The U.S. State Department, concerned that rusting drums of anthrax could fall into the wrong hands, sent a cleanup team there in 2002. No biological agents have been found in the dust since then, but sporadic outbreaks of plague afflict the surrounding region.
Near the shoreline the muddy sand is wet, like a beach with an ebbing tide. But the Aral doesn’t have a perceptible tide—what we’re seeing is the sea actually receding before our eyes.
Worried about publishing Kamalov’s frank comments, I ask him, again, if he is comfortable going on the record. “In Karakalpakstan we are all afraid of Tashkent,” he replies, referring to the Uzbek capital. “And personally, I’m sick of it.