January 2024 – Volume Thirty, Number One

Celebrating our 30th 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.



What’s NXT for Virgin Galactic?


Virgin Galactic is offering the general public the opportunity to be a NXTGEN Astronaut for $600, a substantial discount from a reported $450,000 flight on the company’s VSS Unity spacecraft (See EN, November 2023)


While the fee doesn’t actually cover spaceflight, benefits include:


•           Access to the Virgin Galactic Master Class Series. Each chapter of the series will immerse members in interactive content led by Spaceline experts with an insider's view into Virgin Galactic.

•           A chance to be selected for in-person viewing of an upcoming Virgin Galactic spaceflight and an up-close look at Virgin Galactic's spaceflight technology with expert engineers and rocket scientists. Go behind the scenes at Mission Control and meet members of the team and world-class Spaceship Pilot Corps.


•           Learn about unique astronaut readiness and training experience at the world's first commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, New Mexico (see related story below).

•           Priority access to the next available spaceflight reservations before they're made publicly available.


•           Immediate access to the Virgin Galactic NXTGEN Astronaut community.  


•           And of course, merch, lots of merch. Limited-edition Virgin Galactic merchandise (including, upon registration, a complimentary limited-edition Virgin Galactic T-Shirt).


The $600 fee may seem steep for what you get, but as the astronauts liked to say in The Right Stuff (1983), “no bucks – no Buck Rogers.”


For more information: https://www.virgingalactic.com/nxtgen


In other Virgin Galactic news, the company announced the “Galactic 06” flight window will open January 26, 2024. This will be the Company’s 11th spaceflight to date and will follow a year of human spaceflight achievements that included six suborbital spaceflights in six months. Four private astronauts from three different countries will journey to space on Virgin Galactic’s sixth commercial spaceflight.  

Denver Ice Core Facility is Running Out of Space

The National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility in Denver, the world’s largest ice repository, is running out of space. Within its frigid 8,000 square feet, researchers store, curate and study ice cores recovered from the planet’s polar ice sheets.

Over 21,000 meters (about 13 miles) of core samples are stored at minus 40 degrees F. from Antarctica, Greenland and the high mountain glaciers of the world. The laboratory provides the opportunity for scientists to examine ice cores without having to travel to remote field sites. (See EN, November 2019).

The Denver Federal Center repository was dedicated in August 1993 and is one of only three such facilities in the world. Some of the cores being stored were extracted from as far down as 3,000 meters (9,842 ft.) and date back 4-1/2 million years. The frigid samples are used for scientific research related to climate change and other disciplines.

But the freezer is overloaded and badly in need of replacement, according to USGS officials, who manage the facility for the National Science Foundation. The new replacement freezer, designed with a rolling rack system to add 30% more storage capacity, won’t be ready until 2026, according to a Denver Post story by Bruce Finley (Dec. 20).

This has forced Ice Core Facility curator Curtis La Bombard to begin a culling process to decide which ice cores stay, which must go, and what to do with surplus ice. What scientists learn from the ice they can combine with current observations to better understand what is happening today, Finley writes.

Culled cores also have been made available to artists, who have used them for photographic and other projects exploring the beauty of ice. Members of the public also can submit applications to obtain surplus ancient ice for beneficial projects, La Bombard said.

Read the story here: https://www.denverpost.com/2023/12/20/ice-global-warming-research-denver/

Learn more about the Ice Core Facility at https://icecores.org/



Sam Cox

Antarctic World Record Attempt Aborted

Due to Suspected Kidney Stones

An Antarctic world record attempt by Sam Cox, an ex-Royal Marine from Torquay, Devon, England, was aborted on Dec. 21 due to suspected kidney stones.

Cox, 34, was attempting the longest solo unsupported crossing of Antarctica, beginning at Berkner Island and finishing at the base of the Reedy Glacier via the South Pole. In total, this 2000 km route is reportedly 500 km further than any other unsupported solo Antarctic crossing.

The current world record holder is Captain Preet Chandhi, MBE, who set it earlier this year with a distance of 1485 km. 

When he experienced pain in his lower back, and despite wanting to carry on, his medical team intervened due to the potential implications to his long-term health if left untreated. After 32 days on the ice, skiing solo and unsupported for over 600 km pulling all his supplies and equipment weighing 25 stone (350 lbs.), Cox had traversed the Ronne ice shelf before climbing 1100 meters (3609 feet) onto the mainland of Antarctica. 

“It’s difficult to put into words the disappointment. It’s been three and a half years of planning and preparation.”

What’s next for him? He tells EN, “I've not really mentally unpacked from this one yet so I'm not sure. I'll let you know when I've had a think!”

Cox’s supporters included Team Forces and Resilient Nutrition to embark on this epic adventure.  

For more information:



The market experienced a welcome bump when Byrd’s flag was repatriated.

Explorers Club Celebrates Recovery of

Lost Flag By Ringing NYSE Bell 

In 1939, Explorers Club member Admiral Richard Byrd flew Explorers Club Flag #98 on an expedition in Antarctica to conduct foundational climate and geographical research. After exploring more than 100,000 square miles of Antarctica, Byrd was unexpectedly and abruptly called away from the expedition to return to service in WWII, and Flag #98 was thought to have been lost at the South Pole ever since.

After 74 years, Flag #98 was spotted in an auction by board member Jamie Robinson and quickly snapped up. Through a connection at the New York Stock Exchange, a group of Club members, led by current Explorers Club President Richard Garriott de Cayeux,  celebrated its successful return by ringing the iconic opening bell of the exchange on Dec. 13. For investors everywhere, it was a lucky day for an “Explorers Bump” – the Dow jumped 500 points to close at an all time high.

Archive photo of Byrd (center) receiving Explorers Club flag #98.

The Explorers Club has 242 numbered flags in its expedition history, most of which have been on dozens of expeditions worldwide. Flags are awarded to expeditions that meet strict criteria for scientific exploration in the betterment of mankind. Flags of special significance, like the one carried to the moon on Apollo 11, are retired and on display at The Explorers Club (38 have been retired to date).  

Today, sadly, you’d need 23 of these to mail a letter.

Byrd’s many expeditions to the Antarctic were groundbreaking, resulting in new discoveries in weather, climate, and geography, helping the world better understand this undiscovered region and paving the way for generations of new explorers, according to a statement from the Club. 

Watch a short video of the ceremony here: http://tinyurl.com/NYSE-TEC



“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”


Alan Turing (1912-1954), English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist.




The New York Times hit it out of the park last month with three stories that are a must read for the exploration community.

Image from Janet Johnson’s camera recently developed after 50 years.

•           Ghosts on the Glacier – Fifty years ago, eight Americans set off for South America to climb Aconcagua, one of the world’s mightiest mountains and the highest outside of Asia. Things quickly went wrong. Two climbers died. Their bodies were left behind. Now, a camera with 24 exposed frames belonging to one of the deceased climbers has emerged from a receding glacier near the summit … and one of mountaineering’s most enduring mysteries has been given air and light, according to reporter John Branch (Dec. 1, 2023).

Branch interviewed dozens of people, reviewed thousands of documents and made multiple reporting trips, including two to Argentina. Emily Rhyne shot video in three countries and from a helicopter above the summit of Aconcagua.

You have our permission to stop reading EN now and experience the online interactive story here:


It also appeared as a Special Section in the print edition on Dec. 24, 2023.

Frederick Cook, right, posing in front of an Arctic-themed backdrop. (Photo Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

•           The Polar Explorer, and Scammer, Who Should Be an American Hero – Frederick A. Cook was a man of the times. These times.

Allegra Rosenberg, a New York Times writer who focuses on polar exploration and fandom culture, believes that one man who fell through the cracks of history was Cook. Explorer, inventor, liar, felon, victim of an establishment plot — 83 years after his death, he deserves to be recognized as an American icon.

“Cook is a hero for our current American age – one in which scammers like Anna Delvey and con men-cum-congressmen like George Santos are idolized – not despite his obfuscations and sly dodges, his schemes and scams, but because of them. In his own time, he certainly became a celebrity – but only through infamy and widespread condemnation. Today, thanks to our post-ironic posture, he could become beloved,” she writes.

Cook insisted he had reached the pole until his death in 1940.

“Cook is a gentleman and a liar, and Peary is neither,” went a pro-Peary refrain.

Like our best modern heroes, Cook wasn’t honest or honorable. He almost certainly lied about reaching the North Pole and about the oil down in Texas which sent him to Leavenworth, according to Rosenberg.  

“Charismatic, compelling and at times too creative, Cook was not the man for his era, but he might just be the one for ours.”  

Read the Dec. 25, 2023, story here:


Media and well-wishers gather on Nov. 2 at Spaceport America to witness the

high-altitude flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity.

•           Spaceport America Has Yet to Meet Expectations – “It’s been a flop,” said one nearby store owner, of Spaceport America, a project in New Mexico that was conceived as the vanguard of commercial space travel – and that has been promoted by state officials for more than two decades as a launchpad for the local economy. It was created with $218.5 million in state and local funds.

According to the story by Times reporter Kurtis Lee (Dec. 15), after years of delays, Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant at Spaceport America, had sent its founder, Richard Branson, and a team to the edge of space – evidence at last, many in the area thought, that New Mexico was a front-runner in the commercial space race.

Many local business owners in and around Truth or Consequences say they are tired of waiting for the payoff that was supposed to come from aerospace-related jobs and from tourists drawn like storm chasers to the scene of the action. But others see it as an ambitious bet on the future that has finally begun to produce results.

This year, Virgin Galactic has conducted six Spaceport launches, the most in any year so far, blasting researchers and space tourists who can afford the $450,000 ticket toward the edge of space. (See EN, November 2023).

“There will always be an interest in space,” said one brewery owner in Truth or Consequences, “and I think that is beneficial for the community.” 

(Fun fact: The town, once called Hot Springs, got its name in 1950 after the host of the game show Truth or Consequences pledged to air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first place to rename itself after the show.)

Read the story here:


The NASA Meatball vs. The Worm

NASA has a meatball and a worm. The meatball – a sphere of stars, a red chevron, and a comet orbiting the agency’s acronym – came first, in 1959, and was attached to spacesuits and capsules, according to The New Yorker (Nov. 27, 2023).

It was followed, in 1975, by the worm, just red letters, a sleek, curvilinear, futuristic logo. One says Lewis and Clark in space; the other says cool space station. The worm was praised – loved, even – until 1992, when a NASA administrator suddenly revived the meatball, thereby ditching the worm.

Nevertheless, the worm persisted, living quietly in space on the sides of satellites and, on Earth, in the hearts of pro-worm people, especially in the design world. “I think a lot of people tried to kill it,” Hamish Smyth, a graphic designer, said during a recent visit to NASA’s headquarters, in Washington, D.C. “I mean, it’s carved into the building here, and they actually tried to remove it.”

Smyth was at NASA to celebrate the worm’s official return. The worm officially resurfaced on NASA’s Demo-2 mission, a collaboration with SpaceX; if you watched the 2020 launch, you saw a giant worm on the two-hundred-and-thirty-foot-long booster rocket and tiny worms on the astronauts’ spacesuits.

(The white Tesla that drove them to the launch pad had a big meatball on its door.) The new compromise: meatballs on crew capsules, worms on booster rockets. 

Read the story here:


Society of the Snow Retells Story of Rugby Team’s Survival in Andes

A Uruguayan rugby team gets stranded in the Andes Mountains for 72 days after their plane crashes. Eventually the remaining survivors resort to eating the bodies of those who died in order to continue on. These true events that happened in 1972 – already the basis for a Hollywood film, 1993’s Alive — now become filmmaker J.A. Bayona’s Society of the Snow, a retelling that finds in the material more than just a simple tale of the perseverance of the human spirit, writes Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 22, 2023).

Ricardo Pena leads expeditions to the crash site.

Few know the crash site as well as Ricardo Pena, a musician and guide based in Broomfield, Colorado. On February 12, 2005, Pena discovered the coat and documents of Andes survivor Eduardo Strauch as well other previously undiscovered airplane parts, while climbing near the impact point of the famous crash, popularized in the book and movie Alive.

In December 2005, with a grant from National Geographic, Pena led the first expedition that retraced the historic escape route followed by Andes survivors Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado in 1972. This was conducted in the same month as the survivors’ trek to experience the challenge of similar snow conditions. The story was featured in the April 2006 issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine. 

He says of the new Netflix film, “it’s a must see. The director and the survivors worked on this for years and the result (according to the survivors who already saw it) is excellent and very faithful to the facts.”

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDak4qLyF4Q

Learn more about Pena at: https://alpineexpeditions.net


“Exploration Without Boundaries” Recipients Announced

Exodus Adventure Travels announced last month "Exploration Without Boundaries" grants to four honorees, in partnership with The Explorers Club for the second year (see EN, October 2023). The 50-year-old adventure tour operator believes it has a role in preserving the environment, cultures, and the spirit of adventure for future generations.

The four winners are:

•           Amanda Ho, Seagrass Preservation & Restoration in Cambodia – After earning her degrees in Oceanography and Environmental Science, Ho has been using her skills as an AAUS-certified Scientific Diver to research seagrass meadows in Cambodia. Her goal is to protect and preserve these blue carbon systems due to their ability to sequester carbon and combat climate change.  

•           Susmita Lama, Climate Communication in Trans-Himalayan Communities of Nepal: Stories of Indigenous People from Ngisyang Valley – Lama is a graduate of Tribhuvan University where she studied Forestry Science. Her goal with this project is to document stories of resilience and traditional knowledge in the trans-Himalayan region of Nepal by using storytelling as a tool to bring scientific recommendations and indigenous recognition.

•           Christian Nolorbe, Danger in the Diet: Microplastic Contamination of Indigenous Amazonian Fishing Grounds – Payahua is an Associate Professor at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon. He holds a master's degree in the Biology of Continental Aquatic Environments from the Federal Rio Grande University. For his grant project, he will investigate the level of microplastic contamination in Amazonian fish. Such contaminants could have profound health consequences for the people who rely on these fish for sustenance.

•           Cassidy Schoenfelder, Traditions of Erasure: A Geo-aesthetic Study of the National Park Service Artist Residency Programs – Schoenfelder, a citizen of the Oglala band of the Lakota Sioux tribe, is a Tucson, Arizona-based geographer, art historian, and artist. She researches tribal/federal co-management initiatives in national parks within the U.S. that grant tribes a legal voice in the ways that their homelands are managed. These policies encourage the implementation of Indigenous ways of knowing into park management practices.  

For more information on Exodus Adventure Travels and its 500+ trips to more than 100 countries, visit ExodusAdventureTravels.com

Read the original announcement:



Cecilia Blomdahl and her dog, Grim, live on the archipelago of Svalbard. (Photo courtesy Cecilia Blomdahl)

An Influencer in the Arctic

In 2015, Cecilia Blomdahl arrived on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic, to work at a restaurant with friends. Polar night had just begun, and the sun would not rise again until February. But the thing that really struck her, and has stayed with her ever since, was the quiet.

“I don’t think I understood then how this would become my home,” she said in a recent interview. “I was only planning to stay for three months.”

Now Blomdahl, 34, lives in a cabin overlooking a fjord with her partner, Christoffer, and dog, Grim, her 8-year-old Finnish Lapphund. She lives in the town of Longyearbyen, population 2,400, where she has managed to bring the unique extremes of the 78th parallel north to an audience of millions on TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.

In a series of videos, her 4.9 million followers can peek at a life far different than their own as Blomdahl gazes at the Northern Lights, has coffee on the fjord, experiences encounters with polar bears, takes dog walks guided by headlight, and journeys on snowmobile expeditions deeper into the Arctic.

Viewers often post comments asking how she deals with the extremes of the polar night, how she gets supplies, and whether she’s tempted to hibernate.

While Ms. Blomdahl primarily makes videos about Svalbard’s natural beauty, she also points out its dangers, including whiteout conditions and wild animals.

Her fur baby Grim makes sure Blomdahl goes outside, no matter the amount of daylight. She feels safer with him, but even still, she carries a firearm with her just in case she runs into a polar bear.

See what life is like in the land of the midnight sun. Search @sejsejlija on Facebook, TikTok or YouTube.

Where is Starman? The Most Spacious Car Ever.

That’s the question, well, nobody has asked recently.

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car that served as the dummy payload for the February 2018 Falcon Heavy test flight and became an artificial satellite of the Sun. A mannequin in a spacesuit, dubbed "Starman,” occupies the driver's seat. The 2010 Roadster, personally used by Musk for commuting to work, is the first production car launched into space.

Advertising analysts noted Musk's sense of brand management and use of new media for his decision to launch a Tesla into space. Musk explained he wanted to inspire the public about the "possibility of something new happening in space" as part of his larger vision for spreading humanity to other planets.

At press time, the Tesla was 64.7 million from Earth, moving away from Earth at a speed of 6,399 mph. The car is 108.5 million miles from the Sun, moving toward the star at a speed of 14,927 mph. The orbital period is about 557 days; Starman has completed about 3.86 orbits around the Sun since its launch almost six years ago.

The site was created by aerospace engineer Ben Pearson, founder of Old Ham Media. He writes,  “I came to realize that people really were interested in the tracking of these objects. I started thinking about how I could manage to get this information, and then I came to realize that I could provide the tracking for it myself.”

Pearson registered a domain name, and began assembling the best tracking data available from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Horizons website, allowing him to track the Tesla roadster “to the best of human understanding, for some time to come.” 

He tells EN, the site registers 150,000 unique visitors a month, with somewhere close to 20 million total views in almost six years. “Elon Musk has tweeted about it a few times and expressed positive feedback,” Pearson says.

Of course, the site has a merch section. Feel free to stock up on its selection of branded t-shirts, sweatshirts, and travel mugs. Buy all you want; Pearson will print more.

For more information: www.whereisroadster.com

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. ©2024 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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