April 2007 – Volume Fourteen, Number Four
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 13th 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.
Coconut Crabs May Hold Key to Amelia Earhart Mystery
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the disappearance of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart. In July, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will conduct it's ninth archaeological expedition to Nikumaroro (formerly known as Gardner Island), an uninhabited atoll in the Republic of Kiribati, where Earhart and her navigator are believed to have landed and died as castaways. It's the grandfather of all cold cases. Although legally declared dead by a California court in early 1939, Earhart has been the subject of more than 50 nonfiction books.
From July 19 to Aug. 4, the TIGHAR team will search for the partial skeleton remains first found on the island in 1940 at an unknown castaway's campsite. The bones were incorrectly assumed, using pre-WWII forensic techniques, to be that of a stocky European or mixed-blood male, ruling out any Earhart connection. While the original set of bones have been lost over the years, a 1998 review of the measurements taken of the partial skeleton concludes they were, in fact, the bones of a woman of Northern European descent of about Earhart's age and height. Since Earhart was the only Northern European woman known to be lost in the area at that time, TIGHAR's executive director Ric Gillespie, based in Wilmington, Dela., is certain that if the rest of the skeleton can be found, mitochondrial DNA matched to a niece still alive in New Hampshire will help answer one of the 20th century's most famous mysteries.
Gillespie believes Earhart's bones may have been taken by coconut crabs (aka "robber" crabs) known to return to their underground burrows with food. They are the world's largest land crabs and can crack coconuts with their strong pincers. During Gillespie's tests with a five pound lamb shoulder on Nikumaroro in 2001, the meat and bones disappeared in five days. Still and video remote cameras showed robber crabs, which live to be 70-years-old, were the culprit.
"If we can find the bones that the crabs took, we may have our 'smoking gun,'" Gillespie tells EN. He plans to look for large well-established crab burrows and perhaps for the actual crabs, or their relatives, who (shudder) ate the famed aviatrix.
Five of the fifteen berths aboard the expedition ship have been reserved for sponsor team members. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age (no maximum age); be in good health; be willing to make a $50,000 contribution to help cover the costs of the expedition; and be approved by the expedition leader.
Volunteers must be willing to conduct strenuous brush clearing and meticulous archaeological work in severe tropical conditions. Says expedition organizer Ric Gillespie, "There will be a physician on the team but Nikumaroro is one of the most remote places on the planet and definitive medical care is several days away." (For more information: Richard Gillespie, (+1) 302-994-4410, Ric@tighar.org, tighar.org)
Mt. Everest Team Studies Altitude Sickness
In a joint project involving The Explorers Club and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), Natick, Mass., a team will travel to Mt. Everest to test a prototype model for real-time identification of individuals likely to develop altitude sickness. The expedition team will collect and record continuous select physiological parameters and risk factors for altitude sickness in individuals following an ascent profile from approximately 1,347 to 5,400 m along the standard Khumbu approach to Mt. Everest Base Camp.
Recent research has identified several risk factors for developing altitude sickness. USARIEM has incorporated these risk factors into a prototype model for real-time detection of individuals with a high probability of developing or experiencing altitude sickness. The model integrates relevant physiological, behavioral and biophysical measures to estimate an individual's risk of having or developing altitude sickness within the next 24 hours of continued altitude exposure.
To make daily risk estimates of altitude sickness practical in a field environment, USARIEM has developed an altitude sickness electronic data collection system that uses a handheld PC ruggedized for operation in extreme environments. The individual participants in the expedition will wear small sensors to simultaneously assess multiple potential risk factors and physiological responses to the hypoxic environment and expedition activities. During the expedition, the data collected by the system will be used to calculate daily estimates of individual altitude sickness risk using the prototype model. The model's results will be compared to the individual's reported symptoms. Additionally, the data collected during this project will contribute to the development of predictive models of acute mountain sickness (AMS).
Principal Investigator is Stephen Muza, Ph.D., a research physiologist at the USARIEM. Collaborators are chief expedition physician Steve Albrecht, M.D., of Olympia, Wash., and expedition leader Scott Hamilton, a member of The Explorers Club. The team consists of 12 individuals and is self-funded. Kifaru International is supporting the project by donating a 16-man Tipi tent as the expedition's rapidly deployable research facility, and Under Armour has supplied prototype technical clothing for evaluation by the team members. (For more information: Jeff Stolzer, The Explorers Club, email@example.com, (+1) 212-628-8383)
Amputee Cyclist Plans Round-the-World Ride
In a year that marks the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention to ban landmines, seasoned American amputee long-distance cyclist Dan Sheret has announced he will ride his bike around the world this summer to raise money and awareness for landmine accident survivors. (AbilityTrek.org)
Sheret said he hopes his trek will bring a groundswell of grassroots and corporate support to aid some of the 20,000 civilians who are injured by accidental landmine explosions each year, mostly in the developing world. On his tour across the U.S., he plans to offer riding clinics for amputees new to biking, and visit community service clubs, schools and the annual convention of the Amputee Coalition of America in Atlanta this June.
His ambitious 16,000-mile trek will start in Washington, D.C., on May 30. The U.S. leg will conclude in San Francisco on Aug. 8. He will fly to Sydney on Aug. 14 and cycle 1,625 miles along the eastern seaboard of Australia to Cairns. Singapore will be his port of call in Southeast Asia as he makes his way north to see the first of two landmine survivor aid projects that will receive proceeds from his trek.
Late fall will find Sheret cycling across China, and visiting Japan and South Korea before turning east across Russia. He then heads for the Middle East. His ride will continue across Turkey, the Balkans, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and England before returning to the United States in spring 2008.
"My goal is twofold," Sheret says. "To bring hope and awareness to amputees in need throughout the developing world and to bring to light the great work that is being done to aid landmine victims and other amputees." (For more information: Imbert Matthee, (+1) 206-780-5964, AbilityTrek.org)
Ashes to Everest – In his daily dispatch at www.colemaneverest.com, Denver schoolteacher Mike Haugen, 30, announced he would be taking to Everest some of the ashes belonging to Zach Marion, a schoolchild from the Midwest who died of AML, an aggressive form of leukemia in 2004. (See EN, February 2007)
Haugen has designated Marion an honorary third member of his team. "Zach was an amazing young person who died from leukemia in December 2004. Zach compared his impossible struggle with cancer to an attempt on Mount Everest. His courage and determination led him through four rounds of chemotherapy and several surgeries before his young body could not take any more. A small amount of Zach's ashes will be with us on our attempt for the summit of Everest," Haugen writes.
Haugen departed for Nepal on Mar. 17 after a rousing send-off at his Denver inner city school, an event covered by Denver TV stations, the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. (For more information on Marion: caringbridge.org/ks/zachzoo/)
Steger Expedition Reaches Half-way Point – Will Steger's Global Warming 101 Baffin Island expedition started Feb. 24 in Iqaluit with the mission of providing an eyewitness to cultural and ecological climate-related changes in the Arctic. (See EN, February 2007) At press time, the expedition had successfully crossed the Akshayuk Pass through Auyuittuq National Park to arrive at the expedition's midpoint village, Qikiqtarjuaq. Although the name of the park means "land that never melts," the team encountered the worst trail conditions ever reported with reduced ice and snow cover leaving only exposed boulders and glare ice.
After leaving Pangnirtung, the expedition route skirted one of the two remaining large ice caps on Baffin, Penny Ice Cap. Many of the glaciers that descend from the ice cap once reached the valley floor. The Steger team, however, could see only the truncated ends of the glaciers far above their naked terminal moraines.
Adventurer Sir Richard Branson, son Sam Branson, and mountaineer Ed Viesturs will join the Global Warming 101 expedition team in Clyde River on Earth Day (Apr. 22) to complete the final leg of the expedition, skirting the Barnes Ice Cap and crossing the sea ice of Foxe Basin to finish in Iglulik in May.
A documentary film, directed by South African Mickey Madoda Dube, will highlight the Steger expedition and the experience of Inuit hunters and elders trying to cope with a rapidly changing climate. (For more information: globalwarming101.com)
Stancer's Mars North Pole Solo Expedition Benefits Special Olympics – The UK's Rosie Stancer is attempting to journey solo to the North Pole this month. Her 60-day Mars North Pole Solo expedition will raise awareness of Special Olympics Great Britain (SOGB), a charity that organizes year-round athletic training and competition for people with learning disabilities. The expedition will also highlight a local community project in the mainly Inuit town of Resolute Bay. In honor of SOGB, Rosie will be planting the charity's flag at the North Pole.
Described previously as "Tinkerbell meets Terminator," the diminutive 5'3" 47-year-old will walk, ski, climb and even swim 415 nautical miles, the equivalent of 18 back-to-back marathons, while dragging behind her everything she needs to survive, in a sledge weighing close to 100 kilos.
Stancer is receiving backing from famed polar explorer Pen Hadow, and her cousin and expedition Royal Patron HRH The Prince of Wales who has provided Stancer with a mountain of Highgrove fudge for the trip.
Polar exploration is in Stancer's blood. Her family has a history of polar exploration, with her grandfather, Earl Granville, being a late exclusion to Captain Scott's ill-fated 1910-12 Antarctic Expedition (at 6'4" he was ruled out as being too tall). Rosie's grandfather-in-law, Sir James Wordie, accompanied Shackleton on his 1914-17 Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Stancer is hoping for a double world first – the honor of not only being the first woman solo to the North Pole but also the first woman solo to both poles. The claim has raised some eyebrows among the folks at ThePoles.com.
"The definition we use for solo is ‘no human assistance (airdrops); no physical human contact throughout the entire expedition, no proximity to other expeditions on the ice,'" writes the Web site.
Thepoles.com post continues, "This is a widely known standard definition found in all aspects of exploration, including mountaineering and sailing. The only North Pole solo trips achieved to date have been those made by Norwegian Borge Ousland and Brit Pen Hadow, who both did it alone and without resupplies."
Stancer's public relations agency, KTB in London, issued a reply to expedition sponsors that said in part "….the definition they (ThePoles.com) wish to use for solo would discount almost every single solo expedition in history, including those by the explorers they hold up as examples in the piece.
"The three polar teams referred to in the piece have all sent Rosie their messages of support and all wholeheartedly support her ambition and claims to become the first woman solo to the North Pole and the first woman solo to both poles."
Rosie Stancer's Mars North Pole Solo Expedition is sponsored by Mars Canada, Timberland Outdoor Wear and Stepstone Recruitment. Other sponsors include Brenje, PH Designs and the Duchy of Cornwall. (For more information: RosieStancerMarsNorthPoleSolo.com)
Pilotless Rescue Helicopter Developed for Nepal – The Everest Rescue Trust in New Zealand has established a self-funding rescue helicopter service for the extreme altitude regions of Nepal. This humanitarian project aims to save lives on Everest and improve the safety and emergency services in Nepal, while directly benefiting the Nepalese people. (See related story in this issue of EN).
After six years of research, development and building of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), TGR Helicorp in East Tamaki, New Zealand, has designed and developed an unpiloted full-size alpine rescue helicopter: the Alpine Wasp, which will be able to operate safely and autonomously at altitudes up to and beyond 30,000-ft. Most helicopters are not designed to operate above a ceiling of about 14,000-ft.
The company will ship the $5 million Alpine Wasp to the Everest Rescue Trust in January 2008 after extensive testing in the Mt. Cook Southern Alps region of New Zealand's South Island. It will be capable of airlifting up to two sick or injured climbers at a time from extreme altitude, using ultra-modern composite technologies, a revolutionary diesel helicopter engine and rotor blades designed especially for maximum performance in thin air. The base station will be at Namche Bazar at 12,000 feet, where the operator can control the helicopter's progress through 16 onboard cameras via data link through satellite.
The 40-ft. Alpine Wasp represents a huge leap forward in helicopter performance and technological capability. The success of this project will increase the Trust's capability to help other people all over the world. The potential for pushing the boundaries of long range, high altitude rescue is unlimited, and could change the course of modern alpine aviation history, according to Trevor Rogers, president of TGR Helicorp Ltd. (For more information: Trevor@helicorp.co.nz; Related Article)
Colorado African Expedition of 2007 Reaches the Atlantic – After 48 days of traveling across the heart of Africa, the Colorado African Expedition of 2007 descended out of the Namib Desert and into the seaside port town of Swakopmund, Namibia, on the south west coast of the African continent. Traveling overland in trucks, cars, boats and on foot, the team members realized their stated goal of traversing Africa from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
During a brief ceremony on the beach in Swakopmund which was attended by local and international media representatives, expedition leader, anthropologist and author Julian Monroe Fisher, a resident of Austria, reflected upon the magnitude of the accomplishment and expressed his gratitude to his fellow team members and sponsors, proclaiming, "Adventurers from around the globe continue to explore the African continent in order to define themselves as well as the art of exploration. I stand here today understanding quite clearly that we have been ever so fortunate to arrive safely. We have witnessed first hand the hardships that our fellow mankind are faced with day in and day out."
The team of The Colorado African Expedition of 2007 traveled from Mombasa, Kenya, overland between the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru and across the plains of the Serengeti, around Central Africa's Lake Victoria to the Ruwenzori Mountains of western Uganda, across the countries of Rwanda and Burundi, down the length of Lake Tanganyka, then across Zambia and Namibia and on to the Atlantic Ocean. The team gathered content for several documentary films as well as a book that will be released in 2008. (For more information: Regina Fisher, (+43) 720-720-308)
Passing Time – If you ever faced a five-hour lay-over in Anchorage, and have already breezed through the label of your Gatorade bottle because you've run out of reading material, you still have it easy. Imagine being stranded for two days at 25,000 feet in a tent with just a few pages left to a paperback novel. What next? Memorize your credit card numbers? Rewind that videotape in your head of every romantic date you ever had? How do experienced explorers pass the time?
Once while climbing in Africa, the legendary Eric Shipton and climbing partner H.W. Tilman were tentbound on the mountain by vile weather. Bookless, they read and re-read the inside of the Ryvita crispbread packaging in German, Spanish and Italian, interspersed with singing to each other their small stock of songs, according to Peter Steele's Shipton biography, Everest and Beyond (1998, The Mountaineers).
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"History treated him unfairly. Who can blame him? It was that or death." – James Shedd defending his great-great grandfather Adolphus W. Greeley, whose Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881-84 to Ellesmere Island resorted to cannibalism. Twenty-six team members departed, with only six returning three years later in what is generally recognized as the worst Arctic disaster in American history. Shedd appears in a documentary this June titled, Abandoned in the Arctic, by Geoff Clark.
Greeley would later receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, but his Arctic service was downplayed due to suspicions of cannibalism. His nickname at the time was "Eat ‘em alive Greeley." Nonetheless, climate records maintained by Greeley have served as a baseline for climatic studies of the region today. (For more information on the documentary: www.cocked-hat.com)
Climb Like a Girl – Some of the country's most prominent women climbers are featured in the New York Times Play magazine (March 2007). Elizabeth Hightower writes that in a sport long dominated by men, the hormonal balance is shifting. Her five studies in "upward mobility" feature: Steph Davis, 34, Moab, Utah; Emily Harrington, 20, Boulder, Colo.; Lynn Hill, 45, Boulder; Alex Puccio, 17, Dallas; and Beth Rodden, 20, Estes Park Colo. Says Hill, "I'm a better climber now than I've ever been because I'm smarter. The more you do something, the more of a master you become."
Says Davis, "There weren't that many girls when I started out. Now there are lots. That's totally the lifestyle – drifting around, scratching by. That's where I get my inspiration."
Adds Rodden, "On climbs that are technical, you learn to move your body in certain ways. Women can kind of finesse their way through things."
Running Out of Firsts – Maureen Farrell writes in the Mar. 2 Forbes about the peculiar plight of post-modern explorers. "A generation after humans landed on the moon and explorers touched the highest and lowest points on the globe (Mount Everest and the Mariana Trench, respectively), finding new ‘firsts' requires nearly as much creativity and resolve as executing them," she says.
Says Richard Wiese, former president of the New York-based Explorers Club, "Most of the obvious firsts have been done. Many firsts now seem artificial and contrived."
Maureen Farrell continues, "Climbing Mount Everest has become so routine – hundreds make the attempt each year – that there is now an unseemly scramble for various ‘firsts': first without oxygen, first without fixed ropes, oldest climber, youngest climber. But fear not: Everest aside, there are still some impressive ‘firsts' left out there," Farrell writes. "Take mountaineering. There are still dozens of unclimbed peaks left in the world. Many of Everest's challenging but slightly smaller neighbors remain unclimbed. "In terms of physical distance, time and money, the greatest looming ‘first' is unquestionably a human mission to Mars," says Forbes' Maureen Farrell. "Such a feat will depend not on the will of one individual, but upon one (or more) government's willingness to foot the tab. Of course, if scientists detect signs of life on Mars, then the vast sums of money required – an estimated $80 billion or more – will be more forthcoming."
Josh Bernstein Joins Discovery – Discovery Communications announced that explorer, author and wilderness educator Josh Bernstein will host and produce specials and series focusing on subjects from anthropology and archaeology to environmental issues, exclusively for the Discovery Channel. Bernstein, a passionate outdoorsman, global explorer, and award-winning television personality joins the network in April.
Bernstein comes to the network with almost 20 years of wilderness survival experience and environmental advocacy under his belt. Since 1997, he has served as president and CEO of BOSS, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, the oldest and largest survival school in the world.
When not traveling or leading BOSS courses, Bernstein lives between a yurt in Southern Utah and an apartment in New York City. For the last three years, Bernstein has hosted the hit adventure/archaeology series "Digging for the Truth" on The History Channel. (For more information: JoshBernstein.com)
DIY Ice Wall – When it comes to backyard ice walls, few can top Zeke Arzooyan of Livonia, Mich. To practice ice climbing at home, he tells the New York Times Key real estate magazine (spring 2007), "I happen to have two huge trees that are eight feet apart. I put eight-inch lag bolts through eight-foot-long, four-by-four posts, spaced out every 32 inches. Then I drape fencing over both sides and cover it in cloth.
"Then comes the water," Arzooyan continues, "It runs continuously for two weeks straight. It's about 12,000 gallons of frozen water. All told, about $60 worth of water." He invites climbers from all around the state to practice, so long as they sign a waiver.
Charismatic Explorers Sought – A documentary and reality television production company with credits at Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, A&E, and many more, would like to hear from TV-ready explorers and adventurers. NorthSouth Productions is interested in turning expeditions into documentaries and they are looking to turn credible exploration experts into hosts of their own TV shows.
According to Amy Rapp, director of development, they are seeking "outgoing, charismatic, and engaging people who would like to be on TV." (For more information: Amy Rapp, (+1) 212 414 8670 x 225, firstname.lastname@example.org, NorthSouth.tv)
Island of the Lost (by Joan Druett, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) Reviewed by Robert Wells
"... The gale increased, until it was screaming with horrible force... The raging sea swept the helpless schooner's decks, and the wind and rain howled through her rigging as her hull smashed onto the reefs."
The year was 1864. The place was literally at the edge of nowhere – hundreds of miles south of New Zealand, on an isolated island known to be hostile to humans, while supporting none. Winters were Antarctic and unforgiving. Summers were only slightly more forgiving. Food and shelter was scarce to none. And the poor souls who tumbled from the sailing ship Grafton onto the wave-smashed rocky cliffs of Auckland Island were quite simply ill-equipped for life.
Adaptability and necessity served some of the five-man crew well. For nearly two years, the motley crew fought fate – using ingenuity to build a home and eventually a small boat to carry them to safety.
Strangely enough, a 19-person crew of another ship foundered on an opposite shore of the island and fared less well. For most of this group, adversity meant death. And the only thing that saved the rest was a chance encounter with another ship bound for Latin America from Australia.
The author pieces together accounts from various crew members – whose original notes were scribed in seal blood. The results are riveting. Readers endure the daily struggles of men who hold little hope of survival... as true leaders emerge from stations that have little to do with their societal status. Dances with death have a way of leveling the playing field of life.
Robert Wells is a member of The Explorers Club since 1991, a resident of Darien, Conn., and a retired executive of the Young & Rubicam ad agency. Bob is the director of a steel band and in 1989, at the age of 45, traveled south by road bike from Canada to Long Island Sound in a single 19-hr., 28-min. push.
ON THE HORIZON
Tree Party – Jonesing for the Himalayas but just can't seem to put your life on hold to get away? On May 25-28, join the first-ever Tree Jamboree in Mendocino County, Calif., where you'll find some of the nation's oldest, most beautiful oaks – nature's skyscrapers. For the weekend event, experts will rig 12 trees (and some tents) for attendees to climb, dine, and crash in for the night. (For more information: TreeJamboree.com)
Everest Rescue Game – It's hardly Grand Theft Auto, but now kids around the world can launch their own virtual rescue effort on Mt. Everest. The Rescue on Everest Challenge at www.rescueoneverest.org provides kids ages eight through 12 with the controls to a helicopter "SkyHook" game which allows them to rescue injured climbers, clean rubbish and litter from the mountain and learn about the harsh conditions there. Players must overcome difficulties including weather, avalanches, rock falls, temperature, time and fuel use. A little artistic license is applied in the encounter of a Yeti (Abominable Snowman) and a few other surprises.
The New Zealand-based school project is available free of charge to all primary and intermediate English-speaking school-age children (or any other student) around the world. The editorial staff at EN spent more time than we'd like to admit trying to fly the chopper. (See related story in this month's EN).
AAJ Now Available On-line – The world-renowned American Alpine Journal is now online at AmericanAlpineClub.org/AAJO. Every article from 1966 through 2005 has been uploaded and is fully searchable. Additional volumes will be added over time. "This makes decades of new-route information available to anyone with access to the Internet," said AAC Executive Director Phil Powers. The AAJ Online is free to climbers worldwide; the current edition of the AAJ, along with online preview articles from the next edition, will remain exclusive to AAC members.
The March launch of the AAJ Online was the result of several years of planning and work, including major efforts by a team of volunteers and by AAJ Editor John Harlin III. Since the site went live, the effort has received worldwide attention in the climbing media. "I think the AAJ Online will prove to be the single greatest research tool that mountain exploration has ever known," Harlin said.
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Tights, Tops and Sport Support Bras for Athletes – CW-X Conditioning Wear is specifically tuned to provide total support to the key muscle groups and joints of the lower limbs and upper body. Tights and Tops, and the company's new Sports Support Bras, are made for a wide variety of high-energy activities, including running, fitness walking, hiking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, track and field, and other fitness activities. It has been worn to the summit of Everest on at least two occasions.
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad – LEKI, the world's largest ski, trekking and Nordic Walking pole company, Buffalo, N.Y., introduces three new P2 Grip/Strap Trekking Poles for 2007. Lengthen and shorten the pole strap with the one touch locking tab on top. Grips are vented to reduce weight.
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