EXPEDITION NEWS is the monthly review of
significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is
distributed online and by mail to media representatives, corporate sponsors,
educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor
enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate,
motivate and educate.
Here are highlights from our exciting, action-packed April issue. If your heart can stand an entire year’s worth of EXPEDITION NEWS, send us a check for $36 and we’ll visit with you each month.
SCIENTISTS AND NATURALISTS BLITZ CENTRAL PARK
Central Park is legendary as the home of some very strange creatures. How strange? This summer, a group of scientists and naturalists are about to find out.
New York’s premier park will be the site June 27-28 of a 24-hour BioBlitz - an attempt to discover and categorize every living organism within the 843-acre Manhattan park, including the people who amble by during the study.
Teams of scientists and naturalists with expertise in various taxa (groups to which organisms are assigned), and aided by a cadre of volunteers, will observe and record as many species as possible during the 24-hour time period.
The goal of the BioBlitz is to add to species lists as many organism groups present in the park as possible, and to increase public awareness of biodiversity, especially that it can exist within an urban environment. A base camp will be set up in the North Meadow Recreation Center with tables, chairs, microscopes, and other resources needed to identify organisms. "Who knows? We might find a new kind of rat," jokes Explorers Club president Richard Wiese.
A BioBlitz is not unique to New York. In fact, Yahoo lists over 1,400 references to BioBlitz programs worldwide. When scientists from the American Museum of Natural History conducted a smaller study of the 150-year-old park, they discovered a new genus and species of centipede. This time, the effort will be larger, with more groups involved, including the Audubon Society, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park Conservancy, City of New York Urban Park Rangers, The Explorers Club, NYS Biodiversity Research Institute at the New York State Museum, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Wildlife Trust. Volunteers – as many as one per acre – are being sought. (For more information: www.explorers.org/conservation.php).
EXPEDITION NOTES Easier Than Life – Tom Hornbein, one of the first climbers to ascend Everest via the West Ridge (1963), told members of the American Alpine Club at their 101st annual meeting on Mar. 1 near Boston, "Mountaineering expeditions change lives – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Summiting Everest doesn’t necessarily make life easier, but a journey like that is easier than regular life – the goal is right there. Just put on your cold boots and go." The West Ridge remains one of the least climbed routes on Everest.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Julie Seyfert Lillis, author of Women in the Gunks, also spoke at the AAC annual meeting. She offered a look at women climbers who frequent New York’s famed Shawangunks mountains. Speaking to the women in the audience, she said, "It’s time for us to do something rare in a man’s world – climb in all-women groups. It’s a celebratory time for us."
She explained that woman climber Lynn Hill "paved the way for us," and is the most famous role model in the Gunks. "Men and women climbers are different - we look better in sport tops," she quipped.
Expeditions 101 –
Expeditions don’t fail because of disastrous weather, dangerous environments, or hostile reception by host countries. They fail from a lack of proper planning.
That’s precisely why Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., has created the nation’s first university-based expedition planning program. The five-day WCU Expedition Planning Program, beginning on June 6, prepares students, faculty, staff and other key individuals to coordinate scientific expeditions and explorations worldwide. It is designed for graduate and undergraduate students with majors in any of the sciences that involve outdoor research.
Program director G. Dale Stewart, a veteran expedition planner and logistics expert, has assembled a team of instructors from a wide variety of disciplines. Stewart and his team provide expedition planning, field equipment, equipment integration, state-of-the-art communications and value added logistical services. The program will help participants develop skills necessary for mounting a successful expedition, including the planning process, team selection, research, fund-raising and budget, equipment selection and other expedition techniques.
The program will provide a template for developing a successful expedition, no matter the field, objective or environment. Three college credit hours will be earned and housing and meal packages are available. The registration deadline is May 16. (For more information: (+1) 828-227-7397; email@example.com; http://cess.wcu.edu/epp).
Sisterhood – A Japanese mountain climber and his environmental non-profit organization (NPO) are looking for "sister mountains" from around the world for Mt. Fuji, hoping to promote the cleanup of Japan's tallest mountain. Mt. Rainier in the United States and Mt. Ngauruhoe in New Zealand will become the first two "sisters" of Mt. Fuji, according to Toyohiro Watanabe, the 52-year-old founder and head of the Fujisan Club.
Watanabe grew up at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, and has climbed the 3,776-meter peak many times since
his second year in junior high school. In 1994, he rallied for Mt. Fuji to be registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site but the campaign failed due to pollution of garbage and human waste left behind by hikers.
As a result, he created the Fujisan Club in 1998 with the aim of cleaning up the mountain. With financial support from companies, the NPO set up environmentally friendly "bio-toilets" and picked up 17 tons of garbage on Mt. Fuji.
As Told at The Explorers Club – The Explorers Club held its 99th annual dinner in New York last month, amidst fears that the war in Iraq would result in numerous cancellations. Luckily, the fund-raiser went off without a hitch and by the end, there was nary a roasted tarantula, skewered Japanese hornet, vertebrate optic globular capsules (eyeballs) or roasted Sky Rat (pigeon) remaining among the exotic hors d’oeuvres.
Exotics chairman Gene Rurka was telling anyone who listened, "Eighty percent of the world’s population savors insects. They can be used as delicacies or as staples of everyday diets. High in nutritional value, some insect species contain as much as 60 percent protein with only 6 percent fat per 100 grams, approximately one-quarter pound. Sure beats hamburger, doesn’t it?" he said.
Lest the Club be known as a collection of bug eaters, the EC’s public relations committee issued an explanation for this strange behavior. "Explorers travel the world doing research for the good of mankind; sometimes they have to eat what's available. The annual dinner reminds them of their dedication to exploration," says the PR committee.
Other comments heard during the 6-1/2 hour fete:
"Why do mountain climbers rope themselves together?" asks first American on Everest Jim Whittaker. "So the smart ones can’t leave."
How did Robert F. Kennedy train to accompany Whittaker on the first ascent of Canada’s Mt. Kennedy? The inexperienced RFK told Whittaker, "I’m running up and down stairs shouting help." Jim Whittaker later would become a pallbearer at the slain Senator’s funeral.
Dr. S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, is an authority on the life of Matthew Henson, the African-American companion of Robert E. Peary during his expeditions to the North Pole. Counter has dedicated untold hours to ensure that Henson receives the recognition he deserves. He was involved in the creation of a Peary-Henson postage stamp; the relocation of Henson’s body to Arlington National Cemetery; and the commissioning of a Navy ship, the USS Henson, which was dedicated in 1998 by Henson’s niece. "The way she took that bottle of champagne and proudly hit that ship, you would have thought she was Jackie Robinson," Counter recalls. A fund-raising effort is underway to rededicate a New York City park in Harlem in Henson’s name.
Solo balloonist Steve Fossett was honored by a video greeting from his friend Richard Branson, who said, "I don’t think there’s an explorer in the world who has done more than you." Fossett, recipient of the Explorers Medal, concluded his talk by telling the 1,200 Waldorf dinner guests, "If those of us in this room don’t undertake exploration, who will? It’s worth the effort."
Titanic director James Cameron, who received the Club’s Communication in Exploration Award, says he manipulated the studio system to fund the first Hollywood-supported deep ocean expeditions. "I was excited beyond belief to be diving the Titanic – it was a real ‘pinch me’ moment." Cameron said his team spent $2 million to build a tetherless ROV the size of an attaché case that could fit through the ship’s B-deck windows. "It was like we were practicing science and engineering without a license." His Ghosts of the Abyss 3-D IMAX movie comes out in mid-April.
On the Road Again – A century after pioneer explorers with dogs and horse-drawn sleds tried to cross from the Antarctica coast to the South Pole, American engineers may carve a 1,600 kilometer (992-mile) track so supplies can be driven to the Pole. The National Science Foundation has begun a three-year study to establish the feasibility of the road from its McMurdo Station on the frozen continent's Ross Sea coast to its South Pole base. The route would be open for 100 days each year during the Southern Hemisphere summer.
The trip would take an average 10 days each way between the coast and the Amundsen-Scott polar science base. Providing support to the South Pole base and its science programs usually requires more than 250 flights each summer season, from Oct. 1 to Feb. 25.
In an interview with London's The Times newspaper, U.S. Antarctic Program director Karl Erb said, "Once the route has been done, you will just drive across it. It will greatly improve our ability to do science in Antarctica." Construction costs are estimated at a cool $350 million.
The Fish and the Famous – The Beneath the Sea scuba exposition in New Jersey on Mar. 28 featured two explorers who dive as part of their work.
Underwater explorer Barry Clifford, of Provincetown, Mass., who is searching off Haiti for the wreck of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria tells of the dangers he often encounters, such as conducting underwater research in the vicinity of stonefish, the world’s most venomous fish. "If they ever bite you, the pain is intense. You’ll die screaming. One way to prevent dying is to put your infected hand in boiling water … and you’ll do it gladly," he tells EN.
Clifford is an authority on pirates and has a book coming out this fall called Return to Treasure Island (HarperCollins), about the search for Captain Kidd's flagship in Madagascar. He says of expeditions, "It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out."
High altitude archaeologist Johan Reinhard, Ph.D., a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, is between expeditions now, writing a popular book about his 1995 discovery of the Inca Ice Maiden for National Geographic Books.
Reinhard tells of overcoming writer’s block by working out of a Starbucks in Arlington, Va. Most days, he tries to get there first before another writer arrives, to get a good seat away from the glare of the front window. "They don’t seem to mind me sitting there five hours at a time."
Reinhard calls diving, "… a tool, a way to obtain information I’d never get otherwise. Diving allows us to conduct archaeological research where its never been done before." Reinhard has dived in lakes over 19,000-feet, and plans more projects in Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake.
Clifford is sponsored by dive manufacturer Dacor, Norwalk, Conn., while Reinhard is supported by its sister dive gear company, Mares.
Can We Just Leave the Poor Mountain Alone? – Sean Burch, a 32-year-old mountaineer and physical fitness expert from Fairfax, Va., held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last month to discuss his upcoming attempt to make a solo ascent of Mt. Everest without the use of supplementary oxygen. He says he currently holds the record for jumping rope at 22,841 feet and hopes to be the first person in the world to jump rope on Everest's summit (www.seanburch.com).
He has received coverage from print and television media including USA Today, which labeled him the "Minister of Fitness." The BBC, which is planning satellite interviews from base camp, dubbed him "USA's Mr. Extreme."
Burch’s sponsors include: Baker's Breakfast Cookie, Biomedtech Australia, Chile North, Chinook Medical Gear, Creative Health Products, Nielson Kellerman, Project Advisors International, LLC, RBH Designs, Ricci Communications, Stash Tea Company, and Zeal Optics USA.
The February issue of 'Gastronomica,' a "journal of food and culture" published by the University of California Press (www.gastronomica.org), includes a 13,000-word article on eating Antarctic wild foods titled, "Train Oil and Snotters," by Jeff Rubin.
Although seals, penguins, albatrosses and other seabirds are now protected by the Antarctic Treaty, early explorers and sealers ate them frequently - and not just when they were starving, Rubin reports.
combed diaries, letters and published accounts of early visitors to
Antarctica and the peri-Antarctic islands (the islands in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, many of which do not have a "sub-Antarctic" climate). Rubin found that a wide variety of eggs, seabirds, shellfish and several unusual endemic plants were also eaten, often with great pleasure.
Early Antarctic expeditions counted on obtaining fresh meat in the
field. Douglas Mawson, for example, wrote that his 1911-1914
Australasian Antarctic Expedition's 100 tons of food were
calculated "based on the supposition that unlimited quantities of seal
and penguin meat can be had on the spot."
But eating local foods was a regular part of Antarctic life as recently
as the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, when a cook at
Britain's Argentine Islands base, Gerald T. Cutland, wrote an Antarctic
cookbook titled, Fit for a FID, or, How to Keep a Fat Explorer in Prime
Condition, which included recipes using seal, penguin and shag meat. (Editor’s note: FID was the former name for a member of British Antarctic expeditions, derived from the acronym for Falkland Islands Dependencies, the British territorial claim in the South American sector of Antarctica).
Despite previous reports to the contrary, Antarctic explorers and
sealers liked the local foods quite well, Rubin found, and frequently
described their taste with elaborate praise: "Manna from heaven could
not have seemed more delicious than lumps of seal or penguin meat made
into a hash with a handful of oatmeal," wrote F.D. Ommaney in his 1938
book, Below the Roaring Forties. After enjoying a dinner of
Weddell seal livers, hearts, sweetbreads, kidneys, and undercuts, Albert
Armitage, second-in-command on Robert F. Scott's "Discovery" expedition,
exulted, "Not a diner in London, Paris, or New York enjoyed his meal
that night as we did ours."
Hold the mayo: lest you lust after an exotic Antarctic meal, Rubin warns, "Intrepid gourmets may no longer sample the wild foods of Antarctica, because the Antarctic Treaty's Protocol on Environmental Protection signed in 1991 prohibits even ‘disturbing’ any wildlife - except in case of a life-threatening emergency."
Explorers Charts Provide Clues to Global Warming
Using 500-year-old logbooks and sea charts, scientists are examining the effects of global climate change in the Arctic. Terje Loyning, an oceanographer with the project, said there is evidence of less ice. The Norwegian Polar Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature compiled the Arctic Climate System Study Historical Ice Chart Archive to gauge global warming on the ice around the Arctic Sea. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute also took part. The archive contains details of climate change in and around the Arctic from 1553 to 2002.
Loyning has been collecting sea charts covering an area from Greenland east to Novaya Zemlya, Russia, to compare the amount of ice explorers encountered hundreds of years ago. Using the charts of seagoing explorers, researchers said they created a massive database that extends back 500 years.
"With the charts and logbooks we can compare the ice edge as it
was. We have to be a bit careful about the assessment, but there
has been a steady decrease of the ice starting long before the
industrial age," Loyning told the AP. "We have to assume that
those who traveled without engine power sailed in areas where a
third of the ocean was covered by ice."
The oldest records are from 1553 when English explorer Hugh
Willoughby sought to find a northeastern route to China. Willoughby and his crew perished when their ship got stuck in ice, but the voyage eventually resulted in trade between Britain and Russia. The ship's log and other documents were recovered by later explorers. (For more information: Norwegian Polar Institute: http://acsys.npolar.no)
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"It's about as hard a route as I ever wanted to do. It's sort of like climbing across the roof of a basketball court before climbing a frozen waterfall." - Canmore, Alberta-based adventurer Will Gadd, 35, who won the inaugural Golden Piton for ice- and mixed-climbing in the March issue of Climbing magazine.
The nearly impossible-looking route, which the pair later named Musashi after a Samurai warrior, followed an 11-meter horizontal roof to a group of dangling icicles. It is located in the Cineplex Cave along the Icefields Parkway, between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. Gadd made the first ascent in December 2001, according to the Calgary Herald (Mar. 11, 2003). The climb is said to have pushed the limits of mixed climbing.
Expedition Footage Sought - Creative Touch Films, a U.K.-based television production company, has been commissioned by National Geographic Television to produce a 26-part documentary series called "Adventure Challenge" for worldwide broadcast. The aim of the series is to showcase the films made by adventurers and explorers to a worldwide audience. Explorers with footage to sell, or about to embark on an expedition can contact Kathrine Bancroft, Creative Touch Films Ltd., (U.K.) (+44) 207-801-0707 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ctfilms.com
Extreme Traveling – The quest to become the world’s most traveled man is a real trip. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, no one has ever visited every country and territory in the world. But a former software executive has spent the last three years and about a million dollars of his own money trying to become the first.
After recently landing on the blue ice runway of the Russian "Novo"
Base in Dronning Maud Land (Antarctica), Charles Veley had visited 317 countries and territories by the age of 37. "Nobody else has ever
gotten this far before the age of 55. Now I'm only 13 territories away
from the world record," he writes in the International Herald Tribune (Mar. 7).
In 2000, he left behind a career as a software executive at the peak of the Internet bubble. "After 10 years of 80-hour-plus work weeks, I was recently married and ready to take some time to pursue personal interests. So my wife, Kimberly, and I decided to travel for a year," he writes. Then Veley became possessed by "The List," produced by The Travelers Century Club, a Santa Monica, Calif., organization of self-professed "extreme travelers." Prospective members must visit at least 100 places on the list; hence the
Revised by its board every two years, the list now
contains 317 countries and territories, grouped into 12 regions, and is
the starting point for anyone who has global aspirations.
"The List" was originally created in 1954 by a group of extreme travel pioneers to address the issue of countries versus territories. Isn’t that what we have the United Nations for? "Well, sure, the United Nations counts 192, but then you have to consider overseas territories, disputed territories and other special cases," Veley writes. "For example, French Polynesia is a territory of France. If you've been to Bora Bora, that's not quite the same thing as going to Paris, is it? Shouldn't that count
In 2002 alone, he traveled 259,640 miles, or more than 10 times around the world, including more than two months at sea, and 254 flight segments on 94 different airlines.
Last month he arrived at Clipperton Island, a tiny uninhabited French Pacific island. "The List" calls it part of French Polynesia, even though it is much closer to Mexico. Getting there required a two-week round-trip in a fishing boat.
Don’t forget to write.
Affordable Himalaya with Daniel Mazur – Please tell your
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2003-06, $1,450; Cho-Oyu 2003-06, $4,650; Everest 2003-06, $6,000. Everything
for the novice, intermediate and expert since 1987. Ask about our treks. We
give slide shows too!
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Everybody on Foot Uses the Expedition Battery – A disposable battery that
whips the competition hands down in cold weather, weight and shelf life –
extreme for worldwide extremes – cordless electricity. A silent, automatic
supply of power to run your video, your sat phone, your whatever. Nobody
shoots for long without one — miniDV to IMAX, 350g to 1 kg; 60 to 200
watt-hours per. Call me. I’ll assure you of satisfaction.