I was reading to my daughter the other night and came across an awkward passage in Crockett Johnson's "Harold's Trip to the Sky":
"There was nothing to see. He was in the middle of a desert. No wonder he was so thirsty. But, luckily, he had brought his purple crayon. And he knew where to find water on a desert."
In my experience, common usage finds one "in a desert" rather than "on" one. Honestly, this is my first time encountering this particular usage anywhere.
Is it more common to say (verbally or in writing) that one is "in a desert" or "on a desert"? Has common usage of this phrase shifted since the book's original copyright date in 1957 or are there other reasons for this difference in usage? I have already seen other questions similar to this one such as "On a page" or "in a page" for a web page and I understand that prepositions are used interchangeably in some situations. My question is not about correct usage but common usage. Any examples from other written works would be appreciated.