exploration Geologist and the Search for Oil in the Middle East

Published by Green Mountain Press (UK) in Aylesford, Kent, United Kingdom .
Written in English.

About the Book

The decision of the British Government in 1912 to convert its naval ships from coal to oil set in motion one of the greatest periods of exploration of the twentieth century, the search for oil in the Middle East. In 1945, after a lull caused by the Second World War, exploration was set to expand again and twenty-one year old Mike Morton embarked on an empty troop ship bound for Palestine to begin his career as a geologist with the Iraq Petroleum Company.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Mike soon found himself surrounded by the Arab-Jewish conflict which led to the bombing of the King David Hotel. Then moving to Iraq, Mike and his colleague René Wetzel unravelled the geology of many parts of nothern Iraq. Their field work in the 1940s and 1950s has never been repeated and is still the foundation of our knowledge of Mesozoic outcrops today.

During a series of ground-breaking expeditions in southern Arabia between 1947 and 1954 , Mike travelled where the famous Arabian explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, had feared to tread: the mysterious Mahra country. He also visited other parts of the Aden Protectorates such as Shabwa, Beihan and the Bedouin well at Thamud, learning the true meaning of the saying, "the closer the bullets, the greater is the affection."

In 1954, Mike was posted to Oman where the first attempts to explore for oil from the north were overtaken by the so-called "Buraimi Dispute". He took part in Operation DEF, the "invasion of a foreign land”, when the interior of Oman was opened up to the modern world and oil was eventually found at Jebel Fahud, the "Leopard Mountain".

His story moves to Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in the days before the oil boom. He was in charge of geological operations in Abu Dhabi when the massive Bu Hasa oilfield was discovered.

In 1971, Mike was appointed deputy leader of a Royal Geographical Society expedition and travelled to one of the remotest parts of Arabia, the Musandam Peninsula. Finally, in 1984, working for the Hunt Oil Company, Mike took part in the exploration of Yemen which led to the discovery of the first commercial oil in that country, the Arif field.

In the Heart of the Desert is the biography of Mike Morton written by his son. It describes an extraordinary world and a rich parade of characters: autonomous sheikhs and their fiercely independent tribes, nomadic Bedouins, colourful ex-patriots and a group of intrepid geologists driven by an oil company’s search for oil.

Mike struck a distinctive figure and, being red-haired with a sometimes fiery temper, the Bedouin called him Shaib al-Ahmar, “Angry Red Man”. The author presents a detailed and thoroughly researched account of his father’s life which culminates in the story of his own journey to southern Arabia and a poignant meeting of the present with the past.

Table of Contents

1 Baba Gurgur 7
2 Cold Wind Flowing 15
3 Holy City 24
4 Recapitulation 36
5 Hadhramaut 46
6 The Land of Sun and Fire 56
7 A Province Favoured by Providence 74
8 Aleppo 90
9 The Trek to Buraimi 94
10 They Have No Beards 104
11 Strangers Within the Gates 124
12 The Bedouin Well at Thamud 133
13 Duqm Expeditionary Force 142
14 Greenaway Gardens 156
15 Fahud 159
16 Return to Buraimi 176
17 Lord of the Green Mountain 185
18 Covered Wagons 194
19 Musandam Welcomes You 203
20 Round the Bend 201
21 The Lights of Bukha 211
Epilogue 233

Edition Notes

Genre Biography


Dewey Decimal Class 622.1828092 22

The Physical Object

Format Hardback
Number of pages 282
Dimensions 24 x 17.6 x 2.2
Weight 980

ID Numbers

Open Library OL23978056M
ISBN 10 095522120X
ISBN 13 9780955221200
LC Control Number 2010474656

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September 14, 2012 Edited by VacuumBot Updated format 'hardback' to 'Hardback'; Removed author from Edition (author found in Work)
July 23, 2011 Edited by LC Bot import new book
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