November 2023 – Volume Twenty-Nine, Number Eleven

Celebrating our 29th year!


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.

Yippee-ki-yay – Arctic Cowboys break NWP record.


Arctic Cowboys Lasso Northwest Passage Record


The Arctic Cowboys, led by 61-year-old Texan and Explorers Club member, West Hansen, entered the Northwest Passage on July 18th where Baffin Bay meets Lancaster Strait. They exited the Passage after kayaking 1,570-miles (83 days) on October 8 at Cape Bathurst, where the Amundsen Gulf meets the Beaufort Sea (see EN, June 2023).


The team composed of Hansen, Jeff Wueste, Eileen Visser, and Mark Agnew, became the first self-propelled adventurers to navigate the entire Passage, the first to kayak the entire Passage and they did so in a single season.


Prior to the Arctic Cowboys’ expedition, several attempts had been made to kayak or row the Passage by a handful of international teams and individuals, including this year with one 8-person rowing team; a rowing team composed of two solo rowers; one stand-up paddle boarder; one husband/wife team of solo kayakers; and another team of two solo kayakers.


All the teams were met with violent storms, heavy winds, freezing temperatures, and dangerous waves – which caused boat damage for two teams and all but the Arctic Cowboys to withdraw.

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West Hansen posts about

The Kayak the Entire 1,570 Mile Northwest Passage Diet.

Hansen and Wueste first attempted the Passage in 2022, in three solo sea kayaks but withdrew after 260 miles after a last-minute plan for a food drop fell apart. This year, they brought two tandem sea kayaks, which proved more stable in the rough seas and had more volume for carrying supplies. With the lessons learned the previous year, which included launching a month earlier, the team steadily made progress against fast-moving ice flows, daily polar bear visits, weather shutdowns, fatigue, and ever-present team dynamics to accomplish their goal.


While in the Beaufort Sea, making their way to the pick-up point on Nicholas Island, the team was pinned down in a huge snowstorm, with winds peaking at 50 mph and piling up snowdrifts that reached the top of their tent. After digging out, they kayaked 35 miles to an abandoned airstrip, but this final leg wasn’t the end of their challenges.


Once the Twin Otter bush plane landed on the dirt strip, Hansen used a hacksaw to cut four feet off the end of each kayak to get them to fit inside the fuselage.


“The kayaks are being repaired now and the Arctic Cowboys are going through the process of re-entry into their lives, which often proves more challenging than kayaking through a land so wild and savage,” Hansen says.


For more information: and


Watch the video:



Master Chef Angelique Schmeinck (Photo: Reeders Photography/Culiair)

Gourmet Dining in the Clouds


The late Steve Fossett, an adventurous, Chicago-based aviator, launched the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon from Northam, Australia, on June 19, 2002. Fourteen days and 19 hours later, on July 4, he landed in Queensland, Australia, to become the first person to make a solo flight around the world in a balloon.


It was Fossett's sixth solo attempt since 1996 to achieve this extraordinarily difficult goal during which time he ate military rations called MREs ("meals ready to eat"). The MRE's were heated with chemical heat packs, which were activated by adding water, according to the National Air and Space Museum which houses the capsule.


Meager provisions compared to would-be balloonists today, especially in Holland.


Acclaimed Dutch Chef Angélique Schmeinck has created quite a stir with her popular CuliAir Skydining, reportedly the world’s first hot air balloon restaurant, where lucky diners enjoy a three-course meal while floating in the skies above Holland.


The company has flown over 700 flights with over 7,000 passengers (600 passengers per season). 


The idea of cooking on a hot air balloon isn't as crazy as it sounds – internal balloon temperatures rise to around 100 degrees, meaning that food can be cooked slowly at low temperatures. This is said to be the perfect technique for aroma development and preserving the juices in fish or meat dishes.


Using a custom pulley construction, the dishes are transported to the crown of the balloon envelope in special-purpose steel oven baskets. After cooking, dishes are hoisted down to the custom-made kitchen, where they receive a live cooking finish to perfection with crisp vegetables and a decadent sauce.


Temperature sensors line the interior of the balloon, which are inspected from the kitchen basket during flight. This allows the chef to determine exactly whether dishes should be slightly lowered or raised over the heat source to achieve a perfect result.


The CuliAir ballooning trip lasts approximately 90 minutes; the entire experience lasts four to five hours, including a reception in the meadow, dinner in the hot air balloon, and a champagne celebration and dessert at the landing location.

Plans are underway to bring the experience to more countries.


The balloon can accommodate up to 10 passengers, and the best time to book the flight is June, August, and September for ideal weather. The cost is 475 euros per person (USD $503) including dining and balloon ride.


See the company’s sizzle reel at:


For more information:



“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”


– Alan Mathison Turing OBE FRS (1912-1954), an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist.



Spaceport America rises from the barren flatlands of the New Mexican high desert.

High Desert of New Mexico is the Starting Gate for

Commercial Space Research


By Jeff Blumenfeld, editor


I have seen the future at Spaceport America, the 110,000 s.f. terminal and hangar leased to Virgin Galactic (VG) on 18,000 acres in the bone-dry southern New Mexico high desert – a land so flat and so desolate you can watch a dog run away for three days. The world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, it’s the starting gate for a new era of research in space.


For space tourists, Spaceport America is the home of VSS Unity, a breathtaking white and blue metallic spacecraft that takes off beneath a superlight lift plane named Eve, then separates (“Release. Release. Release.”) at 44,701 feet for a vertical climb to 54.2 miles before gliding back to the hard-packed starting point more at home to road runners and snakes than to the brightest engineers in the close-knit space community.


Granted, the experience of watching a take-off at Spaceport America is not the same chest-pounding experience for spectators as a rocket launch, but then again, it’s spaceflight at a more repeatable, reusable, and affordable rate. 

Space tourist Ketty Pucci-Sisti Maisonrouge (left) and

researchers Dr. Alan Stern and Kellie Gerardi.

Today’s flight, Virgin Galactic 05, consists of a commander, a pilot and an astronaut trainer. Behind them in the spacecraft’s rearview mirror sits two researchers: Explorers Club members Dr. Alan Stern, 65, of Boulder, Colorado, and Kelli Gerardi, 34, of Juniper, Florida.


Accompanying them is founding Franco-Italian space tourist Ketty Pucci-Sisti Maisonrouge, 64, who sent in her deposit in 2005 and finally got to fly 18 years later. Although the price she paid was undisclosed, the BBC reported in 2020 her ticket price was $250,000. A bargain. Tickets today go for an astronomical $450,000 once Virgin Galactic starts selling them again.


But first, there’s a waiting list 800 future astronauts long, from 65 nationalities ranging in age from five to 96 (minimum age is 18). In August 2003, Virgin flew 18-year-old Anastatia Mayers, the youngest person to travel to space. She was accompanied by her mother, thus becoming the first mother-daughter duo in space. Better yet, they won the two spaceflight tickets in a charity raffle that benefited Space for Humanity.


The November 2 flight is Virgin Galactic’s sixth in six months, its tenth to date, with hopes to shortly begin monthly spaceflight from this 12,000-ft. runway 86 miles north of the Mexican border. Eventually, it’s hoped that Spaceport America will be to spaceflight what LaGuardia or O’Hare is to air travel.


Lucky Shirt


Prior to the flight, our VG hosts take us to Mission Control – a quiet room with two dozen curved Dell monitors, each labeled with a specific function – Mother, Flight, Telemetry, Avionics, Propulsion, and more.


Mike Moses is our guide, a 17-year NASA veteran and now president of Virgin Galactic  Spaceline Missions and Safety. Where legendary NASA Mercury and Apollo flight director Gene Kranz famously wore a white vest for every launch, Moses’ lucky talisman is a crisp white buttondown shirt with purple VG logo – the same iconography available on t-shirts, socks, knit caps ballcaps, and other commemorative merch out in the lobby.


“In human spaceflight you need to control both failures and how you’ll react,” Moses tells the group. “You practice at the highest level all the time. We practice things not going well.”

Selfie of Virgin Galactic 05 crew and passengers just after landing on Nov. 2, 2023. VSS Unity Commander Mike Masucci is in the foreground. (Photo: Virgin Galactic).

A Homecoming


For Stern, his first spaceflight is a homecoming of sorts. The former president of his Louisiana high school model rocket club, the 65-year-old would later hone his rocketry chops at the nearby White Sands Missile Range. Move ahead to 2015 and as principal investigator of the NASA New Horizons program, Stern and his team made worldwide news with the first-ever high-definition images of Pluto.


Now as a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Stern is wearing a bioharness modeled after a design flown on more than two dozen space shuttle missions, to familiarize himself with how the actual experience differs from training simulations, a process that will make future research flights flow more smoothly. 


Sitting across the cabin is fellow researcher Kellie Gerardi conducting healthcare and thermodynamic fluid experiments on behalf of the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS). She wears a biomonitoring garment called Astroskin, a wearable health sensor from Hexoskin, to collect data during the launch, reentry, and landing portions of the spaceflight.


Gerardi flew with three payloads, two of which evaluated novel healthcare technologies in microgravity conditions through the collection of biometric data. The third payload examined how confined fluid behaves to inform future healthcare technologies in space.


She is a passionate science communicator with a loyal following of supporters across her social platforms (@kelliegerardi), and is the author of Not Necessarily Rocket Science (Mango, 2020) and the acclaimed children's book series Luna Muna (Dragonfruit, 2023).


Her five-year-old daughter Delta was among the spectators. “Delta just thinks this is what moms do. We go into space,” Gerardi said during the post-flight press conference.


The flight today reached its apogee – it’s highest point – of 286,630 feet / 54.3 miles, just shy of the Karman Line of 62 miles/100 kilometers, which is generally accepted as the place where Earth ends and outer space begins, according to Astronomy magazine (March 2021).


Although the exact altitude where space begins is something scientists have been debating since before mankind even sent the first spacecraft into orbit, some experts have argued for a return to the original definition of space starting at roughly 50 miles (80 km).

Unity is ready for its close-up.

Selfie Magnet


Unity glides to a stop to enthusiastic cheers from 200 family, friends and media as a Virgin Galactic handler walks around with a box of tissues. More applause, and more tears as the Unity is towed in by a Land Rover Defender from VG sponsor Range Rover.


The smartphones and stanchions come out and the selfies begin; Unity is like catnip for social media likes.


Later, VG’s team of serious young PR executives glued to their smartphones would release an online stream of press releases, videos, and photos including a long-range video of Unity’s separation from the mothership.


At a post-flight press conference, Stern admits the flight was a “walk in the park” and went “really fast,” compared to extensive training leading up to the mission. Gerardi appreciated the extra 2-1/2 minutes of weightlessness afforded by Unity, versus short 15 to 20-second training stints in the legendary “Vomit Comet” parabola flights.

“It’s still a compressed time environment and that takes practice,” she said. 


Stern believes, “We’re taking space research out of the realm of space robots. I can’t wait for more researchers to go into space.” He added, “This will be very powerful for STEM education because it’s opening up access, to teachers for instance, in a way we’d never been able to afford, nor as frequently.


“Now’s the time for researchers to use their imaginations to take advantage of these low-cost flights.”


Gerardi said, “Only after stowing my payload did I realize, oh my god, we really are in space. My cheeks were sore from all the nonstop grinning.”


For more information:


Watch the flight recap reel:


See the Virgin Galactic 05 drop and ignition taped by NSF videographer Jack Beyer at:



Matthew Henson could possibly have been

the first to stand at the North Pole. We may never know.

Matthew Henson Scholarship Seeks Applicants

The PolarExplorers Matthew Henson Scholarship for 2023-2024 honors the legacy of polar explorer Matthew Henson (1866-1955) by inspiring people of color – particularly emerging outdoor guides or people with current positions or future goals of leadership in the outdoor industry – to embrace cold weather adventures and to build the necessary skill set for cold weather expedition travel.


This two-year scholarship, awarded annually, provides two consecutive years of fully subsidized participation in PolarExplorer's Polar Shakedown Training. The first year focuses on skill development and an overview of cold weather expedition travel. The second year dives into leadership development and hands-on experience guiding in the extreme cold.


This scholarship is open to all people of color who are passionate about wilderness travel and outdoor leadership, who aspire to have a career in the outdoor industry, and who are looking to increase their skill set to include cold weather camping and leadership.


Applications are due by December 1, 2023. The scholarship recipient will be notified by December 15, 2023. The dates for the 2023 training are February 1-6, 2024. 


Because he was African-American, Henson did not receive the recognition he was due until well after he died. His legacy lives on in the countless people who have been inspired by his life. 


For more information visit:


The Explorers Club is a New Illustrated Guide to “Curiosity in Action”


The discovery of the North and South Poles. The summiting of Everest. The moon landing. The (largely unknown) birth of climate change science. These are just some of the stories from The Explorers Club, the organization that, since its inception in 1904, has pushed the envelope of human curiosity.


For the first time in its 120-year history, the Club now has a book that chronicles, celebrates, and encapsulates what it’s all about titled: The Explorers Club: A Visual Journey Through the Past, Present, and Future of Exploration.


In an excerpt from the book available online, the narrator takes us through the Club’s six creaky floors to explain how, as astronaut and senator John Glenn put it during an annual dinner presentation in 2013, back in the days of old-timey maps – the ones that showed the “known world” – the maps had dark edges on the sides, along with boiling pots of oil and warnings such as “There be dragons here.”


It was the explorer’s job to expand the map and push back the dragons. “Our whole history has been one of dragon-pushing,” the late Glenn said to his colleagues. “Pushing dragons back off the edge and filling in those gaps on the maps. And that is a key role that The Explorers Club has provided.”


This guided tour of The Club’s most riveting journeys from Ten Speed Press and edited by Jeff Wilser includes hundreds of photos and anecdotes about The Club’s distinguished members, including Teddy Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, and Jane Goodall. $35.


Pre-orders available at:



Photo courtesy American Alpine Club

Ice Climbing in a Changing Climate


The climbing community has been increasingly seeing anecdotal evidence of climate change impacting climbing landscapes. In a first-of-its-kind study, a team from the American Alpine Club joined up with climate researchers from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Calgary to take a close look at the historical data on seasonal temperatures and ice season length in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, one of the premier ice climbing destinations in the U.S.


The team ultimately created a climate model to predict the length of ice climbing seasons in the future under moderate and high emission scenarios. The AAC team also interviewed dozens of guides in the region to gather qualitative data about how tumultuous climate impacts are impacting the guiding economy that is an integral part of these New Hampshire mountain communities.


Learn about this climate research and how it's impacting climbing by watching this 14-minute film.

The New Instagram for Adventurers


Voiijer is a new social media platform elevating the power of exploration via user-generated content and storytelling to unite people and the natural world. Voiijer (pronounced voyager) aims to reconnect people around the world with nature: users post content in real-time, share stories, and amplify discoveries making exploration accessible to all.


The people behind the app are explorer Michael Barth, a member of the Explorers Club and a fellow of the U.K.-based Royal Geographical Society; Michelle Excell, whose 20+ year career in creative technology has centered on bringing to life multi-platform interactive projects; and Greg McConnell, a global marketing executive who has worked with brands including Rolex, Tudor, and Puma.


The platform will provide live updates of ongoing expeditions and photos, videos, written notes, audio recordings, and even 3D from the public called "voiijs."


The New York and Hong Kong-based startup plans to eventually monetize through a combination of ads and a subscription model for additional services.  


Content creators include mountaineer Kenton Cool, Mars astrobiologist Dr. Angélica Anglés, and photographer and mountaineer Mark Fisher, who will be bringing users along on their latest adventures.


The ad-free app is currently available for free download in the Apple App Store.


For more information, visit

Psyche departs for a metallic world.

Get Psyched for Psyche


NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida at 10:19 a.m. EDT on Oct. 13, 2023. This will be the first time NASA is exploring a world made not of rock and ice, but with large amounts of metal, as the mission seeks to understand a previously unexplored building block of planet formation: iron cores. The Psyche spacecraft will travel 2.2 billion miles on its journey to the asteroid Psyche.


Most impressive of the series of YouTube videos supporting the launch is the upright landing of a side booster from SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. It returned to the company’s landing zone at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida just minutes after NASA’s Psyche launch from Kennedy Space Center.

See the video here:

Our younger self would tell you that all rockets should land upright.

Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield) by Jeff Blumenfeld ­– Travel has come roaring back and so has voluntourism. Be ready to lend a hand wherever you go. How to travel and make a difference while you see the world? Read excerpts and “Look Inside” at:
Get Sponsored! – Need money for your next project? Read about proven techniques that will help you find both cash and in-kind sponsors. If the trip is bigger than you, and is designed to help others, well, that’s half the game right there. Read Jeff Blumenfeld’s "Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would Be World Travelers." (Skyhorse Publishing).
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