The origin of the so-called “fairy circles” has not yet been established. Carbon monoxide (as an indicator of a natural gas microseep) was monitored inside and outside of the selected fairy circles in the Namib, Namibia, Southern Africa. Hydrocarbons were extracted from the soil by a novel method for trapping analytes onto silicone rubber designed for thermal desorption into a gas chromatographemass spectrometer GCeMS). Unresolved complex mixtures with resolvable alkanes were detected in soil collected
from two newly formed circles. Alkenes, the microbial degradation product of alkanes (microbial food source), were more abundant in the circles compared to the levels of alkenes detected in the matrix between circles. Results show a microseepage of gases and hydrocarbons which is expressed at the surface as a geobotanical anomaly of barren circles and circles of altered vegetation. In addition, this
finding may suggest a new approach to the origin of the mima mounds (heuweltjies) of the Western Cape in South Africa.