30.03.2010 

The Mystery of Fairy Circles

When it rains extensively in the Namib Desert thick grassland covers the sand and the gravel. Yet as if drawn by a compass, some circular-like bare spots gleam through this green fluff. Not one, two or three but thousands. Seen from the air the painting could be titled: red dots on green background.

These mysterious sand circles appear between South Africa and Angola, around 60 to 120 km from the coast and in altitude of 500 to 1000 metres. These barren spots are confined by a ring of high, thick grass protruding out of otherwise paltry vegetation.

What is so special about these bare areas that bear the mysterious name "Fairy Circles"? Are particular minerals in the soil the cause for this? Was it ever the home of poisonous plants that contaminated the grounds? Was it the doing of termites? Or could it have even been the fault of meteorite impacts?

For the population of the Kaokoveld in Namibia it is the place of of a thousand dancing gods. Also in the myths of the Bushmen these fairy circles play a crucial role.

Yet what do these fairy circles mean to the inhabitants and the animal world in Namibia. Bat-eared foxes, Cape foxes and wildcats prefer to hide in the high grass circle around the bare spots lurking for prey. And what about Zebras and Oryx antelopes? Are they lunging at this thick, high grass? Or do they avoid the fairy circles alltogether. Are there any inhabitants of the fairy circles? Do meerkats built their burrows in these circles? And how do livestock, such as cattle and horses, behave in this enviroment.

What kinds of theories are pursued by by science in the 21st century? Our documentary will try to reveal the secret of the fairy circles. Can they be explained by science? Or should we just concur with the Himba that the fairy circles are plain and simply the creation of gods?

We will have one year to solve the mystery with the help of world re-known scientists, indigenous tribes and financing from ORF-Universum, NDR and National Geographic.


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