March 2007 – Volume Fourteen, Number Three
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 13th year, 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.
Ballard's Telepresence Project to Unlock Undersea Secrets of Gulf Marine Sanctuary
Early this month, ocean explorer Dr. Robert Ballard and an interdisciplinary team of scientists will explore the undersea landscape of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. One of the 13 U.S. national marine sanctuaries, the sanctuary is located approximately 115 miles off the Texas/Louisiana coast. Named for its colorful corals and sponges, it was targeted for exploration because of its unique geology and biology. The sanctuary's geological history also makes it a viable location to search for signs of early human habitation that could predate current evidence of North America's first inhabitants.
This expedition represents a collaboration between the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Institute for Exploration (IFE), Immersion Presents, the University of Rhode Island and the U.S. Navy. During the week-long expedition, a team of geologists, biologists and marine archaeologists will use two ships, a nuclear-powered research submarine, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and scuba divers to explore coral reefs, brine seeps, mud volcanoes and ancient shorelines.
"This will be an important and exciting expedition to a little known area in the Gulf with unique biological and geological features - an area that we hope will reveal details about human habitation on ancient shorelines thousands of years ago when sea level was much lower due to the ice age," said Ballard, professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and president of the Institute for Exploration at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration in Connecticut.
Researchers will also explore the physical connections that provide protective cover for animals traveling between individual geologic features. "This is a rare opportunity to explore the system of 'hidden highways' that connects the Flower Garden Banks ecosystem with other reefs and banks in the area," stated George Schmahl, superintendent of the sanctuary.
Deep-water exploration of the sanctuary will be made possible by the U.S. Navy's NR-1 - the nation's only nuclear-powered submarine dedicated to underwater research. Supported by the 238-foot SSV Carolyn Chouest, the NR-1 carries video cameras, sample-collection equipment and tools to map the sea floor.
The expedition team will employ state-of-the-art "telepresence" technology to enable students, educators, scientists and the general public to follow the Secrets of the Gulf expedition 24/7 in real-time. Principal investigators Ballard and McBride will use this same telepresence technology to lead the expedition from a remote science console based at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. (For more information: OceansLive.org or ImmersionPresents.org)
Bancroft Jumps on Global Warming Bandwagon
Will Steger dedicates his Baffin expedition to global warming (see related story), and now former Steger teammate Ann Bancroft is co-leading her own global warming expedition. Minnesota explorer Ann Bancroft, 51, and Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen, 53, are once again preparing for a grueling polar expedition. The project departs this month on a 530-mi. journey from Canada's Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole, traveling on foot, towing sleds and occasionally swimming.
When they reach the North Pole 60 days in, they will reportedly become the first women to reach both poles without re-supply. From there, Bancroft and Arnesen will ski another two weeks to the TARA, a French research vessel drifting in the Arctic pack ice.
They're calling this trip "Explore Arctic Warming 2007." It's designed to help students understand how the Arctic climate is changing and what effect global warming is having on the area and its wildlife.
Last month, dozens of volunteers and supporters gathered to pack the food the two will need for their 75-day expedition. Among the items being packed: 90 cans of Pringles, 180 energy and breakfast bars, 12 cans of hot chocolate, 190 bags of soup, 25 lbs. of nuts, coffee, sugar, toilet paper and batteries.
During their expedition, each woman will need to eat between 5,000 and 6,000 calories a day just to maintain their energy while cross-country skiing 12-16 hours a day in the arctic cold. (For more information: BancroftArnesenExplore.com)
Climb for Peace Film Seeks Sponsor
Last year, The Everest Peace Project conducted a history-making Everest expedition, a "Climb for Peace" that was comprised of people of different faiths and cultures, including Palestinian and Israeli men (See EN, September 2006). The most touching part of the climb, in which 10 summitted, was when Israeli Dudu Yifrah unfolded a joint Palestinian/Israeli flag on the summit of Everest and dedicated his ascent to his friend and Palestinian climbing partner, Ali Bushnaq.
This moment and indeed the entire expedition was captured on film. An award-winning filmmaker is currently producing the documentary, and recently His Holiness the Dalai Lama endorsed the expedition and the film calling it a "tremendous achievement." Filmed on location in seven different countries, including Palestine and Israel, the filmmaker, founder and executive director of the Everest Peace Project is currently beating the bushes for "finishing funds" to complete the project. (For more information: (+1) 503-547-3089; EverestPeaceProject.org)
"Mars With Snow" - Steger Baffin Island Expedition Heads to Pangnirtung
At press time, the Global Warming 101 Expedition was northeast of Iqaluit, Nunavut, approximately 40 miles headed toward Pangnirtung (see EN, June 2006). In an audio dispatch from the trail, team leader Will Steger reports the scene is like "Mars with snow."
New to the team is Sir Richard Branson, the world adventurer and outspoken environmentalist, who is accompanied by his son Sam as Steger leads a dog team across 1,200 miles of the island's scenery to five remote villages: living among the Inuit natives, tracking weather patterns, and filming the profound changes that warming has wrought upon the local environment and wildlife. The expedition culminates in May 2007 in the town of Iglulik with a finale featuring "unplugged" performances by major musical artists, to be announced. (See related story below).
Commenting on the journey, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson said, "My son, Sam, and I are very much looking forward to the project and will both learn a lot as well as having a fantastic adventure at the same time. Through our interest in the environment and space we have seen the frightening satellite images from NASA of the rapid decline in the arctic ice cover over the last decade and hope that the journey will contribute something to raising awareness of the uncertainties, risks and effects of climate change …"
New Species Exposed by Collapse of Antarctic Ice Shelves – An expedition under the collapsed Larsen ice shelves in Antarctica has revealed the impact of climate change on one of the Earth's most pristine areas. A marine habitat previously protected for thousands of years by a roof of ice had been bombarded with giant icebergs that scour the sea floor, scientists found. Deep-sea species of sea squirts and sponges have begun to colonize the region since the shelves disintegrated in 1995 and 2002.
The 10-week expedition, part of the international Census of Marine Life (coml.org), discovered new species in the icy waters, including a giant crustacean. The census manager, Victoria Wadley of the Australian Government Antarctic Division, said the polar regions were experiencing a greater rate of climate change than elsewhere on the planet.
"There is an urgent need to establish the state of the marine communities and their biodiversity now, so we can understand the impact of future change," Dr Wadley said. Thirteen more voyages are planned as part of the project during International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008, the largest internationally coordinated scientific research effort in 50 years, which officially got underway on March 1.
More than 10,000 square kilometers of sea floor have been exposed by the collapse of the Larsen A and B ice shelves after a 2.5 degree rise in the local temperature since the 1940s.
The census leader, Michael Stoddart of the Antarctic division, said the loss of sea ice had reduced the amount of algae growing underneath it, which fed the krill that sustained larger animals such as penguins, whales and seals.
"Algae is utterly central to the health of the whole ecosystem," Professor Stoddart said. The survey was conducted by an international team of 52 scientists aboard a German research vessel between November and the end of January. They filmed the sea floor using a remotely operated submersible and collected more than 1,000 species from sediments up to 850 meters below the surface.
"We were in the unique position to sample wherever we wanted in a marine ecosystem considered one of the least disturbed by humankind," said the expedition's chief scientist, Julian Gutt. "Until now scientists have glimpsed life under Antarctica's ice shelves only through drill holes."
They found lots of sea lilies and their relatives, sea cucumbers and sea urchins, in the shallower waters. Another find was a sea anemone that lives on the back of a snail. Minke whales had also taken advantage of the breakup of the shelves to move into new habitat, the team said.
Mugs Stump Award Winners Announced – Five climbing teams are recipients of the Mugs Stump Award. Created in 1992 in memory of Mugs Stump, one of North America's most visionary climbers, the award annually grants $12,000 to small teams pursuing climbing objectives that exemplify light, fast and clean alpinism. This year's winners are:
Stump was best known for his first ascent of the Emperor Face on Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies and a triptych of Alaskan climbs - the East Face of the Moose's Tooth, the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter and a one-day solo of Denali's Cassin Ridge. He sought out striking and highly technical objectives, preferably first ascents, in some of the most remote mountains of the world. Stump viewed climbing as a celebration of boldness, purity and simplicity.
Mugs Stump Award sponsors are Black Diamond Equipment, Climbing Magazine, Mountain Gear, Patagonia, and W.L. Gore and Associates. (For more information: MugsStumpAward.com)
Underground Railroad Route is Ready to Ride – Here's another route adventurers may soon try to bag: the newly completed 2,058-mi. Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (UGRR), considered by organizers "one of the most historically important bicycle journeys ever created."
It was established by the Adventure Cycling Association, North America's largest bicycling organization, and the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health. Cyclists can ride from the Deep South all the way to Ontario, Canada – nearly 2,100 miles, or they can take short rides on any portion of the route, which is filled with historic Underground Railroad stops along the most fabled trek to freedom in American history. Starting in Mobile, Ala., the route winds north through river valleys and wildlife refuges to Kentucky and Ohio, before reaching Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, and its end-point in Owen Sound, Ontario on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, the final destination for many freedom seekers.
The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route was created with financial support from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Bikes Belong, and the members of Adventure Cycling. (For more information: AdventureCycling.org/ugrr)
Tibetan Art Project Volunteers Sought – Kham Aid Foundation is organizing a group of eight volunteers to help with conservation of Buddhist wall paintings in the Minyak region of Kham (eastern Tibet) in September - October, 2007. The trip will include five days of hands-on volunteer work with the Italian, Nepali, and Tibetan team and 12 days travel across eastern Tibet visiting sites of art and architectural significance. No experience is necessary. Proceeds will go towards art conservation and restoration of historic Tibetan buildings. (For more information: Pam Logan, khamaid.org)
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"I've reached the point where I am completely convinced that if NASA were to disappear tomorrow, if the American space program were to disappear tomorrow, if we never put up another Hubble, never put another human being in space, people would be profoundly distraught. Americans would feel less than themselves. They would feel that our best days are behind us. They would feel that we have lost something, something that matters. And yet they would not know why." - NASA Administrator Michael Griffin speaking at the Quasar Award dinner in Houston, Jan. 19.
Steger Announces New Global Warming Documentary – Last month, expedition leader Will Steger announced the start of production on the documentary Global Warming 101 Expedition, Baffin Island '07: The Explorers, with Sir Richard Branson and his son Sam, and famed Mount Everest mountaineer Ed Viesturs. The project marks the launch of "Global Warming 101," the first environmental education initiative of the newly established Will Steger Foundation.
Executive producers include Lloyd Philips (Zorro, Racing Stripes, Beyond Borders, Vertical Limit) and Monica Ord (who has applied her skills in marrying finance with crucial global issues, from a revolutionary AIDS treatment to global warming). Diane Isaacs, the long-time producing partner of Antonio Banderas, will produce the Baffin Island project in tandem with South African director Mickey Madoda Dube. Original music is being written by South African hip-hop recording star Zola, top Thailand recording group Silly Fools and others. The expedition is sponsored in part by Fagen, Inc., the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), as well as Shaklee Corporation and Gander Mountain. (For more information: (GlobalWarming101.com)
A Little Taste of the Arctic Close to Home – "Mount Washington's horrific weather is pretty much an accident of geography," writes Michael D. Lemonick in Time Magazine (Feb. 26). Site of the highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth (231 mph in 1934), Mt. Washington (6,288-ft.) is where if you plot the tracks of storms as they move across the U.S. from west to east, they all converge, thanks to prevailing winds, on northern New England.
"The White Mountains, meanwhile, focus things further, turning already bad weather to flat-out hellish. The range stretches from southwest to northeast, pretty much at a right angle to winds sweeping down from Canada. As they run into the solid wall of peaks, the winds stream up and over the top, accelerating all the while."
Lemonick spent $459 to ride a snow tractor to the summit and sleep in bunk beds for one of the two dozen or so overnight "Edu-Trips" sponsored by the Mount Washington Observatory.
Mountain Hardwear Adds Three New Athletes to World-Class Team – Mountain Hardwear recently announced the addition of three new world-renowned mountaineers to its line-up of sponsored athletes. They are:
In 2003, after the first free ascent of 1,100-meter "No Siesta," considered the hardest mixed route in the Alps, he was nominated as the world's most successful mixed climber by Germany's Klettern Magazin.
Wife Daniela met Robert while climbing when she was 22 and has since become one of the leading female alpinists in Europe. She has more Alps ascents than any other woman, many of them firsts, including three different routes up the Eiger North Face as well as a first ascent with Robert up the Symphonie de Liberté, considered the hardest north face alpine route ever climbed.
A year later he made even more headlines with his solo, no ropes ascent of Excalibur, rated a 6b on a difficult and exposed 350 meter wall on the Wendenstöck. He kept his Herculean pace going the same year with his "Khumbu-Express" expedition in Nepal's Everest region, resulting in the first solos of Cholatse's north face (6440m) and Tawoche's east face (6505m).
(For more information on Mountain Hardwear athletes: www.MmountainHardwear.com)
What's in a Name? – Australians have always had a way with words. Now an outdoor company based in Oz has taken an everyday gardeners' trowel, tricked it out, and turned it into a "fecal removal system" for backpackers. Best of all is the catchy name: the iPood. Its multifunctional features include a hollow handle to store toilet tissue; and the titanium trowel blade slides open along the handle to full length or collapses to its compact size with a button lock.
Company marketers say the iPood makes it easier to follow the Leave No Trace ethic and support the latest research in minimizing backcountry impact by humans. Suggested retail is $16.95. The iPood was exhibited at the last Outdoor Retailer trade show by Sea to Summit USA, a company named in honor of co-founder Tim McCartney-Snape's 1990 solo expedition from the Bay of Bengal in India to the top of Mt. Everest. (For more information: SeaToSummit.com)
Jetboil Draws a Crowd – Companies will do almost anything to draw a crowd at trade shows. Steve Jobs presents the new iPhone at Macworld and it's SRO. But what do you do if you have a lowly camp stove that boils water? Here's what you do: you have a cooking competition on a climbing wall.
Jim Bridwell, legendary pioneer of the climbing sport we know today, reconfirmed his place in history by winning Jetboil's Big Wall Cook-Off event at the 2007 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show in Salt Lake City. The event, which took place on the Rock & Ice climbing wall, pitted four of the world's top big wall climbers in a head-to-head cooking contest using Jetboil's Personal Cooking System (PCS).
Competition was intense, with Conrad Anker, Pete Takeda, Ivo Ninov and Bridwell all battling for first place and a $500 purse to be donated to the winner's organization of choice. Jim Bridwell chose The Access Fund to be the recipient.
Osprey Launches Pack Recycling Program with The MountainFund – The latest outdoor company to go green is Osprey Packs, Inc., an independent pack company located in the high desert and mountains of Southwestern Colorado. They are encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to donate their old daypacks or backpacks to the Mountain Fund beginning this month for reuse with a wide variety of organizations including Empowering Women of Nepal, The Alpine Fund, and Big City Mountaineers. As an incentive, the company is offering a 10% refund upon purchase of a new Osprey pack built almost entirely from recycled materials.
The Mountain Fund is a not-for-profit that works everyday to bring health care, human rights, responsible tourism and environmental progress to those who need it most in mountain communities around the world. (For more information: OspreyPacks.com or MountainFund.org)
ON THE HORIZON
Public Invited to Follow in Footsteps of World's Largest Firefighter StairClimb – Some explorers, like Anne Bancroft train for expeditions by dragging tires behind them in the woods; Coleman-sponsored Everest climber Mike Haugen is getting ready with ground-based circuit training. Now here's a novel training idea: competitive stairclimbing.
In early March, over 1,300 firefighters from across the U.S., Canada and as far away as New Zealand climbed the steps of Seattle's Columbia Center at the 16th annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb (lls.org/wa/firefighter) Later this month, the public can follow in their footsteps.
The annual climb, recognized as the largest individual firefighting competition in the world, raises money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to fight blood cancers. In 2006, 1,097 participating firefighters raised $335,000 through community-based fundraising campaigns.
Clad in full "bunker gear" weighing from 50 to 70 lbs., firefighters ranging in age from 18 to 60 sprint-climbed 788 feet in vertical elevation (1,311 stairs / 69 stories) from the Fifth Ave. lobby level to the 73rd floor observation deck of the Columbia Center. At 943 feet, about one and a half times the height of the Space Needle, the Columbia Center is the tallest building (by stories) west of the Mississippi. Winning time in 2006 was 11 min., 17 sec. On March 18, the public can tackle the same Columbia Center steps at the 21st annual Big Climb for Leukemia. (For more information: BigClimb.org)
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Tights, Tops and Sport Support Bras for Athletes – CW-X Conditioning Wear is specifically tuned to provide total support to the key muscle groups and joints of the lower limbs and upper body. Tights and Tops, and the company's new Sports Support Bras, are made for a wide variety of high-energy activities, including running, fitness walking, hiking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, track and field, and other fitness activities. It has been worn to the summit of Everest on at least two occasions.
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad – LEKI, the world's largest ski, trekking and Nordic Walking pole company, Buffalo, N.Y., introduces three new P2 Grip/Strap Trekking Poles for 2007. Lengthen and shorten the pole strap with the one touch locking tab on top. Grips are vented to reduce weight.
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