December 2008 – Volume Fifteen, Number Twelve
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 14th 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.
FLYING CARS: FINALLY
What happened to the flying cars? Those of us of a certain age will remember great promises that by the year 2000 we'd all be zipping around in flying cars. Thus, imagine our delight to learn that a team of British adventurers will embark on a journey from London to Timbuktu, Mali - across the Sahara Desert - in the world's first road legal bio-fueled flying car. The expedition departs next month in Parajet Skycars - sort of a dune buggy on a flexible parasail - to prove the concept of "fly-driving." Sponsors have funded the project to the tune of £250,000 (about $375,000).
With the help of their sponsors and supporters, the intrepid explorers expect to raise over £100,000 for a number of charities including an African orphanage. Expedition leader is London-based Neil Laughton, 45, an entrepreneur, aviator and adventurer who holds paraglider, hang-glider, paramotor, fixed wing, and helicopter licenses. A Seven Summiteer, he was the first person to jetski around the U.K. and holds world records for extreme golf, Tin Tray Racing, and the 24-Hour Pram Pushing Record (all of which, for some reason, doesn't surprise us). (For more information: Neil Laughton, firstname.lastname@example.org, SkyCarExpedition.com)
Deep Divers – The ten divers posing for photos at The Explorers Club's Sea Stories conference on Nov. 15 were part of an adventurous fraternity - they had all dove the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria, which entered the history books in 1956 when it was rammed by the Swedish liner, Stockholm, 45 miles from Nantucket. The Italian ship keeled over and sank the next morning; the Stockholm, her bow badly mangled, remained afloat. Fifty-one people died, but hundreds were saved.
Since then, hundreds have dived the wreck and many items have been recovered, including the two famous "Gambone panels" from the ship's Winter Garden Lounge - large ceramic sculptures created by the Italian artist Guido Gambone. Each is about six- ft. high by 5-ft. wide and weighs approximately 1,000 lbs. They were salvaged by John Moyer of Vineland, N.J., who filed an Admiralty Arrest in U.S. Federal Court in 1993 which gave him exclusive salvage rights and clear title to any artifacts recovered from the wreck.
Some believe the wreck should be left in peace - in situ. Many divers disagree. "Sure it's an underwater museum," says diver Capt. Steven Gatto of Sicklerville, N.J., "but no one is home. Tons of steel are falling on galleys and stacks of dishes." Moyer adds, "If we don't recover artifacts they will be lost forever and no one will get to see it." (For more information: http://uwex.us/andreadoria.htm)
The Sea Stories event also included a presentation by Pierette Simpson who was traveling to America with her grandparents when the ill-fated ship went down. Simpson is the author of Alive on the Andrea Doria: The Greatest Sea Rescue in History (2006, Harbor Hill-Purple Mountain Books).
Forget Me Not – "It was a humbling moment, finding George Mallory's body on Everest almost 10 years ago," climber Conrad Anker tells the New York section dinner of the American Alpine Club on Nov. 15. "It was also a defining moment in my life." Since then he and his wife Jennifer Lowe-Anker established the Khumbu Climbing School in Phortse, Nepal, to teach basic climbing skills to Sherpa, who account for upwards of 70 percent of all climbing fatalities. Over 250 students have graduated from the course. "We try to keep them safe so they can better serve their clients," Anker said.
In 2007, he attempted to summit Everest in replica 1924 clothing - Burberry, cashmere, silk and other natural fibers that today's climbers shun. Despite heat packs in his boots and modern underwear, "Let me tell you, they're still pretty cold," he said. Lowe-Anker spoke about her book Forget Me Not (2008, The Mountaineers Books), a memoir about the death of her former husband Alex Lowe and her subsequent marriage to Anker, his climbing partner, in 2001. It won the 2008 National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature (see related story). (For more information: AlexLowe.org)
Old School – After years of going to expedition slide shows that really weren't slide shows but instead low resolution PowerPoints, imagine our delight recently to once again hear the distinctive sound of a Kodak slide carousel dropping one slide after another into view. Back before digital, seemingly when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, a slide show was how explorers usually reported back to a stunned audience. Sir Ernest Shackleton had magic lanterns, but Wilton, Conn., professional adventure photographer and cable TV host Daryl Hawk still has his slide carousels.
"I just like the sound of slides dropping into a tray," he told EN last month in Westport, Conn., at an Appalachian Mountain Club presentation. "I fell in love with film at a young age. It has stuck with me and I've done well by film. It's a craft. It's a way of life. I'll never give up film. There's no reason to," he said. Hawk's slides of Costa Rica - its people, abundant birdlife, incredible diversity of insects and stunning volcanic scenery - were shown with a level of color saturation and definition no PowerPoint could match.
Another advantage of staying the course with film? "There's no question about manipulation. What you see is precisely what the camera saw." Hawk, 51, adds, "I don't need instant gratification. I like the anticipation of not knowing what I've got until I return home." (For more information: DarylHawk.com)
Expedition Research Helps Protect Honduran Hummingbird – International and national conservation organizations including The Hummingbird Society, The Hummingbird Conservancy, and EcoLogic Development Fund have partnered with international law firm Crowell & Moring LLP to petition the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for the protection of the Honduran Emerald, a rare and remarkable hummingbird found only in the Republic of Honduras. The petition aims to list the Emerald under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which would greatly enhance the interest of public and private entities in pursuing conservation efforts.
The Emerald has been the subject of an Explorers Club scientific research and photographic expedition led by Robert E. Hyman and is considered the most endangered bird in Central America, as well as one of the most endangered hummingbirds in the world. The bird is faced with many threats to its environment, including plans to build a highway through a section of its unique habitat, and unregulated, rapid destruction of the land where it resides. The current population of the bird, known as the Emerald for its glittering blue-green throat and upper chest, is estimated to be between 500 and 2,000 breeding pairs.
An analysis conducted by conservation organization BirdLife International estimates that nearly ten percent of the world's hummingbird species are on the verge of extinction. In 2004, the Honduran government passed an initiative declaring the Emerald's home in the Aguán Valley protected area. An ESA listing will advance those efforts.
To assist in raising support for the protection of the Honduran Emerald, Clos LaChance Winery, San Martin, Calif., has partnered with The Hummingbird Society to create the Honduran Emerald Meritage, a Bordeaux-like wine featuring a hummingbird on the label. A portion of the proceeds will be used to assist in the purchase of lands critical to the Emerald's survival. (For more information, visit ClosLachance.com)
Power Tripping – Charles Veley, 42, of San Francisco is trying to become the world's most traveled man. He's logged almost one million miles and has spent nearly $2 million in an effort, he tells the New York Times (Nov. 16), "to go everywhere in the world." Writer Rolf Potts calls him an "extreme traveler, a far-ranging geographical trophy hunter." In 2003, at age 37, he became the youngest person to visit all 317 countries recognized by the Travelers' Century Club, an organization of globetrotters who've visited at least 100 countries or territories.
Unable to get Guinness World Records to certify his status as the world's most traveled person, he created his own arbitrating organization in 2005, a community-driven Web site called MostTraveledPeople.com that has more than 4,800 members. According to the site, the world is made up of 757 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. To visit all 757 would be to go everywhere. Veley has been to 709.
Veley makes no excuses for his obsessive power tripping. "One way to look at this is to think of the world as a giant buffet table," he said. "I wanted to go everywhere, to taste everything first so I'd know where I wanted to come back to for seconds and thirds. I'm doing that now - coming back for more - and it's really enjoyable." Veley has a wife and three children under age six back home, so he covers a lot of ground fast and rarely lingers.
Not So Funny – An animated Hell Pizza ad in New Zealand was pulled from the Web because it showed a mostly skeletal Sir Edmund Hillary, along with actor Heath Ledger and the Queen Mother, emerging from graves to dance to Michael Jackson's song Thriller. It was posted on the Internet two days before Halloween, and was quickly dubbed "grotesque" by Sir Ed's son, Peter Hillary. "I think it's a bit disturbing ... a little grotesque. I don't think it's funny and I'm not very impressed," Stuff.co.nz quoted Hillary as saying.
"It is early days and it's still pretty raw. It's extremely poor taste really," he added.
Hell Pizza promotions had been under fire for campaigns featuring Adolf Hitler, a mail drop that included condoms, and a spoof of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's death. Glenn Corbett, retail operations manager for TPF Group, which acquired the Hell chain in 2006, said the company had no intention of offending anyone, especially the Hillary family. "Clearly he's revered in New Zealand and we all love him. It's the sort of thing that Hell does to create a little bit of fun and a little bit of humor," he said. "The idea of Sir Ed being there was intended to be a light-hearted remembrance of Sir Ed that was a bit hellish."
Artwork Frozen in Time – "For centuries the polar landscape stood as the embodiment of nature's stern and heartless grandeur," writes Miles Unger in the New York Times (Nov. 9). "Now it is viewed as mortally wounded by big-footing humans who have reduced mighty glaciers to quivering slush.
"Any chance we get to reconnect with that sense of awe is gratifying, even if the experience is secondhand, through a period piece artifact."
According to the Times, visitors to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., will get a chance to reconnect with a "patch of turf protected from human excess." The museum's To the Ends of the Earth: Painting the Polar Landscape exhibition brings together more than 50 works by well- and lesser-known artists - mostly from Britain and the U.S.- and pays homage to the great age of polar landscape painting, "when the world, at least at its extremities, felt both mysterious and dangerous and when nature could still put up a fight." The show continues through Mar. 1 and features renowned painters such as Frederic Edwin Church, Rockwell Kent and Lawren Harris. (For more information and a view of six striking gallery images: pem.org)
Eight Million Students Followed Ann Bancroft – Some astounding Internet numbers were revealed in a September NWA World Traveler story by Greg Breining about Minnesota explorers Will Steger, Ann Bancroft and Paul Schurke. In 2007, Bancroft and her partner Liv Arnesen were forced to abandon their quest to cross the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen's feet froze. Breining reports, "Letters of support poured in from many of the 8 million students who went on to finish the curriculum anyway, and Arnesen did regain full use of her feet - despite losing her big toe and part of a second toe.
"I don't think I ever received such powerful mail from students as we did from this one," Bancroft says. "It's totally relatable, because everyone has failed at one time or another."
National Outdoor Book Award Winners Announced – A stubborn band of optimists who fought and refused to let the magnificent American chestnut tree slip into extinction. A young mother rebuilding her life after the death of her husband in a mountaineering accident. These are some of the themes found among the winners of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA).
As an example of outstanding writing, Ron Watters, award chairman and professor emeritus at Idaho State University, points to the winner of the Natural History category, American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. Authored by nature writer Susan Freinkel, it tells the story of the American chestnut tree which at one time stretched in vast numbers from Georgia to Maine.
In the History-Biography Category is a new, exhaustively researched but eminently readable Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering by Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver. Complete reviews of these and the other 2008 winners may be found at the National Outdoor Book Award Web site: noba-web.org
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"I've been there so often, the penguins recognize me." - Geoff Green, founder and executive director of the Students on Ice program based in Gatineau, Quebec. Since 1999, Green has traveled to the polar regions over 100 times, 75 to Antarctica alone, with over 1,000 students from 35 countries in tow. On Nov. 13 at The Explorers Club in New York he introduced this year's five New York-area recipients of a scholarship funded by New York philanthropist Harold Snyder. Green, 42, says that when 65 students travel with him to Antarctica in late December, "They will arrive not as tourists but as students ready to learn. The polar regions are the greatest classrooms on earth."
Over 100 applications were received for an additional 10 Polar Education Foundation scholarships funded by an anonymous American donor. "These are the new Shackletons who will study how the planet can survive." Watch for a first-person account of the 2008 Students on Ice Antarctic Youth Expedition in next month's issue coming out in mid-January. (For more information: StudentsOnIce.com)
The Sun Never Sets on a British Explorer
While it's no longer true that the sun never sets on the British Empire, it's a safe bet that at anytime of day or night, there's a British explorer studying something somewhere. This is particularly evident each year at the annual Royal Geographical Society Explore conference in London where upwards of 200 current and would-be explorers gather to compare notes and network. Whether the seminar is about the spread of jigger fleas in rural northwest Cameroon, studies of the remote island caves of southern Chile, or a "Grease to Greece" journey in a biofuel truck to Athens, there's no better place to see the heritage of wandering Brits like Robert F. Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Dr. David Livingstone writ large.
One lad walked around with a sign Scotch taped to his back that read," I want to go from Ward Hunt Island to the Pole. Will you help?" Other attendees posted bulletin board notices seeking partners to travel around North America, to Everest, through the Amazon, and even Mars. Here's a look at some of the more notable comments:
In December 2006, McKeand set a new world record of 39 days 9 hours and 33 minutes for skiing solo and unsupported the 690 miles from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, beating the previous record by two days. She lost 49 pounds during the trip. Last April on a solo trek to the North Pole, she fell into an eight-foot crack and dislocated her shoulder. She called for an emergency evacuation after fashioning a ladder out of her skis. "When planning an expedition, it's important to pay attention to details. Even blisters can end an expedition," she said. "The poles can kill you in hours if you don't do the right thing at the right time."
"Polar travel is peculiarly addictive. It's an expensive way to go camping," says Saunders who has been on six polar expeditions above the Arctic Circle in the past seven years.
Saunders spoke about the need to develop a healthy dose of OCD when preparing expedition gear (or "kit" as it's commonly known in the U.K.). "Two screws that cost 15 pence each can cancel an entire expedition," he said. This from an explorer obsessive about weight. He cuts the labels off his parkas, pulls the metal tabs off zipper pulls, and goes so far as to cut the handle on his toothbrush which, to start with, is a child's size. Yet, he won't scrimp on communications gear. "The Internet is simply the best medium for sharing an expedition with audiences because they can interact in real time," he told RGS conference attendees. "Learning the language of blogs and streaming video is as important today as learning how to use a compass was for early explorers."
In March, Saunders will return to the North Pole from the Canadian side in hopes of setting a speed record to the Pole solo, unsupported and on foot. Then in October, he sets out to attempt the first roundtrip journey to the South Pole on foot - at 1,802 miles/2,900 km it would be the longest unsupported journey in polar history. He will be accompanied by Alastair Humphreys, a fellow adventurer and friend, who will help haul all the food, fuel and equipment they'll need for four months. Both like to quote Apsley Cherry-Garrard, survivor of Robert F. Scott's Terra Nova Expedition (1910-13), who famously said, "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has yet been devised."
Drake Shake – A particularly rough crossing of the Drake Passage from Argentina and Chile to the Antarctic Peninsula. One usually hopes for calm seas, or the so-called "Drake lake." Source: Students on Ice.
Big Eye – Insomnia in South Pole parlance. Source: the late astrophysicist Martin A. Pomerantz (1916-2008). According to his obituary in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 15-16), life in Antarctica could be scary and bracing. His uncomfortable sleeping quarters induced insomnia … "you had to put the beer in just the right place so it would not freeze. It would freeze on the floor and it was terribly hot above." In 1994 he proudly attended the dedication of a South Pole observatory named in his honor.
Deep Sea Explorer Dies – Jacques Piccard, a scientist and underwater explorer who plunged deeper beneath the ocean than any other man, died Nov. 1 at the age of 86 at his Lake Geneva home in Switzerland. Exploration ran in the Piccard family. Jacques' physicist father, Auguste, was the first man to take a balloon into the stratosphere and his son, Bertrand, was the first man to fly a balloon nonstop around the world.
Jacques Piccard helped his father invent the bathyscaphe, a vessel that allows humans to descend to great depths. On Jan. 23, 1960, he and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh took the vessel into the Pacific's Mariana Trench and dove to a depth of 35,800 feet - nearly seven miles below sea level. It remains to this day the deepest dive ever.
"By far the most interesting find was the fish that came floating by our porthole," Piccard said of the dive. "We were astounded to find higher marine life forms down there at all." The discovery of living organisms at such depths played a key role in the prohibition of nuclear waste dumping in ocean trenches.
Walsh remembers his work with Piccard, "Jacques was a remarkable person. Though not trained as an engineer, he helped develop and pilot six manned submersibles. These included the first bathyscaphs, the world's first tourist submarine and one which still holds the world's submerged endurance record of 30 days. I had the good fortune to work with him in 1959-1960 on the Navy's Trieste Program and in later years we sometimes worked together on other projects for manned submersibles," Walsh tells EN.
"Never a 'big organization man', through his Bureau Piccard in Cully, Switzerland, he was able to bring many of his ideas to successful completion. His imagination, intelligence and tenacity will be missed."
EN HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
They've been telling us all to spend our way out of economic troubles, so as part of our patriotic duty during the credit crunch, EN respectfully suggests you engage in some retail therapy and consider these holiday gifts for the explorer on your list who has everything.
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