October 2008 – Volume Fifteen, Number Ten
EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 14th 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.
AMERICANS PLAN SELF-SUFFICENT NORTH POLE SKI EXPEDITION
North Pole '09, a cross-country skiing expedition without outside assistance or supply drops, will depart from Ward Hunt Island off the north coast of Ellesmere Island next March. The stated goal of American explorers John Huston and Tyler Fish will be to "inspire people to embrace challenge." They hope to be the first Americans to ski unsupported to the pole.
Huston and Fish plan to complete the 474-mile trek in 55 days. Along the way, they will chronicle their adventure with daily entries via satellite phone uploads. Once at the pole, they will be picked up for the return home.
"As we, as individuals and as a society, face the daunting challenges of today, we believe we have the responsibility to tell a more uplifting story. We need more simple stories of achievement and passion that inspire positive, forward-thinking action rather than negative stories that lead to increased passivity and feelings of hopelessness," writes Huston.
Huston, 32, from Chicago, is a seasoned polar explorer, having most recently led a 720-mile ski expedition to the South Pole for NorthWinds Arctic Adventures. That trip spanned 57 days from November 2007 to January 2008. Prior to that, he was the only American chosen to participate with the Norwegian team in a project that re-created the 1911 competition between Norwegian and British explorers to reach the South Pole.
Featured on BBC and The History Channel as the "Race to the Pole," the expedition was set in Greenland and duplicated the 1911 journey by using 1911-style equipment, clothing, and food. A former Outward Bound instructor, the Northwestern University alumnus is a cross-country ski racer, writer, and educator.
Tyler Fish, 34, has led expeditions on Baffin Island, the Canadian Arctic, and Hudson Bay. A resident of Ely, Minn., that hotbed of polar exploration, Fish has also led many month-long whitewater canoe trips on remote Canadian rivers. An elite cross-country ski racer and coach, he is also a speaker, family relationship coach, and wilderness skills expert. A graduate of Bates College in Maine, he has spent 13 years working for Outward Bound and is currently a youth programs coordinator and supervisor.
One sponsor of North Pole '09 is DeLorme, maker of mapping and GPS technology, which will provide a rugged Earthmate GPS PN-20, the same type GPS receiver Huston used when he was base camp manager for Will Steger's Global Warming 101 trip in 2007. Accurate to within three meters, it has the ability to display proprietary DeLorme topographic maps, as well as USGS 1:24,000 quads, four different types of aerial imagery, and NOAA nautical charts. (For more information: email@example.com, NorthPole09.com, delorme.com)
LOW IMPACT KAYAKERS TO STUDY ANTARCTICA
In December, Cristian Donoso, a 33-year-old Chilean lawyer and his team will travel aboard the Antarctic Dream cruise ship to the Antarctic Peninsula to make a 550-mile self-supported kayak journey to the Palmer Archipelago and the Danco Coast. Their goal is to study wildlife on the White Continent.
Donoso hopes to alert the public about the effects of global warming on the Antarctic coast through a photographic and audiovisual record of landscapes and wildlife in the region, from the low impact vantage point of a 20-ft. kayak. The team's observations will be repackaged into documentary films, a book, magazine articles and a Web site.
"The Antarctic Peninsula is warming five times faster than the average rate of Earth's overall warming. Many species that had evolved the capacity to live in these cold, icy and harsh conditions, are now losing their only home," he tells EN.
Donoso is planning a self-sufficient trip without the assistance of any vessel, food caches or any other kind of external help once he arrives on the Antarctic Dream, a 78-passenger Dutch-built ice-reinforced vessel.
During the first month, the team will circumnavigate the Anvers and Brabant Islands, first seen in February 1820 by Nathaniel Palmer on the voyage where he discovered Antarctica. During this first 300-mile stage, Donoso's team will survey the north coast of Anvers Island, which is rarely explored due to its countless rocks, small islands and shallow waters exposed to the open sea. Also on tap: visits to the bases Lockroy (England), Palmer (U.S.), and Islas Melchior (Argentina).
During the second month, the team will explore the Danco coast fjords, as deep as the ice floes allow it, navigating nearly 200 miles between the Chilean base, Gonzalez Videla, and the Argentinean Primavera base. From that coast they will cross to Trinidad Island circumnavigating and exploring its coast until reaching Mikkelsen Bay, where they will be picked up in late February by the cruise ship. (For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, AntarcticKayak.com)
Fossett Crash Site Found – It was the final chapter of an extraordinary life of adventure when a hiker in a rugged part of eastern California found a pilot's license and other items belonging to Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight in a borrowed plane more than a year ago.
The hiker, Preston Morrow, said he found an identity card, a pilot's license, a third ID and $1,005 in cash tangled in a bush off a trail just west of Mammoth Lakes in late September. He turned the items in to local police after unsuccessful attempts to contact Fossett's family.
Shortly afterwards, searchers found the wreckage of the plane a quarter-mile away; it appears to have hit the mountainside head-on, authorities said. Most of the plane's fuselage disintegrated on impact, and the engine was found several hundred feet away at an elevation of 9,700 feet.
"It was a hard-impact crash, and he would've died instantly," said Jeff Page, emergency management coordinator for Lyon County, Nev., who assisted the search.
While most of the human remains were thought to have been taken by animals, at press time bone fragments found at the site have been sent for DNA analysis.
Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the NTSB, said the agency has reviewed photographs of the site and after a preliminary look, "it appears to be consistent with a non-survivable accident." He also said it was "indicative of a high-impact crash."
Fossett, 63, disappeared on Sept. 3, 2007, after taking off in a plane he borrowed from a Nevada ranch owned by hotel magnate Barron Hilton. A judge declared Fossett legally dead in February following a search for the famed aviator that covered 20,000 square miles.
Aviators had flown over Mammoth Lakes in the search for Fossett, but it had not been considered a likely place to find the plane. The most intense searching was concentrated to the north, given what searchers knew about sightings of Fossett's plane, his plans for when he had intended to return and the amount of fuel he had in the plane.
This year's most extensive search for Fossett focused on Nevada's Wassuk Range, more than 50 miles north of Mammoth Lakes (see EN, July 2008). In an official statement release Oct. 2, Robert E. Hyman, leader of that expedition said, "We conducted an extensive search this past August-September out of respect and reverence for our friend and colleague Steve Fossett. While we did not succeed in locating his crash site and we are saddened by the outcome, we are relieved that Mr. Fossett's plane has been found."
Hyman continues, "The most important thing was to find out what happened to Mr. Fossett. We want to thank all who gave so generously of their time and expertise to this search which included those in the other search parties, federal agencies, state and local officials and the many who assisted us with information, advice and logistical support. Our sincerest condolences go out to the Fossett family."
Copper Fragments May Have Been Franklin's – Explorers searching for two ships from the doomed 1845 Franklin expedition in Canada's Arctic found fragments of copper sheeting likely to have come from the vessels, one of the explorers said on Sept. 26.
Sir John Franklin, his 128-member crew and the British ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were seeking the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans when they became stuck in ice. The men all died and the ships vanished. "The archeological discoveries exceeded our expectations. We found copper fragments which could well have come from one of the ships we're looking for," said Robert Grenier, chief of underwater archeology at Parks Canada.
"They revealed the prior presence of a considerable number of these sheets," he told reporters. "This was for us, I would say, a very significant find." Copper did not exist naturally in the region and the sheets could not have been made by the local Inuit, he said. The team found the fragments during a six-week trip in August and September to three islands near O'Reilly Island in the Queen Maud Gulf, close to where Franklin's ships are believed to have sunk.
The fate of the Franklin expedition still grips the public's imagination and previous exploration teams have found traces of 70 crewmembers, many of whom started trekking overland in desperation. Research suggests they suffered from lead poisoning from either canned food or the ships' water supply, and Inuit stories tell of cannibalism among the doomed crew.
The Canadian government was backing the exploration in a bid to assert its sovereignty over the waterways of the Arctic. The United States, Britain and others disagree with Ottawa's position that the waters in the Northwest Passage itself are Canadian rather than international waters.
Antarctica Expeditions to Boost Their Computing Power – Environmental scientists studying the world's shrinking polar ice sheets will soon get a substantial boost in computing power thanks to Indiana University's Polar Grid Project. It involves deployment of a collection of customized computational resources to Antarctica that will allow scientists - both on site and remotely - to more securely and efficiently process data during polar field expeditions.
The projects is funded by a $1.96 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Indiana University and Polar Grid partners Elizabeth City State University and the NSF's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, headquartered at the University of Kansas.
"It is critical to provide polar scientists with access to advanced computing technology during field expeditions; it will help them work more efficiently as they strive to gain a better understanding of the problems facing our planet - and will allow them to move more quickly toward finding solutions," said Polar Grid Project principal investigator Geoffrey Fox. Fox is director of the Community Grids Lab, part of Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University.
The equipment is traveling by cargo ship to New Zealand, where it will board a U.S. military plane bound for McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Once there it will be unloaded and staged for a second military airlift to the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Camp, where it will be driven a distance of approximately 190 miles to its final destination, a research camp to be established on Thwaites Glacier.
After completing the long trek to Antarctica, the equipment will be used to support an extensive research expedition expected to begin in November and running through February 2009.
In the past, data collected during this type of expedition could not be evaluated or processed until scientists returned to their home labs at the close of an expedition. The Polar Grid Project will help scientists in Antarctica speed the time between data collection and scientific discovery by allowing them to begin processing ice sheet data collected from sensors and aerial and surface radar while still in the field.
The Polar Grid Project
New York Diary: Three Expedition Projects Storm Manhattan
Corporate sponsors, the media and even armchair explorers could have had a field day last month had they traveled to New York on Sept. 4. Three major expeditions were in town to promote their projects, schmooze with the media, and solicit support.
Virgin Voyage – Everyone's favorite billionaire, Richard Branson, was on his 99-ft. maxi-race yacht in Dennis Conner's North Cove Marina on the Hudson River, about a block from Ground Zero. He was there to flog his Virgin Money attempt to break the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in a single-hulled (i.e. monohull) sailboat.
The rascally adventurer was conducting a live dockside interview with Harry Smith of the CBS Early Show when we stumbled by. Branson plans to be accompanied by his 26-year-old daughter, Holly, a physician who will serve as the team's medic, and 23-year-old son, Sam.
Branson has been preparing with champion sailors from Britain's America's Cup challenger, including several medal-winning Olympians. The record from the Ambrose Light Tower in lower New York Bay to Lizard Point, the southernmost tip of Great Britain, is six days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds set in 2003. Branson calls it, "the greatest sailing record of all." At press time the crew was still waiting for the correct weather window that will help them slingshot across the Atlantic in record time. (For more information: virginmoney.com/challenge)
Horning In – The peripatetic South African adventurer-explorer Mike Horn, 42, was also in town trying to share the media limelight with his 115-ft. aluminum arctic schooner called the Pangaea. It's an environmentally friendly, gadget-heavy vessel that's sort of like a four-wheel-drive of the oceans. His four-year Pangaea Expedition is designed to inspire young people to clean up the planet. Throughout his seven continent, 62,000-mi. journey, young adults, ages 13 to 20 and from every continent, will be invited to join Horn on various stages of his expedition.
Separate media and sponsor receptions were held for main benefactor Mercedes-Benz, and presenting partners watchmaker Officine Panerai and sanitation experts Geberit. Technical performance sponsor The Coleman Company, also held an event to promote the tents, sleeping bags, stoves and other camping gear Horn will require for travel on land.
EN observed one media presentation as Horn, dressed in shorts, sunglasses on his ball cap, a few day's scruffy growth of beard, and a dinner-plate sized Panerai watch on his wrist, waxed eloquently around a slowly rocking conference table. He said of his project, "I started thinking, can't we show the beauty of the planet to future generations then teach them with science to conserve this beauty and clean-up the human footprint?"
Panerai has created a special watch for him with a depth gauge and temperature-resistant oils, yet during his 45-min. presentation we couldn't help notice that his Panerai wall clock, set to GMT, was still five minutes fast. Nonetheless, everything else seemed shipshape and ready for the adventure to begin.
During the expedition, the Pangaea crew will use special nets to scoop up plastic pollution floating on the surface of the water. The garbage will then be compacted in an on-board Dixi 4s compactor into 66 to 100 lbs. plastic blocks and recycled at various ports along the way.
Will this WALL-E style recycling make much of a difference? Not exactly, but it's an interesting demonstration of what can be done to alleviate ocean pollution. Horn likens it to a hummingbird "spitting water on a forest fire." He continued, " I cannot clean up the ocean alone, but I can show it's possible to do it."
Horn's other projects have included Latitude Zero, an 18-month solo circumnavigation of the earth around the equator without motor transport; the Arktos Expedition, a solo circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle that lasted 27 months; and the North Pole Winter Expedition, the first-ever night expedition to the North Pole, starting at the northernmost point of Russia and ending two months later at the pole. He and Norwegian Borge Ousland used skis, pulled sleds and even swam in the Arctic Ocean to achieve their goal after 60 days and five hours.
"I don't do what I do to die. I do it to live. The way I lead my life makes me feel alive," he said.
His first stop will be in Punta Arenas, Chile, before Pangaea heads further south towards Tierra del Fuego and a planned trek to the South Pole. Then his route will take him through Australasia, China, Russia, to the North Pole again, then across Greenland, North and South America and back to Punta Arenas. (For more information: MikeHorn.com)
1,000 Days at Sea – Friends of Reid Stowe, 56, one of the most diehard adventurers we know, were in New York that very evening to celebrate the half-way point of Stowe's idiosyncratic, not to mention lonely, attempt to remain at sea non-stop for 1,000 days. Apparently, this has never been done. Not by the abandoned crew of the H.M.S. Bounty set adrift in 1789 in a 23-ft. boat; not by the wretched souls of the whale ship Essex rammed and sunk by an angry bull sperm whale in 1820, setting crew members adrift for almost 100 days in three harpoon boats. The longest non-stop solo voyage without resupply was accomplished by Australian Jon Sanders, who remained at sea for 657 consecutive days.
Stowe's supporters gathered at Pier 66 Maritime on the Hudson River to drink vodka and hear from Soayna Ahamd, Stowe's companion who left the boat on day 306 last February off Fremantle, Western Australia, due to repeated bouts of seasickness aggravated by her pregnancy. Ahamd, 24, gave birth five months later to a boy named Darshen who was conceived at sea. "The next bit of land after Australia ... who even knows where that is? That was my chance to get off and I took it," she told the Daily News last summer.
Stowe blogged, "They are not the first woman and child to wait for their man to come home from the sea. It is the most ancient of stories." (For more information: 1000days.net)
6,000 Calorie Meal Honors Shackleton – A City of London restaurant helped kick off the Shackleton Centenary Expedition late last month with a 6,000-calorie meal similar to one the legendary explorer would have eaten himself. To the men who followed him towards the South Pole in the winter of 1908, he offered only biscuits, a stodgy, greasy stew supplemented with horse food, and the occasional piece of pony.
Pawel Jursa, the Polish chef at the Green Door Bar & Grill offered bankers and stockbrokers the chance to consume 6,000 calories at a single sitting, the required daily intake when trekking towards the pole.
There were certain logistical crevasses to be negotiated on Jursa's culinary journey, according to The Times. Renato Abeu, the pub manager, said, "It's very difficult to get penguin. We did try. Fortnum & Mason of Piccadilly and Harrods both said they have no availability at the moment." London Zoo would not cooperate either, according to the Sept. 26 story.
This was not a huge setback. Penguins were eaten only in the first days of Shackleton's journey, after which the four men subsisted on "hoosh," a stew of dried meat and animal fat. Hoosh was originally prepared by Ernest Shackleton over a mentholated spirit burner. The 2008 version consisted of goose (as a substitute for penguin), corned beef, oats, potato and seasoning, for a whopping 1,030 calories.
As the four expedition ponies pulling their sledges died, Shackleton's men mixed in the animal feed and the ponies themselves. In contrast, Jursa used hunks of goose meat, suspended in a gel of corned beef and goose fat, resting on a bed of porridge.
Champy Search Comes Up Empty-Handed – It's America's version of the Loch Ness monster, a sea creature said to reside in Lake Champlain, between New York and Vermont. A summer expedition to find the mysterious creature involved a dozen participants and sophisticated tracking equipment but didn't find anything, reports Lohr McKinstry in the Sept. 28 Press Republican of northeastern New York.
Another expedition will be held next summer, said organizer Ruby Anderson of Naugatuck, Conn. "We have learned some important things through Champ Expedition 2008 - like make sure you have backup equipment in case of problems with cameras (and) cell phones."
The group will once again be headquartered at Button Bay State Park and Campground near Vergennes, Vt., she said. "We chose this location because there have been several sightings of Champ at Button Bay. Our own sighting of Champ in 2007 also took place in Button Bay."
Researchers have offered theories that Champ could be anything from a plesiosaur to a large sturgeon. Most agree there would have to be a breeding colony of the creatures in the lake for it survive over the years.
"While our goal is to find proof of Champ, identifying things that could be mistaken for Champ is also important. It helps in sorting out reported sightings and identifying actual Champ sightings from misidentifications." Anderson continues, "I believe Champ does indeed exist, and I hope proof of Champ's existence will come in time." (For more information: ChampExpedition2008.bravehost.com/index.html)
The Explorer – "It was getting to be kind of a grind. I started thinking there's got to be more to life than making money," Explorers Club president Daniel Bennett tells Forbes.com (Oct. 1) about what prompted him to turn to exploration at the age of 50.
Bennett credits a chance meeting in a San Antonio sporting goods store with Catherine Nixon Cooke, shopping for hiking boots in preparation for an Explorers Club expedition to Nepal's remote Upper Arun Valley.
Forbes writer Mark Lewis reports, "Bennett already had a taste for adventure travel, so he found the idea of a trip to Nepal appealing, and he ended up joining the expedition. By May 2001, he was high up in the Himalayas in hot pursuit of the Yeti - otherwise known as the Abominable Snowman."
By 2001 Bennett decided to sell Sunbelt Sportswear and do something different with his life. Meanwhile, he went on more expeditions with his new friends from the Explorers Club. In 2002, he became a member himself. One thing led to another, and in March 2006, he was named the club's 36th president.
According to Forbes' Lewis, Bennett has done little exploring since becoming Explorers Club president; the job keeps him too busy. When his term ends, he plans to return to his entrepreneurial roots - but not as a full-time chief executive, which would leave no time for expeditions. In the next phase of his dream life, Bennett plans to combine business and adventure. "I want to integrate both, somehow," he says.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Boy, it's cold up there. I don't know why anyone would want to do it again" - The late North Pole explorer Ralph Plaisted, speaking to The St. Paul Pioneer Press 40 years ago. A former insurance agent, he died of a heart attack on Sept. 8 at his home in Wyoming, Minn., at the age of 80.
Considering the controversies of whether Cook or Peary reached the pole in 1909, there's no argument that the first to cross the surface of the ice and indisputably reach the top of the world was Plaisted and his team who did it on 16 hp Ski-Doo snowmobiles in 1968.
He and a three-man crew began on Ward Hunt Island, 474 miles from the pole, but actually covered 825 miles, arriving after 43 days. Plaisted's lead snowmobile was dubbed Caribou Queen which he claimed was the name of an Inuit stripper he encountered in Yellowknife. At times his team had to gun their snowmobiles to soar across open leads Evil Knievel style.
Among the approximately 50 sponsors he lined up were Corn Products Co., makers of Knorr dried soups, and Pillsbury Co., which donated dehydrated meals designed for Gemini astronauts. Dogs were used as polar-bear detectors. The assault on the North Pole was accomplished for about $132,000, most of it donated.
Airstream Sponsors Trans-Americas Journey – Imagine leaving behind a successful corporate law career and chasing your dream of traveling every day with no itinerary and obligations, and documenting each step of the way. That's exactly what former lawyer turned photographer Eric Mohl, 42, and his journalist wife Karen Catchpole, 42, both formerly of New York, did when they set off in 2006 on their four-year, 150,000+ mile road trip which will take them through North, Central and South America. Now, almost two years into what they dubbed the Trans-Americas Journey, the adventurers are bringing an Airstream along for the ride.
During their journey over past 22 months and more than 80,000 miles, Catchpole and Mohl's sleeping quarters have been varied and cramped. Pitching tents or living in motels was starting to get old. This summer, the duo was thrilled to take delivery of a 2008 Airstream 23-foot aluminum Safari Special Edition trailer that will take a little "rough" out of roughing it as they continue their travels.
So far the Trans-Americas team has been on the road traveling around North America, visiting all but five states, most of Canada and even reaching the Arctic Ocean, while blogging about their adventures at www.trans-americas.com. They will enter Mexico in November and then begin the Central and South American legs of the journey over the coming two years. (For more information: email@example.com, http://transamerica.airstream.com/).
Get Buffed – Those goofy headbands worn by cast members of the hit TV show Survivor aren't just a costume for Mark Burnett's biggest money-maker. Buff Headwear received the "Guides' Choice" award from officials of the American Alpine Institute. In existence for over three decades, the AAI award is considered one of the strongest endorsements in the outdoor industry regarding performance, design excellence and durability of specific products and technology.
"The professional guides of the institute see the Original Buff as a leading-edge product because of its design, performance and durability, and it has earned an important place on our gear lists," said Dunham Gooding, president of AAI. "I should add that all of our guides own two to five Buffs. We wear them in a remarkable variety of ways and our view is that when it's too sunny or too cool to go without either neck, face or head protection, the Buff is an indispensable piece of clothing," Gooding continues.
AAI professional guides test product on climbs in six states and sixteen countries around the world to make sure that the product can withstand every environmental challenge imaginable. The Buff's microfiber fabric boasts exceptional moisture management that wicks away sweat in warm climates and stops the cold in colder climates. Additionally, the Buff is wind resistant and seamless for extreme comfort.
What can you make of a Buff? To paraphrase our favorite scene in the movie Airplane, you can make a hat, neck gaiter, balaclava, bandana, scarf, hair band, helmet liner, headband, a sun, wind or dust screen, and our personal favorite: a pirates-style cap to wear on Sept. 19: International Talk Like a Pirate Day (you don't believe that day really exists? Google it).
Moonwatch Celebrates NASA's 50th – To celebrate NASA's 50th anniversary, Omega is introducing the Speedmaster Moonwatch Alaska Project, a watch designed in the 1970s to withstand the harsh temperatures in space, but not placed into production until now. There are 1,970 available for a about $6,700. The U.S. created NASA almost a year to the day that the first Sputnik was launched in 1958. The space agency took over several other agencies, including NACA, or the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and Army and Navy missile and flight labs.
CLIMBING FOR DOLLARS
Summit for Someone – Backpacker Magazine's Summit For Someone benefit climbs will open registration on Oct. 15. The program is seeking over 250 participants to climb on 17 different peaks in North America. In addition to the standard glacial and alpine climbs, two specialty climbs will continue from last year: expedition and women's specific. The program is the primary fundraising activity of Big City Mountaineers, in which individuals fundraise to go on a guided mountaineering trip on many of North America's most sought after peaks.
Each climb is led by well-renowned guide services such as Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, GoTrek Expeditions, Rainier Mountaineering International and Sierra Mountaineering International.
Online retailer Mountain Gear signed on as a presenting sponsor for Summit for Someone and will handle all the gear for the climbs. Participants will get a specified dollar amount voucher they can redeem for the gear they'll need for their climb from Mountain Gear's Web site.
The funds raised are enough to fully sponsor five teens and a youth agency leader for the summer outdoor youth mentoring program. (For more information: SummitForSomeone.org)
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