Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Titanic Struck by Submersible; NatGeo Examines O'Brady Antarctica Claims


In 2018, author, adventurer, and television producer James Campbell, 58, helped to organize a trek across Papua New Guinea on a WWII trail that he re-discovered in 2006 while researching and writing his book, The Ghost Mountain Boys (Crown, 2007). The rugged 150-mile route was used by a battalion of U.S. soldiers ordered by General MacArthur to march to the battlefields on the north coast of the Papuan Peninsula. Military historians call their 42-day trek "one of the cruelest in military history."   

On November 10, 1942, this C-47-DL Flying Dutchman Serial Number 41-18564 Nose 564 took off from 5-Mile Drome (Wards Drome) near Port Moresby piloted by 2nd Lt. George W. Vandervort on a flight to deliver cargo and troops to Pongani Airfield near the north coast of New Guinea. Aboard a total of twenty-three including the three air crew, a Chaplin and soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Division, 126th Infantry Regiment. Inbound while crossing the Owen Stanley Range, the C-47 was caught in a severe downdraft and crashed at an elevation of 9,000 feet into a flat area near Mount Obree. (Source:

This June, Campbell, a resident of Wisconsin, and historian and adventurer Peter Gamgee, 62, from Queensland, Australia, will help lead two strenuous treks on the same trail. The first one, June 3-11, 2020, will visit the crash site of the C-47-DL cargo plane that was re-supplying the exhausted troops in November 1942. The battalion's beloved commanding officer, Colonel Quinn and the entire crew perished, as troops looked on from the jungle below. Few people have ever seen the crash site.

The second trek, June 13-20, will visit the site of the Flying Dutchman, a C-47A cargo plane, carrying 23 men, that crashed in the high mountains of the Papuan Peninsula just days after Colonel Quinn's plane went down. While eight of the 16 survivors remained with the plane, two separate parties of four set out to find help. After trekking for over one month, one of the parties made it safely to the coast.

A group sent to rescue the survivors failed to locate them. Eventually, another party would find the crash site and the remains of the men left behind. The Flying Dutchman still lies in the jungle, unvisited by outsiders for more than 50 years.

Campbell and Gamgee intend to confirm the location of both wrecks, mapping them precisely for the first time using GPS. They will return those GPS coordinates and notes and photographs detailing the state of both wrecks to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and the PNG National Museum. There are still three MIAs associated with the crash of the Flying Dutchman. Any evidence they discover will be shared with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, for whom they have already mapped possible MIA sites on other parts of the trail.

The trek is seeking to raise $7,500 for C.U.R.E Kits, books, and solar lights, which it will distribute in the various villages along the route, and filming. Corporate donations will come with sponsorship rights.

Teammates are being sought and must have a high level of fitness. The Trek Grade is 4 and 5 and includes remote jungle conditions.

Getaway Trekking will provide all logistical support. Costs, which are estimated at US $5,640, includes all in-country accommodation, transport, including chartered flights to and from the trail, and a personal carrier. Participants will be responsible for getting to and from PNG.

For more information on the trek:

Interested trekkers can contact James Campbell at or at 608 333 1177

Map of Antarctica places the length of O'Brady's trip into perspective.

The Colin O'Brady Problem

The U.K. has its Walter Mitty Hunters Club dedicated to exposing the truth behind those who pose as soldiers and steal the valor of men and women in the Armed Forces.

In the U.S., false claims of a military nature are against the law. Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 to make it a crime for a person to claim they have served in the military, embellish their rank or fraudulently claim having received a valor award, with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit by convincing another that he or she received the award.

The closest the expedition world comes to this involves explorers who exaggerate their claims.

According to a post by National Geographic (Feb. 3) Colin O'Brady, who we covered in previous issues of EN, has prompted numerous polar experts to claim he's embellishing his accomplishments in pursuit of fame.

Aaron Teasdale writes about O'Brady's Jan. 3, 2019, Antarctic expedition in which he claimed the first-ever solo, unsupported, unassisted crossing of Antarctica.

"Prominent leaders of the adventure and polar communities were less enthusiastic about O'Brady's claims. Conrad Anker, Alex Honnold, Mike Horn, Borge Ousland, and others spoke out against him, accusing O'Brady of exaggerating his accomplishment or worse," Teasdale writes.

O'Brady "didn't do what (he) advertised," says Australian polar explorer Eric Philips, co-founder and president of the International Polar Guides Association (IPGA). "This wasn't some Last Great Polar Journey. Rather, it was a truncated route that was a first in only a very limited way."

Says writer Jon Krakauer, "O'Brady needs to be called out for his false claims."

Famed polar explorer Eric Larsen tells National Geographic, "I don't think anyone looked at the route (O'Brady) was skiing and thought it was even remotely impossible. The reason no one had done it is because no one thought it was worthwhile, in the sense of being anything record-breaking."

O'Brady claims to be the first person to ski alone and unsupported across Antarctica, but in the opinion of many of the world's leading polar guides and historians, that distinction belongs to Norwegian Borge Ousland, considered by many to be the modern era's most accomplished polar explorer.

Shortly after O'Brady completed his trek, prominent American climber Conrad Anker, who has made more than a dozen expeditions to climb the continent's frozen mountains, tweeted, "@borgeousland is the first to cross Antarctica unsupported. Full Stop."

In 1997, the 34-year-old Norwegian pioneered a new route across the frozen continent, much of it never traveled by humans, over 64 days and 1,864 miles, to achieve one of the world's last great geographical feats. Antarctica had now been crossed solo, according to National Geographic.

Looking at a map of Antarctica, you might wonder how O'Brady's 932-mile route can be considered a crossing of "the entire continent," as he calls it, since it appears to start and end several hundred miles inland, especially compared to the much longer journeys of Ousland, Mike Horn (who completed a daring 3,169-mile solo kite-ski crossing of Antarctica in 2017), and others.

Ousland skied from water's edge on the Ronne to water's edge on the Ross. When he undertook his expedition two decades ago, this was considered the only way to claim a crossing of Antarctica.

"To me, Antarctica is what you see on a satellite map," says Ousland, noting the ice shelves have been a part of Antarctica for at least 100,000 years, according to the NatGeo article.

O'Brady has built his personal brand around achieving the "impossible." Yet the veteran polar explorers National Geographic's Aaron Teasdale consulted for the story used different descriptors for his trip, labeling it "achievable," "contrived," "disappointing," and "disingenuous."

Driven by what he describes as the "embarrassing confusion" over O'Brady's claims, and recognizing how a lack of well-defined criteria allowed him to "pull the merino wool " over the public and media's eyes, IPGA Master Polar Guide Eric Philips of Icetrek Expeditions recently announced the Polar Expeditions Classification Scheme (PECS), that sets a new standard for polar expeditions and records.

According to the PECS, which was created in consultation with leading polar authorities, O'Brady's trip would not be classified as a "full crossing," nor would it be considered "unsupported." Philips, who boasts a lifetime's commitment to polar exploration and the community surrounding it, says he wants to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

Costco Magazine in its February 2020 edition read by approximately 13 million members promotes O'Brady's book, The Impossible First (Scribner, 2020), claiming he was the first person ever to cross Antarctica solo.

We reached out to Costco for a correction but at press time have yet to hear back.

Read the story here:

Learn more about PECS here:

First to row the Drake? It's debatable.

In a related story, O'Brady claimed another debatable feat: the first human powered row across the Drake Passage.

In 12 days, on Dec. 25, the six-man team traveled over 600 miles of open ocean, facing intense winds, giant swells, and stormy weather in a 29-foot row boat. The other teammates were Jamie Douglas-Hamilton of Edinburgh, Scotland; Fiann Paul of Reykjavik, Iceland; Cameron Bellamy of Cape Town, South Africa; Andrew Towne of Minneapolis (and formerly Grand Forks, N.D.); and John Petersen of Oakland, Calif. The feat was filmed for Discovery Go online.

View episodes here:


Outdoor Retailer Snow Show Debuts New Products

Among the 1,000 different brands on display last month at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver were some that have some application for exploration and adventure. The trade event is the largest in North America, attracting more than 10,000 buyers, 1,300 designers and 800 members of the media. Here are four that caught our eye:

Help them find your sorry self.

*            RECCO SAR Helicopter Detector - Used for large-scale search of missing persons in open terrain, so long as said persons are wearing RECCO rescue reflectors in their gear. It's a standard rescue tool for SAR teams worldwide. (
 Scan the snowpack.

*            Avametrix AvyScanner Avalanche Predictor - The AvyScanner is a lightweight, handheld device that uses ultra-wide band radar and sophisticated artificial neural network "machine learning" to scan the snow pack and identify the conditions likely to produce a human-triggered avalanche. (

Stay warm with bison fur. 

*            United By Blue BisonShield - Tired of feathers coming out of your parka? Try bison fibers - a natural insulation made from salvaged American bison fur, a by-product of the ranching industry. The Bison Ultralight is made of 50% wool and 50% bison fur said to be warmer, lighter, and entirely natural. (

Helmet safety lights are solar powered.

*            Solar Powered Bike Helmets - By incorporating Swedish tech brand Exeger's ultrathin, flexible solar panels into its helmets, POC can equip them with an endless source of electricity without adding bulk. They will feature an integrated rear-facing safety light when available later this year. (


"Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away."

-  Carl Sagan (1934-1996), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Ballantine Books, 1997)


The eerie sight of the Titanic sitting on the sea bed in the North Atlantic

Wreck of Titanic Hit By Submersible; U.S. Keeps It Quiet

The Triton DSV Limiting Factor, a hi-tech submersible costing $35 million, is said to have struck the Titanic last year. According to a Telegraph (UK) story by Bill Gardner (Jan. 28), the expedition leader last month admitted that the state-of-the-art Triton submersible collided with the wreck in July when "intense and highly unpredictable currents" caused the pilot to lose control. It is the first collision with the Titanic made public since the wreck was rediscovered in 1985.

Organized by EYOS Expeditions, an adventure firm based in the Isle of Man, the trip was accompanied by scientists from Newcastle University and was the first dive down to the Titanic in nearly 15 years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allegedly failed to tell the court that the Triton sub, pictured, had struck the Titanic CREDIT: EYOS/EYOS

Rob McCallum, the EYOS expedition leader, confirmed that there had indeed been "contact" with Titanic due to strong ocean currents, but insisted any damage could only have been minor.

"We did accidentally make contact with the Titanic once while we were near the starboard hull breach, a big piece of the hull that sticks out. Afterwards we observed a red rust stain on the side of the sub," he tells the Telegraph.

"But the submersible is covered in white fiber glass and is very delicate and expensive. While underwater it's essentially weightless - it's not a battering ram."

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government weather agency which also holds responsibility for protecting deep sea wrecks reportedly knew that the two-man EYOS submarine struck the Titanic, but officials monitoring the dive failed to report it.

Nonetheless, the company hopes to return to the wreck later this summer to recover the Marconi wireless that sent out the fateful distress call.

Read the story here:

Matthew Henson (seated) and other 1909 polar team members with the original
Peary sled.

Scenes for Polar History Film to be Re-enacted in Ely, Minn.

Ely, Minn., renowned as the base of many polar expeditions, is about to host another - or more correctly, a polar re-enactment. This month, Voyage Digital Media will be recreating scenes at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge on White Iron Lake circa 1909 of Robert Peary's dogsled expedition to the North Pole. Actors, including Wintergreen guides, will be dressed in period costumes including fur parkas as team members. Wintergreen's Canadian Inuit sled dogs - the same breed used on Peary's expedition - will pull an exact replica of his 12-ft. komatik dogsled laden with furs and supplies.

The documentary film is being co-produced with the non-profit National Maritime History Society (NMHS) of Peekskill, N.Y., and made possible by grant funding from Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest and the H. F. Lenfest Fund from The Philadelphia Foundation.

The film tells the story of the Ernestina-Morrissey, an historic Arctic sailing ship associated with numerous early expeditions. This ship was skippered by Peary's team member Robert A. Bartlett.
For the Ely shoot, re-enactors will play the roles of Peary and Bartlett as well as Peary's Polar Inuit companions and his career-long expedition colleague - African-American Matthew Henson.

Wintergreen Lodge owner Paul Schurke said he hosts film crews every season "but this project certainly ranks among the most unique and it will be a personal time-warp for me. The 1986 dogsled and ski expedition that Will Steger and I led to the North Pole replicated elements of Peary's expedition but we didn't do it with period costume and sleds - we weren't wearing caribou parkas," he said.

Rather, they were wearing anoraks and footwear designed locally by Susan Schurke and Patti Steger that led to Ely's iconic apparel manufacturing businesses, Steger Mukluks and Wintergreen Northern Wear.

Schurke said his one concern is how his Inuit dogs will do harnessed in a Arctic fan hitch, in which they'll be splayed out from the sled on long ropes. "Here in the boreal forest, they've always been harnessed two-by-two in the tandem hitch so we'll see how they respond to a fan configuration. It could be a bit of chaos."

For more information: Paul Schurke, Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, 218 365 6022


What Expeditions Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

By Joel Ehrenkranz, MD

Chief Operating Officer
Tribeca Pharma
Salt Lake City

My first foray into field research, 1977-1983, investigated seasonal breeding in the Labrador Inuit. I've led studies on thyroid disease in Western Siberia, Outer Mongolia, and an Indian slum, iodine deficiency in the Rwenzori Mountains, and the ethnopharmacology of fracture treatment in South India. A successful expedition accomplishes the intended goal on time, under budget, with no heroic tales to tell about harrowing escapes from the jaws of death.

Joel Ehrenkranz, MD, in Madhugiri, Tumkur District, Karnataka, India, harvesting plants used for fracture healing.

In parallel with my field research endeavors, I have also founded five biotech companies. Some of the products developed by these companies - a home pregnancy test, point-of-care diagnostics, drugs for osteoporosis - trace their origins to events that occurred during field research.

In 2007, for example, when I inadvertently found myself doctoring in an Ebola epidemic on the border of Uganda and the Congo, the idea to use a new technology, the smartphone, for medical diagnostic testing came to me.

In 2016, while studying thyroid disease in a Bangalore, India slum, I came across the use of herbs for healing fractures by traditional bone setters. Learning about botanicals for fracture repair has led to new products for preventing osteoporosis. A successful biotech startup gets a product to market on time, under budget, with an absence of mishaps and excuses.

There is considerable similarity between an Explorers Club-caliber field study and founding a successful biotech startup. Both involve setting an objective, reviewing the literature, developing a plan, recruiting, funding, permitting, logistics, execution, delivery, analysis, and communication. The lessons learned in the course of Explorers Club-level expeditions have general applicability to undertakings and endeavors in general.

Exploration and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin. Donning polished dress shoes and a tailored suit in place of crampons and an anorak turns an explorer into an entrepreneur. Conceiving and completing an expedition represents entrepreneurship basic training.

Some pointers for a successful exploration project:

*            Do your homework.

*            Write a plan that details goals, milestones, time line, budget, and logistics.

*            Pay close attention to the world around you.

*            Stay focused on achieving your objectives.

About the author: Joel Ehrenkranz lives in Salt Lake City and is a member of the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Explorers Club. He's an associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a serial entrepreneur with an insatiable curiosity about the natural world. His current company, Tribeca Pharma, is developing plant-derived compounds for the prevention and treatment of skeletal disorders.


Apa Sherpa

Everest Guide Apa Sherpa Signs With Celebrity Speakers Bureau

Bruce Merrin's Celebrity Speakers Bureau, based in Las Vegas, has agreed to represent world record mountaineer and inspirational speaker Apa Sherpa for speaking appearances worldwide, including corporate events and meetings, conventions, retreats, seminars, workshops and more.

"Sherpa," the native Himalayan ethnic group that shares his last name, live on the borders of Nepal and Tibet and are known for their skills in mountaineering. Perhaps the most exceptional and renowned among them is Apa Sherpa, who holds 13 world records for summiting Mount Everest.
In his keynote address, "A 30,000-Foot View of Leadership," Sherpa shares his unique perspective on leadership, gained from his 25 years of leading expeditions and his 21 ascents of Everest, four of those without the use of supplemental oxygen.

In 2010, he formed the Apa Sherpa Foundation, to assist with education projects and schools in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, which has the mission to empower individuals throughout the world to follow his example in overcoming adversity. Without an education, becoming a guide is the only lucrative means of survival for members of his native village.

Sherpa Adventure Gear Announces New Education Campaign

Sherpa Adventure Gear Commits to Education in Nepal

Sherpa Adventure Gear, Modesto, Calif., which specializes in technical travel apparel, announced an education giveback program, aiming to provide 10 million days of school for children in Nepal by 2030. Since January 1st, 2020, Sherpa Adventure Gear has been donating a day of school to a child in Nepal for every item sold online and in stores globally in order to reach that goal.

"We are on a mission to help educate the next generation in Nepal," says Sherpa Adventure Gear CEO Kelsie Costa.

"The brand's founder, who is from Nepal, has made education a priority since day one, believing that it's the gateway to opportunity. That same belief is still core to us and I'm thrilled to introduce the next level of giveback and am thankful to consumers supporting our brand's educational goals in Nepal."


Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2019) by Jeff Blumenfeld ­– How to travel and make a difference while you see the world? These are stories of inspiration from everyday voluntourists, all of whom have advice about the best way to approach that first volunteer vacation, from Las Vegas to Nepal, lending a hand in nonprofits ranging from health care facilities, animal shelters and orphanages to impoverished schools. Case studies are ripped from the pages of Expedition News, including the volunteer work of Dooley Intermed, Himalayan Stove Project, and even a volunteer dinosaur dig in New Jersey.

Read excerpts and “Look Inside” at: @purpose_book

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.

Advertise in Expedition News – For more information:

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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


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:


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. (

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.

"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).   


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 (

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 (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:



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:


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 ( 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.


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:


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: