March 2006 – Volume Thirteen, Number Three
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 12th 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.
The following are highlights of our March issue, but this is only part of the story. Click here to subscribe to the full edition. or e-mail us for a free sample copy at editor@ExpeditionNews.com
MAKING WAVES ACROSS THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Wave Vidmar, best known for a solo and unsupported North Pole expedition in 2004, is now planning a solo row across the North Atlantic in June, starting from Chatham, Mass. At minimum it will take 60 days for the crossing, and could go as long as 150 days. Says Vidmar, 41, a resident of Redwood Valley, Calif., “I’ll be sending out daily updates to several Web sites, along with pics, this time with short audio and video clips attached."
“People will be able to track my location and progress in real-time on the Web. Vidmar says that when he reaches Europe he will become the first American to successfully row west to east, and to do so solo and unsupported."
CHINESE PEAK BECKONS BECKEY
Every once in a great while an individual lives a life that is so unique and inspiring that their story must be preserved for posterity. A new documentary film will tell the life story of such a character, Seattle climber Fred Beckey. This spring, at the age of 83, Beckey will venture to the remote Sichuan region of China to attempt the first ascent of a 19,000 ft. peak. Despite strong previous attempts, the peak at press-time remains unclimbed. The American Alpine Club has accepted a challenge grant from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard to support the feature length documentary titled, Direct Beckey.
For many years, the first ascent of this stunning and isolated mountain, which Beckey prefers to keep undisclosed as long as possible lest anyone else climb it first, has been his dream climb. More than ever, time is a factor for Fred, according to the AAC. The expedition to China will be the culmination of over 70 years of climbing achievements and the thread of an important historical documentary.
Beckey has arguably climbed more virgin summits than any other American, perhaps any other human.
This portion of the project needs initial funding to provide Beckey with a window of opportunity in the 2006 April-May climbing season. "There is no more prolific and important American climber than Fred. This story has to be told," says Chouinard. (For more information: www.AmericanAlpineClub.org or www.ThroughaChildsEyesProductions.com).
SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION SOCIETY TO STUDY WRECK OF HMS WAGNER
For a period of up to 30 days in late 2006, a team of around 20 will use a chartered Chilean vessel to sail to Wager Island, set up a base and carry out a survey of the wreck of the HMS Wager that sank in a remote part of Chilean Patagonia in 1741. The survival of some of the crew is one of the great sagas of the sea. The expedition will be led by Colonel John Blashford-Snell.
FIREMAN'S TEAM HOTFOOTS IT AROUND ARCTIC'S FOUR POLES
British firefighter Jim McNeill, 45, from Sunninghill in Berkshire, is leading what is reportedly the first attempt to get to four North Poles in one season. Four North Poles? These include the "Arctic Pole,” the exact center of the frozen Arctic Ocean, the furthest point from land. McNeill is calling his project, quite unabashedly, “the greatest Arctic journey of our time.”
McNeill, who set off last month from his base camp on Resolute Bay in northern Canada, will try to reach three of the poles - the Magnetic, Arctic and Geographic - alone and unsupported. Two teams trained and prepared by him will also attempt to reach the Geomagnetic pole, via a different route. The teams, including eight women, will start from Resolute Bay in mid-March, and are made up of 19 Arctic novices, including a gardener, a civil servant, a physiotherapist and a teacher.
They were selected from hundreds of applicants for the attempt, called The Ice Warrior 4 North Poles Expedition. They will be led by experts from McNeill's "Ice Warrior" group, the non-profit company he established to inform and educate about "the world's wildest climates.”
EXPEDITION NOTES Steger Receives Lindbergh Award – Polar explorer Will Steger has been awarded the prestigious 2006 Lindbergh Award which honors Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's vision of achieving balance between the technological advancements they helped pioneer, and the preservation of the human and natural environments they cherished. The award will be presented May 19 at ceremonies at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.
On A Mission – Teen With the Right Stuff Leads Fray Over Gus Grissom Spacesuit
American astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom was originally going to be the first man to walk on the moon. History shows that NASA wanted one of the original Mercury 7 to have the honor of walking on the moon, and Gus was the only one still flying with NASA.
But then a disastrous fire 39 years ago snuffed out the lives of Grissom and fellow crewmembers Edward White, the first man to walk in space, and Roger Chaffee, a rookie astronaut who would have had his first mission on Apollo 1.
The three died on January 27, 1967, during the "plugs out" test. A spark was lit inside the pure oxygen system, causing a fire to rip through the capsule.
Fast-forward to 2006 and meet Connecticut teenager Amanda Meyer, 15, of Madison. While most teen girls immerse themselves in iPods and Lucky magazine, Amanda was focused on honoring the life of her hero, Gus Grissom. Her improbable one-woman mission to return Grissom’s historic spacesuit to his family has been covered nationwide in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on ABC-TV News.
According to Amanda, the story goes like this: Grissom’s son, Scott, reports that after his father's 1961 flight in the Liberty Bell 7, the second manned U.S. space flight, NASA was going to throw out the aluminized nylon and rubber suit, but his father wanted it. So he pulled it out of the dumpster and kept it. This happened in 1965. NASA was fully aware he had the suit, and they did not care, Amanda says Scott told her. Since the fatal Apollo 1 accident, his family would "lend" it to different museums, exhibits and ceremonies to keep his memory alive. When the family lent suit to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA decided to keep the suit, and refused to give it back.
“All of the spacesuits are government property purchased with taxpayer dollars,” said Lisa Malone, director of external relations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This led to a bitter ownership dispute between the Grissom family and by default, the Smithsonian Institution.
Amanda, a high school sophomore, has met the Grissom family, traveled to Pad 34 at the Kennedy Space Center to lay a wreath at a memorial plaque, has written to every U.S. Senator to secure the suit’s safe return, collected over 5,000 petition signatures, even contacted Vice President Cheney to address the Senate on her behalf.
Recently, some progress was made. The Smithsonian, which has possession of the suit, reportedly agreed to move it to the Gus Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Ind. Just one catch: for a protective case to be built, and the suit to be cleaned, $23,000 needs to be raised. Amanda is currently soliciting corporate donations from the likes of GE, Pratt and Whitney and Lockheed Martin. (For more information: www.freewebs.com/mercury7savethesuit).
Would-You-Dare Movies – New York Times freelancer Wendy Knight wrote a round-up story about mountain film festivals in the Jan. 6 issue, remarking, “In these cinema events, hardcore and armchair athletes watch scenes of jaw-dropping athletic feats and daring natural exploration, all in celebration of life on the edge.” Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, whose own 1968 film, Mountain of Storms, inspired many others, tells Knight, “The common thread of climbing, surfing, and skiing is that they are non-motorized, involve personal risk and a deep connection with nature. You can see these films on video at home, but it’s not the same thing.”
More Giant Leaps for Mankind – Former astronaut Neil Armstrong, during his book tour pitching First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, discussed manned flight to Mars at a meeting in Malaysia last September. The 75-year-old Armstrong said, “It will be expensive, it will take a lot of energy and complex spacecraft. But I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo (program) in 1961.”
According to a December story by Associated Press reporter Terry Kinney, Armstrong rejected numerous requests to write his biography, but finally settled on a proposal from James Hansen, a history professor at Auburn University and a former NASA historian. Armstrong’s share of profits will go to his alma mater, Purdue University, for a space program archive.
Heinrich Harrer (1912-2006)
The exploration world mourns the passing on Jan. 7 of Austrian Heinrich Harrer, 93, best known in mountaineering circles for his bold first ascent of the Eiger’s North Face (aka “Murder Wall”) in 1938, which was depicted in his classic book, The White Spider. In 1944, four years after a failed attempt on Nanga Parbat, he and his partner Peter Aufschnaiter escaped from a British POW camp in India and made their way in an arduous trip to forbidden Tibet where they were welcomed by the young Dalai Lama.
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