A Synopsis of "Sahara" by Clive Cussler

by Danny Djeljosevic
Cussler's first Dirk Pitt novel was 1973's

Cussler's first Dirk Pitt novel was 1973's "The Mediterranean Caper."

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Clive Cussler's 1992 novel "Sahara" follows the continuing adventures of man-of-action Dirk Pitt and his sidekick, Al Giordino. "Sahara" is the 11th novel in the franchise, revolving around an attempt to find the source of a pollutant that threatens the entire planet. In 2005, Paramount Pictures released a big-budget film adaptation starring Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz.

The Set-Up

In 1865, a Confederate ship slips past a barrier of Union ships with a secret cargo. In 1931, a pilot crashes her plane in the Sahara in an attempt to set a record in aviation. In the present, a group of natives attack and kill some tourists in the Sahara. At the same time, in Mali, Dirk and Al receive word of a potential chemical causing a growth of red tide that may eat up all of Earth's oxygen if left to continue.

The Yacht

Dirk and Al take a special yacht upriver to find the source of the red tide growth. After a battle with the navy of the country Benin, they find the substance causing the red tide, but no indication of how it got there. The army of Mali pursues Dirk, and he blows up the boat then contacts and finds himself captured by a businessman named Yves Massarde. Dirk and Al escape by stealing his helicopter.


Dirk and Al steal a car and find a chemical waste plant in the desert run by Massarde, where they realize that the plant is dumping the waste in an underground river and causing the red tide outbreak. Massarde captures them yet again and sends them to work in a gold mine where he's sent other people who have gotten too close to the truth.

The Plane

Dirk and Al escape again into the desert and find the crashed plane, containing the pilot's diary, which details a lost Civil War ship out in the Sahara. The pair work on the crashed plane, converting it into a sand yacht and ride it until they cross paths with a truck and hitch a ride to Algiers.

The Fort

A UN team picks up Dirk and Al and strikes the gold mine to shut it down and rescue the prisoners. However, the Mali army blows up their plane, forcing the gang to escape to a Foreign Legion fort. However, the Mali army attacks the fort and Al escapes to get some reinforcements in the form of a Delta Force Unit. The reinforcements eventually come and beat the Mali army.

The Conclusion

Dirk and Al fly a chopper, take the chemical waste plant and make Massarde drink the polluted water, letting him escape so that he'll eventually die. In the aftermath, authorities close the chemical plant, dig up the lost Civil War ship and put the crashed plane in a museum.

Photo Credits

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