Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Researchers Find 2,600-Year-Old Brain; Explorers Club Explores Deal with Discovery



 EXPEDITION NOTES


Citizen of the World is a very highly modified Twin Turbine Commander 900

Citizen of the World Aircraft Expedition Aims For the Poles

An aircraft titled Citizen of the World, began the call of adventure last November on a six-month 26,000 nautical mile flight that will, according to its chief pilot, connect the South Pole and the North Pole and everyone in between on a mission of global peace.

The aircraft is a very highly modified Twin Turbine Commander 900 with predator drone engines, custom 5-bladed nickel-tipped scimitar composite props, and a sophisticated avionics suite. The Citizen is intended to complete a Polar Circumnavigation this year.   

Pilot Robert DeLaurentis, 54, with the help of 95 sponsors, hopes to generate greater awareness for aviation safety, technology and education. According to DeLaurentis, author of Zen Pilot: Flight of Passion and the Journey Within (Flying Thru Life Publications, 2016), new technology is an integral part of the expedition, creating first-time records and science experiments, such as:

*    Citizen of the World is reportedly the first aircraft in history to be tracked globally with the new Aireon Space-Based ADS-B Flight Tracking using the Iridium NEXT Satellite Constellation of 66 satellites that have just come online.

*    Citizen will also reportedly be the first aircraft in history to use biofuels to fly over the North and South Poles.

*    The aircraft will be carrying two science and technology experiments onboard including a proof-of-concept Wafer Scale Spacecraft for NASA, as well as a plastics/microfibers collection experiment for Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Celebrity ride-alongs are being sought to add to the project's global brand impact.
 
DeLaurentis, who resides in San Diego, reports in his latest blog on Dec.16, 2019, successfully completing the project's South Pole flight from Ushuaia, Argentina, in just under 18 hours. "It was a very challenging flight which included loss of navigation many times, extreme weather, the risk of fuel gelling, pilot fatigue and shortage of fuel." Learn more at:


A documentary is planned. See the teaser here:

 
Gregg Treinish wants your roadkill

Roadkill is Gold for Citizen-Scientists 

Wherever explorers and adventurers travel these days, there are scientists and researchers back home desperate for hard-to-obtain environmental data that would otherwise be unavailable for conservation.

That's the premise behind the formation of Adventure Scientists (AS) in 2011, a nonprofit that equips partners with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to addressing environmental and human health challenges. As such, it serves as an invaluable connection between the conservation and outdoor communities.

Founder Gregg Treinish of Bozeman, Montana, spoke to the public last month at the Fjallraven store in Boulder, Colorado, and explained that AS studies some of the world's most pressing issues where the collection of field data is crucial. Data collection can be expensive, time consuming, and physically demanding, which limits the role that science currently plays in the conservation process. Adventure Scientists tackles this problem by recruiting, training and managing individuals with strong outdoor skills - such as mountaineering, diving or whitewater kayaking - and empowering them to retrieve hard-to-obtain data from the far corners of the globe.

Take the crisis of microplastics, pollution you can't actually see without a microscope. Adventure Scientists has created one of the largest libraries of microplastic pollution in the world, according to Treinish, who conceived of the idea of conducting field research while hiking the Appalachian Trail. "I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to service and do it outdoors," he told the chapter. "I finally felt I was using my outdoor skill set to make a difference."

The problem of wildlife-vehicle collisions is global. AS asked cyclists, runners and long-distance walkers to make roadkill observations to aid transportation officials and protect the lives of humans and wildlife.

As part of its timber tracking initiative, the group also collects samples of bigleaf maples to build a genetic reference library to help confirm that the wood, popular in guitar making, is harvested legally. The tonewood is highly prized for its complex beautiful grain, to the extent that poachers are illegally cutting down bigleaf maples in the Pacific Northwest.

National Geographic named Treinish an Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. Since then he has undertaken several epic long-distance treks, served as a field technician on diverse expeditions, and guided others to experience the wild firsthand.

The list of Adventure Scientists projects is extensive, all supported by hikers, bikers, skiers, and photographers from all walks of life who have chosen to make a difference by donating their time in the field.

Learn more at:


EXPEDITION FUNDING


Explorers Club Explores Relationship with Discovery Channel



Many Explorers Club members were caught unawares earlier this month when a confidential board document was leaked to the New York Post. According to the Jan. 2 story by investigative reporter Melissa Klein, The Discovery Channel is contemplating a multi-million dollar, multi-year relationship with the New York-based Club established in 1904.

The story reports Discovery would provide the Club with approximately $1 million a year for a fund that would support exploration. Some $2 million will be spent to renovate the headquarters building; and $300,000 per year would be paid to rename the Club's headquarters located in a 1910 Jacobean townhouse on the Upper East Side. The building is currently named for former Club member and renowned broadcaster Lowell Thomas (1892-1981).

News of the proposed deal, which is still under negotiation, was generally well received by the members we spoke to, with the exception of strong pushback over renaming the building.
In a Jan. 15 letter to members signed by president Richard Wiese, Development Committee Chair Richard Garriott, and Dr. Janet L. Walsh, Chair of Ethics and Governance, the Club emphasized that it has a team of experts working on this sponsorship.

"Our Club's most outstanding leaders including members of our Board, our Club's attorneys (including expert outside attorneys), media and television specialists, communication professionals and tax experts - all (are) working to make a potential Discovery sponsorship a beneficial relationship for each of our members. From our perspective, this team's attention to detail, dedication to the Club's mission, vision, and values, has been indispensable to Club stewardship," the letter states.

It continues, "At the root of any of our existing sponsorships is our ability to provide expedition funding for our members, advancement of our Club's mission and support for youth activities and grants. .... at no time would we ever compromise our mission, our vision, and the values we hold as a Club."

If it goes through, this would be a win for both Discovery - which seeks more awareness and exclusive content - and the Club which would receive welcome revenue - possibly upwards of $20 million this decade - to continue its support of exploration.

The media giant has a successful history supporting exploration-related nonprofits including an almost 20-year relationship with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Pluto was famously discovered. In that sponsorship deal, the media company provided major funding to build the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) near Happy Jack, Arizona.

The DCT project got underway in 2003, when Discovery founder and former CEO John Hendricks proposed what would become a $16 million gift to Lowell Observatory from his foundation and from Discovery Communications. In return, Discovery received naming rights to the telescope and first right of refusal to use images from the telescope in their online and broadcast educational programming. As of last year it was the fifth largest telescope in the continental U.S. (https://lowell.edu/research/research-facilities/4-3-meter-dct/)

The media company's reported interest in The Explorers Club seems like a perfect match. But as they say, the devil is in the details.


Full disclosure: EN editor and publisher Jeff Blumenfeld is a member of The Explorers Club.
 
QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse."

- Paul Hawken (1946 -), American environmentalist, entrepreneur, author, and activist.  Source: Commencement Address to the Class of 2009, University of Portland (Oregon).   

MEDIA MATTERS


PBS Born to Explore Renewed

Born to Explore hosted by Richard Wiese, a half-hour television series produced by Explorer Films, LLC, in partnership with WGBH Boston, has been renewed for its eighth season. The show travels worldwide to celebrate world cultures, encounter rare and endangered wildlife and discover the wonders of the planet.

Wiese and co-executive producer Mercedes Velgot have produced over 200 shows and has received two Daytime Emmy Awards and 14 Emmy nominations, as well as 35 Telly Awards, 4 Parents' Choice Awards and a CINE Golden Eagle. Primary funding is provided by Aggressor Adventures.

Earlier this month, The Explorers Club announced that Wiese was re-elected president by its Board of Directors. This will be his third term in that leadership role.

Learn more about the show here:



Folds and grooves still visible in this 2,600-year-old brain. Photo: York Archaeological Trust

He Lost His Head; Researchers Find it 2,600 Years Later

Nearly 2,600 years ago, a man was beheaded near modern-day York, in northeast England - for what reasons, no one  knows - and his head was quickly buried in the clay-rich mud. When researchers found his skull in 2008, they were startled to find that his brain tissue, which normally rots rapidly after death, had survived for millennia  - even maintaining features such as folds and grooves, writes Rodrigo PĂ©rez Ortega in Science Magazine (Jan. 7, 2020).

Now, researchers think they know why. Two structural proteins - which act as the "skeletons" of neurons and astrocytes - were more tightly packed in the ancient brain. In a year-long experiment, they found that these aggregated proteins were also more stable than those in modern-day brains. In fact, the ancient protein clumps may have helped preserve the structure of the soft tissue for ages, the researchers reported earlier this month in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface (https://royalsocietypublishing.org)

Read the story here:



Borge Ousland and Mike Horn. (Photo courtesy Borge Ousland) 

Borge Ousland Says "Leave Your Fears Behind"

Borge Ousland is the first person to have completed an unsupported solo crossing of the Antarctic via the South Pole. Last month, Ousland, 57, and fellow explorer Mike Horn, 53,  completed a grueling, 87-day expedition across the Arctic Ocean in the dark of the polar night, experiencing temperatures below minus 40 F.

In an interview with Jim Clash, contributor to Forbes.com (Jan. 8) Ousland says, "Mike and I wanted to do a classical, old-style polar expedition, crossing the North Pole by entering and exiting the ice by boat. The last time this was tried was when Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen left the polar ship Fram in 1895. Nansen and Johansen did not, however, reach the North Pole, so this challenge remained undone up to now. It was a battle from day one, but we made it unsupported.

"No one has completed a trek across the polar ocean in this style before, and no one has done an expedition up there that time of year. We probed unknown territory, so to speak."

When asked how he managed fear, Ousland replies, "You have to leave your fears behind on a trip like this. The focus is on survival. There is only room for that fear that keeps you safe and alive, and that helps you deal with immediate danger. We were beyond rescue for most of this trip, and wouldn't have made it if we were going to be afraid all the time."

Read the story here:


EXPEDITION MARKETING

 

Guide Service Celebrates 100th Polar Expedition

For years we've met amateur adventurers who say they've skied to the North or South Pole, while in reality what they accomplished was the so-called "Last Degree"  about 60 nautical miles. We often congratulate them for the effort, while cautioning them to qualify their claims for the sake of their own credibility.

One company that has led exactly 100 Last Degree amateur expeditions to date is Chicago-area-based PolarExplorers. In a recent promotional email to EN, they proudly announce that despite strong winds, limited visibility and extremely cold temperatures, a five-person international team reached the South Pole on Jan. 12.

The team skied the Last Degree of latitude from 89° degrees S to 90 degrees S. This 60 nautical mile (111 km) journey was the second polar expedition for four of the five team members who have already skied the Last Degree to the North Pole.

Annie Aggens, director of PolarExplorers, points out that the South Pole is more predictable than skiing across the frozen sea that surrounds the North Pole. "There is no open water within hundreds and hundreds of miles of the South Pole. There is no ocean drift. Where you fall asleep is where you wake up. And there are no polar bears."

Another important difference is that while there is nothing at the North Pole, the South Pole is home to the permanent Amundsen Scott South Pole Station as well as a small seasonal basecamp for explorers who arrive by ski. PolarExplorers guide Keith Heger adds, "It's incredibly satisfying to see the station appear like a small dot on the horizon and to watch it get bigger knowing that it is your destination."

PolarExplorers organizes annual expeditions to the North Pole, South Pole, Greenland, Svalbard, Iceland and other destinations in the Arctic and Antarctic. Their 101st expedition will be to the North Pole in April. Their polar expeditions may be just 60 n.m., but it's still no walk in the park.

For more information: www.polarexplorers.com

EXPEDITION INK



Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy (St. Martin's Press, December 2019)

Reviewed by Robert F. Wells

A bit of context. As a teenager in 1861, Adolphus W. Greely enlisted in the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Soon, his mind was marinated with imagery of the horrific battle at Antietam. Then he was off to the Dakota Territory in the early 1870's as the country's top meteorologist  - while the world became enveloped in the financial crash of 1873.

In 1879, a good friend, George DeLong, commander of the ship USS Jeannette, was lost without a trace while on an attempted voyage to the North Pole. In the face of this backdrop, Greely set off on a revolutionary scientific mission in 1881 to reach "Farthest North" - and establish a critical weather station as part of an "International Polar Year (IPY)" effort.

Early goings were routine. "Leads," or sea lanes of navigable water, brought the expedition through dreaded Melville Bay - known as a "mysterious region of terror."  An outpost dubbed Fort Conger was set up as polar darkness settled in... and by mid-May of 1882, the goal of "Farthest North" was achieved. Along the way, impressive scientific data was recorded.  Then all hell broke loose.  It lasted for literally two more years.

Resupply missions never arrived - thanks in part to Secretary of War, Robert Todd Lincoln, who thought Arctic exploration was an utter waste of money. Greely's ship Proteus was "nipped" in ice, crushing its hull and sending it to the bottom. A "devil's symphony" of grinding ice from colossal paleocrystic floes relentlessly taunted the crew with combinations of moaning, thunder and shrieking. Temperatures often plummeted to  minus 50 degrees F. Gales became norms.

Meanwhile, the crew abandoned Fort Conger with its shelter and supplies to seek help farther south at Cape Sabine. Suffering was severe. Frostbite was common. Food ran out. At one point, the crew sat down to a meal of "a stew composed of a pair of boot soles, a handful of reindeer moss, and a few rock lichens."  All drifted in and out of deliriousness... as 19 died. And all hope nearly died with them.

Copious notes somehow survived - which became the chronicle narrated in this book.  The acute misery of each day splayed out, page after page. The tale is brutal, as men slipped into unconsciousness and beyond to death. Then, miraculously, a rescue mission in July 1884 found seven survivors clinging onto wisps of life, and brought them home.  Commander Greely survived.

And after a short burst of acidic press claiming rumors of cannibalism during the venture, Greely survived to become a richly-deserved hero. He carried on for decades  - giving speeches (where he never accepted a penny, in deference to those who died at Cape Sabine) ... and he was one of the founders of both the National Geographic Society and the Explorers Club.

If you want excitement, as recreated three decades later by Sir Ernest Shackleton's venture in Antarctica, this is your book.  Just make sure you've got your "woolies" on.

Robert F. Wells, a member of The Explorers Club since 1991, is a resident of South Londonderry, Vt., and a retired executive of the Young & Rubicam ad agency. Wells is the director of a steel band (www.blueflamessteelband.com) and in 1989, at the age of 45, traveled south by road bike from Canada to Long Island Sound in a single 350-mile, 19-hr., 28-min. push.

ON THE HORIZON


New York Wild Film Festival, Feb. 27-March 1, 2020, New York City

Through powerful, exhilarating films and conversations, the festival presents an opportunity to exchange ideas, celebrate the wild and effect change. New York Wild is a platform to create excitement, identify critical issues, build partnerships, and reach audiences that care about exploring, discovering and protecting our planet.

The kick-off reception at The Paley Center for Media is Feb. 27; film showings begin Feb. 28 at The Explorers Club, 46 E. 70th Street, New York, and continue through the afternoon of March 1. There's also a special showing of family-friendly films for ages 7-plus that Sunday afternoon.

For more information:




AAC Annual Benefit Weekend, March 13-15, 2020, Denver

The American Alpine Club will host the 2020 Annual Benefit Dinner (ABD) weekend March 13-15, 2020 in Denver. Since 1902, the Annual Benefit Dinner has served to convene the climbing community and garner support for the Club's work around the protection of wild places.

This year's ABD will be presented by Patagonia and will feature a keynote by Kris McDivitt Tompkins, Former CEO of Patagonia and current president of Tompkins Conservation.
Tompkins is a longstanding defender of wild places and a champion for the planet. 

She will speak March 14, 2020, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (1101 13th St, Denver). She and her late husband Doug Tompkins turned millions of acres across Chile and Argentina into National Parks in an effort to restore and re-wild landscapes.

For more information:

www.americanalpineclub.org/annual-benefit-dinner

EXPEDITION CLASSIFIEDS



Space Available for John Huston's Ski Expedition to Svalbard
 
Colorado polar explorer John Huston is organizing a short expedition March 15-22, 2020,  to Svalbard, Norway - a scenic mountainous archipelago located in the North Sea at 78 degrees N. His co-leader is long-time friend and expedition colleague Harald Kippenes, a Norwegian who owns and operates Yourway Adventures & Expeditions.

Harald and John have worked closely together since 2005 when they were teammates re-staging Roald Amundsen's race to the South Pole for a BBC/History Channel film production.

The route is stunning - beginning east of Longyearbaen, travel is via stunning glaciers, mountain passes, and mountain-lined valleys and ends back in town. There is a chance of northern lights occurring. Participants will sleep in tents and haul sleds with all the necessary gear and food.

Huston is a professional polar explorer and veteran of the first American unsupported expedition to the North Pole. He has completed major expeditions to the South Pole, on Greenland, and to Canada's fabled Ellesmere Island. 

Cost is $4,750 pp. For more information: http://www.johnhuston.com/svalbard  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ten Questions for Underwater Explorer Barry Clifford

EXPEDITION UPDATE
 
Members of the 1990 International Polar Expedition met with Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa (center) and the city's environmental minister, Takeshi Shimotsuma (far right) to discuss the city's role in developing the IPCC Kyoto Guidelines to support and implement the Paris Agreement. The expedition team urged the Mayor to continue his leadership role, and he congratulated them on their accomplishments on and off the ice. Team members from left to right: Geoff Somers, Great Britain; Will Steger, USA; Jean-Louis Etienne, France; Keizo Funatsu, Japan; Victor Boyarsky, Russia; and Cathy de Moll, expedition manager.

1989-1990 Trans-Antarctica Team Celebrates 30th With New Climate Declaration

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the historic 1989-1990 Trans-Antarctica Expedition across Antarctica, the six expedition team members reunited in Japan recently to share their concern for the continent's future, and their commitment to the world's young people who will be most affected by the climate change that is now occurring.

The 1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition was the first-ever non-mechanized crossing of Antarctica and the longest-ever traverse (nearly 4,000 miles). The international team of six included Will Steger (USA), Jean-Louis Etienne (France), Victor Boyarsky (Russia/Soviet Union), Qin Dahe (China), Geoff Somers (Great Britain) and Keizo Funatsu (Japan), plus three sleds and 40 sled dogs. The expedition's purpose was to bring world attention to the international cooperation that managed this continent of science, and to lobby the world's leaders to ban mineral exploration and continue uninterrupted the international Antarctic Treaty.
 
1990 Trans-Antarctica team member Will Steger (USA), left, speaks to a crowd on November 10 at the Tokyo International Forum about the vital importance of international cooperation in stemming the precipitous melting of Antarctica's ice shelf and in addressing a growing global climate crisis. Also pictured: Victor Boyarsky, Qin Dahe, and Geoff Somers.

In November's appearances in Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan, the team issued a mission statement updated from the one they read on December 11, 1989, at the South Pole, noting that their expedition would no longer be possible due to the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf, and emphasizing the ever-increasing urgency for international research and cooperative action to address the growing crisis. The team also met with Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa, an international leader in climate action.

The Trans-Antarctica anniversary events in Japan were sponsored by the DAC Group, North Face Japan, and Gore-Tex Japan. A similar celebration is scheduled in Lanzhou, China, in March, 2020 on the 30th anniversary of the expedition's completion, March 3, 1990.

The full transcript of the expedition's 2019 mission statement can be found at:

Read the Antarctic Treaty here:

EXPEDITION NOTES
Scripps professor Jeff Severinghaus (Photo courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Search Begins for World's Oldest Ice

A group of local scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are in Antarctica to search for the world's oldest ice. The reason? To understand more about Earth's climate history by looking at ice caps, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The research team will be seeking an entire ice sheet, about two miles thick, to use as a sample, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The problem? A standard drill could take five years to dig deep enough to find the necessary ice sheet sample, according to researchers with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. That's where San Diego's team of researchers come in.

Paleoclimatolgist Jeff Severinghaus believes he has a faster way to find the ice sheet - a drill that could take just 48 hours, instead of five years. Severinghaus is working with a geologist at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, John Goodge, to design a drill, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

This month, the team will use the drill in Antarctica, in hopes of learning more about Antarctica's history from ice sheets, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Severinghaus will return from San Diego in the spring with his discoveries, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Learn more here:

FEATS

Colin O'Brady

Celebrity Adventurer and Neophyte Rower Leads Drake Attempt

The Drake Passage is one mother of a body of water, named for Sir Francis Drake who in the sixteenth century called it ". . . the most mad seas." When the cold air of the Antarctic ice cap collides with the warmer maritime air over the ocean surrounding the continent, the result is a vicious storm belt of blizzards and dense fog spanning 600 miles from the southern tip of South America to the South Shetland Islands.

On the best of days the ocean is turbulent and, on the worst of days, impassable in smaller vessels. Mariners have long called this region the "Roaring Forties," "Furious Fifties," and "Screaming Sixties," referring not to decades, but lines of latitude.

In March 1988, the late American Ned Gillette, then 43, and his team set out against the currents to row the Drake assisted by a small sail and fueled by 6,000 calories per day of energy bars and shakes. For fourteen days, the four-man team muscled their hardy heavy-gauge aluminum Sea Tomato 684 miles from Cape Horn to Nelson Island in the South Shetlands, just off the Antarctica peninsula. 
This month, celebrity adventurer Colin O'Brady, 34, an American professional endurance athlete, motivational speaker, adventurer and former professional triathlete, and his five teammates, will embark on The Impossible Row, an attempt to complete the world's first completely human-powered crossing of the Drake.

Main sponsor The Discovery Channel said the crew will not use any motors or sails and must work around the clock to complete their mission.
 
Home away from home for six extreme endurance rowers.

O'Brady, from Portland, Oregon, tells his 11,400 Twitter followers on Nov. 17, "Up until I started training just a few months ago, I'd never rowed a boat before. But I've been strengthening the most important muscle for years; my mind. Mindset is the key for any of us to fully unlock our potential and make the impossible possible."

O'Brady was on The Tonight Show to talk with Jimmy Fallon about his partnership with the Discovery Channel.

"Get this," he said to Fallon. "I've never rowed a boat anywhere in my life."

Watch his Nov. 16 appearance here:


In 2018, the neophyte rower completed a 930-mile expedition on foot across the Antarctic continent in a controversial 54-day journey (see EN, January 2019). The then 33-year-old documented his journey - which he called The Impossible First - on his Instagram page.

For more information: www.Discovery.com/theimpossiblerow 

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"Our earth is a raft in the sea of the universe. The more we learn, the more we realize how fragile it is. We need to engage everyone in preserving the wonders of our raft."

-  Milbry Polk, Explorers Club Sweeney Medal recipient, awarded at the 115th annual dinner in New York on March 16, 2019. Learn more about her work here: www.milbrypolk.com

MEDIA MATTERS

Bombardier Blood

A new documentary focuses on mountaineer and severe hemophiliac Chris Bombardier's attempt to climb the Seven Summits. Bombardier Blood follows his summit of Everest where he and his medical team overcome frozen veins, fatigue, and the omnipresent fear of life-threatening bleeds - to raise awareness and critical funds for the global hemophilia community.

Chris Bombardier is a mountaineer and outdoorsman with severe hemophilia B living in Salem, Mass. The documentary is an inspiring and heart-warming adventure film that cinematically highlights both what is and is not possible when living with this rare disease. It is available for community screenings.

Watch the trailer here:

OUT THERE
Barry Clifford

Ten Questions for Barry Clifford, Underwater Archaeological Explorer

In May 2014, Barry Clifford, now 74, one of the world's most renowned underwater archaeological explorers, reported he found the wreck of the Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus, off the coast of Haiti. Over 90 people crowded into the historic Clark Room of The Explorers Club for the announcement. The news was carried worldwide.

The newest adventure for Clifford is the 12,000 sq. ft. Whydah Pirate Museum on Cape Cod that houses a full-scale replica of Samuel Bellamy's Whydah Gally, a pirate ship that sank in 1717 off Wellfleet, Mass.

Clifford discovered the wreck and its accompanying treasure in 1984, helped in part by family friend John F. Kennedy, Jr., who was part of his dive team. To this day, the Whydah remains the only fully authenticated pirate ship ever found. At the heart of Clifford's museum is an interactive lab where visitors can watch archaeologists work their way through recovered pirate artifacts piece by piece.  
We caught up with him recently in Boston, across Massachusetts Bay from his home in Provincetown.

EN:             How can you be sure you discovered the wreck of the Santa Maria off Cap Haitian?

BC:            We spent several years surveying the Bay of Cap Haitian, eliminating over 560 anomalies before discovering the eight and ninth 15th century lombards (cannons), ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere.

Coincidentally, it was the exact distance (1.5 leagues) as described in the Columbus Dario (diary) from the wreckage of the Santa Maria to Fort Navidad, the fort Columbus built, in part, from the wreckage of his beloved flagship.

Most recently, even more compelling evidence came to light when fellow explorer Dr. Charles D. Beeker, director of Indiana University's Center for Underwater Science and Academic Diving Program, discovered evidence that the "Columbus Anchor" uncovered in the 1960's, which Columbus purportedly used in an attempt to kedge (winch) off the sand bar on which they had "silently" grounded, was located within anchoring distance of the wreck we had discovered.

EN:            Not everyone believed this discovery, did they?        

BC:            Sadly, both lombards, and a variety of compelling artifacts were looted from the site after UNESCO rejected our discovery without consulting our archaeologists, or, examining a word of our research.

UNESCO still disputes the findings. But I take comfort in that the same people who said I didn't find the Santa Maria also didn't believe that we found the Whydah in 1984..... until our team pulled up a ship's bell upon which was cast in block letters THE WHYDAH GALLY 1716.

The bell inscribed THE WHYDAH GALLY 1716

EN:             Do you have plans to return to Haiti to conduct conclusive research?

BC:             We'd love to, but it depends upon the government of Haiti. Right now, it's one of the most dangerous countries on earth and we've yet to receive permission to return. 

EN:             Historical revisionism in the modern era has made Columbus somewhat of a controversial figure. Instead of Columbus Day, some states celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. Why the on-going effort to conclusively prove the location of the wreck?

BC:            Right or wrong, this ship and the Columbus expedition changed the course of human history. He was an explorer who followed his dream and I have great admiration for him.

EN:            Where's the money coming from to continue this quest for the Santa Maria?

BC:            I received some funding from various television shows, lectures, and early funding, but otherwise it's all been funded by myself and a dear friend. I've yet to sell any recovered artifacts from a career of underwater exploration.

EN:            Why not? especially if the proceeds will support more exploration?

BC:            I started out exploring for treasure, but when I realized these recovered artifacts came from slave ships and some were used to pay for people, I decided I could never wear that around my neck or sell it.

EN:             How did JFK, Jr. become involved in the search for the Whydah?

BC:            I knew Caroline Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. from skiing in Aspen, and agreed to add JFK, Jr. when he asked to join our Whydah search in 1982. He was an important member of the team and a terrific young man, then about age 22. Around that time, his diving compass was snagged and broke off. We later found it in 2007 and it's now on display in our Cape Cod museum.


JFK, JR.'s compass lost in 1984, recovered in 2007. Note initials in the upper right corner.

EN:             You're somewhat of an expert on pirates. When did pirates start saying things like "aye matey" and "arghhhh?"

BC:            Those are Hollywood inventions. But if you're curious about why men and women went under the skull and bones, watch Poldark, the PBS Masterpiece show streaming on Amazon Prime.

EN:             So what you're saying is that pirates have been much maligned?

BC:            Pirate society was an early exercise in democracy where former slaves were experimenting in democracy with Europeans, often being elected as officers, and sharing equally in the plunder. Crew members were elected to higher positions based upon what they contributed to the brotherhood and well-being of the ship. It wasn't about skin color.

EN:            What's next for you?

BC:            I'm working on a book of short stories, planning additional tours for our museum tour of pirate artifacts, and hoping to expand our Cape Cod museum. I have no plans to retire until I'm 92 to correspond to the year Columbus "sailed the ocean blue."

Learn more about the Whydah Pirate Museum here:


EN'S HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

It's our favorite time of the year, a time for us to share with you some, ahem, quirky gifts to give to the explorer in your life. After all, soap on a rope won't do for this group of alpha males and females. They'll be looking for gifts with some gravitas. We respectfully submit our top five for the holiday season, a time when we all know, money is no object. Whoop whoop.

Behind every successful explorer is a substantial amount of coffee.

Rocket Fuel

For the rocket man (or woman) in your life, the one who dreams of joining the space program, consider these rocket fuel ceramic mugs. Coffee doesn't ask silly questions. Coffee understands. ($19.99, https://shop.amnh.org/rocket-fuel-ceramic-mug.html).


The Vermonter Therma-Phone is made of Johnson Woolen Mills outer fabric.

Smartphone Cozies

Therma-Phone's Mobile Phone Survival Kits are perfect for explorers who can't survive without constantly posting from the trail.  They're like cozies, but instead of your favorite THC-infused brew, they protect those addictive pocket brains we all carry. The phone protector is an engineered heat-reflective, insulated soft case that retains and reflects heat back to the phone to keep it warm, thus extending battery life five to 10 hours, or so they claim. ($39.95, www.therma-phone.com)

   
The Moki is a Step Up

A Step Up

Yes, there is a way to stand on a tire to reach a rooftop rack, but it's a lot more convenient using a Moki Door Step that attaches to those U- and D-shaped door latches found in most every SUV. The rubber coated hook withstands 400 lbs., although we suspect a 400 lb. explorer or adventurer will be tall enough to reach the rack regardless. ($44.95, www.rightlinegear.com)

 
The motorized wiener machine.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)

When the weather warms up, it's the perfect season for cooking hot dogs on a camp grill. But after a hard day digging up dinosaur bones, the last thing a hungry explorer wants to do is stand there manually turning his foot long sausage meat. That's why the Rotisserie Kit just had to be invented. It attaches to any portable drill and is perfect for roasting pigs in a blanket, assuming you can dial back on the drill speed. (Coming soon, price TBD, www.imaginecamping.com)


The BMW NIGHT SKY, a feasibility study by BMW Individual.

It Came From Another World

For the love of all things holy, there's no better way to shower your largess on a friend or loved one than gifting a luxury car with meteorites embedded in the dashboard. The BMW Individual M850i NIGHT SKY was created as a feasibility study by the experts of BMW Individual in a manual process lasting several weeks.

They quilted cosmic patterns into the merino leather seats and roof lining, created starry constellations in the central console, and applied a series of mosaics - from the 4.5 billion-year-old material of a genuine meteorite. The small mosaics cut from an iron meteorite are only 0.35 mm thick. Starting price is an astronomical $111,900. Your recipient can hop into this bad boy the next time he or she drives to the Fortress of Solitude. 


For more gift ideas, check out TheExploreStore.com for a host of clever products based on an exploration theme. Among its many items are books including EN's Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would-Be World Travelers (hint, hint).

IN PASSING

 
Barbara Hillary was the first African-American woman on record to reach the North Pole, and first to reach both the North and South Poles.

Barbara Hillary (1931-2019)

Barbara Hillary, an African-American woman with a deeply ingrained sense of adventure, passed away in Far Rockaway, New York, on Nov. 23 at the age of 88. It's said that her body lived hard, and it simply wore out.

Many people know the major storyline of Barbara's expeditions to the North and South Poles in her 70s - feats of pure grit and determination. Barbara made one final, epic expedition, to Mongolia, earlier this year. She accomplished that trip, too, against the odds, and with tremendous support from friends, guides, sponsors, journalists, and the hospitable people in Mongolia.

Back when we knew her, she would like to say, "Wouldn't it be better to die doing something interesting than to drop dead in an office and the last thing you see is someone you don't like?"

Her friend Deborah Bogosian writes, "Everything about her was fascinating, convention-breaking, and confounding. Her record-setting treks, her defeat over cancer, her arduous fight to get her house back after Hurricane Sandy. Her years as a nurse, her gigs as a taxi driver and in sundry other jobs that gave her more than a few stories to tell. Her appreciation for archery, guns and knives, big trucks and big dogs. The roses and miraculous tomatoes she grew."

Learn more about her life and read her New York Times (Nov. 27) obituary at: