Some features of this site are not compatible with your browser. Install Opera Mini to
better experience this site.
The Wandering Lake
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
In the area at the very far eastern corner of Chinas Taklimakan
Desert, Lop Nor Lake was located up until some years ago. Lop Nor, also
called the the heart of the heart of Asia, was the place
where the waters of the largest inner basin (i.e., not flowing into the
sea) of the worldincluding the Tarim and Kum-daria Riverswere
collected. Depending on the balance between rainfall water yield and
evaporation, both position and size of the lake were strongly variable,
thus giving rise to the legend of the Wandering Lake.
Lop City was the place where Marco Polo took his last
rest before facing the one-year long crossing of the Gobi Desert. Starting
from the end of the 19th century, several explorers tried to find the
legendary place. One such explorer was Sven Hedin, who was commissioned
by the Governor of Nanjing to lead an expedition to find the lake. In
1937, the Swedish explorer published his book entitled The Wandering
Comparing this very precise map from Sven Hedins book with the
above Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) false-color
image (acquired on October 28, 2001), one can find a faint sign on the
soil where the Lop Nor was located. This image, derived using a
combination of MODIS near-infrared and red channels (vegetation in
red), shows where the Tarim River waters currently end their flow.
The Wandering Lake does not exist anymore. The combination of climate
change and human exploitation of water resources for agriculture caused
the disappearance of the lake.
This image was processed by Telespazio, Earth Observation division,
new products development facility in Rome, Italy. The MODIS sensor flies
aboard NASAs Terra spacecraft, launched in December 1999.