In order to be ready for the "China Olympics" total solar eclipse on Friday August 1st, 2008, a scouting trip in China and Mongolia was mandatory during the summer 2006. A recce in the Altai Republic, a Russian Federation autonomous region well known for its Altai Mountains and belonging to UNESCO World Heritage, has already taken place in August 2004. This new scouting trip in the Chinese Gobi along the "Silk Road" in the Xinjiang Uighur province and Western Mongolia had for main goal to get the best weather on all the eclipse path. The Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area was established in 1976 and was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1990 as one of the largest biosphere reserves in the world (5.3 million hectares).
Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang province, is the largest city in the western half of China and the most remote city from any sea in the world at a distance of about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) from the nearest coastline. Tianchi (Heavenly Lake), one of Xinjiang’s most famous scenic spots, is located halfway up the ice-clad Bogda peak at 1,980 meters (6,500 ft) above sea level.
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