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EXPEDITION NEWS, founded in 1994, 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.


December 2014 - Volume Twenty-One, Number Twelve

Celebrating Our 20th Year!                                          





If you really want to impress the climbing community, tell them you've summitted K2. Everest, as tallest, of course gets most of the publicity. But K2 is the real prize for those in the know.

After the avalanche tragedy this past April that claimed 16 Sherpas on Mt. Everest, there is some buzz that K2, the world's second-highest and technically more challenging peak, will become a bigger mountaineering prize.


K2: The Savage Mountain (Photo credit: Alan Arnette)

Statistics between the two mountains differ dramatically. As of this year, Everest has seen 18 times the number of summits as K2 - 6,971 compared to 385 K2 summits, according to the Himalayan Database and

This year K2 clocked 49 summits, the second best season in 50 years since the mountain was first summitted in 1954 by Italian climbers Achille Campagnoni and Lino Lacedelli.


Vanessa O'Brien hopes to be the first American woman to summit K2.  (Photo credit: Penny Vizcarra)

In 2015, Vanessa O'Brien, 50, a former banker from Boston is joining Madison Mountaineering's Garrett Madison to attempt K2. If she summits, she will be the first-ever American woman to do so. Only 18 women have climbed K2.

O'Brien holds the record for fastest woman to climb the seven summits (highest peaks on each continent), and the Explorers Grand Slam (seven summits plus skiing the last degree to the North and South poles) in 10 and 11 months, respectively. In addition to Everest, she also has summitted the 8,000-meter peaks Shishapangma, Cho Oyu and Manaslu.

Companies or individuals interested in sponsoring O'Brien or in joining Madison's K2 expedition, should contact O'Brien at


Expeditions come in all shapes and sizes, as faithful readers of the monthly Expedition News 
have come to learn. One rather straightforward project that is ongoing in Punta Gorda, Belize, is Project Permit, where researchers tag permit, a shallow-water gamefish, to discover their still-unknown spawning patterns. The study is being conducted by Dr. Aaron Adams of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, a not-for-profit group that aims to identify and protect critical permit habitats in an attempt to maintain a sustainable population. This species is threatened by changes in their ecosystem, according to Brian Irwin, an outdoor journalist and physician from New Hampshire.  


Tagging will help discover spawning grounds (Photo credit: Brian Irwin)

Irwin will be participating in the permit tagging program; his findings and experience will be shared with the readers of the 
The Boston Globe and Fly Fish America magazine to enhance public awareness and allow for proper ecosystem protection.

Further exposure will be achieved through publication on Patagonia's environmental blog ( and eventually it is anticipated the study's findings will be shared in the Bonefish and Tarpon Journal, of which Irwin is a consulting editor. 

For more information: Brian Irwin,,


Vote for NatGeo's People's Choice Adventurer of the Year    


National Geographic is asking people to vote for their favorite individuals who made milestones this year in adventure with achievements in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism. The ten honorees are:

Climber Tommy Caldwell

Surfer Liz Clark

Ski Mountaineer Kit DesLauriers

Kayaker Aleksander Doba

Paragliders Will Gadd and Gavin McClurg

Activist Wasfia Nazreen

Swimmer Lewis Pugh

Alpinist Ueli Steck

Filmmakers Matt Stoecker, Ben Knight, and Travis Rummel

Blind Adventurers Erik Weihenmayer and Lonnie Bedwell

Votes can be cast until January 31, 2015 for the person you think most embodies the spirit of adventure. NatGeo will announce the People's Choice Adventurer of the Year in February. 

Learn more at:


"I am realizing there is no longevity for climbers that climb icebergs."

- Slovenian ice climber Klemen Premrl who, with fellow countryman Aljaz Anderle, attempted to summit an iceberg in Greenland's Disko Bay. They aborted the attempt when they felt something rumble under their feet. The iceberg began calving below them, encouraging both to make a hasty retreat back to their mothership, the La Louise.

See the attempt here:

Later, Premrl and Anderle successfully summitted a different iceberg in the fourth edition of HERO4: The Adventure of Life in 4K series. The episode is called To Climb an Iceberg and has over four million views:


Astronaut Cmdr. Mark Kelly Enthralls Explorers Club Audience

An SRO audience was on the edge of their seats at the Explorers Club on Dec. 12 as retired astronaut Cmdr. Mark Kelly recounted his extraordinary experiences with NASA and the U.S. Navy. Kelly, the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, flew into space four times to the International Space Station, and prior to that, served as anaval aviator during the Gulf War. At one point he piloted his A-6E Intruder attack aircraft into Iranian airspace to evade surface to air missiles, almost getting shot down by friendly fire in the process. The conversation with Kelly, moderated by Club director Jim Clash, was hosted by Breitling, makers of a $7,000 watch Kelly proudly wears.


Ret. Astronaut Cmdr. Mark Kelly 

Kelly lamented, "We haven't sent someone out of low earth orbit since I was in second grade and I'm 50 years-old now." He said the new Orion spacecraft will be tested in a flight around the moon with two astronauts within five years. "I'm hopeful the people who land on Mars someday are alive today."

On the subject of the risks involved in space flight, he reveals NASA estimates every flight has a one in 57 chance of failure, "almost as risky as storming the beach at Normandy on D-Day," he said to an audience of Breitling guests which included Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of the beloved San Francisco acid-rock group Jefferson Airplane.


"There's stuff we can deal with - we can fix a lot that goes wrong, but I can't worry about the things that are out of our control." Kelly says he's written letters to his kids four different times, letters to be opened if he dies in a fatal accident. "That's a hard thing to write."

He was tasked with retrieving the bodies of friends and classmates who perished on the Shuttle Columbia in February 2003 in the skies over Hemphill, Tex.

Kelly reveals that the opera star Sarah Brightman has paid at least $51 million to visit the Space Station in 2015 while it's in command of Kelly's identical twin brother, Capt. Scott Kelly, who will be in space for one year - if successful, it will be the longest single space mission by an American.

One audience member asked about the possibility of aliens. Kelly said there is likely life out there, but "it's mostly green and lives in a pond somewhere." He continues, "If there are aliens with the technology for space flight, we don't want them visiting us because it doesn't work out well for the less developed societies."

On the importance of exploration, Kelly, a native of West Orange, N.J., and today a strong advocate for gun control along with his wife who was injured in an assassination attempt in 2011, says, "If we don't take chances, if we don't push the envelope and take risks, we don't advance.

Later, he said, "If it weren't for explorers, we'd all just be living in Europe."

He says much needs to be done in the field of propulsion. "The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second; so far we can't even go that fast in an hour."


World View will offer a budget ride to nearspace.

Kelly is director of flight crew operations for World View Enterprises, which will take tourists to the edge of space, 100,000 feet up in a high-altitude balloon, above over 90 percent of the atmosphere, and enough to see that the earth is in fact, round. The ticket price is about $70,000, "about the cost of an expensive car, versus a Virgin Galactic flight which will cost about as much as a house."

For more information:


The Swiss Machine Runs Fast

Ueli Steck, 38, is perhaps today's most acclaimed alpinist. Known as "the Swiss Machine," Steck's solo speed-climbing feats in the Alps are the stuff of legend - under three hours bottom-to-top-to-bottom for the North Face of the Eiger, and under two hours for The Matterhorn. Last year, he topped all that by climbing Annapurna's treacherous South Face roundtrip in just 28 hours, according to Jim Clash, writing on (Dec. 9). 

Ueli Steck, "the Swiss Machine" (Photo by Jim Clash)


He believes speed climbing itself is like a game. "If you are able to move that fast, you have so many more options. Whether you climb the Eiger North Face in two and a half or three hours doesn't make much difference. But there is a difference between three hours and two days. So that is the benefit of speed climbing: You can go to big mountains like Annapurna and, if you are able to move so fast, it's much simpler," Steck said.

Read the entire interview here:

New Adventure Journal Pulls the Ripcord

A new journal launches later this month that promises to "be the very best of factual adventure storytelling from around the globe, showcasing writing and images which inspire and kindle the spirit of adventure that is found in all of us."

Redpoint Resolutions which operates Ripcord Travel Protection, in partnership with the World Explorers Bureau, the global adventurers agency, will launch Ripcord Adventure Journal on Dec. 19 at The Explorers Museum in Ireland and at the 
headquarters of Redpoint in San Mateo, Calif. Up to six issues are scheduled for 2015. 

Ripcord premieres this month 

According to editor and publisher Tim Lavery, "Our goal is to make this a high quality Journal and not a magazine - there will be no content that has a shelf life. The focus will be on offering readers the best original articles, with guest writers, editors, explorers and photographers bringing unique storytelling to their living-rooms, hammocks, wherever they read.

The Digital Edition will be available free across platforms (PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and ereaders). The printed publication will come in two editions, a hardback with dust-cover and a second which is placed inside a handmade leather Journal-style case. The target audience is frequent adventure travelers and adventure enthusiasts, says Lavery. All profits from the sales of the printed editions will be donated to charity (specific ones to be decided on, but those with an adventure connection).

See it here after Dec. 19:

Names in Bottles: A New Tool for Exploration?

The Cassini mission carried to Saturn more than one-half million digitized signatures and even some digitized paw prints from beloved pets. STS-133 and -134 Space Shuttle missions carry digital images uploaded by the public. Like a note in a bottle, some thirty missions have offered this personalization opportunity to the public thus far, according to Dr. Dan Lester, an astronomer at the University of Texas, writing in (Nov. 17).

Millions of people have participated.

"It would appear that offering people the opportunity to fly their names is an attempt by space agencies to give the public some low cost, low commitment sense of involvement in a space mission, and is a device to articulate support. At some level, a long list of such names can demonstrate public enthusiasm about a mission."

Lester continues, "The Internet offers a medium by which such digitally encoded names can be collected with great efficiency, and many millions of names can be archived on a chip whose contribution to the spacecraft mass and power budget is negligible. It is, to the space agencies at least, a crowdfunding enterprise, where the unit of value is a name of an interested party."

Read the entire story here: 


Off the Clif

Clif Bar has withdrawn its sponsorship of five top professional climbers featured in the Sender Films documentary, Valley Uprising, focusing on the evolution of rock climbing in Yosemite National Park. Some of those cut loose had a year or more left on their contracts. Clif Bar stated the climbers take risks that make the company too uncomfortable to continue financial support. It has stirred debate in the outdoors community, creating rare introspection about how much risk should be rewarded.

Among those whose contracts were withdrawn were Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, each widely credited with pushing the boundaries of the sport in recent years. They had large roles in the film, mainly showing them climbing precarious routes barehanded and without ropes, a technique called free soloing. Potter also was shown highlining, walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations, according to a story by John Branchnov in the New York Times (Nov. 14).

Other climbers who lost their Clif Bar contracts were Timmy O'Neill and Steph Davis, who spends much of her time BASE jumping and wing-suit flying. Last year, her husband, Mario Richard, was killed when he crashed in a wing suit.

"We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go," Clif Bar wrote in an open letter to the climbing community.

"We understand that some climbers feel these forms of climbing are pushing the sport to new frontiers. But we no longer feel good about benefiting from the amount of risk certain athletes are taking in areas of the sport where there is no margin for error; where there is no safety net."

Clif Bar still lists 99 Team Clif Bar sponsored athletes on its website, representing a long list of outdoor pursuits. Honnold was among those wondering why it chose to suddenly shed five specific climbers when he considers sports like big-wave surfing, big-mountain skiing and snowboarding more dangerous than free-solo climbing.

The movie's primary sponsor is North Face, the outdoor-equipment and apparel company. Its roster of sponsored athletes includes Honnold and Wright, and company officials said that no changes were expected.

Read the story here:


What to Pack for Certain Death



Don't leave home without it 

Cartoonist Emi Gennis is amused by what explorers once packed for doomed expeditions. She reveals Burke & Wills brought along 30 cabbage trees hats and an enema syringe while crossing Australia; Swedish balloonist S.A. Andree brought along a silk pillow with festive design; and Teddy Roosevelt packed stuffed olives and three dozen smoking pipes. It's amusing reading that you can see at:

Ted Talk: The Hardest 105 Days of Ben Saunders' Life

This year, explorer Ben Saunders attempted his most ambitious trek yet. He set out to complete Captain Robert Falcon Scott's failed 1912 polar expedition - a four-month, 1,800-mile round trip journey from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. In the first talk given after his adventure, just five weeks after his return, Saunders offers a raw, honest look at this hubris-tinged mission that brought him to the most difficult decision of his life.

View it here:


No need to race to mall this year and endure the pitiless, grinding, soul-sucking experience of battling crazed holiday shoppers. We've done the work for you, vetting the most extraordinary gifts for that favorite explorer or adventurer on your list. You're welcome.

We'll Drink to That



The funnel helps protect every drop.

Exploration and alcohol go back a long way. Seems every year they're digging up some treasure trove of whiskey left behind by Sir Ernest Shackleton. There are few better ends to a long day of climbing or slogging along the River of Doubt than some whiskey around the campfire. Your friends or loved ones can eave the bottle at home and serve their favorite libation in a discrete 6 fl. oz. stainless steel flask from the American Alpine Club. It comes with a funnel so they won't lose a single drop of each celebratory swig. ($22.36,

What Do You Make Out of This?


One thing is for certain: it makes a better hat than a map.

To paraphrase the 1980 movie, Airplane, what do you make out of this? Well, you can make a hat or a brooch out of the Official Explorers Club Expedition Buff. Manufactured by Buff USA, these expedition Buffs are a perfect way to protect you in the field from a variety of elements. The tubular design keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Made from seamless 100% microfiber, the breathable fabric wicks away moisture and dries quickly. The design features a generic topographical map, accentuated by the famous Club flag and compass.

Cost is $25 and you have to belong to the Club to order it. Not a member? There are 3,000 members in almost 30 chapters worldwide; find someone you know. (

The Multi-Purpose Last North Expedition Calendar


Count the days on the next expedition.

Polar explorers are notorious about saving weight. They will cut the handles off toothbrushes to save weight, and convert paperback books into toilet tissue. Your gift recipient can do the same at the end of each month if he or she brings along the Last North Expedition Calendar. Polar adventurer, expedition guide, and educator Eric Larsen has spent the past 20 years traveling in some of the most remote and extreme environments on the planet. In May 2014, Larsen and teammate Ryan Waters finished what may realistically be the last expedition of its kind due to a changing climate. A photo calendar of the journey depicts their most difficult days. ($16.99,

Serious Joe



When you need coffee, you need it NOW!

Good coffee isn't just for beautiful people with beautiful kitchens and cushy 9-5 jobs like in the commercials. The CoffeeBoxx is the world's toughest coffee maker, perfect for wherever your explorer friend or loved one might travel. This is some serious Joe: the coffeemaker is crush-proof, dust-proof, spill-proof, rust-proof, water resistant, and impact resistant, using the latest single-serve technology. Outside magazine said of the product, "If coffee is the nectar of the gods then this is Thor's coffeemaker." ($225 for delivery in spring 2015 - you'll have to wait until it completes crowdfunding on Kickstarter,

The MiniMuseum Offers a Huge Collection of Oddities


It's a museum in a shoebox 

You may have to wait for this one, but soon you'll be able to gift a collection of rare specimens from earth and beyond.

Hans Fex of Fairfax, Va., has spent years cataloging his collection, conducting research, and experimenting with dozens of production and manufacturing techniques to make the MiniMuseum a reality.

His limited edition MiniMuseum contains 33 rare specimens in acrylic, accompanied by a detailed electronic guide and a microfiber pouch for storage. Available in limited editions, it contains dime- and raisin-sized samples of the oddest collection of artifacts ever found under a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush. It includes pieces of human brain, Dracula soil from Transylvania, a dinosaur egg shell, meteorite from the moon, T-rex tooth, Berlin Wall fragment, and Apollo 11 Command Module Foil. (Estimated price: $299,

Return to Sender

Of course, if for any reason your holiday gifts fail to resonate and the recipient of your largesse wants to regift it, they can consider MoonMail, a new program for the public to send mementos to the Moon on Astrobotic's first commercial lunar mission. With a starting price of $460, they can make history by participating in the first commercial Moon landing.


Those interested in purchasing MoonMail can log onto the designated MoonMail website. Each MoonMail participant will receive a MoonMail kit including prepaid postage to mail their item to Astrobotic, along with a map of the Moon Landing Site, a photo of the Moon Pod on the Moon, and a certificate of authenticity recognizing them as a space pioneer on the first commercial landing to the Moon. The collected mementos will be placed inside the - wait for it - Moon Pod that will be attached to Astrobotic's lunar lander, which will remain on the Moon for future generations.

Astrobotic, founded in 2008 and based in Pittsburgh, is a space logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits and individuals. With its partner, Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE and is scheduled to launch the first mission within the next two years.

Presumably, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor cosmic radiation stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

For more information:


I Don't Care What You Say About Me, Just Spell My Name Right

We're likely to get coal in our holiday stockings unless we apologize for two misspellings in our November issue. WINGS WorldQuest co-founder is Milbry Polk, not Post; and America's first astronaut in space is Alan B. Shepard, not Shepherd. We also misidentified the URL for Pat and Rosemarie Keough's Antarctica book. It should be




The New York WILD Film Festival Returns to The Explorers Club, January 30-31, 2015 

The New York WILD Film Festival presents powerful, exhilarating documentary films from around the world on important topics and astonishing feats in exploration, adventure, wildlife, conservation and the environment. WILD presents a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, affect vital change and celebrate the wild. Last year it was sold out.

Expect 15 screenings over two days, Q&A's with celebrated filmmakers, talent and thought leaders. In addition to all-day screenings, the Club will host a luncheon with fellow adventurers and offer once-in-a-lifetime special social and networking events. Check www.nywildfilmfestival.comfor updates and sign up for the WILD newsletter.  


Get Sponsored! - Hundreds of explorers and adventurers raise money each month to travel on world class expeditions to Mt. Everest, Nepal, Antarctica and elsewhere. Now the techniques they use to pay for their journeys are available to anyone who has a dream adventure project in mind, according to the new book from Skyhorse Publishing called: Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would Be World Travelers.

Author Jeff Blumenfeld, an adventure marketing specialist who has represented 3M, Coleman, Du Pont, Lands' End and Orvis, among others, shares techniques for securing sponsors for expeditions and adventures.

Buy it here: 

Advertise inExpedition News - For more information: 





EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 1281 East Main Street - Box 10, Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Tel. 203 655 1600, Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon. Research editor: Lee Kovel. 2014 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through Read EXPEDITION NEWS at Enjoy the EN blog at






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