"Following in the footsteps of Sven Hedin's expeditions gave me the opportunity to compare and document how the landscape and culture in Iran have changed over the past 100 years. It was an amazing experience."—Lars Larsson, photographer, explorer, and Global Exploration Fund grantee

Photograph by Lars Larsson

Picture of Lars Larsson traveling across the desert of Iran
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Where: Persia, Central Asia, and Tibet

Grantee: Lars Larsson

Adventurer and journalist Lars Larsson followed in the footsteps of Sweden's most famous explorer and geographer, Sven Hedin (1865-1952), who devoted his life to exploring Persia, Central Asia, and Tibet.

With support from the Global Exploration Fund—Northern Europe, as well as the help of Hedin's maps, diaries, and photographs, Larsson traveled Hedin's 1906 route across the deserts of eastern Persia (now known as Iran) on his way to India. Starting with a ski ascent of Mount Damavand (18,606 feet/5,671 meters), the highest peak in the Middle East, the route continued southeast from Tehran, through nearly 62 miles (100 kilometers) in the central salt desert in Iran, Dasht-e Kavir.

In a conversation with National Geographic, Lars Larsson shares what has changed along Hedin's route—and why he couldn't find a camel suitable for riding:

Larsson was able to locate the exact campsites and landscapes depicted in Hedin's original photographs, retracing his geographical and ethnographical observations and re-creating his photos of the locales in their modern-day state. The re-created photos reveal how the landscape and people have changed over the last hundred years.

Larsson and his team also searched for signs of a unique tribe who lived near the shores of Lake Hamun-e Helmand in the eastern province of Iran, Sistan-Baluchistan, when Hedin visited a century ago. The lake's ecosystem collapsed due to extreme drought, and the tribespeople are now displaced to other parts of the country.

Larsson's expedition and photos were part of a feature story in the November 2013 Scandinavian editions of National Geographic magazine.

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