May 2011 – Volume Eighteen, Number Five
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 18th 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.
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AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK PREPARES FOR HUDSON RIVER DESCENT IN TRASH BOAT
A furniture maker and endurance cyclist from London has hatched an audacious plan to build a boat made of discarded New York City constructions materials, tow the boat behind his bicycle 300 miles to the source of the Hudson River in the Adirondacks, then paddle back downriver. Not as wild as you'd think - the adventurer, James Bowthorpe, 33, has done it before on the Thames River in London, traveling 130 miles. And oh yeah, in 2009 he completed an 18,000-mile bike ride across 20 countries in less than six months, beating the world record by 20 days. (If you're wondering how Expedition News finds these people, we often wonder ourselves).
Bowthorpe met us in a coffee shop near the Explorers Club in New York to explain his plan. With fiery red hair and beard that makes him look like a modern day Viking, we shared tea while he explained how he planned to MacGyver a craft together this September, pedal it north, then paddle from Lake Tear in the Clouds to the Atlantic.
Bowthorpe will scour the streets of New York for metal, timber and anything else of use he can load onto a bicycle trailer and pedal to a Manhattan workshop he has yet to secure. A combination of welding and carpentry will create a one-man, 12-ft. rowing craft that's strong and reliable enough to withstand the bicycle ride north, an eight-mile portage to the river's source, then a descent of thousands of feet during an eight-week journey downriver. A documentary of the Hudson River Project will be videotaped by a crew following along in a motorhome.
"I hope to encourage people that adventure should be a day-to-day activity - you don't have to climb Everest to find adventure," he said in a dry monotone not unlike Karl Pilkington on popular Ricky Gervais podcasts.
As he left the coffee shop, it was trash day on the Upper East Side and Bowthorpe couldn't help but gaze longingly at a metal filing cabinet someone had discarded. It seemed like a good gunwale to us, but it's a little too early for this Englishman in New York to start scrounging just yet.
(For more information: www.jamesbowthorpe.com, Antony Crook, 917 803 1026, firstname.lastname@example.org. See a photo of Bowthorpe at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com).
JON TURK LEADS 2011 ELLESMERE ISLAND CIRCUMNAVIGATION
In 1988, Chris Seashore and Jon Turk paddled from the south coast of Ellesmere Island, up the east coast and across to Greenland. Turk writes on his website, "It's been nagging me, for the last few decades, that no one in modern times has circumnavigated the island. (Of course some teenagers on dogsleds may have done it a long time ago, but that is a different story). I was on book tour most of 2010, traveling around in cities and on freeways, talking about the spiritual value of deep wilderness. Fair enough, but after a while I knew that I had to follow my own best advice," Turk writes.
This month, Turk, Tyler Bradt and Erik Boomer began a circumnavigation of Ellesmere.
Ellesmere Island is one of the closest points of land to the North Pole. Regarded by many as one of the last great Arctic expeditions, this circumnavigation will follow the rugged, treacherous coast of Ellesmere for 1,400 miles. The team will sail, ski, trek, and sea kayak during the spring and summer thaw. If all goes well, the journey will take 100 days and will be completed by mid-August 2011.
The group will set off on skis from Grise Fiord, on the south coast of Ellesmere, using kites or sails when possible to drag the kayaks. They will travel in a clockwise direction moving, first, on solid ice on their journey west, then north around the island.
Arriving at the north coast in mid-June, the team will be faced with the crux of the expedition. Unimpeded by any landmasses, the full force of the Arctic icepack collides relentlessly against the island. They expect to encounter jagged pressure ridges, and fractured, grinding ice.
In early July, they will round the northeast corner of the island into the Nares Strait between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Pinched between these two giant landmasses, the Arctic icepack squeezes together and jams into the strait. Huge icebergs from calving Greenland glaciers, accelerated by global warming, will add to the complexity, excitement, and stunning beauty of this place.
Turk and his team will complete the expedition by sea kayaking the remaining five hundred miles back to Grise Fiord, hopefully completing the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island.
Major sponsors are: Eddie Bauer - First Ascent; Polartec Performance Grant; Wilderness Systems; and AT Paddles. (For more information)
Ueli Steck Solos Shisha Pangma in 10-1/2 Hours;
Speed-style Ascent of 8000-meter peak successfully completed
Ueli Steck, renowned Swiss alpinist and Mountain Hardwear-sponsored athlete known for speed records in the Alps, has summited the Tibetan giant Shisha Pangma (26,335-ft./8027 m and 14th highest in the world) in a mere 10-1/2 hours. He also holds impressive speed records on the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses.
Ueli left basecamp at 5306 m on April 16 at 10:30 p.m. to solo-climb the southwest face and summit in just 10-1/2 hours. It is reported that just 20 hours after departure Ueli was back at basecamp recovering comfortably from the high alpine assault and already thinking about what's next up in the high mountains of Tibet.
Ueli's success on Shisha Pangma can be attributed to his Olympic-level training regime he has followed the past three years, and the two months he spent this spring training and acclimatizing in the Khumbu region of Nepal. Using sprints up Lobuche and Cholatse as warm-ups for the real deal, Ueli is redefining what is possible in alpine climbing. (For more information)
Don't Come to Us for a Donation - We're Still Using Ours
In life, Pall Arason sought attention. In death, he is getting it: The 95-year-old Icelander's pickled penis will be the main attraction in one of his country's most bizarre museums.
Sigurdur Hjartarson, 69, who runs the Phallological Museum in the tiny Icelandic fishing town of Husavik, said Arason's organ will help round out the unusual institution's extensive collection of phalluses from whales, seals, bears and other mammals.
"I have just been waiting for this guy for 15 years," Hjartarson told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview. The Phallological Museum is an important part of the region's tourist industry, bringing in thousands of visitors every summer.
Arason was described by Hjartarson as a former tourism worker who died Jan. 5 in the nearby town of Akureyri. Thorvaldur Ingvarsson, the medical director of Akureyri's hospital, didn't give a cause of death but said the specimen was removed from the body under the supervision of a doctor.
Hjartarson saw nothing wrong with the idea of having someone donate their penis to be shown off to the public.
"People are always donating some organ after they died," he said. "It's no more remarkable to donate a penis than it is to donate an organ like a kidney." (For more information: phallus.is/).
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Our hearing is really sadly limited. To me, art is being able to see or hear something in a concentrated, focused way ... We live in an ocean of sound that artists are drawing attention to. Technology is enabling non-artists to learn how to see things for themselves."
- Experimental performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson, April 25, 2011, at The Explorers Club public lecture in New York. Later her co-presenter, David Rothenberg, a musician known to play his clarinet on underwater speakers to attract whales, said, "Even if your smartphone can tell you what song is on the radio, it's not smart enough to tell you what the whales are signing."
Rothenberg continued, "Technology brings us closer to the natural world - microscopes, telescopes, other electronics allow me to extend the acoustic experience in ways I never quite expected.
"I think there's a lot of music in the animal world, but there's not a lot of innovation except for whales." He suggested that the audience of 80 people, including Anderson's husband, singer/songwriter guitarist Lou "Walk on the Wild Side" Reed, log onto whalesong.net to hear the songs of Hawaii's whales live over the Internet.
Mortenson's Cup Runneth Over
Shortly after Greg Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea appeared on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list for some 220 weeks, cracks have appeared. As widely reported last month, 60 Minutes charged that Mortenson fabricated some of the most dramatic events in the book, misrepresented the number of schools his charitable foundation, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), has built in Afghanistan, and generally mismanaged the organization's finances.
Author Jon Krakauer piled on with Three Cups of Deceit, a 75-page e-book expose poking further holes in Tea, claiming Mortenson treated the Central Asia Institute like "his personal A.T.M." Mortenson is accused of spending nearly $1.7 million in CAI funds to promote his books, and "gaming" the best-seller lists by using CAI money to buy back his books at retail.
Mortenson issued a statement denying the charges on 60 Minutes, but has declined virtually all interview requests citing scheduling issues and health problems. But in an interview published on Outsideonline.com after the segment aired, he acknowledged some "compression of events" in Tea and said that since January he has paid for all his own travel and "tried to separate" himself financially from the CAI to avoid any "conflicts of interest that may appear."
Unfortunately, the Mortenson mess is spilling over with other non-profits. When Capt. Rye Barcott of Chapel Hill, N.C., launched the Carolina for Kibera tour to promote his campaign to assist slum dwellers in Kenya, his organization was scrutinized as never before. "It alters the conversation in a way that is not helpful," he tells Cameron McWhirter of the Wall Street Journal (Apr. 30 - May 1). Many foundations and wealthy donors now are cautious because of "reputational risk" if they give to an organization that falters. Charity Navigator, which currently rates about 5,500 charities and rated Mortenson's CAI four stars - its highest rating - is in the midst of revamping its rating system.
Air Traffic Controller is Raising a Crop of Solar Nerds
Amateur and professional astronomers will go to any lengths to pursue their passion as we learned last month at the Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show (NEAF) in Suffern, N.Y. Stargazers travel to one of the darkest skies in the world, the desert of Atacama, Chile, where local lodges host "star parties." Enthusiasts will journey to Hawaii in 2012 in pursuit of the transit of Venus; trek to the sunniest spot of the Australian Outback to view the 2012 eclipse; or build elaborate fiberglass "Astro Haven" domes in their backyards to control their telescopes from the comfort of the kitchen table, no matter the weather outside.
NEAF is where you can buy a 54 lbs. meteorite from Campo del Cielo, Argentina, for $3,900. Or for those of modest means, meteorite particles the size of raisins for $10. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is represented with his signature Moon Explorer ED102 Air-Spaced Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope from Bresser ($1,999.95 sug. ret.).
Atlanta air traffic controller Stephen Ramsden's passion for the past four years is to teach solar education around the world, starting with presentations to schools in the U.S. southeast based out of his Ford-built Sun Specific Public Outreach Truck or "SUNS.P.O.T." Ramsden's non-profit Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project, named for a fellow controller who committed suicide in 2007, reaches approximately 50,000 students a year at 60 schools. The Navy veteran owns 11 telescopes - about $100,000 worth of observatory quality telescopes and cameras including a Lunt Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope which can show sun prominences and surface detail.
Ramsden, who likes to dress in a yellow sun costume, is booked six months in advance by educators eager to have him teach about the sun's effects on aviation, communications and climate. He's lightly funded to say the least. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association supplies thousands of giveaway eclipse viewers, but otherwise the program's $60,000 annual budget comes from small private donations and out of his own pocket. "I hate fundraising and would just as soon rip off my toenails than ask for donations for the program," he explains on his website.
"I'm trying to breed a new crop of nerds, attempting to get kids interested again in something real like science. We have a tight budget but it's worth it - the emotional reward comes back to me 12-fold," he tells us at the telescope show in between deflecting snarky comments about sleepy air traffic controllers. ("I guarantee no one falls asleep where I work. Atlanta Center is the busiest airspace in the world.")
Ramsden adds, "When the Sun cooperates with a 60,000+ mile filament or prominence or a large active region with sunspots, there is no replacing the look on a kid's (or the faculty's) face after you explain the enormity and origin of the features."
(For more information) (See a photo of Ramsden at ExpeditionNews.BlogSpot.com)
Closure on Everest
Everest climbing guide Neal Beidleman, 51, was asked by the New York Times (Apr. 17) about those fateful days on Everest in 1996 when eight people died. "...when I reflect back, it doesn't give me a warm feeling. It's not something I'm necessarily proud of," he tells reporter Tim Mutrie. Beidleman returns to Everest this spring to retrace his steps, a route via the South Col and the Southeast Ridge, that will likely take him past the body of the late climbing guide Scott Fischer.
"His body is still up there high on the mountain. He's been pulled to the side a little bit, but I will go and try to seek out where he rests now and pay him my respects. I don't know how that's going to be. But hopefully, there will be a bit of closure."
Beidleman continues, "Personally, I really believe that I did everything I could, once the day and the situation started to unfold, to help people under the circumstances."
Fine Art on Everest
New York political cartoonist Ranan Lurie was in Nepal recently watching three of his acrylic canvases embark on an arduous trek up Everest. Three Nepalese climbers, each toting a canvas, will place the 34-by-14-inch panels at the top of the mountain, the first art installation ever on the peak, according to a story by Jayne Clark in USA Today (Apr. 26).
The canvases comprise smaller parts of Lurie's colossal Uniting Painting, which in 2005 was displayed at the United Nation in New York.
Nepal was interested in the work and its placement on Everest as a way of boosting the nation's fine arts profile. Three panels are encased in a protective covering to help them weather the elements. In a year or so, they'll be returned for display in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.
Lurie refers to his painting as "a graphic philosophy." Consider it the Esperanto of fine art, he says.
Jayne Clark's story explains that Lurie would like the concept spread to other parts of the world. In his mind's eye, the artist envisions a "belt" of Uniting paintings surrounding the globe to represent "friendship, equality and mutual respect." It would be visible from space and would signal "that we humans are good people. Unfortunately, we carry the sword of Sparta, but we also wave the olive branch of good art." (For more information)
CLIMBING FOR DOLLARS
Gore Awards Shipton-Tilman Grants
Some believe it was Jon Krakauer's accounts of trash heaps littering Mount Everest in his 1997 bestseller Into Thin Air that opened the eyes of the mountaineering community to its negative effects. However, this focus on minimizing the impact a team has on the planet was at the heart of Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman's philosophy 80 years earlier.
These two men, arguably the greatest adventurers of this past century, believed in traveling in small, compact teams, unburdened by porters and excessive bulk to minimize their impact of local populations and ecosystems. The six teams receiving grants through the 2011 Gore-Tex brand Shipton-Tilman Grant Program, funded by W. L. Gore & Associates, share this same "less is more" spirit. They embody a more sustainable approach to meeting one's goal.
The following six teams are receiving grants in 2011:
The two-woman team of Gemma Woldendorp and Natasha Sebire will travel to the rarely visited North Liverpool Land region of Greenland. On this eastern peninsula in the Greenland Sea, the team will traverse by dog sled and skis in search of virgin climbing opportunities. Once routes have been identified, the women will climb and paraglide, soaring among the peaks that have seen their footprints and no others.
Muchu Chhish is one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the world. Team leader Peter Thompson has made several first ascents from this same valley in Pakistan and looks to add the 7453 m Muchu Chhish to that list. Joining Thompson will be Sean James, Adam Marcinowizc and Phillip De-Beger. The only previous attempt was made in 1999 by a Spanish expedition that abandoned the climb well before the summit.
Driven by a desire for true adventure, Dylan Taylor and Danny Uhlmann will travel to a part of Afghanistan where Americans are as rare as electricity. They will explore the remote 5000 m and 6000 m peaks of the Hindu Kush. They plan to make multiple first ascents and descents, performing the first ski mountaineering in the region. Taylor and Uhlmann will also interact with the local Wakhi and Tajik, seeking to become both patrons and documenters of these people.
K7 is one of the most complex peaks anywhere in the world, with three distinct summits and incredible vertical reliefs encircling its base. The 6200 m Southwest Pillar remains unclimbed and will be the objective for the team of Matt McCormick, Pat Goodman and Will Meinen. In the summer of 2010, McCormick attempted to reach the peak but was thwarted multiple times during one of the worst monsoon seasons in the history of Pakistan.
Lifelong Alaskan Samuel Johnson and his partner Clint Helander will attempt the first ascent of the 2600 m Northeast Ridge of Mount Moffit in the Hayes Range of Alaska. The ridge has been attempted many times but details of those attempts are tightly held by the Fairbanks climbing community. The route up the Northeast Ridge remains one of the last challenges in the Hayes Range of Alaska.
The Tien Shan region of Kyrgyzstan is slowly becoming an essential destination for the climbing community. Once closed to foreign teams, the region is more open and features multiple virgin peaks. Alex Brighton and Richard Tremellem, both from England, will attempt to summit a number of those peaks including the unclimbed Point 5312 m. There are ten additional 5000 m+ peaks in the area. Some of those may be attempted if conditions allow.
(For more information on the Shipton-Tilman grant winners)
Mountain Hardwear Announces 2011 Copp-Dash Inspire Award Winners
Sponsored by Mountain Hardwear, Black Diamond Equipment, La Sportiva and Patagonia, with in-kind support from Adventure Film Festival, Alpinist Magazine, American Alpine Club, Sender Films and the Jonny Copp Foundation, the Copp-Dash Inspire Awards Grant was established in memory of American climbers Jonny Copp and Mountain Hardwear athlete Micah Dash. Copp and Dash were killed in an avalanche in China in May 2009 along with friend and filmmaker Wade Johnson.
In addition to financial support, the aim of the Copp-Dash Inspire Award is to provide mentoring, before and after the expedition, to help the climbers return with multimedia stories of their adventures that inspire the global climbing community. The 2011 Copp-Dash Award winners are:
A new, completely independent rock and mixed line on the 1100 m South Face of Mt. Burkett, Stikine Icecap, Southeast Alaska.
New routes, up to 6000 m, in the Nangma Valley, Northern Pakistan.
First ascents in the Karavshin Valley in southwestern Krgyzstan. Intermission bike ride from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Skardu, Pakistan (approximately 1,400 miles) First ascents of the Southwest Pillar of K7 West, to its unclimbed summit and the east face of K7 Main, in the Charakusa Valley, Pakistan, Karakoram Mountains.
First ascents of the Southwest Pillar of K7 West and an alpine-style first ascent of a major sub-summit of K7 West, Nepal.
Solo attempt for the first ascent of The Ibex Horn, central Afghanistan.
Deadlines Approaching for American Alpine Club Climbing Grants
Every year the American Alpine Club awards more $50,000 in the form of climbing, conservation, and research grants to budding adventurers. Climbers must not necessarily be U.S. citizens to receive the grants, but they must be members of the American Alpine Club.
The AAC grants provide resources for climbers and explorers to attempt new challenges, establish humanitarian programs, protect alpine environments, conduct scientific research, and push the envelope of human accomplishment in mountain and polar environments. The AAC awards over $50,000 annually, although the size and number of awards vary from year to year. (For more information on the American Alpine Club grants)
"So Long Until Tomorrow"
Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia Online
Clio Visualizing History of Shelburne, Vt., unveiled a first-of-its-kind online exhibit that explores the interplay of American journalist Lowell Thomas, British officer T.E. Lawrence, and the creation and impact of the "Lawrence of Arabia" legend. Naming The Explorers Club New York headquarters building after the broadcaster and hosting an annual dinner in his name is a testament to Thomas' impact on the exploration world.
"Creating History: Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia" looks at an earlier era of media innovation following World War I. It examines how journalism can make legends and such legends can make history.
Lowell Thomas was the best-known journalist in America at one time, and he played the key role in the creation of the "Lawrence of Arabia" legend. T.E. Lawrence came to be involved in the shaping of the national borders of the Middle East- borders that are not greatly different from the Middle East we know today.
"Creating History" takes a close look at Lowell Thomas' connection to T.E. Lawrence through more than 200 images, journal entries, videos and audio journalism. Now - 30 years after the death of Lowell Thomas - is the first time that many of these materials have been made available on the Web. (See the exhibit here: http://cliohistory.org/thomas-lawrence/)
Urban Explorers Delight: Underground London Mail Rail Discovered
Sealed off for nearly a decade, London's secret "Mail Rail" passages have been revealed. Thrilled urban explorers have documented their discovery of the tunnels, first opened in the 1920s after extensive and complicated construction. Closed down due to lack of use and high costs, the elaborate underground system became an urban legend for adventurers. (For photos, history, and the full story of the find)
Hillary-Norgay Sherpa Dies
Sherpa mountaineer Nawang Gombu, the youngest member of the climbing team that first scaled Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, died last month at his Indian home at the foot of the Himalayas. He was 79.
The first person to summit Everest twice, Gombu was considered one of the last of the so-called "Tigers of the Snow" - a small group of Sherpa mountaineers who scaled the Himalayas to bring fame and prestige to their ethnic community that originates from the mountains of eastern Tibet and Nepal.
Gombu was about 21 when he joined his uncle Tenzing Norgay and Hillary on the famous 1953 expedition, but he did not reach the top of the world's highest mountain until 10 years later when he guided the first American expedition led by mountaineer Jim Whittaker to the summit.
The 1963 expedition members were then invited to the White House, where Gombu placed a traditional white katha-style scarf around the neck of President John F Kennedy.
You Want to Go Where? - How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams - The only book that not only takes you behind-the-scenes of some of the most historic and modern-day adventures and expeditions, but also provides advice on how individuals can fund and arrange their own trips.
Written by Jeff Blumenfeld, editor of Expedition News, it retells the story of explorers familiar to EN readers, including Anker, Schurke, Shackleton, Steger, Vaughan, and many others. It includes tips on communications technology, photography, writing contracts, and developing a proposal that will impress potential sponsors. Available through Amazon.com (also Kindle Edition), BarnesandNoble.com and Borders.com (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009)
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