July 2023 – Volume Twenty-Nine, Number Seven
Celebrating our 28th year!
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.

Editor’s Note: The Titan disaster was the biggest exploration story in decades, certainly since Expedition News was first published as a simple monthly fax to explorers and adventurers in 1994. The only event that even comes close was the highly-publicized 1996 Everest disaster when eight perished on the mountain (12 over the entire season), but that occurred before the boom in social media.

The recent tragedy appeared in media worldwide and mesmerized the nation, perhaps because the Titan represented a collection of humankind’s greatest fears (drowning, claustrophobia, darkness, cold, a ticking countdown clock, etc.) all wrapped up in a carbon fiber cocoon. By one account, CNN alone had over 100 people interviewed on their network during the week.

Coverage spawned unprecedented scrutiny on the use of extreme tourism to fund exploration, and whether regulation stifles innovation, and at what cost. It encouraged us to pause and ponder the risks inherent in exploration.

The Need to Explore is Unsinkable
By Jeff Blumenfeld, Editor, Expedition News

What would encourage five people to seal themselves into a 22-foot experimental submersible bolted from the outside? By the same token, what would encourage anyone to be first to reach the North Pole, the South Pole, fly solo across the Atlantic, summit Everest, or stand on the moon?

All of these famous firsts were accomplished by members of The Explorers Club, the 119-year-old multidisciplinary exploration society based in New York, with over 34 chapters worldwide.
As a reader of Expedition News, you know its members who have secured a place in the history of exploration. Robert E. Peary. Roald Amundsen. The Kon-Tiki’s Thor Heyerdahl. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. And currently, James Cameron, Jane Goodall, and Buzz Aldrin.
Last month, Explorers Club members British explorer Hamish Harding, 58, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, a French deep sea explorer and Titanic expert, both perished aboard the Titan submersible along with three others: OceanGate co-founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, 61, and Pakistani business executive Shahzara Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman, 19. 
It was a sad day for exploration but loved ones can take comfort in knowing it’s unlikely these intrepid pioneers suffered. Former Navy nuclear attack submarine commander Capt. Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.) Ph.D., a veteran of more than twenty Cold War missions and three Arctic expeditions, and president emeritus of The Explorers Club, tells the New York Times (June 23), “They really wouldn’t have even known they would have died, they would have been dead before they knew it.”
While all were men, taking risks in the pursuit of knowledge is hardly gender specific. Within the last 100 years, women adventurers and explorers such as aviator Amelia Earhart, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, and astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, have demonstrated that the spirit of exploration is an inbred trait among all humankind determined to push dragons off maps and learn what’s on the other side of the hill.
In their own inimitable way, uneducated armchair explorers online have denigrated this as a risky adventure for thrill-seeking billionaires. Risky? Yes. But as Stockton Rush tells CBS Sunday Morning in an interview with David Pogue taped last year and recently aired, “If you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get into your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk and it really is a risk/reward question.”
One little-known fact about the submersible’s 14th fatal mission was its ongoing study of the complex marine life around the Titanic wreck. According to the Wall Street Journal (June 22) the plan was for Titan’s crew to collect water samples to analyze tiny bits of floating genetic material left behind by organisms feeding off the ill-fated luxury liner. Environmental DNA (eDNA) was to be collected for researchers looking for powerful compounds produced by marine organisms that might have medicinal properties.
As Sylvia Earle told a meeting of explorers at Club headquarters in New York earlier this month during World Oceans Week 2023, “The deeper we go, the less we know and the more discoveries we’re finding.”
But that fact doesn’t neatly fit into the playbook of naysayers who reveled in “eat the rich” crass humor and snarky, insensitive memes.
Former Explorers Club president Richard Wiese believes Explorers Club members are often likened to a tribe whose members forge a special connection. “As new explorers join this illustrious group, they express a profound sense of belonging, proclaiming, ‘I have found my tribe.’ It is a community where kindred spirits unite, sharing a common ardor for discovery and adventure.
“Their unquenchable curiosity about life and the mysteries that lie beyond compels them to explore uncharted territories.”
To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University in 1962, explorers choose to do these things, “not because they’re easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …”
Indeed, exploration is hard, very hard and the second-guessing will likely continue for years. But let’s remember the five who perished on the Titan submersible were pushing the extremes of technology, and seizing every moment of life with, as Wiese posted last week, “an insatiable curiosity, unquenchable thirst for experiences, and a passion to surpass limits.
“In the wake of recent events, it is vital to remember that explorers are not fueled by a desire for death but rather by a profound zest for life.”
This op-ed also appeared in the June 28, 2023, edition of the Denver Post.
Virgin Galactic completed its first commercial spaceflight, Galactic 01, on June 29, and is targeting August for its Galactic 02 private astronaut mission. The company, which was founded by Sir Richard Branson, says that monthly commercial spaceflights will follow.
(Photo by Virgin Galactic)
Virgin’s First Commercial Spaceflight
Virgin Galactic Galactic 01 mission transported three crew members from the Italian air force and the National Research Council of Italy into space on June 29 to conduct research on microgravity. It was their second successful spaceflight in two months and the first commercial spaceflight for the company. Tickets were reportedly $450,000 each.
Virgin Galactic’s historic first commercial spaceflight could lay the foundations for a time when “everyday people,” not just billionaires, can one day visit space, according to former NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, speaking to MarketWatch (June 28).
Demand has been brisk — Virgin Galactic says that it has around 800 “future astronauts” signed up. But Collins, who flew four space shuttle missions, says that if companies like Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin can avoid accidents, price barriers for space tourism are likely to come down.
Watch Virgin’s “Space for the Curious” sizzle reel here:
Keith Cowing, an American astrobiologist and former NASA employee, is the editor of the American space program blog NASAWatch.com. Listen to his interview about the flight with Deutsche Welle TV, Germany's international news channel: https://nasawatch.com/commercialization/virgin-galactics-unity-reaches-space/
Barry Clifford shakes hands like a pirate.
Shake Hands With a Pirate

When children meet marine archaeologist Barry Clifford, 78, he has a special way to shake their hand: he extends a crooked index finger. Kids are puzzled, but not for long. “Shake hands like a pirate,” he says, as if he were extending a hooked hand.
EN was reminded of this when we received news that NWN Carousel, an integrated cloud communications service provider, has entered a partnership with Franciscan Children’s and Clifford’s Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth on Cape Cod, to provide the excitement of a virtual sea lab to children and teens at Franciscan Children’s inpatient behavioral health units.
NWN Carousel will provide communication devices and connectivity between Franciscan Children’s, located in Brighton, Mass., and the Whydah Pirate Museum, to give patients the ability to participate in the museum’s ongoing archeological discoveries remotely while receiving the care they need to make a safe return home.
The Whydah Pirate Museum is dedicated to the history and education surrounding the discovery and continued curation of the 1717 Whydah, the world’s first authenticated pirate wreck, discovered by Clifford and John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1984 (see related story).
The museum contains a walk-through partial replica of the Whydah Galley, authentic pirate treasure and artifacts dating back hundreds of years, and the Whydah SeaLab and Learning Center, the museum’s onsite conservation laboratory. The SeaLab and Learning Center is where Clifford and his team of archeologists are currently excavating treasure from the Whydah, which was wrecked during a violent nor’easter off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, over 300 years ago.
“We’d like to thank NWN Carousel and the caregivers at Franciscan Children’s for the opportunity to share our work with young people who otherwise may not be able to visit our museum,” said Barry Clifford. “The children will get to witness live, and in real-time, major archeological discoveries that have been buried in the sand for centuries.”
For more information: FranciscanChildrens.org, nwncarousel.com,
Clifford and JFK, Jr. during the Whydah expedition, 1984
About That Time John F. Kennedy Jr. Hunted for Pirate Treasure with Barry Clifford
In a related story, Esquire magazine last month excerpted a passage from the new book White House by the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port (Scribner, 2023) by Kate Storey.
It reads in part, “(JFK Jr.) asked family friend Barry Clifford, who owned a local scuba diving shop, if he could work for him. John had always liked diving more than sailing. And Clifford was as close as it got to a real-life pirate. The technical term for Clifford’s work was ‘salvage diving,’ but what he was doing was searching for buried treasure underwater.
“John was enamored with the tall, handsome, cool explorer twelve years his senior. Clifford’s mission that summer was his most ambitious yet. There’d long been rumors of a wrecked ship called the Whydah off the coast of the Cape that had gone missing after being captured by pirates centuries ago. It was just a story, though. There’d been no evidence of the boat since it went missing in April 1717. John jumped at the opportunity to leave behind the routine and safety of Hyannis Port for the chance to find the Whydah with Clifford.”
After one of Kennedy’s dives, Storey writes, “John had barely been down there when he signaled to Clifford that he’d found something big. He wiped the sand away from the surface of the dense mass right in front of him. He pressed his microphone, then shouted into his mask: ‘Hey, I got something here! It looks like a pile of cannons!’”
“JFK, Jr.'s lost compass was recovered in 2007.
Kennedy lost his compass on the ascent that day, which Clifford found years later, 24 years later to be exact in 2007, still carrying John’s initials in the upper right corner.
Read the Esquire story here:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), a former member of The Explorers Club
GLEX organizers: (L-R) Explorers Club President Richard Garriott de Cayeux, co-chairs
Milbry Polk and Richard Wiese, and Manuel Vaz.
GLEX Wrap-Up: Discoveries From the Edge
Special Report by Milbry Polk
The fourth Explorers Club Global Exploration Summit GLEX What’s Next: Stories from the Edge ­ – met in Angra do Heroísmo on beautiful Terceira, in the Azores, from June 14 to 16. Under the leadership of The Explorers Club, co-chaired by Richard Wiese and Milbry Polk, and the company Expanding Beyond Events led by Manuel Vaz of Portugal, nearly 40 speakers from 14 different countries presented.
In addition to the daily lectures, Expanding Beyond Events produced an awe-inspiring “Cosmic Oceans” video mapping in the town square; a night bioblitz was led by entomologist Leo Lana from Brazil and geothermal expert Andres Ruzo-Callejas, who would later present their respective stories about exploring in the night in the Amazon and the Boiling River in Peru. 
Participants enjoyed a journey into the lava tubes of a dormant volcano and many went on a whaling trip to scout for the whales that populate the waters of the Azores. There was a special excursion to the U.S. Air Force base at Lajes Field where the 65th Air Base Wing is stationed. There former Explorers Club President Richard Wiese and current TEC President Richard Garriott de Cayeux paid tribute to Club Member and late Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, and presented Deputy Commander Shawn Littleton with a TEC Flag Kittinger had signed.
During the three days, presenters took the audience from the depths of the ocean to the outer reaches of space in a series of inspiring stories in sections entitled Encounters, Fire and Ice, Possibilities, Inner and Outer Space, and Course Corrections.
Astrobiologist Natalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) opened the event with an intriguing talk asking what life is and where we hope to find it. Some of the other presenters were Explorers Club Discovery Grantee Alejandro Arteaga who presented the new species of snakes he discovered in graveyards throughout Ecuador.

In addition, Marine biologist Nathan Robinson who showed footage from his expeditions searching for the kraken (a legendary sea monster of enormous size said to appear off the coasts of Norway); and Nuno Sa showed some of his breathtaking images of the wildlife in the waters of the Azores while telling of his journey from boatman to world-class photographer.
Another speaker was Andrew Revkin who spoke about scary climate science; Marine Ecologist Emanuel Goncalves discussed marine protected areas in the Atlantic; Planetary scientist Nina Lanza of Los Alamos National Laboratory talked about the sounds of Mars.
TEC Board member John All showed harrowing footage of his deep fall into a crevasse while collecting ice samples on Everest; Matt Greenhouse of NASA brought us up to date on the miracles of the James Webb telescope; and Moriba Jah discussed the very real problems of space junk.
A number of the presenters were part of the EC 50 program: “Fifty People Changing the world the world needs to know about.” They included Kimberly Pikok from Barrow Alaska, discussing her work recording indigenous knowledge regarding whaling; Bhavita Bhatia on the cowboys of the Himalayas; and Aziz Abu Sara gave a thoughtful talk on the peace potential of tourism.
There was plenty of time for socializing and more than a few expeditions and collaborations were in the works by the end of the summit.
Collaboration is one of the hallmarks of this event and it was truly exciting to see so much animated conversation. Soon all the talks will be posted on explorers.org and glexsummit.com.
GLEX was supported by Rolex in the framework of its Perpetual Planet Initiative, Turismo de Portugal, Sata Airlines, Sogrape / Silk & Spice, INESCTEC, Camara Municipal de Angra do Heroismo, Camara do Comercio de Angra do Heroismo CNN Portugal, Grupo BenSaude, Ministerio da Economia e do Mar, International Institute for Astronautical Sciences, and other groups.
Milbry Polk is a rower, author, lecturer, educator, and co-founder of WINGS WorldQuest. (milbrypolk.com).
Close-up of the I-124 conning tower.
Japanese WWII Submarine Mapped in 3D
In WWII, Australia and Japan competed for control of waters to Australia's north. The Japanese navy sent submarines to lay mines outside of Darwin, Australia. Their mission was to disrupt shipping from Australia to the battlefields of the Pacific.
The submarine I-124 was spotted and chased by Australian corvettes who destroyed it with depth charges. All 80 Japanese submariners were killed when the submarine was sunk.
The wreck of the I-124 submarine is now a war grave, and is a site of deep significance to family members and the Japanese government. Very few people have been to the site and very little is known about the submarine.
That all changed last year, thanks to Dave Steinberg, senior heritage officer and marine archaeologist of the Northern Territory Government. 
Dr. Steinberg led an expedition in November 2022 to the submarine with a team of highly specialized technical divers. The goal was to take thousands of photographs of the entire submarine to make an accurate digital representation of the wreck. The dive team was run by Dr. Matt Carter, a Marine Archaeologist and technical diver who is a recipient of an Explorers Club EC50 award.
The highly trained team used rebreathers, enriched air, and specialized cameras mounted to underwater scooters to photograph the wreck.
Using cutting-edge photogrammetry, the team created a 3D model of the shipwreck from the photographs providing views of the submarine that have never before been possible – the 3D model allows researchers to see the entire submarine at once.
The submarine's 3D mapping will allow researchers to better preserve the war grave, and understand some of the changes made to the submarine after it was constructed in the 1920s.
More importantly, with return visits from crews of divers, researchers hope to understand how quickly the site is deteriorating, and whether there are ways to preserve the war grave. 
"That involves bringing maritime archaeologists and technical divers back on a relatively regular basis to make sure the site is conserved, that it's not being damaged, that there's no human disturbance or impacts," Dr. Steinberg said.
"It's not an adventure dive, this is a scientific project to record that site, and collect very important baseline data so we can manage the site and protect it in conjunction with the Japanese."
The project to map the I-124's exterior was undertaken by the Northern Territory’s government's heritage branch and was funded by the Northern Territory Government and Commonwealth Government’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Program, in conjunction with Major Projects Foundation and Flinders University with the generous support of Paspaley Group and the Australian Japanese Association of the Northern Territory.
A documentary was created about the expedition by Explorers Club member and filmmaker Kasimir Zierl.
Watch the 15 min. film on YouTube:

For more information: kasimirzierl@yahoo.com.au
Passengers and crew aboard the ill-fated Titan last month: (clockwise) British explorer Hamish Harding, 58; OceanGate co-founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, 61;
Pakistani business executive Shahzara Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman, 19; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, a French deep sea explorer and Titanic expert; 
Wall Street Journal: Exploration Won’t Cease
In his op-ed, frequent Wall Street Journal contributor Gregg Opelka likens the implosion of the OceanGate submersible Titan to a passage in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He believes, “Exploration of the ocean depths won’t cease with the Titan tragedy any more than space exploration ended after the fire consumed Apollo 1 in 1967 or the Challenger exploded in 1986.
“We mourn the victims of the Titan disaster, but at the same time we cheer on explorers who willingly accept the ultimate risk to advance our understanding of the earth a bit more with each push, above, below or across its surface.”
Read the entire op-ed here (paywall might apply):
Titanic Guy debunks Titanic conspiracy theories on TikTok.
The Titanic Truthers of TikTok
Maybe it wasn’t the Titanic after all. If you follow TikTok, which we don’t recommend, the ill-fated Titan submersible was actually lost in the vicinity of the Olympic.
On the short-form video app, long-established facts about the 1912 disaster at sea are being newly litigated as musty rumors merge with fresh misinformation and manipulated content.
According to the New York Times story by Tiffany Hsu and Sapna Maheshwari (June 16), in a TikTok post that garnered more than 11 million views before it was removed earlier this year, one user wrote: “the titanic never sank!!!”
The so-called and exhaustively disproved TikTok “swap” theory holds that the ruins on the seabed belong to the Titanic’s older and decrepit sister ship, the Olympic, scuttled in an attempt at insurance fraud.
Another video presents a conspiracy theory that the wreck was a “hit job” ordered by the financier J.P. Morgan — whose real name was John Pierpont Sr. — to eliminate opponents of the Federal Reserve.
“It becomes kind of deflating to see a lot of this junk coming out,” said Charles A. Haas, a founder of the Titanic International Society who has spent six decades studying the ill-fated vessel. He co-wrote five books on the topic, dived down to the wreck site twice and debunked more conspiracy theories than he cares to count. “I feel like one of the very few voices crying out against the sound of a hurricane.”
TikTok is just the latest recycling bin for false narratives about the Titanic, which began circulating almost as soon as the ship had sunk.
“The sad part is that many of the people following this sort of thing are teenagers, and they are woefully unwilling to do digging,” Haas said.
Rafael Avila, 33, a tech consultant for IBM, is known in his spare time as “Titanic Guy” on TikTok, where he has amassed more than 658,000 followers since 2020 and frequently posts videos debunking conspiracy theories about the shipwreck.
“My community of Titanic nerds look to me to correct the record, so I’ve taken it on as my responsibility,” he said. “It’s the internet, people can say whatever they want.”
See “Titanic Guy” here:
He debunks the Titanic Federal Reserve conspiracy theory here:
Read the Times story here:
The Nautilus: Now that's what we call a submarine.
Submarine vs. Submersible
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website explains the difference between the two. The administration says a submarine “has enough power to leave port and come back to port under its own power.” This means that a submarine can drive independently to the bottom of the ocean and come back.
NOAA says: “A submersible has very limited power reserves so it needs a mother ship that can launch it and recover it.”
This means it does not, unlike a submarine, have the power to drive down to the bottom of the ocean and come back under its own steam.
The larger ship, Polar Prince, escorted Titan to Newfoundland, which is the nearest point to the Titanic. (Source: UK Evening Standard, June 23, 2023)
Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield) by Jeff Blumenfeld ­– Travel has come roaring back and so has voluntourism. Be ready to lend a hand wherever you go. How to travel and make a difference while you see the world? Read excerpts and “Look Inside” at: tinyurl.com/voluntourismbook
Get Sponsored! – Need money for your next project? Read about proven techniques that will help you find both cash and in-kind sponsors. If the trip is bigger than you, and is designed to help others, well, that’s half the game right there. Read Jeff Blumenfeld’s "Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would Be World Travelers." (Skyhorse Publishing).
Buy it here:

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. ©2023 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments are accepted through www.paypal.com. Read EXPEDITION NEWS at www.expeditionnews.com
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