The story of the sea that disappeared…

I took a 200 kilometre detour off my planned route across Uzbekistan to visit a place a friend had told me about called “The Ships’ Graveyard”. Sounded intriguing.

It was insanely hot and there were crazy strong headwinds for the first day but it was SO worth it.

Definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far.

When I reached the town of Moynaq I counted 11 heavily rusted fishing boats grounded in the sand. The town used to be a thriving fishing area, but the Aral Sea had simply dried up. How on earth could that happen?

Rusting fishing boats and a sea that has all but disappeared

Turns out it was all man-made.

Back in the 1960s, when the area was part of the Soviet Union, the rivers feeding into the Aral Sea were diverted to keep the cotton growing industry going. And so the Aral Sea just slowly dried up over the next 50 years until now there is hardly any of it left.

It is a fascinating but pretty sad story, as the communities in the fishing villages dotted around the sea have been really badly hit. Huge job losses. Health problems due to salt, sand and chemicals blown around in the environment.

I’ve read some stories that say the money is there to bring the water back to the sea, but the work has yet to begin. Reluctance to begin work might be because getting at the oil under the seabed is easier without the sea in the way…

It was an absolutely fascinating place to go and visit.

I won’t forget the night I slept in my tent on the seabed for a long time.



  1. Hi Will,

    That is amazing. Those ships look awesome sitting on the sand like that…
    I just listened to your interview with David Ralph on Join Up Dots podcast. Great talk you guys had and I laughed a lot. It sounds like the last year has been fun for you. I think you might like to hear Sting’s album called “The Last Ship.” Great songs about ship building and the sea! Hardy Ho! 🙂


    1. I’ve seen loads of interesting animals so far on my world cycle: camels, a few snakes, monitor lizards, monkeys…and even a crocodile! Luckily the crocodile ran away when it saw me!

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