Monday, May 7, 2018

Youngest Americans Reach the North Pole


Youngest Americans Reach the North Pole
The youngest Americans to reach the North Pole returned safely home last month.
Three-and-a-half-year-old Ronin Phi Garriott de Cayeux and sibling Kinga Shuilong Garriott de Cayeux, 5 years old, joined two other children in setting the record on an expedition led by their father, Austin, Texas, adventurer, video-game designer and citizen astronaut Richard Garriott de Cayeux, known to gamers as “Lord British.”

The group included the youngest American, British, French, Luxembourgish and Taiwanese-Chinese explorers on record with a goal of studying climate change and the indigenous Inuit people.
The trip spanned from April 13-22 with access to the geographic North Pole via Norway's Svalbard Islands and the Russian Barneo ice camp, according to Garriott de Cayeux.
The pint-sized polar explorers traveling to the North Pole last month were (left to right) Ronin Phi Garriott de Cayeux, Kinga Shuilong Garriott de Cayeux, Olivier Ren Kraus (age 7) and Maika Ai Kraus (age 7). They hold Explorers Club Flag #61 which they took on their expedition.

One inspiration for the trip was the Explorers Club Young Explorers Program. Garriott de Cayeux is on the Club’s board.

Previously, the youngest-ever records were held by Jaimie Donovan, eight, from Galway, Ireland, who flew out to the Arctic with her father, Irish endurance runner Richard Donovan, in 2012; and Alicia Hempleman-Adams (UK), also age eight, who stood at the geographic North Pole in 1997 to meet her father, the well-known adventurer David Hempleman-Adams (UK), at the end of his successful trek to the pole, according to the World Record Academy (

Watch news coverage of the recent expedition here:

Twin seven-year-olds Maika and Olivia Kraus appeared on New York TV prior to departure:

(Photo courtesy IAATO /Lauren Farmer)

Antarctica Visitation Up 17-22%

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported its visitor numbers for the 2017-2018 Antarctic season. The upward trend in visitor numbers recorded since 2011-2012 continued in 2017-2018. The majority, 41,996, of visitors traveled by sea to Antarctica on vessels offering excursions ashore, representing a 16% increase compared to the previous year. Of these, 3,408 flew to the South Shetland Islands on the Antarctic Peninsula where they immediately boarded a vessel for onward travel. In addition, 9,131 visitors experienced Antarctica on one of four cruise-only vessels that do not make landings, an increase of 22% since 2016-2017.

Five-hundred-eighty visitors flew to field camps in Antarctica’s interior with IAATO land operators. Overall, the total number of Antarctic visitors in 2017-2018 was 51,707, an increase of 17% compared to the previous season. IAATO has been monitoring, analyzing and reporting trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to “leave only footprints” through the effective self-management of its activities. All visitor activities follow strict codes of conduct developed by IAATO and through the Antarctic Treaty System.

Overall American visitors remained the most numerous, accounting for 33% of the total number, the same proportion as the previous year. Chinese visitors were the second most numerous, accounting for 16% of all visitors and increasing by 4 percentage points compared to 2016-2017. Australian, German and British visitors were the next most enthusiastic visitor nationalities, accounting for 11%, 7% and 7% respectively.

Tour operators are conscious not to kill the golden goose. IAATO requires its members to abide by the Antarctic Treaty System. Tour operators refrain from making any landings in Antarctica from vessels carrying more than 500 passengers. They also coordinate with each other so that not more than one vessel is at a landing site at any one time, no more than 100 people are ashore at once and a staff: passenger ratio of up to 1:20 is maintained.

Read the complete announcement here:

Live aboard this Turkish gulet while volunteering on a whale shark research study. 

Space Available on Djibouti Whale Shark Research Expedition

Teammates are being sought to join an expedition to study whale sharks in the Gulf of Tadjoura, a gulf of the Indian Ocean in the Horn of Africa, Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 2018. The project will be led by Shark Research Institute Director of Science & Research, Dr. Jennifer Schmidt. Participants will serve as research assistants, documenting whale sharks by photo identification, collecting and analyzing plankton samples and observing night feeding behavior.

Research goals are to understand where these animals come from, why young sharks congregate in this area, and where they go when they leave. Home for this liveaboard expedition is the M/V Deli, a Turkish gulet (wooden sailing boat) that accommodates 12 people in shared rooms with private baths.

Both whale shark interactions and diving are available each day, and participants may choose any combination of activities. Cost: $2,200 double occupancy, includes shared accommodation onboard, land-based hotel stays, and meals onboard the ship. Airfare is extra.

For more information: at Shark Research Institute Global, Princeton, N.J.  

Five Women Explorers Inducted as WINGS WorldQuest Fellows

WINGS WorldQuest, a nonprofit organization which supports and recognizes extraordinary women in science and exploration, awarded five recipients its 2018 Women of Discovery Awards during a ceremony in New York on April 25, 2018. 
WINGS WorldQuest Honorees (l-r) - Eleanor Sterling, Ph.D., Nalini Nadkarni, Ph.D., Thandiwe Mweetwa, Nergis Mavalvala, Ph.D., and Asha De Vos, Ph.D. 

The WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Awards were established in 2003 to recognize extraordinary women making significant contributions to world knowledge and science through exploration. Unique to this honor and organization is the $10,000 unrestricted grant that is bestowed on each Fellow, to use as she sees fit to advance her research, career, and expeditions.

In 15 years, 79 pioneering women have been bestowed as Fellows, and WINGS Worldquest has granted over $550,000.

The five are:

Asha De Vos, Ph. D.
Sea Award

A Sri Lankan marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean.  

Nergis Mavalvala, Ph. D.
Air and Space Award

She is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves from violent events in the cosmos that warp and ripple the fabric of spacetime.

Thandiwe Mweetwa
Conservation Award

Her work focuses on studying population dynamics and threats to survival of lions and other carnivores in eastern Zambia in order to protect the species and their habitat.

Nalini Nadkarni, Ph.D.
Lifetime Achievement Award

Known as the "Queen of the Forest Canopy." For three decades, she has used mountain-climbing techniques, construction cranes, and hot air balloons to explore life in the treetops of Costa Rica and the Pacific Northwest, documenting biota that are rarely or never seen on the forest floor.

Eleanor Sterling, Ph. D.
Humanity Award

Dr. Sterling is passionate about the intersection between biodiversity, culture, and languages. She works to strengthen connections, between people and place, across communities, and through time.
For more information:


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  

-  Mark Twain aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer.

U.S. State Department Changes Travel Advisory System

The U.S. State Department recently changed how it issues warnings to U.S. citizens about international travel. Previously the agency released advisories, warnings, or bulletins about specific nations, which caused some confusion. “What’s the difference between a travel warning and a travel alert?” people wondered.

The system has changed so that each country now has an advisory - not a rule, but instead a “recommendation” - rated on a four-point threat scale. The lower the number, the lower the risk: (1) Exercise Normal Precautions (blue), (2) Exercise Increased Caution (yellow), (3) Reconsider Travel (orange), and (4) Do Not Travel (red).

Not surprisingly, countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria fall within the highest category because of the likelihood of life-threatening risks and the U.S. government’s limited ability to provide help.

CBS travel correspondent Peter Greenberg criticizes the new program because it’s not well defined. “Once you get beyond the first category, I still don’t know what that means. Does it mean ‘don’t trip’? And ‘Exercise Increased Caution,’ does that mean ‘don’t trip and fall’?
“Most people, once it gets beyond the second category, decide ‘I’m not going,’ he tells CBS This Morning last Jan. 16. “My own personal metric is that I will not go anywhere where I don’t know who’s in control, but putting Mazatl├ín in the same department as Syria and Yemen is not really helping people.”

The warnings are split even further by country according to Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Health, Natural Disaster and Time-Limited Event, which Greenberg thinks is a good idea.   
Enter your destination country and the threat level will be displayed along with alerts and visa requirements. What’s more, a color-coded map also identifies the world’s hot spots. Through its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), you provide details of your trip and are then placed on an email list to receive Travel Advisories and Alerts as soon as they are issued. 
Staff columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom writes in The New York Times, “The smartest way to use the rankings to help decide if a trip is right for you is to read the explicit risks on the country page, which on the overhauled website are more clearly explained.”

For more information:


Mountain is Momentous

Narrated by Willem Dafoe, Mountain is a cinematic and musical collaboration between acclaimed director Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, one of the world’s great chamber orchestras.

Mountain is a vertiginous juxtaposition of image and music that explores the powerful force that mountains hold over our imaginations. Only three centuries ago, setting out to climb a mountain would have been considered close to lunacy. Mountains were places of peril, not beauty, an upper world to be shunned, not sought out. Why do mountains now hold us spellbound, drawing us into their dominion, often at the cost of our lives?

From Tibet to Australia, Alaska to Norway armed with drones, Go-Pros, and helicopters, the filmmakers have fashioned an astonishing symphony of mountaineers, ice climbers, free soloists, heli-skiers, wingsuiters snowboarders and parachuting mountain bikers.

See the trailer here:

Justin Fornal in full regalia at The Explorers Club Annual Dinner, March 2018 (Photo by Rod Mickens)

18 Most Adventurous People in the World is out with its list of the “18 Most Adventurous People in the World Right Now” (posted in April). It’s a list that may surprise you. In addition to well-known adventurers free solo rock climber Alex Honnold, alpinist Jess Roskelley, and polar explorer Felicity Aston, is the lesser-known Justin Fornal, a so-called Cultural Explorer - he’s a cultural detective, extreme athlete, a culinary explorer, and somewhat surprisingly, a resident of The Bronx. 

Fornal’s projects include traveling 1,200 miles deep into the East African bush to learn more about the Buganda tribe; and swimming 100 miles around a Scottish island to create one of the rarest whiskies in the world.

“All my stories are obsessions,” he tells writer Will Cockrell. “And when I can combine athleticism with cultural research in the field to create something, that’s what makes it all worth it for me.”
In the future, Fornal is planning to swim 230 miles from Mali’s Mopti to Timbuktu to build a clinic and raise awareness in the fight against female genital mutilation. “At the heart of all my field research is giving people a microphone,” he says. “I want to get the stories out there while the stories can still be recorded,” he tells the website. 

Read the article here:


Alex Staniforth raised corporate sponsorship as a teenager for his expeditions to Baruntse in 2013, and Everest in 2014 and 2015.

Eight Tips for Finding Sponsorship

A guest post on by young British endurance adventurer, speaker and mental health fundraiser Alex Staniforth, provides eight pragmatic tips for soliciting expedition sponsorship. Staniforth is author of Icefall: The True Story of a Teenager on a Mission to the Top of the World (Coventry House Publishing, 2016). He explains that sponsors, “... want to be associated with positive things, and adventures/expeditions are an exciting way for them to engage with their customers and take their brand to cool places.”

Staniforth continues, “When approaching prospective sponsors, many people get confused. They think you’re asking for charity sponsorship, that is where people raise charity sponsorship by doing challenges like marathons, cycles and skydives by family/friends/colleagues. Be clear in communicating that you’re funding the cost of the project itself. 

“The other key point is sponsorship denotes a two-way relationship. A donation means the donor gets nothing in return. But sponsorship implies that the sponsor gets the return they’ve paid for, like paying a decorator to paint your kitchen. This takes a lot of work, you have a responsibility to deliver, and there are risks and consequences if you fail to do so,” Staniforth writes.

Personalizing a pitch is vitally important. “If you start an email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ you might as well be sending them an invite to Candy Crush Saga. Nobody likes cold, impersonal emails. Making an effort to find the appropriate contact and personalize the email will help reduce the chances of your email being trashed.”

Read more sponsorship solicitation advice here:


Antarctica: Earth’s Own Ice World

In 2016, Rosaly Lopes, an expert on volcanoes on the Earth and planets, and space artist Michael Carroll, teamed up as fellows of the National Science Foundation to travel on an Explorers Club flag expedition to Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano in Antarctica. The logistics of getting there and complex operations of Antarctica's McMurdo Station echo the kinds of strategies that future explorers will undertake as they set up settlements on Mars and beyond.

Their popular-level book, Antarctica: Earth's Own Ice World (Springer Praxis Books), explores the arduous environment of Antarctica and how it is similar to other icy worlds in the Solar System and delves into Antarctica’s infrastructure, exploration, and remote camps, culminating on the summit of Erebus.

Learn more here:


Alone at the Top

What goes through your mind when you’re dropped alone in the middle of the Alaska Range, the cold and darkness surrounding you without another human being for miles? 

Arctic explorer Lonnie Dupre had made a career out of working in teams to survive in extreme conditions and places most humans wouldn’t dare to tread. In 2010, looking for a new personal and professional challenge, Dupre decided he needed to summit Denali, the continent’s tallest peak - and he needed to do it alone and in the depths of the darkest, coldest conditions on the mountain.
Alone at the Top: Climbing Denali in the Dead of Winter (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018) by Dupre and Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Pam Louwagie, is the dramatic story of one man’s ascent of North America’s highest peak under the harshest conditions - and the climb that nearly killed him.

Dupre was on his fourth attempt in five years in late December 2014 when a surprise storm caught him at 11,200 feet. Forced to live for almost five full days with little food and water, it was the most dangerous situation of his life.

After three failed attempts, he finally reached his goal on January 11, 2015, illuminated by the feeble afternoon winter sun. 

Alone at the Top tells how he almost died in the attempt and offers a mountaineer’s firsthand perspective during life-and-death decision-making on the mountain. 

Read an excerpt from the book here:


Trans-Antarctica Expedition Spawns Another Book

A number of books were spawned by the historic 1989-90 human- and dog-powered crossing of Antarctic. The latest is by UK team member Geoff Somers who, in July 1989, during the brutal months of the polar winter, accompanied five teammates from five other countries on skis to attempt a near 4,000-mile traverse of the greatest axis of Antarctica, with three teams of huskies hauling their supplies.
Across this vast expanse of ice and snow, they had to contend with extremes of cold down to minus 50 degrees F., endure ferocious blizzards, negotiate mountain passes, yawning crevasses and perpetual isolation in the most inhospitable environment on Earth.

This unprecedented trek had to be completed in 220 days before the following winter would engulf them. Somers self-published book is called, Antarctica, The Impossible Crossing? and includes a forward by Sir Chris Bonington.

Why a book now, almost 30 years later?

“It was about time I put pen to paper - for historical reasons this trip, not just because I was part of it, is important in the transition from the old way of travel to the modern.  During the crossing, I kept a daily journal, trying to write at least 900 words a day - so I had plenty of text to choose from,” Somers tells us in an email.

“AND, it is unlikely to be repeated, even if participants were to start on the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula, they would not be allowed to use dogs, the logistics would probably be more costly and difficult. However, the impossible is constantly being proved possible and I would be quite happy to be proved wrong.” 

The book is available through or


Jesus Nut

Here’s something you don’t want to think about when you’re choppering to or from an expedition. The Jesus nut, or Jesus pin, is a slang term for the main rotor retainingnutthat holds the main rotor to the mast of some helicopters, such as the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter; or more generally is any component that represents a single point of failure with catastrophic consequences.

If the Jesus pin were to fail in flight, the helicopter would detach from the rotors and the only thing left for the crew to do would be to "pray to Jesus." (Our thanks to Scott Hamilton, president of Dooley Intermed International, for planting this gruesome thought in our impressionable heads).


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 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: 

Coming in Fall 2018: Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism by Jeff Blumenfeld (Rowman & Littlefield)

Advertise in Expedition News - For more information:
EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, LLC, 1877 Broadway, Suite 100, Boulder, CO 80302 USA. Tel. 203 326 1200, Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2018 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through (made payable to  Read EXPEDITION NEWS at Enjoy the  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Amazon Bwana Eats an Iguana; Amelia's Bones Found?

Allison Hargreaves (1962 - 1995) receives her due.

New York Times Finally Runs Allison Hargreaves Obit   

While the death of British climber Allison Hargreaves was noted in the September 1995 issue of EN, that's not quite the same as an obituary in the New York Times. Now, 23 years later, she receives her due in a new Times Obituaries section feature called "Overlooked."

On Mar. 14, the Gray Lady posted an obit by Maya Salam recognizing her feat of becoming the first woman in history to summit Everest alone and without bottled oxygen. Only the Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner had ascended Everest in a similar manner before.
Exactly three months after Everest, in the late afternoon of Aug. 13, 1995, Hargreaves reached the summit of K2 in Pakistan, the world's second-highest peak. Just hours later, she and five others died when they were engulfed by a storm with fierce winds that rose up the mountain. She was 33.

"After her death, a backlash ­- fueled by a media frenzy around her death ­- began to mount. Some called her selfish and criticized the choice to leave behind young children to put herself in harm's way. Similar denunciations were not leveled so harshly against the fathers who died on the mountain alongside her," writes Salam. 

When asked if a female climber needed to be tougher than a man, Hargreaves said, "I think that women in general have to work harder in a man's world to achieve recognition."


Black Swallowtail by Zac Velarde

Butterfies Are Free 

Last month we wrote about Adventure Scientists. Early this month the citizen-scientist organization based in Bozeman, Montana, announced it was recruiting for its Conserving Biodiversity: Pollinators project. 

The mission is simple: get into the backcountry and photograph butterflies and the plants they use during butterfly season 2018 (May to October). They have one project focused on Arizona, California, Utah, Montana, and Washington, and a slightly different global project open to people anywhere. Photos of the butterflies and their host plants are then uploaded to the iNaturalist mobile app.

Why butterflies? Glad you asked. They are considered indicators of biodiversity. Although backcountry areas can be biodiversity hotspots, AS says researchers are lacking data on butterflies in these remote areas. They need help to collect data on their abundance, diversity, and distribution in the wild. These data will be used by land managers to inform conservation decisions on public lands.

Butterflies comprise approximately 20,000 species globally. They serve as important biodiversity indicators for ecosystem health and provide food for many organisms such as migrating birds. 

For more information:

It Happened One Night: ECAD Moves to Times Square, 
Attracts 1,000 Explorers Club Members and Guests 
While the Marriott Marquis Times Square lacked the same panache as the Waldorf-Astoria, until recently home of the Explorers Club Annual Dinner for over 100 years, and while the touristy hotel was somewhat soulless - akin to holding an event in an airport terminal - at least the 1,030 members and guests at the 114th ECAD could see the stage and hear the speakers. Plus the food was pretty good, not counting the ants, cockroaches and iguana which we're always too, uh, chicken to sample. 
In terms of funds raised, Club officials say it was one of the most successful dinners ever, as well it should be with tickets starting at $500 per plate. 

One woman was wearing a 70.37 ct. natural emerald pendant surrounded by 1.10 cts. of diamonds valued at $141,000 that she didn't dare leave it in her hotel room, she told me.

Guests attended in kilts, in a kalpak, the traditional Kyrgyz hat from Kyrgyzstan (which, truth be told, we had to Google to spell correctly), and plain vanilla black tie. There was a run on chocolate mousse covered in Colombian ants known for their large "arses," millworms on chocolate cake pops, lizard flesh, and rambutan fruit from Southeast Asia. Once opened, it has a sweet, rich creamy flowery taste, but the Club's exotic-foods specialist, Gene Rurka, had to intervene when some guests put the entire golfball-sized spiky, prickly fruit in their mouths. (Who knew?)

Big arse ant lollipops

This ain't candy, man.

But this was more than a gathering of old-timers regaling over their past explorations and slapping each other on their back. Here are the dinner highlights that impressed us most:
*            Bezos is the Pointy End - Amazon chief Jeff Bezos was recipient of the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award given once every four years for pioneering achievements in space exploration. He was recognized as founder of the aerospace company Blue Origin, which is working to lower the cost and increase the safety of spaceflight.   
Bezos, who tops Forbes' annual World Billionaires list with a $130 billion net worth, said, "you don't pick your passions, they pick you. ... I'm passionate about space. There's nothing I can do - I'm in love with it. The problem is it's too hard to get to, but we need to be there."
Bezos believes that for the sake of the earth, mankind needs to go into space.
Later he commented, "This planet is a finite resource. Do we want to go out into space or have a life of stasis, which would be dull.
"We've sent robotic probes to every planet in the solar system. Believe me, this is the best one. ... We have to go into space to protect this plant."
Bezos is a proponent of space vehicles with "true operable reusability, like a commercial airliner." My tablemates in the back of the room commented that Bezos probably always travels in first class, in the pointy end of the plane. Another jokes, "Bezos? He is the pointy end."
Amazon bwana eats an iguana.Amusingly, the biggest news to come out of the dinner was this photo of the multibillionaire sampling an iguana. 
*            Our Flag - Trevor Wallace, winner of The New Explorer Award along with Gino Caspari, Ph.D., said of the Explorers Club flag: "Our flag represents a radically different view of the world; our flag represents our collective quest for knowledge; our flag represents boundless curiosity; our flag represents our protection of the land and the advancement of scientific research; our flag transcends politics and brings unity between people and cultures.
"I am creating a film to prove to the naysayers who say there is nothing left to explore that they are very wrong. There is much more to be discovered and explored, especially when you extend the dimension of time, our past is full of mysteries and parts of the human story still waiting to be uncovered. As explorers we do not fear the new and different, the unknown, we thrive on it," Wallace said.
"The world will always need explorers, and we will never cease to explore." 
*            "This is What I Learned" - David Concannon, the former Flags & Honors vice president, summed up the definition of an explorer versus an adventurer. "An adventurer goes from here to there and comes back and says 'this is what I did.' An explorer goes from here to there and comes back and says 'this is what I learned and this is the knowledge I want to impart to you.'"
*            Camera Shy - Edith A. Widder, Ph.D., winner of the Citation of Merit, said, "The key to preservation of the ocean lies in exploration. Explorers are optimists who see beyond the limits and come up with solutions despite the odds." Her fascinating talk described work with an "E-Jelly," a plastic sphere containing LEDs engineered to flash in a fashion similar to some bioluminescent deep-sea jellyfish. It's considered the key to luring a camera shy Giant Squid close enough to be filmed.

Read about this innovative technique here:

*            To Infinity and Beyond - U.S. Navy Captain James A. Lovell (Ret.) was recipient of the Explorers Club Medal, the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Club. In less than two decades he participated in four groundbreaking space flights: Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, and the ill-fated Apollo 13; Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the 1995 American space docudrama of the same name.

"I went 240,000 miles in Apollo 8 to explore the moon and instead, I discovered the earth," Lovell said as he explained he could cover the entire planet with his thumb as he gazed out the spacecraft's window. "Looking back at earth, my world expanded to infinity ... God has given mankind a stage on which to perform. How the play turns out is up to us."
Read more about the dinner here:
"Adventure and excitement are the two things missing from civilization. Danger keeps you on your toes."

- Climber Jim Bridwell. Source: Palm Springs Life magazine, December 2015. Bridwell died Feb. 16 in Palm Springs, Calif., at the age of 73 of kidney failure and hepatitis C believed to have been caused from the tattoo he received from a headhunter during his cross navigation of Borneo in the 80's. The story of Bridwell's declining health is chronicled by his son, Layton, on a GoFundMe site that raised $42,081 out of a $50,000 goal, from 632 donors. 

Field Report: Re-Photographic Mission in Mongolia Chases Roy Chapman Andrews Across the Gobi 100 Years Later
By J.K. Cluer, Reno, Nevada
Special to Expedition News 
Like most good ideas in Mongolia, the concept of re-photographing the extensive image collection generated by the early 20th century Central Asiatic Expedition, led by Roy Chapman Andrews, sprang up over dinner with my long-time cohort Dr. Saandar in an Irish pub in Ulaanbaatar, sometime in 2011-2012. Saandar, land surveyor and map maker, and I, an economic geologist, have been working together in Mongolia since 1997, sometimes with the aim to explore and discover to make a little money, sometimes to just spend money and have a little fun; we always wonder if wisely. Time will tell, but the fun of exploring is never in doubt, nor never disappoints.
The thought occurred to us to re-photograph the Central Asiatic Expedition's (CAE) amazing 1910s and 1920s views of Gobi landscapes and Urga cityscapes (now Ulaanbaatar, today's thriving capital city). For us this was a very attractive project because we both love history, exploration, photography, and Mongolia. And the centennial of the expeditions was just around the corner.
People have real jobs and time goes on, but we never let the idea slip out of our sights. We knew that we'd need to partner with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) because being the original expedition sponsor they hold all of the images and documents in their archives. Happily upon our first meetings at AMNH in March 2015, Michael Novacek and Mark Norell (the original chasers of Roy Chapman Andrews across the Gobi) were most supportive of the idea, and subsequently made available their dedicated staff in the AMNH library. 

 We spent a couple days in the archive rifling through beige colored steel filing cabinets, a little mini exploration where we experienced the thrill of finding unpublished photos from the previous century and actually handling them. We knew then and there that the deal was sealed - there was sufficient high-quality material to work with, and if the re-photography was successful would eventually help to reveal dramatic changes during those intervening 100 years in Mongolia.
It is interesting to note that the original expedition paid very serious attention to photography and even cinematography, not only to document the mission, but also to produce promotional material for fundraising campaigns. When reading Roy Chapman Andrews' Under a Lucky Star (Speath Press) I learned that he had taken his adventure story to the University Club in New York to seek funding. Another odd connection - I had visited the University Club in 2009 seeking funds for gold and copper exploration missions in the far west of Mongolia, and considering the seniority of the audience I wonder if I pitched some of the same people.
Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960) was a leading scientist/adventurer in his day, the prototype "Indiana Jones," president of the Explorers Club from 1931 to 1934, and eventually ascended to director of the AMNH. The major contributors to the CAE photo archive were: James B. Shackelford, a Hollywood cinematographer and AMNH director who made some of the first motion pictures in and of Mongolia; Walter Grainger, the lead paleontologist for the expedition, who not only made far-reaching scientific discoveries including the first dinosaur eggs (this was at the Flaming Cliffs), but was also a keen photographer; and Yvette Borup Andrews, Roy's first wife, whose efforts produced a collection of Ulaanbaatar scenes. Seemingly, without Yvette on the mission, there would have been almost no still photos of Ulaanbaatar - history shows her to be a key player in photo documentation.
Once we had scanned photos in hand from the AMNH, the next challenge was to determine exactly what the subject was, and from where it was shot. While there was some information in the files, in general the context was vague enough that another layer of exploration was required. Early 20th century place names had to be translated to their modern equivalents, and placed in the context of the expedition route maps. This is where Saandar's expertise in Mongolia geographic history, topography and high-precision mapping rose to the occasion. His admirable work has identified three main locations of the Mongolian photographic record: Ulaanbaatar, Flaming Cliffs, and Tsagaan Nuur ("White Lake").
In October 2017, we mounted a preliminary expedition to the Flaming Cliffs and camped there several nights under cold and windy skies. We used UAV videography when air conditions allowed to quickly scan the expansive cliff front looking for specific landforms featured in the CAE's photos. We managed to get in two good days of identifying subjects, approximating views, and obtaining high resolution images. In a few instances we even felt like we must be standing on exactly the same ground the expedition photographer did, and this was indeed a satisfying sensation.
Preliminary results from some of the Gobi locations show dramatic landscape changes in the form of cliff retreat that apparently occurs at the rate of three to four meters per century. Another way to visualize the cliff retreat is about the width of your smart phone every two years - any way you describe it, it's rapid change. Our early ideas are that intense wind blasts, freeze/thaw action, and seismicity combine to undermine the cliffs and eventually topple them over. There is also a human element of erosion as the area is a very popular tourist destination and is virtually unregulated. We will be further documenting and quantifying the rapid changes and possible implications in subsequent missions.
J.K. Cluer is the current president of the Geological Society of Nevada, and for the past several years has been working with Mongolian colleagues and the American Museum of Natural History on a mission to rephotograph the images obtained by the Roy Chapman Andrews Central Asiatic Expeditions to Mongolia in the early 20th century.  You can reach him at Learn more about Roy Chapman Andrews at
A classic view of Flaming Cliffs with a Dodge car at the base taken by Walter Grainger in 1923. This photo appeared as Plate LXII of the The New Conquest of Central Asia issued as Volume I of Natural History of Central Asia by AMNH in 1932 with the caption "Grainger removing a nest of dinosaur eggs at the Flaming Cliffs, 1925."
Cluer and his teammates crawled out on that precipice in 2017 but didn't see any evidence of fossils or egg shells. Was the 1923 photo staged, with clever product placement? Note the clear evidence of cliff retreat.

In a June 26, 1928 file photo, American aviatrix Amelia Earhart poses with flowers as she arrives in Southampton, England, after her transatlantic flight on the Friendship from Burry Point, Wales.

No Bones About It 

Occasionally we like to check in with the folks at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), the Oxford, Pa., organization closest to solving the mystery of the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart in 1937. 

A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. The bones, revisited in the study "Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones" by University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz, were discarded. For decades they have remained an enigma, as some have speculated that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed.

The bones were uncovered by a British expedition exploring the island for settlement after they came upon a human skull, according to the study. The expedition's officer ordered a more thorough search of the area, which resulted in the discovery of several other bones and part of what appeared to be a woman's shoe. Other items found included a box made to hold a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant that had been manufactured around 1918 and a bottle of Benedictine, an herbal liqueur.

In attempting to compare the lost bones with Earhart's bones, Richard L. Jantz, writing for Forensic Anthropology magazine,co-developed a computer program that estimated sex and ancestry using skeletal measurements. The program, Fordisc, is commonly used by forensic anthropologists across the globe.

Could these be the bones of Amelia Earhart, originally found in 1940?

Read the Mar. 7 story by Marwa Eltagouri of The Washington Post:

The original Jantz study can be seen here, including an analysis of Earhart's weight and body shape:

In a related story, Barbie has 17 new dolls modeled after a diverse group of women who made huge strides in sports, science, art and society. The famous doll brand, owned by Mattel, announced its new "Inspiring Women" series members in time for International Women's Day on March 8. They include Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; and mathematician Katherine Johnson, who worked at NASA to help send the first Americans into space, and Earhart.

Amelia is a real doll. 

According to the company, Barbie designed the new dolls after taking an international survey of thousands of moms with daughters who expressed worry about the kinds of role models their kids were exposed to. The dolls are still in the pre-order phase.

Aleksander Doba kayaked across the Atlantic at age 70, often naked

Naked Kayaker Tackles Atlantic Ocean

Only one person had ever crossed the Atlantic in a kayak using solely muscle power, and he traveled island to island, from Newfoundland to Ireland. The goal of Polish extreme kayaker Aleksander Doba was to go continent to continent between the mainlands, from Senegal to Brazil, unsupported.

His skin broke out in salt-induced rashes, including blisters in his armpits and groin. His eyes blew up with conjunctivitis. His fingernails and toenails just about peeled off. His clothes, permeated with salt, refused to dry. The fabric smelled horrendous and aggravated his skin, so he abandoned clothes, according to Elizabeth Weil writing in the New York Times (Mar. 22).

Read all the gory details here:

Time to Ban Westerners - and Their Egos - From Mount Everest?

Spring in the Himalayas brings with it the start of the brief Everest climbing season - and for the next six to eight weeks, a thousand or so foreigners will descend on Nepal in a bid to scale the highest mountain on the planet. The weary climbers who make it to the top will join an exclusive club of roughly 8,500 people who've summited since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's first successful ascent on May 29, 1953.

But after almost a century of Everest expeditions, 288 deaths and several tons of festering rubbish left behind, can we finally call time on these Western vanity projects? asks travel writer Simon Parker in the UK's The Telegraph (Apr. 4). 

When one considers the dozens-deep queues to the summit, thousands of empty gas canisters, scuffles between climbers, and frozen corpses, Parker wonders whether an ascent "provides anything more than a massaging of my white, middle class ego?"

Parker continues, "Nepal certainly needs tourism and there are dozens of alternative treks to keep the adventurous dosed-up with adrenaline. But just 'because it's there' doesn't mean it has to be Everest." 

Read the story here:

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon (Picador, 2018)
On July 14, 2015, more than 3 billion miles from Earth, a small NASA spacecraft called New Horizons screamed past Pluto at more than 32,000 miles per hour, focusing its instruments on the long mysterious icy worlds of the Pluto system, and then, just as quickly, continued on its journey out into the beyond.

At a time when so many think that our most historic achievements are in the past, the most distant planetary exploration ever attempted not only succeeded in 2015 but made history and captured the world's imagination.

Chasing New Horizons is the story of the men and women behind this amazing mission: of their decades-long commitment and persistence; of the political fights within and outside of NASA; of the sheer human ingenuity it took to design, build, and fly the mission; and of the plans for New Horizons' next encounter, one billion miles past Pluto in 2019.

In a recent email, Stern tells EN, "The New Horizons mission has set the record for the most distant exploration of worlds in history. We also set records for how many people watched - more than two billion people visited our web site during the flyby of Pluto - showing once again that raw exploration is deeply engaging to people all around the world."

For more information:

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