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EXPEDITION NEWS, founded in 1994, 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.

August 2017 - Volume Twenty-Four, Number Eight

Celebrating Our 23rd Year!                                   


First American Woman Summits K2

In December 2014, we wrote about plans by Vanessa O'Brien to become the first American woman to successfully summit K2. On July 28, at the age of 52, she succeeded in her years-long goal. The summit team also included 11 other climbers, including six Nepali Sherpas.

Her successful summit was preceded by two unsuccessful attempts to make it to the top of "the savage mountain."  

Due to her dual citizenship, O'Brien, an ex-Morgan Stanley banker from New York, is also the first British woman to successfully and safely summit K2. British woman Alison Hargreaves summitted in 1995, but died on the descent at the age of 33. 

Everest gets the most press. But K2 is the bigger prize, a hard-fought summit achieved this month by dual passport holder, British-American woman Vanessa O'Brien. (Photo courtesy Vanessa O'Brien)

Reportedly, only 18 women have survived the climb to the top of K2.

O'Brien is the Guinness World Record holder for being the first woman to set a speed record to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on every continent, in 295 days. She successfully climbed Mt. Everest in 2010.

"It is said when you climb Everest, you are a mountaineer in the eyes of the world, but when you climb K2 you are a mountaineer in the eyes of other climbers," said O'Brien before her climb, according to a story by James Clash posted to Forbes.com (July 29).

The K2 2017 season has ended with 12 people summiting (six Nepali, one Pakistani, three Chinese, one Icelander, and O'Brien, the one British-American) bringing the total to about 396 summits compared to about 8,250 for Everest, according to climbing blogger Alan Arnette, an Everest summiteer in 2011 and oldest American to summit K2 at 58 on his birthday July 27, 2014.

See Arnette's 2017 K2 climbing season coverage at:

Read Jim Clash's exclusive interview with O'Brien at:

Kayakers Abandon Cuba to Key West Expedition 
In June we wrote about the Oru Kayak Libre Expedition from Cuba to Key West.The 103-mile ocean passage is infamous for strong currents, sharks, unpredictable weather, and as a hazardous journey often made by Cuban refugees seeking political asylum in the U.S.
Andy Cochrane, Oru's director of marketing, writes that the morning of the attempt the four-man team participated in a Cuban press conference with a few TV stations and local publications, met the U.S.-Cuban ambassadors, and paddled out of the harbor with a number of athletes from the Cuban national team.

Andy Cochrane abandoned a Cuba to Key West kayak attempt. (Photo by Peter Amend)
By late afternoon two team members, worn down by skeg issues and unrelenting heat, pulled out. A few hours later Cochrane fell ill, likely a combination of sun, sea sickness, and possibly bad food.
"After puking the first thing I had eaten in hours, I decided to end my attempt. This was probably lucky, as I soon came down with serious diarrhea."
The final team member quit hours later due to sickness.
Cochrane writes, "Defeat is a tough pill to swallow. I haven't felt this humbled in a long time. I'm in awe of those who have done this crossing before us. Yet, even with our failure to paddle the crossing unsupported, I realize the project will only be a failure if we choose to not learn something along the way.
"It will only be a failure we don't share the message of friendship and love with the greater community here in the US. That's what matters most right now," Cochrane says. 
See the story here:

You never know-Jack could have a job waiting for him in 13 years.

Guardian of the Galaxy

Upon posting a job opening for "Planetary Protection Officer," NASA has received countless job applications, but none as original and adorable as the one by fourth grader Jack Davis, a 9-year-old with all the right qualifications to be a "Guardian of the Galaxy."

Dr. James L. Green, NASA's director of planetary science, sent a perfect response that reads in part, "It's about protecting Earth from tiny microbes when we bring back samples from the Moon, asteroids and Mars. It's also about protecting other planets and moons from our germs as we responsibly explore the Solar System."

He then suggests that Jack "study hard and do well in school."

See the post here:

Viking Rowers Reportedly Break Arctic Ocean Records

Fiann Paul, front, Alex Gregory and Carlo Facchino are rowing across the Arctic Ocean, breaking records for speed and for how far north they've rowed.
A team of some of the best rowers in the world are crossing 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of Arctic Ocean, breaking records and going farther north than any rowers have gone before.
Icelander Fiann Paul, 37, and the Polar Row crew are in the midst of a six-week voyage rowing north through the Norwegian Sea from Tromso, Norway, to the archipelago of Svalbard and then south to Iceland. After reaching the latitude of 78 degrees north, the crew is believed to be the first to row the Arctic Ocean from the south to north.
They also believe they've broken seven Guinness World Records so far, including the farthest north anyone's traveled by rowboat, according to the Ocean Rowing Society, which tracks ocean rowing records, writes Alex Brockman of CBC News.  
The crew rows for 12 hours a day, splitting 90-minute shifts between them. Their schedule was so ambitious, the Norwegian government balked at giving them the permits to travel to Svalbard.
"They thought we were bluffing, they thought it was impossible," Paul said. "So the governor's representative made us pay as much as possible for search and rescue insurance."
The team of nine also includes Alex Gregory, who won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in rowing for Great Britain in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
Read the CBC story here:
Track the expedition via Garmin inReach at:
"Alas! Alas! Life is full of disappointments; as one reaches one ridge there is always another and a higher one beyond which blocks the view." 

 -            Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He also liked to mail naked photos of himself at the age of 67 to his Norwegian-American girlfriend, but that's another story (see EN, July 2013).
Take a Ride Back in Time
Now for an expedition of a different sort-one back in time.
The 1960 sci-fi thriller, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor, Alan Young, and Yvette Mimieux, has stuck in our mind since we first scared ourselves witless in a darkened Kennedy-era movie theater.

The replica prop is upholstered in mohair velvet, studded with Swarovski crystals and embellished with marble. It is housed in an antique, hand-carved Berninghaus chair. Gets better mileage than a DeLorean, but is way more expensive.
We were further intrigued when we recently viewed the 2016 documentary How to Build a Time Machine, which continues to make the rounds of theaters worldwide.
The 83-min. film by director Jay Cheel tells the story of two middle-aged men obsessed with time travel. One is theoretical physicist Ronald Mallett from the University of Connecticut who explains how losing his beloved father at the age of 11 pushed him into a lifelong obsession with time travel. He wants to go back in time to save his life.

The other is a Westchester County animator who built a full-scale model of the 1960 sled-like contraption, only one actually better than the original prop still owned by a California collector.
Robert Niosi estimated it would take around three months, but his attention to detail got the best of him-as he began forsaking plastic for milled brass, replacing pine with mahogany and hunting down others with their own replicas, the project stretched out over a decade.
After seeing the documentary, we wondered about the status of Niosi's time machine replica. Our inquiry was particularly timely: it's currently for sale for a cool $803,000 according to Luxify.com, an Asian online marketplace for luxury products.

The listing breathlessly promises, "It stays true to its literary and cinematic roots, making it an amazing possession for those interested in film, science fiction, or amazing artwork.
"Imagine how excited your friends and family will be to sit in your own personal time machine! If you love collecting quirky things, a time machine is about as exceptional as any collector's item you can find on the market."

Luxify's Stephanie Lau tells EN,  "The film in which it is featured, has been playing around the world, from Singapore to San Francisco, and has been extremely well received by audiences and credits alike."

We love collecting quirky things, so we wondered what kind of warranty is available at that price.
The website quotes Niosi, "Once a year, for 10 years, I will personally travel to the location of the Machine to clean and maintain it. I will replace any worn parts and make sure it is in 100% operating condition."
Sign us up for a test drive.
View the listing at:
Watch the documentary trailer at:

What can long-dead dinosaurs teach us about our future? Plenty, according to paleontologist Kenneth J. Lacovara, Ph.D., who has discovered some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth. Lacovara is Dean, School of Earth & Environment, Professor of Paleontology & Geology, and Director, Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.
Why Dinosaurs Matter (Ted Books, September 2017) explains how dinosaurs achieved feats unparalleled by any other group of animals.
Says Lacovara, "As we move into an uncertain environmental future, it has never been more important to understand the past."

Kenneth Lacovara's 2014 discovery of the giant titanosaurDreadnoughtus schrani, was published by the journal Scientific Reports, making international headlines. It is the most complete skeleton of a giant titanosaur discovered to date.

Lacovara writes, "Dinosaurs matter because our future matters. Global warming, sea level rise, the catastrophic degradation of our environment, and the heartbreaking and costly biodiversity crisis all loom large on our horizon. People, even paleontologists, are more concerned with the future than with the past. But we don't have access to the future.
"We can make no observations of it and can conduct no experiments in it. The future is a dark scrim that races just before us, always obscuring that which we are about to experience, always concealing how the world will dispose of our dreams and hopes and prayers and desires. As for the present, there's not much to it."
He continues, "Unstable and fleeting, like the heaviest of elements. A wisp of time separating that which can be from that which has been. The sentence you are reading is already in your past. But the past can be embraced. It's in the hills, under the oceans. You can hold it. Crack it open. Learn from it. Put it in a museum for all to see. Most importantly, the past is our guide to the future, the only one we will ever have."
Learn more about Lacovara's work at:
Buy the book on Amazon.com
Big Agnes Wants to Hear From You
Need gear like tents, sleeping bags and camp furniture? Big Agnes, the outdoor company based in Steamboat Springs, Colo., wants to hear from you.

Successful applicants must agree to share photography from their trip(s), keep in touch with updates, provide gear testing reports, and allow us to utilize media assets on our website, catalog, and social media outlets.
Access their online request form here:
Voyagers' Aging Engineers Begin to Retire

Today the two Voyager satellites - 1 and 2 - are respectively 10 billion and 13 billion miles away, the farthest man-made objects from Earth. The 40th anniversary of their launch will be celebrated next month. In the Aug. 3 New York Times Magazine, Kim Tingley explains the challenges faced when some of the original engineers age out of NASA.

Voyager 2 was launched on Aug. 20, 1977. Voyager 1 was launched on Sept. 5, 1977. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

"All explorations demand sacrifices in exchange for uncertain outcomes. Some of those sacrifices are social: how many resources we collectively devote to a given pursuit of knowledge. But another portion is borne by the explorer alone, who used to be rewarded with adventure and fame if not fortune," writes Tingley.

"For the foreseeable future, Voyager seems destined to remain in the running for the title of Mankind's Greatest Journey, which might just make its nine flight-team engineers - most of whom have been with the mission since the Reagan administration - our greatest living explorers."

Tingley continues, "They also may be the last people left on the planet who can operate the spacecraft's onboard computers, which have 235,000 times less memory and 175,000 times less speed than a 16-gigabyte smartphone. And while it's true that these pioneers haven't gone anywhere themselves, they are arguably every bit as dauntless as more celebrated predecessors. Magellan never had to steer a vessel from the confines of a dun-colored rental office, let alone stay at the helm long enough to qualify for a senior discount at the McDonald's next door."

Read the story here:

The Voyager team tapped famous astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan to compose an onboard message. Sagan's committee chose a copper phonograph LP as their medium, and over the course of six weeks they produced the "Golden Record": a collection of sounds and images that will probably outlast all human artifacts on Earth.
View the 116 images NASA wants aliens to see:
No Holds Barred
"Before you do it, do you like, write a note to your mom or anything?" asks late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel last month, of Alex Honnold's recent free solo of El Capitan.
"No, that seems overly dramatic," Honnold replied.
In a July 14 segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Honnold explained his preparation and mindset for the record-breaking climb. View the full segment here:
The Art of Adventure Writing
It's not enough for an explorer or adventurer to conceive of a newsworthy project. Not enough to do it safely and come back alive. They need to be exceptional communicators to tell the rest of us - those who stayed home-what it was like out in the extremes.
Dave Roberts, 74, author of 29 books, is one of the country's best adventure writers and provides some advice on the craft to Monica Prelle in the REI Co-Op Journal (posted July 24).

Dave Roberts (Photo by Matt Hale)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Roberts was climbing the hardest routes in Alaska, including the first ascents of the Wickershim Wall on Denali and the east face of Mount Dickey. His dramatic experiences in mountaineering gave him plenty of story fodder and ultimately launched his writing career, in which he specialized in climbing, adventure, and the American Southwest, according to Prelle.
"You can't make a living writing about climbing, you have to broaden it, so the answer was to write about adventure more generally. Gradually over the years, I expanded my so-called area of expertise to anything to do with adventure, and even more broadly-travel, literature and history," he says.
"The very notion of adventure has changed and not for the better. With the advent of so-called adventure travel in the mid-1980s, a bunch of companies sold the basically bogus idea that a group trip led by experts including paying customers, who were along to do something somewhat adventurous but basically turned over all of the decision making to the leaders, fostered the idea that adventure was something you can neatly package and sell instead of something planned and executed by yourself."
He continues, "There was no hope of sponsorship when I started out, but now every aspiring snowboarder or mountain biker wants to be a North Face athlete. I think, sadly, you find a lot of younger people who think it's more important to be sponsored or get a certain number of hits on Facebook than it is to really do something that's cutting edge. There are climbers who become famous because of Instagram-I don't even understand that."
Read the post here:
Recent news that conservationists unearthed a 106-year-old ice-covered fruitcake in Antarctica they believe once belonged to the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, prompts us to look into the peculiar lives of researchers on the coldest, highest, driest, windiest continent on Earth. 

That brings us to "Fingy," a pejorative term for a new employee posted to an Antarctica base. The term apparently derives from "f-king new guy," or FNG. (Source: MentalFloss.com)
For another 22 Antarctic slang terms, like "Big Eye," "Cheech," "Ice-Husband"/"Ice-Wife," and "Turdsicle," see:

Dr. S. Allen Counter, 1944-2017
S. Allen Counter, the Harvard neurobiologist and explorer who reclaimed the reputation of Matthew A. Henson, a black explorer on Robert E. Peary's 1909 expedition to the North Pole, and tracked down his descendants in Greenland, died last month at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 73.
The cause was cancer, his daughter Philippa Counter said.

The late Dr. S. Allen Counter
One of his interests-discovering the cause of widespread hearing loss among the Inuit of Greenland-dovetailed with a historical mystery he hoped to solve. While dining with Swedish colleagues in the late 1970s, he was told that both Peary and Henson, Peary's main assistant on all but one of his Arctic expeditions, had left descendants in northern Greenland, the product of their relationships with Eskimo women.
Dr. Counter, who had been fascinated by Henson since childhood and had written extensively on the contributions of black Americans in remote places, made it his mission to track down their sons and descendants.
He was the driving force behind Henson's reinterment at Arlington National Cemetery. (See EN, April 2017).
Read his New York Times obituary here:


2017 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award -
"The Changing Face of the Arctic," Oct. 28, Toronto
This year's Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Awards are themed, "The Changing Face of the Arctic," and will be held on Oct. 28 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The event includes a full weekend of activities. Awardees are:

*            HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, FI '14
Prince Albert II of Monaco has long been dedicated to the protection of the environment and focuses on fighting climate change, promoting renewable energy, combating the loss of biodiversity, and preserving water resources through his Prince Albert II Foundation. He has also participated in research expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, thus becoming the first head of state to reach both poles.  
*            Donn Haglund, Ph.D., FE '72
Dr. Haglund is a Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, where he created and taught a pioneering Arctic wilderness field course for more than 40 years. He is recognized internationally for his expertise in maritime transport in support of Arctic economic development, and for his dedication to scientific research in these areas.
*            Martin T. Nweeia, D.M.D., D.D.S., FN '99  
Dr. Martin Nweeia is a research scientist, explorer, professor and scholar on the functional significance of the narwhal tusk and Inuit knowledge. His landmark studies on narwhal tusk sensory function have earned him nine grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as awards from The National Geographic Society, Harvard University, and the Smithsonian Institution. 
*            Konrad Steffen
Dr. Konrad Steffen is Director, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and Professor, Institute of Atmosphere & Climate, ETH-Zurich. He researches sea level changes sensitivity studies of large ice sheets using in situ and modeling results.
For more information:
Get Sponsored! - Hundreds of explorers and adventurers raise money each month to travel on world class expeditions to Mt. Everest, Nepal, Antarctica and elsewhere. Now the techniques they use to pay for their journeys are available to anyone who has a dream adventure project in mind, according to the book from Skyhorse Publishing called:
Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would Be World Travelers.

Author Jeff Blumenfeld, an adventure marketing specialist who has represented 3M, Coleman, Du Pont, Lands' End and Orvis, among others, shares techniques for securing sponsors for expeditions and adventures.

Buy it here: 

Advertise in Expedition News - For more information:
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