Expedition News
November 2005 – Volume Twelve, Number Eleven

EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 11th year, is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.

The following are highlights of our November issue, but this is only part of the story. Click here to subscribe to the full edition. or e-mail us for a free sample copy at editor@ExpeditionNews.com


A six-man team, including Icelanders and Britons, hope to set a record by achieving the first wheeled expedition from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. The project, which leaves next month, is called Ice Challenger and hopes to also set a speed record for a wheeled expedition to the Pole. The 1,200 km (746-mi.) route will require the team to negotiate deep crevasses, climb steep ice slopes and cross-rugged fields of rubble ice in a record-breaking 40 hours.

The expedition’s so-called "Super Jeep" is a 6-wheel drive monster truck with turbo-charged, fuel-injected V8 engine, 25 gears, and 44-in. tires. A team of three engineers in Iceland spent almost 2,000 hours to soup it up. Super Jeeps usually ply the tourist trade in Iceland where they regularly navigate glaciers on the Ohio-sized island, including Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier.


Eighteen Killed in Nepal Slide – Seven French and 11 Nepalese members of a 22-member climbing team were killed in a snowstorm in the mountains of northwest Nepal on Oct. 20. The four surviving members of the team – all Nepalese porters – were taken to safety by helicopter. The rescue came four days after the group was reported to be stranded in a snowstorm during its attempt on the 6981m (22,903-ft.) Mount Kang Guru in the Manang region near Annapurna.


"To have a great adventure and survive, requires good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience, of course, is the result of poor judgment." – Dr. Geoff Tabin, Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah. He became the first ophthalmologist to summit Mt. Everest and is the co-director of the Himalayan Cataract Project (www.CureBlindness.org).


The Genographic Project Wants You

National Geographic and IBM have embarked on a landmark, five-year study that will map how mankind populated the Earth. It is reportedly the most ambitious genetic anthropology research initiative ever.

The Genographic Project will use sophisticated computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people – including indigenous populations and the general public – to reveal mankind’s migratory history and to better understand the connections and differences that make up the human species.

Dr. Spencer Wells, Ph.D., director of the project, and a group of leading scientists from 10 institutions worldwide, will conduct groundbreaking field and laboratory research. Dr. Wells, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, is a population geneticist who has conducted pioneering research using DNA to trace humankind’s migratory history.

Technical leader of the project, Dr. Gyan Bhanot of the IBM Computational Biology Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., tells EN, "Field workers are out collecting 100,000 samples from indigenous peoples, including blood samples. From this, we hope to construct a migratory tree to study evolution."

The general public is invited to purchase a Participation Kit, submit their check swab sample, and track the progress of the project as well as learn about their own migratory history.

This past summer, Donovan Webster, a writer who lives near Charlottesville, Va., decided to take the test. With three of his four ancestors having arrived in the United States from Scotland before 1635, Webster had always thought of his family "as old line Anglo-Saxon."

After having his DNA analyzed, he found that he shared genetic markers with the click-talking Hadzabe bushman in Tanzania, with Lebanese Arabs, Uzbeks in Central Asia and Basques in Spain. Webster decided to spend much of July and August visiting the descendants of his distant ancestors and wrote about it in National Geographic's Traveler magazine. "In effect, I wanted to look my ancestors in the eye," Webster wrote in the article.

The $100 fee for the kit helps fund future field research. The test is confidential and used only for non-medical analysis. The objective is to gather one of the largest collections of DNA samples ever assembled, culminating in a virtual museum of human history for all to access. (For more information: www.NationalGeographic.com).


Bubble BoyRichard Wiese’s rare air adventure inside a Hypoxico altitude chamber surrounding his desk at the Explorers Club (see EN, October 2005), drew the attention of The New Yorker (Oct. 24). The sea-level-centric writer, Nick Paumgarten, tells of the experience, "Once he closed the door, the percentage of oxygen in the air, as measured by a handheld monitor, began to drop, and along with it the amount of oxygen in the blood. A mild light-headedness set in. After a few minutes, the feeling was not unlike that of sitting atop the Grand Teton, if you were to factor out wind, cold, vistas, exhaustion, vertigo, and the problem of getting down."

The founder of Hypoxico, Russian Gary Kotliar, says the chamber can serve as both a sleep aid and an aphrodisiac. "You are like bull," he tells the magazine. "I’m, like, nineteen years old! It’s the equivalent of ten thousand oysters."

To Boldly Go – "Humans must push to their limits, whatever those end up being, to ultimately survive as a species," writes Greg Zsidisin, president of the New York City chapter of the National Space Society, in the New York Times (Sept. 25). "Machines are an invaluable tool and will undoubtedly play a larger role in future human exploration. There are indeed places where they can go that we cannot. We should not choose, however, to explore always and only by proxy."


The River of Doubt by Candice Millard (Doubleday)

Reviewed by Robert Wells, Darien, Conn.

Fall of 1912. Teddy Roosevelt broke his promise not to run for a third term. Shockingly, he stiffed his Republican Party and ran on a "Progressive" ticket only to end up suffering a humiliating defeat.

What to do? Something extraordinary. Something heroic – to get his mind away from people who measure others only by their latest deeds. One thing leads to another. An invitation to speak in Argentina. A priest with an idea to explore rivers unknown. And he set off with his son Kermit, and a dream.

The River of Doubt – a tributary of the Amazon – held a reason for being uncharted. It was a nightmare of impossible-to-navigate waterfalls, impenetrable rain forests, and vicious insects bearing innumerable diseases, not to mention natives who believed in having you for dinner after they fill you with poisoned darts. But for Roosevelt, nothing was impossible.

Initial planners of the venture turned out to be bumbling fools. The expedition lacked the right boats and provisions. Disease laid Roosevelt close to death for much of the trip. Others fared far worse – losing their lives after enduring harrowing hardships. Yet the river's secrets yielded, thanks mainly to an extraordinary soul – Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, an amazing Brazilian.

To remove any doubt, get ready to thread your way through tangles of ink-black vegetation laced with mosquitoes and insects of all description. Strain your back with the expedition to lower canoes over roaring cascades – while streams of unremitting rains pummel your psyche page after page. Learn what it means to forego communications with the outside world for months. Look starvation in the face – as you wander deeper into the unknown. This is a book you will have trouble putting down.

Dava Sobel Makes the Complicated Understandable

Dava Sobel, the author of Longitude, and most recently, The Planets, is a master at making the complicated understandable. She sheds new light on complex science, writing with wit, grace and a sense of wonder about the complexities of the heavenly bodies. Her latest work is a compulsively readable account that brings each planet vividly and caringly to life. Speaking last month at a library event in New Canaan, Conn., the diminutive East Hampton, N.Y., author, an award-winning former science writer for the New York Times, said, "We’re cosmically lonely. There’s such eagerness to find life on other planets."


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EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 28 Center Street, Darien, CT 06820. Tel. (+1) 203-655-1600, fax (+1) 203-655-1622, blumassoc@aol.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon ©2005 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr.; international postal rate US$46/yr. Click here to subscribe to the full edition.. Highlights from EXPEDITION NEWS can be found at www.ExpeditionNews.com and www.WebExpeditions.net. Layout and design by Nextwave Design, Seattle.

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