April 2009 – Volume Sixteen, Number Four
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 15th 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 OCEAN DOCTOR HOPES TO CURE AILING SEAS
The 50 Years – 50 States – 50 Speeches Expedition is a one-year journey of outreach, education, and discovery launched by Dr. David E. Guggenheim, the self-professed "Ocean Doctor," on his 50th birthday. The project aims to bring free programs about the oceans to schools in all 50 U.S. states.
In April alone, Guggenheim has scheduled talks at five schools, from Washington to Texas to Florida and Maine. By its culmination at the end of 2009, the expedition will reach tens of thousands of students, sharing firsthand accounts of ocean exploration and important lessons about the oceans and their conservation. Guggenheim's presentations cover the seven essential principles of ocean literacy as defined by the Ocean Literacy Network, especially how the largely unexplored oceans, and humans, are inextricably linked.
Through outreach with local schools and media coverage, Guggenheim hopes the project will create an enduring wave of renewed interest in the oceans by the next generation of explorers, scientists and stewards.
Guggenheim is president of 1planet1ocean (1planet1ocean.org) as well as a consultant in conservation policy and science based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was vice president for conservation policy at The Ocean Conservancy. In addition, he led cooperative research and conservation programs in Cuba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
Guggenheim holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University in Virginia. He also holds Masters degrees in Population/Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in Regional Science from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also received a Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies.
The expedition is a joint project of The Ocean Foundation, the fiscal sponsor, along with 1planet1ocean, and is supported by tax-deductible donations to the Ocean Doctor's 50 Years - 50 States - 50 Speeches Expedition Fund. An online store also supports the efforts, with imprinted products including coffee mugs, wall clocks, even a cotton thong for $9.99 which you can see at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com. (For more information: http://oceandoctor.org/50-states)
The Abora Tries Again
German scientist Dominique Goerlitz, a former schoolteacher, now an experimental archaeologist and botanist, met with EN to provide an update on Abora IV, which will attempt to prove that ancient civilizations could have made frequent roundtrips between the Old World and the New.
This will be his fourth attempt. The ship, to be constructed of reeds at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., within view of the Statue of Liberty, will be designed according to prehistoric rock drawings.
Taking his cue from Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, Goerlitz hopes to prove that people traversed between Europe and North, Central and South America as early as 14,000 years ago, and even conducted regular cultural exchange and trade in both directions across the Atlantic Ocean.
"We want to rewrite the history of sea travel," Goerlitz told EN in 2007. "We want to show how the ships used by early seafarers were able to turn on man's will and could sail both east and west - even into the wind."
On July 11, 2007, the Abora III set out on a three-month journey from the East Coast back to Spain, departing New York in a prehistoric-style reed boat constructed of 17 tons of reed papyrus and fashioned with 16 leeboards - a vertical steering system - that he says aided seafarers some 6,000 years ago (see EN, August 2007).
They spent 56 days at sea before a series of 14 intense storms forced them to abandon the effort. Nonetheless, the documentary about Abora III produced by German Television/ZDF Enterprises continues to be broadcast worldwide. ZDF's production, "Lost on the Atlantic" will air on May 5 on the National Geographic Channel (check local listings).
He believes traces of Western hemisphere plants buried with Egyptian mummies are evidence of early trade between the continents. Plant seeds he dragged behind his ship through the ocean, seeds that later failed to propagate due to exposure to salt water, he believes is proof they were carried to the Old World by humans sailing east, and not by wind or birds or other natural causes. Goerlitz' previous expeditions were supported by Fred Olsen, Inc., Hanse Sail, KS Tools, and Marine Pool Products. Now he's seeking $800,000 in sponsorship for an eastbound trip across the Atlantic he hopes to kick off in June 2010. (For more information: abora.eu)
Jumping Spiders and New Gecko Found – A jumping spider and striped gecko were among dozens of new species found on a Papua New Guinea expedition to help Barrick Gold Corp. decide how to develop its mines.
Fifty types of spiders, three frogs, two plants and the gecko were among the species documented on the month-long trek that are believed to be new to science, the Washington D.C.- based environmental group Conservation International said.
The discoveries will aid gold miners in how to balance protecting wildlife and forests with development needs of the people in Papua New Guinea's Kaijende highlands, the group said in a statement. Three of the spiders are particularly noteworthy, said Wayne Maddison, a researcher at the University of British Columbia who contributed to the research.
"They are strikingly distinctive evolutionary lineages that had been unknown before," Maddison said. "Their key position on the evolutionary tree will help us understand how this unique group of jumping spiders has evolved."
The expedition by Conservation International, the University of British Columbia, Montclair State University and local Papuan researchers was funded by Porgera Joint Venture, 95 percent owned by Barrick, the world's largest gold producer.
New Guinea, an island north of Australia that's split between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, has proven a rich hunting ground for biologists. Conservation International in 2006 said it had found a "lost world" of 35 previously undocumented species in the Indonesian portion of the island.
India on the Fast Track – The Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) has placed more than 100 peaks on a fast-track permit list, in which the permit process should be reduced to three weeks versus the previous three months, according to Mandip Singh Soin, managing director of Ibex Expeditions. The list of "open" peaks in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttarakhand contains many 6,000- and 7,000-meter giants, including such well-known peaks as Thalay Sagar, Shivling, Nun and Kun, and Nanda Devi East. (For more information: http://www.IndMount.org/peakinfo.html)
iPhone App Aimed at Budding Explorers – You or your kids have just a little too much time on your hands? Then go to iTunes and download the iPhone app called Hidden Expedition: Everest.
The game is based on a race between you and three teams to the world's tallest mountain with numerous stops around the globe. At each waypoint, you have to scour a landscape or scene for hidden objects. Each scene is about double the size of the iPhone's screen, so scrolling and enlarging are necessary to see everything. What's more, the scenes are chock full of items that aren't on your list. Tapping an item that you're not responsible for locating results in the other teams gaining on your position.
Everest is the latest game in a series from Big Fish Games whose previous titles include Hidden Expedition: Titanic and Hidden Expedition: Amazon. The cost is $1.99 at the iTunes Store, but there is a Lite version available free.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Sail Forth - Steer for the deep waters only.
Reckless O soul, exploring.
I with thee and thou with me.
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go.
And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all."
- Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Adventures in Plastic – British explorer David de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty, tells Conde Nast Traveler (January 2009), he plans to sail from Sydney to San Francisco aboard the Plastiki, a vessel made in part from plastic bottles, to draw attention to the amount of plastic in the oceans and "absurd" dependence upon bottled water.
"I'll be visiting the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, an ocean 'landfill' twice the size of Texas," he tells writer Kate Maxwell. "In England, there's an obsession with explorers like Robert Scott of the Antarctic. He's so revered that normal people have no connection to him. I'm trying to do the opposite with my adventures - I'm making them relevant and accessible to people."
Submersible Fun – After 40 years of undersea exploration, Robert Ballard said he still has a favorite prank he likes to play on rookie submariners. The world-famous oceanographer and explorer told an audience at Syracuse University in late March that when he takes people on their first dive in his submersible, Alvin, he likes to indulge fears that condensation falling from the sub's hatch is in fact a leak.
"We would take bets on how many drips it would take a person to become concerned," he said. "It usually takes about eight drips before they say something."
This is one facet of Ballard's extraordinary career, which includes his discovery of the Titanic two miles deep in the North Atlantic Ocean, that he shared with a crowd of about 300, according to a story by Steve Doane in the university's campus newspaper, The Daily Orange.
Ballard's speech, titled "Adventure in Deep Sea Exploration: Living the Dream," covered projects including the first manned expedition to the mid-ocean rift in the Atlantic Ocean, his discovery of new life off the Galapagos Islands, and finding historic shipwrecks such as the Titanic, the U.S.S. Yorktown and the Nazi battleship Bismarck. He is also credited with locating PT-109, the boat President John F. Kennedy used during World War II.
"I find a joy in exploration, and I enjoy getting people excited about what lies ahead, because so much is unexplored," Ballard said.
Who Discovered the North Pole? – A century ago, explorer Robert Peary earned fame for discovering the North Pole, but did Frederick Cook get there first?
Bruce Henderson writes in the April Smithsonian magazine, "In classrooms and textbooks, Peary was long anointed the discoverer of the North Pole-until 1988, when a re-examination of his records commissioned by the National Geographic Society, a major sponsor of his expeditions, concluded that Peary's evidence never proved his claim and suggested that he knew he might have fallen short. Cook's claim, meanwhile, has come to rest in a sort of polar twilight, neither proved nor disproved, although his descriptions of the Arctic region-made public before Peary's-were verified by later explorers."
Henderson, author of True North: Peary, Cook and the Race to the Pole (W.W. Norton, 2006) goes on to write, "Any endeavor to reach the pole is complicated by this fact: unlike the South Pole, which lies on a landmass, the North Pole lies on drifting sea ice. After fixing your position at 90 degrees north-where all directions point south-there is no way to mark the spot, because the ice is constantly moving.
"The notes that Peary and Cook reported leaving at the pole have never been found. The first undisputed overland trek to the North Pole wasn't made until 1968, when a party led by a Minnesotan named Ralph Plaisted arrived by snowmobile. But other explorers preceded Plaisted, arriving by air and by sea, and confirmed Cook's original descriptions of the polar sea, ice islands and the westward drift of the polar ice. So the question persists: How did Cook get so much right if he never got to the North Pole in 1908?"
Rare Hillary Film Saved from the Trash – Rare footage of Sir Edmund Hillary about to embark on his historic expedition to Antarctica has been found in a New Zealand loft amongst junk destined for the trash. The black and white 16mm film in perfect condition was discovered in February in the loft of CB Norwood, a farm machinery company in Palmerston North that supplied tractors for the expedition. It shows Hillary being teased by team members for having a haircut and the team leaving Christchurch aboard the ship Endeavour bound for Antarctica in 1957.
The "rusty old can" containing the film was found by a CB Norwood staff member. Another staff member, Paul Collins, took the film home to play on his projector. "It was magic, absolutely magic," he told The Dominion Post.
Hillary led the New Zealand component of the joint Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic expedition, which was the first party to reach the South Pole since Robert Falcon Scott's expedition in 1912. Copies of the footage have been donated to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Where Barbara Met Harry & Sally – Explorers and adventurers have been honored for years for their achievements. The Explorers Club has its Explorers Club Medal and Lowell Thomas Awards. But we daresay few have been honored with a photo on the walls of New York's famed Katz's Delicatessen, scene of the fake orgasm scene in the hit movie When Harry Met Sally (1989). There's even a sign overhead to commemorate the table.
New Yorker Barbara Hillary, 77, an adventurer who is reportedly the first African-American woman to ski any distance to the North Pole (see EN, March 2009), commands some choice real estate near the corned beef and rye.
You can see the photo of Hillary that's hanging at Katz's Deli by logging onto the Expedition News blog at ExpeditionNews.BlogSpot.com.
Mountain Hardwear Announces 2009 Expedition Sponsorships – Mountain Hardwear will give total of $10,000 to help fund two expeditions: Operation Denali, enabling four wounded soldiers to overcome combat injuries and summit 20,320 ft. Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska, and the New Zealand Batura Expedition, first ascents of the south faces of Kampire Dior (7142 m) and Kuk Sar (6934 m) in Northern Pakistan.
A team of warriors wounded in Iraq, two of which are amputees, plans to ascend the West Buttress route of Denali in June 2009. The four soldiers, Marc Hoffmeister (U.S. Army Officer), Matt Nyman (U.S. Army), David Shebib (U.S. Army) and Jon Kuniholm (U.S. Marine Corps), share a common goal to overcome devastating combat injuries and to summit the highest mountain in North America, "a symbol of the strength of America and those who defend it."
In preparation, they have worked tirelessly toward rehabilitation with sports therapists, exercise physiologists and several orthopedic doctors. They also completed a twelve-day mountaineering course with the Alaska Mountaineering School in July 2008. (For more information: TheVeteransCoalition.org/operation_denali/)
In June and July 2009, journalist and mountaineer Patricia Deavoll will lead a seasoned team of mountaineers to the western reaches of Karakoram, Pakistan. This remote region has seen very few climbers and none have attempted the southern faces of Kampire Dior and Kuk Sar in the Baltoro Glacier. The high profile team, all hailing from New Zealand, includes Lydia Bradey, the first woman to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen, and professional guides Dean Staples and Brian Alder.
(For more information on the company: MountainHardWear.com)
No Bull – Stamford, Conn. surgeon and Everest summiteer Sherman Bull, M.D., is looking seriously healthy in an ad for V8 juice running on the back cover of the AARP magazine (May/June issue). The headline reads, "People who stay healthy can really go places. Like the top of Mt. Everest." Bull, 72, is credited as the oldest person to ever summit Mt. Everest in 2001.
The current campaign is the first time the V8 brand has used real people in its advertising, as opposed to actors. Senior Brand Manager Greg Dolan said the idea of using "super seniors" was born out of the brand's mission to help nourish people's lives and motivate them to get more vegetables every day, as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.
The strangest part of the image of Bull is not the fact that he's standing on a fake rock covered in fake snow in a photo studio, but the lack of sponsor patches on his red and black down suit. There's not a logo in sight, except for the can of V8 juice.
Skiing Indoors in New Jersey? Can't Wait – Xanadu, America's first indoor snowpark planned for the New Jersey Meadowlands, is advertising, "An ideal winter outing in the safe environment of being indoors." The economy has delayed opening of the $2.3 billion entertainment complex at least nine months until August 2009. Until then, outdoor enthusiasts will just have to settle for the real thing.
Buff Stuff – Buff Headwear of Santa Rosa, Calif., provided all 14 guides and climbers from Alpine Ascents International (AAI) with an assortment of UV and Original Buff samples for an Everest expedition that departed late last month.
Alpine Ascents International is an expedition guide service that leads trips all over the world, from Mount Rainier to the Himalayas to the Andes. National Geographic magazine named Alpine Ascents one of the "Best Travel Companies on Earth" in February 2009.
After a few weeks spent acclimating and establishing higher camps, AAI team members (guides, climbers and Sherpa crew) will attempt a summit bid in mid to late May. The company says its product can be worn over 12 different ways to accommodate different temperatures and offer a custom fit. (For more information: Buff.us)
The Lost City of Z
By David Grann (Doubleday 2008)
Reviewed by Robert F. Wells
Ever since the Spanish poked around South America in the 1500's, tales described dazzling riches enveloped by jungles around the Amazon. They're lying in El Dorado... the city of Z. Unimaginable quantities of gold and silver. Stories festered. Then Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911 - and kindled others to a cause. In 1925, a world-renowned explorer, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett departed with his son to find the "Lost City of Z." They never returned.
If you've read The River of Doubt – detailing Theodore Roosevelt's wild venture up the Amazon - you have a sense of what hacking through dense vegetation is all about. You meet the nicest things. A local catfish (candiru) lodges in human orifices to suck blood. Sauba ants reduce clothing to threads in a single night. Hairy chiggers consume human tissue. Parasitic worms cause blindness. Snake venom shuts down the central nervous systems of victims. Berni flies deposit larva under skin. Pium flies (almost invisible) cover bodies with lesions. "Kissing bugs" transfer a protozoan to humans that will kill them decades later. Then there's malaria, yellow fever, "bone crusher" fever and elephantiasis. And we haven't even talked about various indigenous tribes - many of which practice cannibalism.
I know. You want to drop everything and paddle up the Amazon.
Anyway. That's exactly what Fawcett did. Blinded by a lusty madness that became much more lethal than any of the antagonizing anomalies listed above. Fawcett was a Victorian amateur with an itch. A product of the Royal Geographic Society's penchant for exploration.
(As aptly put by one of the Society's members, "Explorers are not, perhaps, the most promising people with whom to build a society. Indeed, some might say that explorers become explorers precisely because they have a streak of unsociability and a need to remove themselves at regular intervals as far as possible from their fellow men.")
David Grann, the author bit the same lure - bringing Fawcett's tragic venture back to life. Sorry, you will not escape ... while you turn each leaf with images of foot-falls in darkness as incessant tropical rains turn your being into a heavy muck and a quest for what will remain secret. Is there a "Lost City of Z"? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Good luck. I hope you return.
Robert F. Wells is a member of The Explorers Club since 1991, a resident of Darien, Conn., and a retired executive of the Young & Rubicam ad agency. Bob is the director of a steel band and in 1989, at the age of 45, traveled south 350 miles by road bike from Canada to Long Island Sound in a single 19-hr., 28-min. push.
ON THE HORIZON
Peary's Captain Honored – One hundred years ago, Capt. Bob Bartlett helped the Arctic explorer Robert Peary become the first person to reach the North Pole. Bartlett, a recipient of the Hubbard Medal given by the National Geographic Society, will be honored throughout this year in Newfoundland and Labrador, where he was born in the port town of Brigus in 1875.
From July 7 through Aug. 13, the Marine Institute in St. John's will offer a simulation of Peary's famous polar expedition aboard his ship, the Roosevelt, during which participants will be able to virtually sail the Arctic, including navigating around icebergs. The Arctic schooner Bowdoin, which first crossed the Arctic Circle in 1921, will stop at 12 ports in July and August, including Twillingate, Bonavista, St. Anthony and L'Anse au Loup.
Each port visit will include music, one-person historical dramas and a traveling exhibition, "Sea and Ice ... the Extraordinary Life of Captain Bob Bartlett," with 30 panels of documentation, film footage, artifacts and maps (For more information: Bartlett2009.com)
Space Stories – On May 2, The Explorers Club in New York (46 East 70th Street) is hosting "Space Stories," a day of presentations spanning from traditional space and aeronautical disciplines to emerging fields in space exploration.
Presenters include: Dr. Steve Squyres and the Mars Exploration Rover Project; Astronaut Dr. Leroy Chiao, a veteran of four space flights, who has logged a total of 229 days, 7 hours in space - including 36 hours and 7 minutes of EVA time in six space walks; Dr. Gregory Olsen, the third private citizen to orbit the earth on the International Space Station (ISS); and Craig Covault, the "Dean of Space Journalism," will be speaking about his nearly 37 years with Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
Presentations start at 10 a.m. Cost is $55 and includes breakfast, lunch, and post-event reception. (For more information: (+1) 212-628-8383, email@example.com)
Mountainfilm Focuses on Movies That Matter – Currently in its 31th year, the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colo., May 22-25, is a four-day, six-senses experience of art, adventure, culture and the environment. It attracts filmmakers, photographers, conservationists, mountaineers and explorers from around the world. A distinguishing and enduring feature of the Mountainfilm festival is the number of diverse personalities who make presentations throughout the Memorial Day weekend event.
Confirmed speakers include: Ken Burns, America's master documentary filmmaker; Nicholas Kristof, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist; Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Society; and environmental activist and writer, Bill McKibben. (For more information: MountainFilm.org)
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS Pixels for Charity Correction – In last month's story about Brian Dickinson, the 34-year-old systems engineer from Seattle who will begin an attempt to climb the Seven Summits, the second reference to Mt. Baker in his climbing resume should have read instead Mt. Adams.
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