The Bodélé is extremely inhospitable due to its arid climate, barren landscape and strong Saharan winds.
The vast white crust that covers nearly 11,000 square kilometres of the Bodélé Depression is made up of trillions of microscopic shells.
Each shell is cylindrical and roughly one tenth as wide as a human hair.
These shells, called diatomites, are the remains of freshwater organisms (diatoms) that thrived in Lake Mega-Chad.
As the diatoms died, their cylindrical shells dropped to the bottom of the lake to form a thick white layer.
Over thousands of years the shells compressed to form a layer that in places was up to four metres thick, gradually exposed as the lake dried up.
This brittle layer is easily disturbed by Saharan winds creating blinding dust storms for local people.
Other key challenges at ground level are remoteness and navigation.
Many places in the Bodélé are two days drive from the nearest village or water and settlements marked on the map are often only signalled by a tree or shrub.
For example the town of Chicha appears on most decent maps of Chad. However this ‘apparently’ bustling oasis is actually just a small tree, rooted in a barren sea of sand.