Expedition News logo

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 2019 - Volume Twenty-Five, Number Eight

Celebrating Our 25th Year!                                   


Scientists measure the concentration of bio-microplastics accumulated by mussels and determine the content of pollutants in its tissues. Photo by ©Elodie Bernollin / Tara Ocean Foundation

Where does plastic waste originate? How does it arrive in the ocean? Where should efforts be concentrated to stop the flow of this waste? What impacts do plastics have on marine biodiversity? Recent estimates find that 80% of plastic waste found at sea originates on land.
The Tara Ocean Foundation and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have been involved in this research since 2010. Mission Microplastics 2019, based on the schooner Tara, is now traveling through several regions in Europe for six months, exploring 10 major European rivers. The journey began last May in Lorient, Morbihan, France, Tara's home port.

In 2014, Tara focused on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. Then in 2017, the team discovered an important zone of plastic accumulation in the Arctic Ocean, and in 2018, identified the biodiversity associated with microplastics in the north Pacific vortex.
Rain running down roads and gutters into lakes, water flowing in streams and rivers -  are vectors of the plastic waste which eventually winds up in the ocean. Tara will stay close to the coasts, conducting this new investigation to determine the exact origin on land of the plastics found at sea.
An interdisciplinary team of about 40 scientists - marine biologists, ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, mathematicians/modelers, chemists and physicists - will lead this mission. Sampling is planned at the mouth of 10 major rivers in Europe: the Thames (England); the Elbe and Rhine (Germany); the Seine, Loire, Garonne and Rhone (France); the Tagus (Portugal); the Ebro (Spain); the Tiber (Italy).

What they found on the Thames, their first stop, makes us gag. Jean-François Ghiglione, scientific director, reports:

"Under the microscope, microplastics are present. By the hundreds. Many are microbeads used in cosmetics. There are so-called 'mermaid's tears,' granules that come directly from plastic manufacturers. There's much more plastic than what the team usually observes at sea. Fibers from clothing, expanded polystyrene pellets from food trays, pieces of plastic bags. A lollipop stick and some candy packages are the only 'big' garbage collected. Microplastics (< 5 mm) make up more than 90% of the harvest. The first observation of this mission: most plastics arriving at sea from the Thames are already in the form of micro plastics."

For more information: fondationtaraocean.org

Robert Ballard will bring his proven undersea search strategy and high-tech research vessel, E/V Nautilus, to the hunt for Amelia Earhart. Photo by Emily Shur.
Bob Ballard Joins Search for Amelia Earhart
Deep-sea explorer Bob Ballard, who in 1985 made headlines for his discovery of the remains of the Titanic, has announced plans to solve another of history's greatest mysteries: What happened to missing-in-action aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart who disappeared on July 2, 1937. (See EN, April 2007)
Setting sail this month, National Geographic explorer-at-large Ballard and National Geographic Society archeologist-in-residence Fredrik Hiebert will lead a team of Earhart experts, scientists and technicians on a month-long journey that will take them from Samoa to a remote Pacific atoll called Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati. The team is predominantly female.
"We have every piece of technology you can possibly have and we'll be using it as the battle unfolds," Ballard said of the project during the recent National Geographic's Television Critics Association press day in Beverly Hills.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), has sent 13 expeditions to the island, including one with National Geographic that brought forensic dogs to search for Earhart's remains. The dogs homed in on an apparent campsite where a human may have died and decomposed long ago. No bones were found, but soil samples were collected and DNA testing is ongoing.
"I fervently hope the expedition is successful," says Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director. He considers the Nikumaroro hypothesis long since proven. But, he says, "the public wants a piece of plane."
The project is jointly funded by National Geographic Partners and National Geographic Society. It will be part of a two-hour special titled "Expedition Amelia" that will premiere October 20 on National Geographic.
In the sizzle reel for the broadcast, Ballard says, "... it's not the Loch Ness monster, it's not Bigfoot, that plane exists which means I'm going to find it."
Read more and watch the video here:

Disheartening News About Neil Armstrong

Extensive news coverage surrounding the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing included disheartening news that Neil Armstrong possibly suffered a premature death due to medical malpractice. What's more, controversy has arisen over the family's efforts to sell memorabilia relating to the space hero's celebrated career.

The family of astronaut Neil Armstrong was paid $6 million by a hospital as part of a wrongful death settlement, according to a report in the New York Times.

Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, outside Cincinnati, reportedly paid the secret settlement in 2014, two years after Armstrong's death in 2012 at age 82. Probate documents confirm the funds were distributed as part of a wrongful death and survival claim.

His family attributed his death to complications from coronary bypass surgery saying at the time, "We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures."

The New York Times reported last month that Armstrong's sons believed that his death was due to incompetent post-surgical care at Mercy Health - Fairfield Hospital and threatened legal action against the hospital.

Although the hospital defended its actions and the care Armstrong received, they ultimately decided to pay out the settlement and avoid a legal battle.

Read the story here:

In a related story, Heritage Auctions of Dallas conducted a three-day sale of Armstrong memorabilia in conjunction with the 50th anniversary. 

The auction netted over $2.4 million, largely through the sale of Armstrong's gold medal, which flew with him to the moon. The 14-karat-gold piece sold for $2.05 million.

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Lunar Module-flown 14K-gold Robbins Medal sold for over $2 million. 

Aside from that giant leap, other smaller steps from the auction have included an American flag that flew aboard Apollo 11, which sold for $137,500; Armstrong's personal copy of NASA's "Preliminary Apollo 11 Flight Plan," which went for $112,500; and his own NASA flight suit in the agency's trademark dusty blue, which sold for $81,250.

Read about the auction in ArtNews (July 18):

The auctions were not without criticism, according to a July 27 New York Times story by Scott Shane, Sarah Kliff and Susanne Craig. Numerous auctions netted  $16.7 million in sales by late July.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut's aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

"I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia," said James R. Hansen, his biographer. "He never did any of that in his lifetime."

Countered son Mark Armstrong during a CBS This Morning interview, "You just hope that people get positive energy from these things." He told the New York Times they had "struggled with" what their father might think of the auctions. "Would Dad approve? Let's see what positive things we can do with the proceeds," he said.

Armstrong continues, "I think he would judge us not on whether we auctioned items or not, but rather what we do with the proceeds and how we conduct our lives. Dad said that he wanted to leave the world a better place than he found it. I intend to follow his example and teach my children to do the same."

He and his wife, Wendy, said they were using auction proceeds to create an environmental nonprofit in honor of Mark's parents, called Vantage Earth, that Wendy said would work "to preserve and protect the earth from the damage done to it by its own population ­- a concern raised by Neil upon looking back at the earth from the moon."

Read the Times story here:


USS Grunion Bow Section

Bow of a World War II Submarine Discovered Off Aleutians 
The bow of WWII Submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) has been discovered in 2,700 feet of water off the Aleutian Islands by a team pioneering robotic ocean exploration. The ongoing WWII submarine discoveries lead by ocean explorer Tim Taylor are applying comprehensive 3D imaging pioneering a new frontier in ocean exploration.
The historic discovery was made utilizing a combination of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV's) and advanced photogrammetry imaging. These ground-breaking new technologies and methods are at the forefront of underwater business technology and are forging a new frontier in subsea exploration. 
The finding of the lost bow section of the USS Grunion completes a vital missing part of the puzzle and answers the questions posed on many expeditions undertaken 13 years ago by John, Bruce and Brad Abele, sons of the USS Grunion captain, Mannert L. Abele, USNA class of 1926. 
USS Grunion was a Gato-class submarine commissioned on April 11, 1942. On her way through the Caribbean to her first posting in Pearl Harbor, she rescued 16 survivors from USAT Jack, which had been torpedoed by a U-boat. Her first war patrol was, unfortunately, her last. Sent to the Aleutian Islands in June 1942, she operated off Kiska, Alaska, where she sank two Japanese patrol boats. Ordered back to the naval operating base in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on July 30, the submarine was never heard from again. She was declared overdue from patrol and assumed lost with all hands on October 5, 1942. She is the final resting place for 70 sailors. 
The project is taking the large data sets collected on their discoveries and having them processed into 3D archeological photogrammetry models. This scientific approach extracts geometric information from equipment that is already integrated in most of the modern underwater remote filming systems, advancing imagery collection into high-quality 3D data sets that will be used in archeological research, historical archives, virtual and augmented reality, and educational programs and applications.
"This goes so far past video or still imagery, it truly is the future of recording historical underwater discoveries. Spending minimal time on site collecting a comprehensive 3D historical baseline model allows archaeologists and historians to spend months back home performing detailed research," states Taylor who coordinates his discoveries with the Naval History and Heritage Command. 
The USS Grunion Expedition is part of the ongoing Lost 52 Project supported in part by STEP Ventures and has been recognized by JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) as the first and most comprehensive offshore underwater archaeological expedition in Japanese waters. 
This expedition marks the fourth WWII Submarine discovery by Tim Taylor, CEO of Tiburon Subsea and founder of Ocean Outreach, Inc., based in New York.
For more information:
Watch a video of the discovery here:
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."

- William Shakespeare's tragedy Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene iii - Ulysses speaking to Achilles.


Rangers Without Borders Studies Eastern Europe Wildlife Protectors 

Rangers Without Borders, led by Joshua Powell of London, recently completed the first-ever comprehensive study of the work of wildlife rangers in Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan, as part of a program of scientific expeditions across Central Asia, the Caucasus region and Eastern Europe.

The conservation research program, funded by National Geographic and donations from members of The Explorers Club, organizes its research around three main themes vital to the effectiveness of wildlife rangers: ranger livelihoods, equipment and training; poaching threat and anti-poaching capability; and trans-boundary cooperation. It uses this research to provide free, impact-driven, consulting services for ranger forces.

Outside of the global focus on the work of wildlife rangers in Africa, rangers in the Eurasia region work in a range of challenging and varied environments, with species that are equally charismatic and important for global conservation. 

Sites of particular interest included Hirkan National Park on the Azerbaijan-Iran border and refuge for the Caucasian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) and Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve in the military border zone between Kyrgyzstan and China, which is thought to be significant for snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and where there was documented examples of snow leopard poaching in the 1990's.

Rangers Without Border's Caucasus expedition team (left to right: Elizabeth Streeter, Joshua Powell (Expedition Leader), Peter Coals, Afag Rizayeva, Laurie Hills). The entire team is under 30. Photo credit - Elizabeth Streeter/Rangers Without Borders

Powell, 25, was part of the original Adventure Canada-The Explorers Club Young Explorers program in 2016, as was cameraman Aleksandr Rikhterman, 27, and credits The Explorers Club's NGEN (Next Generation Exploration Network) group and board member Milbry Polk as being a significant source of inspiration and support for Rangers Without Borders (see related story).
Indeed, the whole team is under 30 and Powell says this was an important aspect of the program's development, describing a personal desire to offer opportunities to young conservationists. Powell has become a member of the Queen's Young Leaders community, representing the UK, for his work to lead Rangers Without Borders and was recently named the Scientific Exploration Society's Explorer of the Year for Inspiration & Scientific Trail-blazing (2019).

To find out more, use the hashtag #RangersWithoutBorders on all social media platforms, or visit https://www.joshua-powell.com/rangers-without-borders

Every summer at least 20,000 people attempt the 15,776-foot summit of Mont Blanc. The majority spend a night in the Gouter Refuge on the French side.
A Safety Tunnel for Mont Blanc?
The Gouter Refuge - a futuristic structure that clings to a cliff at 12,516 feet - is, for many people, the final stop en route to the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, straddling the border between France and Italy, according to a New York Times story by Paige McClanahan (July 26).
Every summer at least 20,000 people attempt the 15,776-foot summit. The majority spend a night in the Gouter Refuge, on the French side, which welcomes climbers from late May through September. Local officials and guides say the number is growing, and that today's climbers are less experienced, even as warmer temperatures are increasing the risk of rockfall and transforming once-snowy ridges into treacherous sheets of ice. A small number of climbers also appear to be unwilling to respect the rules - or even pay for their accommodation.
More than half a dozen routes lead to Mont Blanc's summit, but just two - the Three Mountains Route, which starts from Chamonix, and the Normal Route, which starts from the neighboring community of Saint-Gervais - are accessible to climbers with only a moderate amount of experience. While the majority return from the summit unscathed, both itineraries entail risk.
The Normal Route - chosen by about three quarters of the climbers aiming for the summit - goes across the Grand Couloir, a steep, narrow gully that acts as a sort of bowling alley for falling rocks. Near the top, the path leads onto a narrow ridge of snow and ice, about 100 yards long and just a couple of feet wide, that's flanked by steep drops. If you stumble there, you can fall to your death, according to writer Paige McClanahan of the Times.
Alternatively, the Three Mountains Route, a more technical itinerary that accounts for most of the remaining quarter of climbers, goes below a series of towering ice cliffs that occasionally - and very unpredictably - slough off enormous quantities of snow and ice onto the path below. Both routes are threatened with avalanches, and both cross glaciers laced with crevasses: yawning gaps in the ice that can swallow climbers whole.
The Three Mountains Route has become steeper and icier, while rockfall in the Grand Couloir on the Normal Route, is becoming more frequent and voluminous, especially in the afternoon. The Petzl Foundation once proposed building a small tunnel to protect people crossing the gully, but the suggestion was opposed by many guides and local authorities. This is a wild landscape, not an amusement park, opponents said. Signs have been erected along the route to warn people of the risk, but many still choose to cross the gully at the most dangerous time of day.
The peak time for rockfall is also the peak time for people crossing the couloir.
Read the story here:
Ricardo Pena of AlpineExpeditions.net is a mountaineer based in Colorado who recently  climbed the Three Mountains Route, which he found more technical than the guidebooks suggest, then descended via the Normal Route to the Gouter hut (pictured above).  
When asked for comment on those who attempt Mont Blanc without the necessary experience, he tells EN, "Personally, I would vote in favor of a tunnel or changing the route to avoid that Grand Couloir even if it means adding a new via ferrata (a protected climbing route).
"It is a total gamble with your life. It is very dangerous and it doesn't seem to be a matter of crossing at certain hours to be safe anymore. Guides are risking their lives, even more than everyone else since they have to do it so often. I'm normally in favor of climbing all mountains in their natural state and by your own means as much as possible, but this is one case where I think it is a good idea to build a tunnel or do something to avoid that ridiculously dangerous couloir. Especially considering how many people attempt this peak each year.
"The mountain is definitely getting more dangerous and it's true more and more inexperienced people are coming making for a very dangerous situation," Pena said.

Apply for the Adventure Canada-Explorers Club Young Explorers Program
By Milbry Polk
Special to Expedition News
In 2016, The Explorers Club and Adventure Canada launched the Adventure Canada-Explorers Club Young Explorers Program. As of this summer the program has 35 outstanding graduates of the program run by Stefan Kindberg and myself of The Explorers Club, and Cedar Bradley Swan of Adventure Canada. 

The purpose of the Young Explorers Program is to encourage and facilitate the spirit of exploration through the pursuit of science, cultural studies, art and conservation. The program aims to encourage personal growth for young people age 20 to 30 who will benefit from direct experience, academic study and cultural exchange in the North. It is our hope that the Alumni will be leaders of next generation explorers.
Each Young Explorer participant has a project to be completed during a selected Adventure Canada Expedition Cruise. To date some of the projects have included assessing emergency medical response, traditional boat building, profiles of Inuit carvers, fishing, traditional storytelling, poetry, seaweed surveys, plastics, geology, robotics, and climate policy.
This work has resulted in films, PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, cook books, art shows and reports. Some of the graduates have gone on to become Emerging Explorers at National Geographic, some have won prestigious awards based on the work they began in the Arctic, others have created new programs based on what they learned.  
All graduates present their work at the Explorers Club Polar Film Festival held in New York in January. They also join The Explorers Club NGen, a core group of younger members.
For more information on the graduates and their projects visit the website built by graduates Trevor Wallace and Brianna Rowe:
Applications for the 2020 season will be available in late Fall 2019 through explorers.org.

Jelle Veyt 

Watch POV Footage of Everest 2015 Avalanche           

Belgian adventurer Jelle Veyt shows what it was like to be in an avalanche at Everest Base Camp in 2015. The horrifying footage was shot following the earthquake that year on the mountain that killed almost 20 people.

As a former street kid Jelle and his sponsors Vayamundo and Secutec are funding different projects in the world for him to undertake.

This month he will start on a cycling expedition from Belgium to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, a journey of 10,000-plus miles using only human power. By July 2020 he expects to start the Kili climb - part of a bigger project he calls  Human Powered 7 Summits of Happiness.

View the video at:

What are the Odds of Dying While Mountain Climbing?
Carl Schuster of New York writes to comment on Chuck Patton's story in the July 2019 issue of EN wherein Patton believes, "Non-climbers or amateur climbers may think climbing to be a way to fame and fortune. Can you name one person who died on Everest last year? Climbing does not earn notoriety by itself; only by spectacular death or achieving one of those dwindling 'firsts' will a climber get recognized, and fortunes are not made that way."
Schuster opines, "Chuck, you have solved a 78 year old mystery! '... your mind must stay focused on five minutes ahead and less than 30 seconds behind.' The most succinct, precise and profound piece of self awareness. I've been trying from the beginning to understand this. Now I do."


Travel With Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2019) by Jeff Blumenfeld ­- How to travel and make a difference while you see the world? These are stories of inspiration from everyday voluntourists, all of whom have advice about the best way to approach that first volunteer vacation, from Las Vegas to Nepal, lending a hand in nonprofits ranging from health care facilities, animal shelters and orphanages to impoverished schools. Case studies are ripped from the pages of Expedition News, including the volunteer work of Dooley Intermed, Himalayan Stove Project, and even a volunteer dinosaur dig in New Jersey.

Read a review here:


Available now on Amazon. Read excerpts and "Look Inside" at:


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: http://www.amazon.com/Get-Sponsored-Explorers-Adventurers-Travelers-ebook/dp/B00H12FLH2
Advertise in Expedition News - For more information: blumassoc@aol.com.
EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, LLC, 290 Laramie Blvd.,  Boulder, CO 80304 USA. Tel. 203 326 1200, editor@expeditionnews.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2019 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through www.paypal.com. Read EXPEDITION NEWS at www.expeditionnews.com. Enjoy the EN blog at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com

Website hosted by CrypDomains.com