Expedition News
October 2006 – Volume Thirteen, Number Ten

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.


Pete Bethune, 41, an amateur sailor from New Zealand, has a new $2.4 million trimaran speedboat fueled by a substance most of us throw away. Next year he hopes to complete the fastest circumnavigation of the globe in a motorboat while using nothing but biodiesel – renewable fuel that can be made with salvaged French fry grease, refined soybean oil and other organic and recycled oils. The record attempt is due to start in March from Barbados, after a North American tour this fall helps raise funds and publicize the experimental boat, dubbed Earthrace. The boat is a showcase of environmentally friendly technologies such as low-emission engines, non-toxic anti-foul paints, and efficient hull design.

While an estimated $500,000 is needed for the project, none of it will be spent at the pump. According to the New York Times, in Hawaii the boat was powered by the drippings of cruise liners’ deep fryers. In Vancouver, Bethune said “fill ‘er up” to tallow, drawn from the hard fat of sheep and cattle.

Bethune is actively seeking corporate sponsorship; for $50,000 he’ll plaster a logo on the side of the 78-ft. craft. Meanwhile, he’s just keeping his head above water. Bethune has sunk $650,000 of his own money in the project, has mortgaged his home three times, and has borrowed another $650,000 from banks, friends and family. Undaunted, he nonetheless understands why nautical sponsors can be hard to find. “The sight of a boat sinking with someone’s name on the side can be disconcerting,” he tells the New York Times.

The world record for circumnavigating the globe by powerboat is 75 days, set in 1998 by a British vessel called the Cable & Wireless Adventurer. Bethune’s Earthrace hopes to do it faster while raising awareness for the environmental benefits of biodiesel. (For more information: EarthRace.net)


Now You’re Tawking – Fast-talking New Yorker Fran Capo, who we first wrote about in the August 2004 issue of EN, is helping to market greetings cards with a fellow Kilimanjaro climber. Fran, you’ll recall, climbed Kili on July 10, 2004 and managed to garner a new world record in Ripley’s Believe it or Not - Planet Eccentric book, by being the first author to do a book signing at the top of that mountain. She’s also a record-breaking fast-talker, but that’s another story. Capo met Eitan Battat, owner of Kiwi Publishing, who climbed Kili in February 2005. Together they are now marketing a line of greeting cards containing images Battat photographed on his climb. After they have raised a sufficient amount of money, Eitan and Capo plan to return to Africa, donate funds to the Tella Primary School in Tanzania, and produce a documentary of the entire experience. (For more information: Tella-Jerusalem.com, KiwiPublishing.com, FranCapo.com)


Give a Hand to Sir RanSir Ranulph Fiennes, 62, who has dragged sleds across Antarctica, run marathons on each continent and summitted Everest – but is terrified of heights – climbed the 450-ft. (137m) Old Man of Hoy in the Orkneys last month with only one good hand. He tackled the sandstone sea stack as a warm-up for his planned March 2007 ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps to raise money for cancer care. His first wife, Ginny, died from cancer in 2004 and his mother and two sisters also died from it. Sir Ran, who started climbing when he was 60, suffers from vertigo, a heart condition, and after developing severe frostbite on a solo polar journey in 2000, had all the fingers on one hand amputated at the half knuckle. The Old Man of Hoy is one of the most famous and distinctive summits in the British Isles.

Alpha Global Expedition Postponed – The U.K.’s Adrian Flanagan has been forced to postpone the final phase of his Alpha Global Expedition. Flanagan, 45 of Ludgershall near Oxford, set sail from Falmouth last October in his quest to sail the first single-handed “vertical” circumnavigation around the Russian Arctic coast. Unfortunately, 10 and a half months later, after a succession of misfortunes, he's decided he'll now have to wait until next year to complete his voyage.

Flanagan's big problems started with gear failure on Barrabas, his 38-ft. stainless steel sloop. Then difficulties in obtaining permission to enter Russian waters led to a delay which finally spelled the end of his journey this year. Flanagan recorded the first single-handed, non-stop and unassisted passage between the U.K. and Hawaii when he arrived in Honolulu last May after 18,000 miles. Reportedly, the Russian Arctic has never been sailed single-handed – only five fully crewed yachts have made the passage. In June 2007, Flanagan will pick up where he left off.

Pie in the SkyBriton Francis Williams and his wife, Sue, claim to have raked in £4 million in four years by selling land on the moon. Spurring sales for this lunar land grab was a recent warning by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking’s that mankind would have to leave Earth and colonize space if it was to survive. The Williamses company, MoonEstates, based in the U.K., is making more than £1 million annually selling lunar real estate for £20 an acre.

The couple – Francis calls himself “Celestial Ambassador to Britain” – were granted the rights to sell off the moon by American Dennis Hope, who in 1980 exploited a loophole in the U.S. legal system to lay claim to owning every planet in the solar system. He cited the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which states that no government or country can own land in space. It does not, however, outlaw individual claims to territory. The Williamses earn around £2 for every £20 acre sold, with the rest going to the original American franchise. “We are simply offering the chance to live on another planet. We think in about 15 years time it will be viable to go to the moon,” said Sue Williams. Like the infamous International Star Registry in the U.S., most of the land they sell is given as gifts.

Mont Blanc Trashed – Europe's tallest mountain is dirty and overcrowded, according to a French mayor who has ignited controversy with a proposal to limit the number of climbers on Mont Blanc. Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the Alpine village Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, estimated that up to 30,000 people climb the 4810m (15,781-ft.) mountain each summer, overwhelming overnight refuges and polluting glaciers with garbage and human waste.

"It's intolerable," he told a packed public meeting in Saint-Gervais last month, recounting how on a recent survey of Mont Blanc his helicopter landed on a glacier strewn with frozen excrement, the ice stained yellow from urine. "The problem is that many people think that a garbage truck and a street cleaner will pass the next day."

He said requiring permits to access the Voie Royale path starting at Saint-Gervais – the most popular Mont Blanc ascent because it is easier than routes in France's Chamonix or Italy – could ensure mountain refuges are not filled beyond their capacity, and alert amateur hikers to the demands of the climb, and the importance of carrying their garbage down.

Scientific Exploration Society Seeks Volunteer Explorers – The U.K.’s Scientific Expedition Society is offering explorers of all ability levels an opportunity to gain more experience on paid expeditions. Trips include:

  • Expedition to Abode of the Clouds – In 2003, Dr. John Davies of Truro, Cornwall, U.K., led an expedition organized by the SES with the aid of the British charity Just a Drop to Meghalaya in northeast India. The purpose was to install a solar-powered water supply in the remote village of Riangmaw for the Lingum tribe. The team has been invited back next month to check on the supply and to undertake research into malaria which some villagers appeared to be suffering from. Additionally, the team of approximately 12 people will be searching for an undocumented hunting and gathering tribe who are reported to live in limestone caves – some of the deepest in Southeast Asia.

  • The Wager Quest – Explorer and SES chairman, John Blashford-Snell, will be leading an expedition to Chile next month to survey the fabled wreck of the HMS Wager which sank in 1741. The surviving captain’s party included Midshipman Byron (who later became Admiral Lord Byron, grandfather of the famous poet). The land team will undertake wildlife and community aid studies and projects in Tortel National Park, assisting the Chilean Environmental and Wildlife Agency (CONAF).

  • Counting Tamaraws – SES travels to Mindoro in the Philippines next April to join the Philippines Government and Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office (PENRO) in an annual count of the endangered Tamaraw. The Tamaraw is a small water buffalo weighing about 660 lbs. Its small size and great strength enables it to push through dense jungle and climb steep mountains, but it is a critically endangered species with only 200-300 remaining in the world. Indigenous to the upper hills of Mount Iglit (altitude 2,858 feet), the Tamaraw lives within a national park but is threatened by illegal hunting, disease and reduction of their natural habitat. Unfortunately, attempts to breed them in captivity have proved unsuccessful to date.

  • Ecuadorian Amazonia – Most visitors head for the legendary Galapagos, but there is another beautiful and fascinating area of tropical forest and lakes, which is visited far less often. This is the Ecuadorian Amazonia in the eastern part of the country. The Indian villages of Zancudo and Zabalo are located on the Rio Aguarico. Both villages, small communities of approximately 100 each, are suffering from a lack of clean drinking water and materials for their schools, as well as medical and dental aid. Blashford-Snell will be leading a small party in March 2007 to install a water system at Zabalo, and provide aid to the village schools. The archaeology and wildlife of the area will also be examined.

  • The Bolivian Amazon – The Ojaki tribe will lead an SES team and geologists from Sergeotechmin, Bolivia’s Institute of Technology, deep into the jungle to investigate a 5-mi. wide meteorite crater. In return, the team will install a clean water supply to an Indian community and provide the people with dental aid. Departure for the 42-day expedition is scheduled for mid-July.
    (For more information: U.K. (+44)1747-854-898, Ses-Explore.org)


    “Let us not follow where the path may lead. Let us go instead where there is no path. And leave a trail." – Japanese proverb


    Trip Report: The 2006 Paititi Expedition

    Gregory Deyermenjian, 56, of Boston, returned in July from an expedition with fellow Explorers Club member Paulino Mamani, 44, of Calca, Peru (See EN, February 2006). The area traversed is to the north of Peru's Río Yavero, in the Department (State) of Cusco, within the unexplored high-altitude jungle and cloud forest areas between the Yavero, Taperachi, and Ticumpinea rivers. Their expedition, which carried a flag awarded by The Explorers Club, was funded by the National Geographic Expeditions Council, with additional funds provided by W.L. Gore and Associates' Shipton-Tilman Grant, nutritional products supplied by Greens+, and other aid given by Black Diamond/Bibler Tents and Patagonia.

    The goal of the Paititi Expedition was to determine what evidence of ancient Incan habitation might lie beyond the Incan ceremonial platforms they had discovered and documented in 1999 and 2004, respectively, at the large highland lake now known as the "Lago de Ángel" and atop the peak known as "Último Punto," sites that had come to represent the furthest reach of the Incas yet discovered in that direction.

    This year, however, rather than retracing their steps through the high tundra of the puna, to follow unmapped Incan trails past their previous finds and endlessly down toward the tropical forests, they made a nearly last-minute change in tactic. They instead went by vehicle along newly-bulldozed rough dirt roads along the sub-tropical Río Yavero that took them far to the west of, and below, what was to be their exploration zone well beyond Último Punto. Then they left the vehicle, climbed into the high-altitude jungle to the north, and headed east, ascending the valley of the unnavigable and rapids-strewn Río Taperachi in the direction of the highlands. They hoped by this route to be able to "head off" the furthest Incan remains by beginning beyond the probable edge of Incan influence and working their way in.

    Leaving behind them the last ramshackle hut of mestizo colonizers and the last vestiges of frontier jungle trails, they cut their way ever eastward, ascending the unexplored upper reaches of the river valley. Further up the hillsides overlooking the Taperachi they began to find exactly the far remains that they sought. First they came upon a lone Incan retaining wall of stone, supporting one long-overgrown terrace.

    Further upriver, over the course of the next week and a half, they uncovered three more sites from the dense jungle growth. The second site contained the remains of a three-sided edifice in addition to a retaining wall for terracing. The third was the most extensive, with three retaining walls for terraces, rough platforms, and the low walls of a few ruined stone buildings.

    Their fourth site, consisting of nothing more than two very rough retaining walls, was found to lie to the north of the Taperachi, after the explorers had used fallen tree limbs to cross the treacherous river and begun their ascent of the unnamed range that lies between that river and the Ticumpinea. After having finally reached its highest peak, they were able to view directly across to their northeast, beyond the deep gorge of the Ticumpinea, an area that is a huge literal blank on the map, marked DATOS INSUFUCIENTES –Insufficient Data – on the latest satellite/aerial photography-generated maps. A few minutes of clear weather permitted them, from their never-before reached perch, a unique view of the endless forest-covered mountains that are almost constantly enshrouded in cloud.

    e-mailed While none of the sites would be considered memorable for what they contained – being all of a style that is rough and rústico, and similar to many others that Mamani and Deyermenjian have found scattered over vast areas of adjacent high-altitude jungle in Mameria, Callanga, Toporake, and other locales – they are, rather, worthy of note for where they are located, representing to date the furthest attempts by the Incas to settle the most remote sub-tropical lands directly to the north of their beloved highland capital of Cusco.

    On their return, the explorers made another initial traverse, climbing over the cloud-forested range to the south of the Taperachi, to emerge at the source of the Rio Maputinari, then beginning a steep descent full of worry and unavoidable mishap, cutting their way "blind" down to the river below, before trekking on to the Yavero, and from there by prearranged vehicle back to Cusco.

    Deyermenjian summed up the project in an e-mail to EN: “This is territory so ridiculously difficult and accidentado that it's hard to imagine how the Incas of 500 years ago – most likely having been a tad less crazy and fanatical and masochistic than Paulino and myself and the lads – possibly made it through there. But make it there they must have, because we found their rough attempts at agricultural settlement beyond the beyond.”

    The PAITITI expedition team is now formulating strategy and tactics for the next expedition, to fully document what they have found, and to see what is yet to be uncovered, further on. (For more information: Gregory Deyermenjian, (+1) 781-968-5174, Paititi.com/search-for-paititi.html).


    Top of the Heap – Pioneering alpinist Steve House models for the New York Times Style Magazine’s Men’s Fashion Fall 2006 issue wearing the latest Patagonia and sporting a full rack of ‘biners. Last year House forged a new 13,500-ft. path up the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. A native of Oregon, House, 36, is said to have “maintained a certain utilitarian chic, thanks in part to a Patagonia sponsorship.” House admits to the Times, “When you’re 25 and living in a truck and making $10,000 a year, a new jacket is a big deal.” The story continues, “Now he’s fairly indifferent to making a fashion statement. After all, his greatest achievement, he jokes, is surviving.”

    Overcoming the Challenge of Colitis and Crohn’s – The Bristol-Myers Squibb 2005 annual report includes a profile of Vancouver, B.C. climber Rob Hill who plans to climb the Seven Summits. Hill, 36, suffered from ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease 10 years ago, a condition that forced him to have surgery to remove his colon. “It came to losing my colon or losing my life,” he says. Shortly after being fitted with a Bristol-Myers Squibb ConvaTec pouching system, Hill began working his way back to his superactive life. So far he has scaled five of the seven peaks in a campaign he calls “No Guts – Know Glory.” By mid-2008 he hopes to knock off Oceania’s Carstensz Pyramid and Asia’s Everest. “Once, because of my illness, I could barely climb up the stairs,” Hill says. “Now I want to show that you can live your life and achieve your goals, small or large, no matter who you are.”

    For his inspirational efforts, Hill was recognized by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and ConvaTec with an honorary award from the Great Comebacks Program, which, for more than 20 years, has given special recognition to those whose life stories inspire people living with an ostomy. He currently serves as executive director of the Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society (IDEAS).

    RFK Jr. in New Exploration IMAX – IMAX theater film producers MacGillivray Freeman Films, Teva, and the Waterkeeper Alliance, are producing a new film that will help raise awareness for water issues around the world. Waterkeeper Alliance is a grass roots advocacy organization dedicated to protecting waterways from polluters.

    Set against the majestic backdrop of the Grand Canyon, Water Planet: Grand Canyon Adventure, set for worldwide release in Spring 2008, will take audiences on a 15-day river-rafting adventure down the Colorado River in the company of a team of 44 explorers who are committed to bringing global awareness to the issue of water. Guides include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmental activist who is leading the charge for increased water conservation and river restoration; Wade Davis, the eminent ethno-botanist whose studies of plants and indigenous cultures in the Amazon River Basin give him a unique perspective for observing conditions along the Colorado River; Shana Watahomigie, a Grand Canyon guide and Native American of the Havasupai tribe; and extreme kayaker Nikki Kelly.

    As presenting sponsor, Teva is planning a multi-million dollar marketing and promotional campaign to support the film launch. (For more information: MacFreeFilms.com)


    It’s a Dirty World Out There. Somebody’s Got to Sanitize It. – The search is on for America's most eager kid explorers and the teachers who inspire them. Fifteen young explorers and two teachers will win the field trip of a lifetime – a 10-day South African safari expedition. In August 2007, winners will explore the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve and Grootbos Nature Reserve with National Geographic and local experts as their guides.

    It is all part of the National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge, a national essay and photo competition sponsored by National Geographic Kids magazine and the makers of Purell instant hand sanitizer created to promote hands-on (get it?) exploration among America's youth.

    Earlier this year, 15 young explorers were part of the inaugural team that visited the Galapagos Islands. They were selected from more than 3,200 contestants who shared their passion for exploration with the magazine’s readers.

    The inaugural 2006 team is already making its mark. Team member Leah Dial, 14, will open a photo exhibit at the University of Oklahoma this month that features photos of her Galapagos trip; Elena Mpougas, 11, had a multi-page spread in The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., and has been asked to join the staff as a freelance photojournalist for their teen section, INK, next spring; and Ella Beaudoin, 12, was honored in June at the Minnesota governor's mansion as part of the annual "Memorable Minnesota Women" dinner hosted by the state's first lady.

    What would attract a hand sanitizer to venture into expedition sponsorship? Listen to Dawn Kidd, senior product manager for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare: "It's a germy world out there, and when kids go exploring, they pick up germs on their hands just about everywhere they go."

    Kidd continues, "We want parents to feel comfortable that by teaching their kids good hand hygiene, including using Purell when soap and water are not available, they can kill the most common germs they may pick up while keeping the fun and adventure of hands-on exploring alive." (For more information: at Hands-OnExplorer.com)

    Gimme Shelter – NEMO Equipment Inc., a tent manufacturer based in Nashua, N.H., has been selected to work on the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Extreme eXPeditionary Architecture (EXP-Arch) project. The goal is to create concepts based on highly mobile, quickly deployable and retractable architecture systems for the Earth, Moon, Mars, and beyond. The EXP-Arch concept envisions mobile, self-erecting habitat/laboratory/emergency shelter systems that demonstrate adaptive exploration and are responsive to their environment. NEMO's knowledge of lightweight and inflatable systems will help this project reach its goal of creating a habitable environment that expands up to 50 times its packed volume.

    NEMO's principle innovation is its use of a low-pressure pneumatic structure rather than aluminum tent poles. This "airbeam" structure allows their air-supported tents to be set up in less than one minute. Most NEMO tents are single wall and constructed from advanced waterproof/breathable fabrics to minimize weight and maximize breathability.

    "NEMO's mission is to stretch the limits of technology for adventure and survival in extreme environments,” said Cam Brensinger, president and founder of NEMO Equipment. The EXP-Arch project is a collaboration of Trotti & Associates, Inc., MIT and NEMO Equipment, Inc., and is funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. (For more information: Brendan Condit, (+1) 603-881-9353, NemoEquipment.com, brendan@nemoequipment.com)


    The Big Five – Term used at South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve to describe the country’s most popular safari sightings: elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo. (Source: National Geographic Kids; see related story).

    Trail Magic – Bags of candy bars or coolers of sodas left along the Appalachian Trail by well-wishers. Sometimes people living in towns along the way will have cookouts for hikers passing through. A lady in Massachusetts bakes chocolate chip cookies and leaves them on her porch for AT hikers; a retired teacher in New Hampshire opens his elegant Federal-era home to hikers.

    S-Nerd – A diehard snow geek who attends the biennial International Snow Science Workshop. The organization addresses issues of public safety such as avalanche mitigation on highways, and control at ski areas and in the backcountry. (Source: Craig Sterbenz, ISSW chairman and snow safety director for the Telluride Ski Patrol who secured Telluride, Colo., as the host site of the group’s 2006 conference).


    To The Ends of the Earth – The Explorers Club will host a public talk on Oct. 16 titled, “To the Ends of the Earth” by Club member Gordon Wiltsie. Wiltsie is the acclaimed National Geographic photographer who has spent 30 years documenting expeditions to the most remote places in the world. He will present a survey of his long and successful career, captured in exquisite photographs from the corners of the globe. His is one of five talks scheduled at the Club this month. The Explorers Club Public Lecture Series is presented by Redwood Creek Wines. Lectures start at 7 p.m.; tickets are $15. (For more information: Explorers.org)

    Banff Mountain Film and Book Festivals – The Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Oscars of exploration, is an international film competition featuring the world’s best footage on mountain subjects. The festival began in 1976 and is held annually on the first weekend in November in Banff, Alberta. This year’s film festival begins with the Feature-Length Films Weekend on Oct. 28-29. Regular programming runs Nov. 3-5, with final judging on the 5th. Presenting sponsors are National Geographic and Dunham. The concurrent Banff Mountain Book Festival features presentations by Andy Kirkpatrick, Greg Mortenson, and Borge Ousland. (For more information: www.BanffMountainFestivals.ca)

    Come Fly With MeBrian Jones, co-pilot with Bertand Piccard in the Breitling Orbiter 3 (1999 world circumnavigation in balloon), will give an illustrated presentation about the Breitling Orbiter 3 and the new Solar Impulse project (See EN, September 2006). The date is Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel, Knightsbridge, London. Admission is free to this British Scientific Exploration Society event. (For more information: Lucy Thompson, UK (+44)1747-853-353)


    TV Producer – Seeks explorers for interviews, stories and photographs. Contact: HawkPhotography.net, hawkfoto@optonline.net

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