February 2009 – Volume Sixteen, Number Two
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 15th 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.
MOTORIZED EXPEDITION TRAVELS TO ENDS OF THE EARTH
A team of six adventurers will depart from Prescott, Ariz., en route to Central America this month for the second phase of the three-part Ends of the Earth Expedition from the Arctic Ocean to the Southern Ocean, traversing a total of 17 countries and 31,000 miles.
The expedition team will travel in fully self-contained expedition vehicles - two EarthRoamer XV-JPs, one EarthRoamer XV-LT, and one modified Toyota Tacoma. Estimated distance is 860 miles along a route that takes them along the western coastline of Mexico, to the foothills of Copper Canyon, before turning east towards the jungles and remote, muddy tracks of the Yucatan and Belize. The group will also explore newly discovered Mayan sites in Guatemala. Continuing south, they will cross into Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, before completing the final 140 miles of dirt roads to the Darien Gap.
The first phase of the Ends of the Earth Expedition, driven in a Toyota Tacoma truck 9,000 miles from Arizona to the Arctic, was successfully completed in 2007. During the adventure the team was exposed to temperatures as low as minus 57 degrees F. as they traveled to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. That journey included driving on hundreds of miles of the frozen Mackenzie and Peel Rivers. But in this case, the colder the weather, the better. According to an article in the Feb. 2 issue of Forbes magazine, Exxon paid the team $30,000 to use their oil. Team leader Scott Brady was instructed to turn off his vehicle and try to restart it during the coldest part of the trip. The company also asked that he shoot endorsement videos. "Our equipment is our lifeline," says Brady in one of four videos he filmed to plug Mobil 1, Exxon's motor oil brand. The promotional video has been viewed over 500,000 times, according to Forbes.
The third segment departs this November from Columbia's Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of South America. The adventure will then turn south and cross through Peru, Bolivia's Altiplano and visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Iguacu Falls. The team will travel from the jungle to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, and along the Andes to Patagonia, before reaching the southernmost vehicle accessible point in the world, Tierra del Fuego. From Ushuaia, the team will travel by research vessel to the least visited, and most sparsely inhabited continent - Antarctica.
Brady, 36, an adventure driver and off-road racer from Prescott, says 200,000 people follow the adventures of his seven-person firm, Expeditions West. Title sponsors are: EarthRoamer, Equipt Expedition Outfitters, Mobil 1, Viking Offroad, and SPOT. (For more information: (+1) 602-653-3784, expeditionswest.com/EOE).
SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE OF EARLY ARCTIC PIONEERS
The International Marine Arctic Complex Expedition (IMACE) announced in Moscow this month that it will spend 48 days in July searching for evidence of early Arctic pioneers in the remote area of the Arctic that includes Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya archipelagos and Vaigach Island.
Team members hope to locate traces of Russian Pomor hunters who are believed to have discovered Novaya Zemlya and Svalbard in the 12th century, and locate three famous historical shipwrecks: remains of the Dutch navigator William Barents' ship trapped by sea ice in 1596; the shipwrecks of the Eira of the Benjamin Leigh Smith Expedition of 1881, and the Fiala-Ziegler North Pole Expedition's S.Y. America which sank in the winter of 1903-04. The team also hopes to inspect historical sites connected with the expeditions of Georgy Sedov on St. Foka, Georgy Brusilov on St. Anna, Valerian Albanov, Fridtjof Nansen, Duc d'Abruzzi and others.
The IMACE Expedition's team of about 50 scientists, divers and media will rely upon an expedition ship containing skis, canoes, a helicopter, and Zodiacs. On board scientific equipment will also be used to perform complex scientific research aimed at studying the environment, the dynamics of climatic changes in the Arctic regions, and the flora and fauna of the archipelagos. (For more information: Milko Vuille, (+41) 79-354-7556, firstname.lastname@example.org, acarsa.com)
Adventurer of Year Dies on Mont Blanc – Rob Gauntlett, the youngest Briton to summit Mt. Everest, died in a climbing accident on Mont Blanc's steep and narrow Gervasutti couloir along with another mountaineer, James Atkinson, the British Foreign Office announced last month. Both were 21.
Gauntlett scaled Mt. Everest in 2006 just days after his 19th birthday, along with 19-year-old James Hooper, his Web site says. He shattered the previous British record set by Bear Grylls who summitted at the age of 23.
Last November, National Geographic Adventure magazine declared Gauntlett and Hooper "adventurers of the year" for their 26,000-mile journey from one of the earth's magnetic poles to the other using only skis, sleds, sails and bicycles (see EN, January 2009). Hooper, who was on the trip where Gauntlett was killed, described the adventurer as "practically a brother to me," the Britain's Press Association reported.
It's believed they were too experienced to make an elementary mistake. The most likely explanation is that a piece of rock or ice from a serac, an unstable build-up of glacial ice, fell and hit one of them, causing him to fall, pulling the other with him.
“You'd be surprised at how little it takes. A piece of ice the size of that coffee pot,” Hooper tells the U.K.'s Sunday Times (Jan. 25), pointing at a table. “If that hits you on the head or shoulder and causes you to flinch, that could be fatal. It's sudden and devastating. And it doesn't leave any evidence.” Hooper has said of Gauntlett, "He really pushed himself as hard as he could. It was only because he was such a motivated and driven person that the accident happened, but those were the qualities that made him so incredible."
Gauntlett cycled Britain from south to north at the age of 15 and decided soon after with Hooper to scale Everest. He had made regular climbing trips to Scotland and the Alps to prepare for his 2006 Everest expedition.
But it was Hooper and Gauntlett's 396-day pole-to-pole odyssey in 2008 that National Geographic Adventure magazine called "the most madcap adventure we saw all year." Gauntlett said on his Web site that completing the journey was his proudest moment. Both were headed to the U.S. for a speaking tour before the accident occurred. Hooper and Gauntlett's girlfriend, Lucinda Hutchins, also 21, plan to set up a Rob Gauntlett Trust to award grants to young people with big ambitions and little money.
Mont Blanc, a huge mountain massif straddling the French and Italian border, is the most dangerous mountain in the world, believes Stewart Green of About.com:climbing (Jan. 18 blog). “Lots of people are killed and injured on it every year, and still they come in hordes to ascend to the roof of Europe. Why? Because the climbing is that good.”
Green continues, “If that many climbers were killed on any mountain massif in the United States, surely it would be closed to climbing to save the crazies from killing themselves.”
Report from Salt Lake – Once again the staff of EN traveled to Salt Lake for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. It was four packed days of meetings and exhibits, tinged with anxiety over the economic downturn. Preliminary numbers indicate the softening of the market adversely affected show attendance, which was approximately 16,500, down five percent from the year before. Some highlights:
National Parks Are Ready for Prime Time – Day One began with filmmaker Ken Burns sharing a short clip from his September 2009 PBS documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. The six-part, 12-hour film is expected to inspire millions to get outside and use the lands their taxpayer dollars provide.
In the process, retailers at the trade show were hoping these same consumers will purchase truckloads of camping and hiking gear. The Outdoor Industry Association posits that at a time of economic uncertainty, retailers need to remind their customers that the outdoors helps improve mental and physical health and are a great means of escape in troubled times.
Burns said, “We are the first country on earth that said, let us set aside land not for kings or royalty or for the very rich, but for everybody and for all time. The deal is, all we have to do is take care of it.” To that end, he believes the National Park Service is one of the greatest agencies ever created by the U.S. government. “Parks help build human happiness,” he said.
The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Burns' films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” That strikes us as being preferable to the hundreds of thousands who rely on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for their news.
Ghosts of the Arctic – Wildlife photographer Steven Kazlowski documented the impact global warming is having on polar bear habitat in the Alaska Arctic. Trained as a biologist, he has become the Jane Goodall of the polar bear, spending long periods of time in the Arctic to observe firsthand the behavior of what he calls “ghosts of the Arctic” and the devastating effects of climate change on their environment.
During a breakfast presentation for The Conservation Alliance, Kazlowski said, “Predictions forecast that we were to lose all summer ice in the Arctic in 50 years. Now it could happen in five years.” He continued, “Polar bears have evolved to be on the ice. They really can't live on land and take the place of the grizzly bear.” In photographs culled from his book The Last Polar Bear (The Mountaineers Books, 2008), he ties the survival of the polar bear to the health of the entire ecosystem and global climate change. “The reason the polar bear is listed as threatened is that the environment is threatened.”
Kazlowski, who believes his powerful images have the ability to change people's perspectives, showed amazing images of how polar bears and arctic foxes work together - the bear leaves meat for the fox, and the fox acts as an extra pair of eyes and ears during the hunt. He cites a move from petroleum-based products and increased reliance on solar and wind energy as the best ways people can help improve the environment.
K2 Doc Studies Respiratory System – One of the team members who survived the August 2008 disaster on K2 spoke publicly for the first time since returning home. Anesthesiologist Dr. Eric Meyer of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was part of the nine-person International K2 Expedition that planned to summit K2 and test the effects of altitude and cold on the human respiratory system. Everyone in the expedition made it back safely, but 11 other climbers lost their lives in the Bottleneck Couloir (see EN, September 2008). Dr. Meyer treated survivors brought back to base camp, many with severe frostbite and suffering from dehydration and exhaustion.
One member of the team, sponsored by Talus Outdoor Technologies of Missoula, Mont., reached the summit. Explaining his decision to abandon his summit bid, Dr. Meyer said, "We reached a point at the base of the Bottleneck as the sun was coming up ... it was going to be a beautiful day. We looked up at the area above this steep chute ... and saw the huge blocks of ice that overhang it ... extremely broken up and completely terrifying ... we decide this is not our summit day.
“It looked really bad, they looked really unstable … they looked ready to come down at any moment. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, one of the toughest I have had to make in my lifetime.”
Dr. Meyer continued, "It has very little to do with making the summit, although that's certainly nice to reach. It's about opening your heart to the experience and to people on the expedition. It reinforces to you the fragility of life, and the importance of living your dreams. You always wonder whether you could have made it, but it's always better to wonder about that and still be able to do what you do.”
Rescue teams used the Talus ColdAvenger face mask to deal with the extreme weather conditions on the mountain. According to Dr. Meyer, temperatures reached minus 22 degrees F. at 8,000 meters with winds of 10 to 20 knots, making the importance of covering the face and warming/humidifying inhaled and exhaled air critical.
The ColdAvenger face mask is said to raise the temperature of air breathed in through the mask by 40 to 60 degrees F. while providing the humidity needed for proper respiratory function. Dr. Meyer was able to use feedback and data from the rescue crews to further his research on the effects of altitude and cold weather on the respiratory system. He expects to tackle the mountain again, using the lessons he learned from this expedition. (For more information: TalusOutdoorTech.com)
Back to School – It's never too late to continue learning. Bozeman, Montana, climber Conrad Anker, attending the trade show on behalf of Timex, plans to return to school to study for a Master's degree in Earth Sciences. His thesis? “Glacial Recession and Dynamic Land Change in the Himalayas.” He appears in a PBS NOW documentary airing Apr. 17 (check local listings) titled, On Thin Ice,” focusing upon how glaciers are the most visible indicators of climate change.
Anker will soon become enrolled at Montana State University for the basics - physics, math and chemistry - to meet undergraduate requirements. Undaunted by the hard academic slog ahead, he tells EN, “Sure, these courses are going to be a real challenge, it won't be fun, but those subjects are all about rules. Force equals mass times acceleration. What part of that don't you get?”
Anker was at the OR Show to promote the Timex Expedition WS4 watch he helped design and torture-test in the Indian Himalaya. Retailing for $199, it features an altimeter, barometer, weather forecaster, digital compass, target altitude setting and altitude alarm, 100-hour timer and widescreen dashboard display. It even tells time.
Steger Spreads Dire Global Warming Message – Polar explorer Will Steger traveled to New York on Jan. 31 to present his PowerPoint presentation on global warming, an eyewitness account of 40 years of polar travel. It was a necessary, vital message to hear, but it was hard not to leave without feeling totally depressed. Speaking at the American Museum of Natural History on, ironically, a frigid Manhattan weekend, he started with a review of the deterioration of the Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The astral summer of 2002 was particularly warm. Then on Jan. 31, 2002, the ice shelf began to break up. What especially surprised glaciologists was the speed of the deterioration: within four weeks it was gone. The shattered ice formed a plume of thousands of icebergs adrift in the Weddell Sea. A total of about 3,250 square kilometers of shelf area disintegrated, comparable in size to the state of Rhode Island. This is the largest single event in a series of retreats by ice shelves along the peninsula over the last 30 years.
In a video clip, Steger illustrated how his team kite-skied across Greenland in 2008. What appears to look like fun, could actually become deadly in an instant. “When you're going fast and fall, it can be very memorable,” he said.
Steger, 64, believes people have the responsibility to educate themselves on climate change and global warming. “It's not about changing light bulbs,” he said. “Society is socially disconnected. The solution lies in social engagement. Americans are best when we're pushed against the wall. We have the right leadership in place … now elected officials have to represent our needs.”
Steger continues, “It's up to what we do as individuals and communities to reduce our carbon footprint. Kids are our hope. We need to unify kids. Educating adults is difficult. Adults are easily confused around scientific issues. Through kids, we can get people to care about this issue.” (For more information: WillStegerFoundation.org)
Rare Map Exhibition Opens at BWAMM – A remarkable exhibition of rare maps devoted to mountains and mountain regions of the world has opened at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colo. The show is scheduled to run through May 31.
The exhibition explores the ways in which topography has been viewed and mapped throughout history. Though not a comprehensive history of mountain cartography, On High: Cartography of Topography offers a glimpse at the ways in which cartographers from different periods and places have chosen to depict mountainous regions.
The exhibition includes some of the more important maps in the history of world cartography, as well as maps from the exploration of the western United States. Highlights of the exhibit are a map from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, world maps from the 15th to 18th centuries, Zebulon Pike's map of the exploration of the Southwest, and many more. (For more information: bwamm.org)
Find Shackleton Ad, Win $100 – If you've read everything about Antarctica history that you can get your hands on, you've undoubtedly come across what was reportedly an advertisement placed by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It reads:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
Robert B. Stephenson believes the ad never ran. He's coordinator of The Antarctic Circle, a non-commercial resource on historical, literary, bibliographical, artistic and cultural aspects of Antarctica and the South Polar regions. For almost a year he has offered $100 to the first person who can provide a copy of the original source along with the date and name of the newspaper the Shackleton ad appeared in.
The source of this often repeated advert and its variations (it is even featured on t-shirts) has never been identified although many have sifted through scores of British newspapers in the attempt. Said to have been placed by Shackleton during the planning of his Nimrod expedition, it may very well be apocryphal.
There was, in fact, a letter from Shackleton about the Endurance Expedition sent to the London newspaper, The Times, which appeared on December 29, 1913. It resulted in 5,000 applications (of which three were from women), but an ad has never surfaced, at least not yet. To claim your $100, Robert Stephenson is waiting to see your proof at email@example.com, Antarctic-Circle.org
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
The call of the wild is a restless voice
Of wind and sky and sea;
Beckons all - both great and small
With the yearning to be free.
- C. David Hay, Call of the Wild
Why We Travel, Rain or Shine – Tom Cole, who writes for the Geographic Expeditions newsletter (geoex.com) explains why none of us should be apologetic about traveling. He says, in part, “First, we figure that if we're going to spend money, we might as well enrich ourselves. And there's hardly a better path to enrichment than on the road. … Second, we believe strongly that travel offers a magnificent return on investment. Big-screen plasma televisions are fine, and that gorgeous stainless-steel mega-refrigerator is dandy, but travel is an inexhaustible font of heartening memories. …
We remember our first trip to Europe, our first sight of Mount Everest, that little guy in Cairo who led us around by the hand to meet his family, the Maasai tracker in Kenya whose gentle grace was so touching, the almost shockingly blue sky of Mongolia ... Our memories are brilliantly textured and rich, and they will warm us on a cold, dreary night.
“… Travel, rain or shine, is the highest form of re-creation. ... As soon as you lock the door and get in the car to drive to the airport, you are who you want to be. And these days (not to be too facile about it), it's very re-creative and restorative to take a trip and create a person who is not (praise be) fixated on the 24-hour news cycle and the ups and downs of the Dow, but rather is open to the world and its immense ability to give joy to those who seek it.”
Blindsight Now on DVD – The documentary Blindsight, featuring Sabriye Tenberken, a Wings WorldQuest 2005 Courage Award recipient, is now available on DVD.
The film follows blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer, Tenberken and six of the blind students of the Braille Without Borders project as they attempt to climb Lhakpa Ri, a 23,114-ft. peak next to Mount Everest. The resulting three-week journey is beyond anything any of them could have predicted.
Sabriye Tenberken, also a 2006 Mother Theresa Award Winner and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, became fascinated with the study of Tibetan culture as a young blind German woman, and created the first Braille text for the Tibetan language. She then traveled alone to Tibet and into the frozen Himalayas to find blind children, considered demonic by their culture, to establish a training center especially for them. (For more information: BrailleWithoutBorders.org)
Aussies Seek “Explorer” for Best Job in the World – Imagine spending six months on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and getting paid more than $100,000 for it. That's the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Tourism Queensland is offering with their “The Best Job In The World” Island Caretaker promotion.
More than one million people around the world have visited Tourism Queensland's “Best Job in the World” Web site, launching the campaign into what one Australian Internet media outlet has described as “cult status.”
Candidates must submit 60-sec. video applications online for the Island Caretaker position on the newly launched Web site, www.islandreefjob.com. Eleven candidates from around the world will be short-listed and flown to Australia in May 2009, where they will compete for the newly created six-month position.
The winning candidate will be employed from July through December 2009 exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and reporting back on their experiences. The application deadline is Feb. 22 and over 8,000 have applied to date. No experience is necessary, but we're sure that faithfully reading EN gives you a leg up on the competition.
A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean
by Tori Murden McClure (Collins, 2009)
Reviewed by Robert F. Wells
To make a long story short, Tori Murden launches a 23-foot plywood boat from a beach in North Carolina in 1998 bound for Europe ... after 85 days at sea she flounders and is picked up by a container ship. Returning to her Louisville home she meets Muhammad Ali who tells her "she does not want to be known as the woman who almost rowed across the Atlantic Ocean." She refits and relaunches her craft after much angst and sets off from Europe this time, rowing West. On her second try becomes the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic.
For me (about 20 years ago I teamed up with Dwight Collins and trained for about three years to pedal across the Atlantic), Murden's Odyssey poured forth oceans of images. Good grief, why was she running around the day before she shoved off picking up supplies? Why wasn't more attention paid to waterproofing gear? Where were the redundant systems? Why wasn't the keel heavier to help mitigate rollovers?
Murden sets out in this book the same way she set out from North Carolina. Here it is. Here I am. She bares all and makes sure that - day by grueling day - readers slosh around in salt water as much as she does. Yet all in all, the book is not so much the log of a sea story as a personal conversation about why people do things like this.
Tori was a smart kid. She just looked at things through a different lens. Social acceptance wasn't a big deal. She didn't care about what others thought about her dreams. Being on the "outside" was oddly comforting. Being alone was okay. Trying to do something that defied accomplishment took on overpowering meaning. (By the way, she was the first woman to ski over land to the South Pole).
Tori Murden is a hero. She would have gotten along great with Theodore Roosevelt. In her own small way, she stepped off into the wilderness, alone, with her mind focused squarely on a single objective. For her, the accolades were all to be had in her own head.
Oh, but there is more. Between her voyages, she did meet a man - who evidently disarmed her totally (you have to use your imagination here...), and made it possible for her to write her adventuresome memoir as a "romance.” And at this very moment, any reader would realize that this is a person with which you'd love to share dinner conversation. Adventurers are like that.
Robert F. 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.
CLIMBING FOR DOLLARS
Climb Kilimanjaro to Help Children with AIDS
The American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA) announced last month that there were only a few places left for their first-ever fundraising trek up Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. Scheduled for Sept.13-24, 2009, the climb will raise life-saving funds to provide medication and medical supplies for children with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The total team will consist of 12 climbers, each of whom will commit to raising funds for AFCA. Funds raised by the participants will help support AFCA programs that provide anti-retrovirals and other medicine, medical supplies and food to HIV/AIDS children and their caregivers living in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Tanya Weaver, AFCA's executive director, added, “AFCA has received tremendous support from the climbing community around the world. We think the challenge of climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is an appropriate symbol for the uphill battle HIV/AIDS children face.”
The trek will be led by Summit Expeditions and Nomadic Experience (www.nomadicexperience.com). Though challenging, Mount Kilimanjaro is successfully climbed by thousands of fit people from 12 to some even in their 80s. AFCA provides tips and information for raising funds on their Web site. (For more information: (+1) 888-683-8323, HelpChildrenWithAIDS.org, ClimbUpSoKidsCanGrowup.com)
What Hath God Wrought? – It was bound to happen sooner or later. EN now has it's own blog. Heaven help us. You can read our occasional musings at expeditionnews.blogspot.com
ON THE HORIZON
Pacific Northwest Explorers Club Compass Symposium, Apr. 16-19 – A weekend symposium on San Juan Island, Wash., organized for a second year by the Pacific Northwest chapter of The Explorers Club, will bring together members for three days of presentations, discussions, outings and, most importantly, good fellowship with kindred spirits.
The event is open to all Club members in addition to researchers, scientists, adventurers and those that share a sense of curiosity about the world. Scheduled outings include a whale watch aboard a classic yacht and exploration of a small island that is only reached by boat. Limited scholarships are available to qualified students. (For more information: Lynn Danaher, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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