Friday, January 11, 2019

Antarctic "Crossing" Stirs Controversy; Queen Guitarist Composes Flyby Song


By Pam LeBlanc, Special Correspondent 

Austin, Texas, paddler West Hansen will trade Amazon tropics and Russian waves for crushing ice and polar bears next summer, when he attempts to lead the first expedition to kayak the Northwest Passage.
West Hansen paddling the Amazon River, just below the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañon rivers. Photo by Erich Schlegel

Hansen, 56, made the longest source-to-sea paddling descent of the Amazon River in 2012 and the first descent of the Volga River in Russia two years later. Team members include veteran paddlers Jeff Wueste, 57, and Jimmy Harvey, 55. Launching in summer 2019, they'll cover 1,900 miles, half of which have never been kayaked.

The team will follow the same east-to-west route that explorer Roald Amundsen took during his landmark three-year navigation of the passage, completed in 1907, starting in Baffin Bay and finishing at the Beaufort Sea. Along the way, Hansen will monitor plankton and jellyfish populations, and record ice coverage.

"(Firsts) are getting more and more rare, and it's pretty special doing something no one's ever done," Hansen says.

The paddlers will face gale force winds, car-sized slabs of ice and pummeling waves, plus orcas and polar bears. 

"You can't fire a gun (to spook them) because it sounds like cracking ice and polar bears are used to that," Hansen says, noting that the team will carry satellite phones, emergency beacons, firearms and screaming flares to ward off 2,000-pound predators. 

"It's been attempted several times, but no one's ever come close to accomplishing it," says Hansen. "We have a lot more experience in long distance expedition paddling than anybody else who's tried. And we're older, which is always a bonus."

West Hansen's route. 

The expedition is expected to take 60 days and will cost nearly $75,000. Hansen is looking for sponsors, and can be reached via

Pam LeBlanc is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer specializing in adventure travel, fitness and conservation. She will join the expedition as an embedded journalist.


Space Exploration Takes Giant Leap for Mankind

The world watched as two significant achievements in space exploration occurred within the past month, starting with history's farthest exploration.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, about the size of a baby grand piano, flew by a small, distant world in the Kuiper Belt on New Year's Day. The object studied, officially designated 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule, is 4 billion miles from Earth. No spacecraft has ever explored a world so far away. It was a suitable encore to the same spacecraft's last historic mission 3-1/2 hyears ago - recording the first high definition images of Pluto. 

The highest definition photo so far of the minor planet Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt. The first images to arrive were only a vague blur taken during the approach, leaving its exact shape a mystery: did it look like a bowling pin, or was it perhaps two small objects orbiting each other? This photo, which followed the next day, has revealed the object to be a cluster of two fused objects, a "contact binary," in the shape of a snowman. 

Several weeks before, the New Horizons team offered people around the world the opportunity to "beam" their name and a choice of messages, at the speed of light, toward New Horizons and Ultima Thule on flyby day. Some 30,500 people ultimately signed on. "Happy 2019!" was the top choice, selected by 8,100 participants, followed by "Keep on Exploring!" sent by 6,800 participants.

Transmitted on New Year's Eve from the satellite communications facility at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland - where New Horizons was built and is operated - the signals carrying the messages reached New Horizons just hours before the flyby, then continued on past Ultima Thule and through the Kuiper Belt.

"Never before has the public had an opportunity to have their names and messages across our entire solar system on the historic day of the farthest exploration of worlds in human history," said New Horizons Principal Investigator and "Beam Me" project originator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.
New Horizons' closest approach to Ultima Thule occurred at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1, when it zipped approximately 2,200 miles from the object. The spacecraft sent back the first close-up images of its Kuiper Belt target in the following days, confirming that Ultima Thule is a contact binary, and offering tantalizing hints of the science to come.

Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist, New Horizons participating scientist and Queen lead guitarist, speaks with media at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, on Dec. 31, 2018.

Further testament to the project's popularity among the general public, is the reaction to an original song created by Brian May, lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, who also happens to be an astrophysicist. It's May's personal tribute to the on-going NASA New Horizons mission.
Brian May's New Horizon music video has been viewed almost 986,000 times on YouTube:

What led a legendary rocker to become an astrophysicist is perhaps a story for another time.
Reached while on a much-deserved vacation in Australia, Stern tells EN, "The exploration of Ultima Thule is behind us, but the scientific results are almost all ahead, as less than 1% of the data from New Horizons has been downloaded as of today, Jan 9. Data will continue to stream back for 20 months to unlock Ultima Thule's secrets."

Stern continues, "The media reaction to the exploration we did - the farthest exploration of worlds in history - was fantastic. Hundreds of front pages like the NYT; documentaries by no less than NOVA, NHK, BBC, and others; coverage on daily newscasts by CDB, CNN, PBS, NPR, and many more. We are very pleased to have explored, to have learned, and to have raised awareness across the world for scientific exploration."

Even though the flyby took place on January 1, the images are just starting to trickle in. The data has a long way to travel. Ultima Thule itself is 43 times further away from the Earth than the Sun, so it takes over six hours to send a signal back to Earth. That number will only increase as the New Horizons probe travels yet farther away.

Follow this mighty little spacecraft at:

In a related story, a Chinese spacecraft has become the first to land on the far side of the moon in another historic moment for human space exploration.

The successful touchdown earlier this month was hailed as a major technical feat and is seen as an important step towards China's wider ambitions in space.

The robotic probe Chang'e 4 landed in the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin, the biggest known impact structure in the solar system, at about 2:30 a.m. GMT on Jan. 3. Prior to confirmation of the landing and the release of the first close-up shots of the far lunar surface by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, many details of the mission, including the planned timing of the landing, had been kept secret.

The landing was described as "an impressive accomplishment" by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.


Over a Barrel

On October 24, 1901, Annie Taylor was the first person to conquer Niagara Falls in a barrel. After climbing inside her airtight wooden barrel, the air pressure was compressed to 30 p.s.i. with a bicycle pump. Though bruised and battered, Annie made it. She expected fame and fortune but, alas, died in poverty.

This winter, 71-year-old Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin is hoping for a much happier ending. Earlier this month he set off across the Atlantic Ocean in a large orange barrel, hoping to float to the Caribbean by the end of March. He is traveling at "two or three kilometers an hour" (one to two miles an hour) and intends to (literally) barrel his way across the ocean, attempting to reach the Caribbean with only ocean currents and trade winds propelling his 10-ft. capsule, according to a Facebook page set up to document his project. The craft is smaller than a pickup and held upright by concrete ballast.

Savin's ocean crossing is hardly a barrel o' fun. 

The vessel includes a small kitchen and bed, and space for storage. Savin is dropping markers on his way to allow international marine observatory organization JCOMMOPS to study ocean currents.
On his project's website, Savin - a former military parachutist, pilot and park ranger in Africa who has already crossed the Atlantic four times using a sailboat - described his venture as a "crossing during which man isn't captain of his ship, but a passenger of the ocean."

Savin's 55,000-euro (or $62,000) project has been funded by sponsorships, including two French barrel makers, and a crowdfunding campaign.  

Brush up on your French and track him at:


"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

- Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.


An Unassisted Antarctic Crossing? It's Debatable   

By Jeff Blumenfeld, editor  

Amidst all the depressing news of politics and international conflict came an uplifting report late December that two adventurers, nearly neck and neck, achieved a grueling traverse of Antarctica. Man against the elements, facing the worst conditions Antarctica threw their way.  

Certainly, the approximately 920-mile "crossings" set by American athlete Colin O'Brady, 33, then two days later by British army Captain Louis Rudd, 49, of Britain, were no easy feat. Hauling supply sleds weighing some 375-400 lbs., they faced extreme winds of up to 60 MPH, whiteouts, crevasses and temperatures below minus 40 degrees F. 

Colin O'Brady

Both claimed their efforts were solo, unsupported and unassisted, as they man-hauled their supplies without the use of kites or mechanical means. In O'Brady's case, he claimed to achieve the first-ever such crossing, a feat he called "The Impossible First." Members of the exploration community begged to differ, including Norwegian Borge Ousland, now 56, who in 1996 achieved a true crossing, albeit with the use of a "ski sail" for part of the way. Still, he is considered the first explorer to ski alone across Antarctica from coast-to-coast.

Rudd and O'Brady began and ended their treks not at the seacoast but at points on the inland facing side of two great ice shelves. The distance they traveled - approximately 920 miles - was only half the 1,864 miles that Ousland covered.

Between November 1996 and January 1997, Ousland man-hauled a sled initially laden with 412 pounds of food and gear for 64 days across Antarctica from the ocean edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf to McMurdo Sound, on the seacoast below the Ross Ice Shelf. 

Until 1997, no one had crossed Antarctica from coast-to-coast without receiving resupply along the way. Ousland's unsupported crossing 22 years ago set the standard for Antarctic crossings that has been unfairly diminished in the current adulation about O'Brady and Rudd. 

Writes David Roberts in the New York Times (Jan. 3), "It's not surprising that in 2018, the effort to claim the purported first solo, unsupported traverse of Antarctica became an all-out race between two contenders. For sponsored professional adventurers who feel the need to connect in real time to a social media audience, true exploration becomes secondary to the need to set 'records,' to claim 'firsts,' no matter how arbitrarily defined." 

Referring to Ousland's expedition, Roberts continues, "On the 'downhill' leg from the pole to the coast, Mr. Ousland occasionally unfurled a 'ski sail' of his own devising: in his words, 'a simple piece of square fabric' that would catch the wind and help propel him as he skied across the snow. 

That minimal aid, in the view of more recent traversers such as Messrs. O'Brady, Rudd and Worsley disqualified Mr. Ousland's epic solo jaunt from the laurel of an 'unsupported' journey." (Editor's note: Henry Worsley died of peritonitis after sledding more than 800 miles attempting the same feat three years earlier.)

Borge Ousland (1996-97 route); GPS locations of campsites and planned Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions route (O'Brady and Rudd routes); all routes shown are approximated. (Courtesy New York Times)

Putting that journey aside, the debate rages whether O'Brady's and Rudd's expeditions from the so-called Messner Start on the Ronne Ice Shelf on Antarctica's eastern coast, stopping short at the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf, can truly be considered a crossing, when Ousland soloed much farther from two opposite coastal points bound by ocean. As the Antarctic historian and mountaineer Damien Gildea argued in a post to the website, "The ice shelves are land ice and therefore part of the continent. This was accepted by all the earliest polar travelers who did, or attempted, crossings."

To us, nothing will ever match a true Antarctic crossing at its widest points - the International Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a 3,741-mile, seven-month feat of endurance by man and sled dogs, from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Soviet scientific research base at Mirnyy on the far coast. You want to talk about crossings, assisted or otherwise, spend seven continuous months out on the Antarctic ice.

Louis Rudd

Then there's the interpretation of  "unassisted." The Twittersphere was ablaze with the little known fact that both recent adventurers followed a track, known as the McMurdo-South Pole Highway or the South Pole Overland Traverse (SPOT), for more than 350 miles. Was that not assistance? The SPOT is a flattened trail groomed by tractors towing heavy sledges to resupply the polar station. Flags every 100 meters or so make navigation easier, especially during whiteouts.

The route is devoid of sastrugi - the wavelike ridges of hard snow - and is routed to avoid crevasses. Tractor marks are visible in a photograph of O'Brady taken on Day 50. 

Writes Paul Landry of, one of the best-known polar guides in the world, "I do consider the use of the SPOT road as being assisted as it eliminates the need for navigation and is an advantage to travel conditions - the road offers faster travel conditions compared to the untouched snow beside the road. It is a form of assistance as it allows one to move faster." 

Veteran polar guide Eric Philips of Icetrek Expeditions and Equipment, Hobart, Australia, tells, "It is a highway (that) more than doubles someone's speed and negates the need for navigation. An expedition cannot be classed as unassisted if someone is skiing on a road."

Philips tells EN, "A skier benefits from the road in many ways, particularly after it has been seasonally re-opened - it negates the need for glacier travel skills and equipment, the road and flags are a navigational handrail, the psychological aid of knowing that a road is nearby, rescue is much more simplified (it's very difficult for a plane to land in the middle of a sastrugi field), etc."
We reached out to O'Brady via his website but had not received a reply by presstime.

While the debate rages about what many consider an assisted partial crossing of Antarctica, polar guides such as Philips, and others, are calling for an agreement about Antarctic/South Pole expeditioning that will include a widely-accepted and fair labeling protocol that some are calling a Polar Expedition Classification System to replace ambiguous terms such as "unsupported" and "unassisted." 

Philips emails EN, "While we are working on a Polar Expedition Classification System, we will likely still use the terms unassisted and unsupported but apply very strict definitions."

This business of superlatives is a tricky one as explorers and adventurers continuously add parameters to records, especially after the fact. No matter how this plays out, Richard Wiese, president of The Explorers Club, the organization whose prestigious flag was carried by O'Brady, writes in an email to Club members, "... the exceptional accomplishments of Ousland, O'Brady and Rudd, all focus important attention on the polar regions and make our global audience far more aware of just how fragile these regions have become."

Read David Robert's story in the New York Times here:

Read what Peter Winsor of has to say:

See the rather fawning Jan. 7, 2019, CBS This Morning interview that focused, in part, on the songs that powered Rudd across the ice:


Mountains Make You Dumber

We know that cognitive function is impaired at high altitude, but it's not entirely clear why, writes Alex Hutchinson in a Jan. 5 post on

In 1925, the eminent physiologist Joseph Barcroft, fresh from a pioneering high-altitude research expedition to heights of Cerro de Pasco in Peru, made a provocative claim. "All dwellers at high altitude," he wrote, "are persons of impaired physical and mental power." 

The accuracy of that statement remains hotly debated, to put it mildly, nearly a century later. Highlanders in the Andes and Himalayas, whose ancestors have lived above 10,000 feet for thousands of years, beg to differ. But for temporary visitors to the highest places on earth, Barcroft's claim is self-evident: mountains make you weak and stupid.

According to Hutchinson it's not obvious why. The obvious culprit for reduced cognitive function is the thin high-altitude air depriving your brain of oxygen. The resulting impairment of judgment and decision-making can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences when you're choosing routes, scaling cliffs, and assessing weather and snow conditions. 

But there are lots of other factors beyond the oxygen levels during a typical alpine expedition that might dull your judgment, such as sleep deprivation, dehydration, and simple physical exhaustion from the prolonged effort it took to get there. 

Further down in the post he writes, "If you're heading out for a big adventure in the mountains, there's not a whole lot you can do about either the thin air or the prolonged physical exertion. ... Sleep and dehydration, on the other hand, are much more modifiable. Neither is easy at high altitudes - but if you make them a priority, there's potential for improvement."

Read the full story here:

Department of Derring-Do

The New Yorker (Jan. 7) focused its gimlet eye on a reunion at The Explorers Club of two explorers of great renown: Jim Fowler, 88, the zoologist and the former host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, the pioneering nature procedural, and John Atwater Bradley, 87, a retired management consultant, adventurer, raconteur, and exuberant dropper of names.

According to writer Nick Paumgarten, Fowler, who was wearing Ugg boots, a safari jacket, and a Citroën ball cap, while Bradley had on yellow slacks, a salmon-colored Princeton reunion blazer (class of 1954), a bawdy-Santa tie, and a straw boater with a black-and-orange band and a pin in the shape of a Thompson submachine gun.

Musing on the mission of humanity, Fowler said, "It's to create a quality of life for all the people on the planet. The world of nature is not a very pleasant place. Most living things are fighting and killing and eating each other. I was with some cannibals in Africa years ago, and I asked one of them what his name meant, and he said, 'It means, I'm strong and my axe is sharp, so no one can kill me or eat me.'" 

Fowler, who the late, late night talk show host Johnny Carson nicknamed "Jim Foul-up," went on: "I've had a few close calls. In the Amazon, I made a mistake. I was approaching an eighteen-foot anaconda, and I slipped. It grabbed me by the hand and swallowed my arm up to the shoulder ... Anaconda have half-inch teeth, so I couldn't pull it out. Sorry, getting gory."

Read the story here:


Apply for Field Grant From The Explorers Club and Fjällräven

The Explorers Club and Fjällräven, the Swedish manufacturer and retailer specializing in outdoor equipment, announced earlier this month "We Love Nature" field grants which will aid in continued exploration and research that helps better understand the environment, a changing climate, and how it is intertwined with wildlife and civilizations around the planet.

The program seeks young explorers who are working on sustainability, wildlife, and climate to educate and inspire the next generation of conservationists and explorers. The Explorers Club - Fjällräven Field Grant will award two recipients $5,000 each to aid in sending extraordinary young explorers into the field to conduct critically important research.

Proposals must include a focus of saving the preciousness of nature and how the recipient will make a lasting impact on younger up and coming generations who will continue to carry the message. 
Apply at Deadline is January 21, 2019. Awardees must be 18 - 35 years old at time of award.


How About a Hug?

Many tears were shed when Virgin Galactic CEO George Whiteside urged everyone to hug it out after a Virgin Galactic rocket plane blasted to the edge of space on Dec. 13, capping off years of difficult testing to become the first U.S. commercial human flight to reach space since America's shuttle program ended in 2011.

Richard Branson, center, celebrates with pilots Rick 'CJ' Sturckow, left, and Mark 'Forger' Stucky, right.

Virgin's airplane-like SpaceShipTwo took off from California's Mojave air and space port, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles. Shaggy, goateed Richard Branson was there dressed in a leather bomber jacket with a fur collar, tearing up before hundreds of spectators.  

He shared the moment with his 3.2 million Instagram followers, "Many of us cried tears of joy when we reached space, and the air really was filled with love as we celebrated the milestone flight. It certainly was for two of our wonderful team. After the flight, The Spaceship Company flight test engineer Brandon Parrish proposed to his girlfriend Veronica McGowan, a Structural Engineer at The Spaceship Company. What better way to propose than with a ring that had just flown to space? Huge congratulations to the happy couple."

The commemorative video has been seen almost 860,000 times. See the posts here:

Working under the theory that no good deed goes unpunished, Australian astronaut Andy Thomas is quoted in The Guardian (Dec. 17), "It's true that he will fly to the edge of space, but he can't stay there. He falls right back down. It's really just a high-altitude aeroplane flight and a dangerous one at that. As a technology to get humans out into space it's a go nowhere, dead-end technology."

Read the story here: 


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 April 2019: Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield) by Jeff Blumenfeld

Pre-order it here:

Advertise in Expedition News - For more information:

EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, LLC, 290 Laramie Blvd., Boulder, CO 80304 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 EN blog at

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Greenland Plane Discovery, Holiday Gift Guide


New data about the location of the wreckage of a J2F-4 Grumman Duck airplane carrying three military flyers, which crashed on the ice sheet of Greenland in Nov. 29, 1942, has led researchers to believe the plane is located in a small and specific area which can be excavated this spring.

The Fallen American Veterans Foundation (FAVF) and mission leader Lou Sapienza says a newly discovered account of a visual sighting of the plane in 1962 on the Køge Bugt ice sheet surface, combined with surveys made by NASA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab (CRREL), and reviewed by the FAVF Remote-Sensing Board, is the best evidence of the exact location of the plane and the remains of Lt. John Pritchard (USCG), Radioman First Class Benjamin Bottoms (USCG) and Corporal Loren Howarth (USAAF).

Last flight - Lt. John Pritchard (front seat) (USCG) and Radioman 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms (USCG) readying for its final flight en route to downed B-17 crew. Lt. Pritchard would be the first pilot to ever land an amphibious biplane on its pontoon on a glacier. (Photo by Howard S. Gammill, Photographer's Mate 3rd Class U.S.N.R) 

"This is a critical piece of specific, credible and scientifically accurate information and further proof that we know exactly where these three men are," said Sapienza of Rockport, Maine. "We are committed to working with United States Coast Guard and the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to getting our team back on the Greenland ice in spring 2019 and bring these men home to their families." 

The FAVF Remote-Sensing Board includes scientists from the Ohio University Byrd Polar Research Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Glacier Dynamics and Remote Sensing Group, the University of Iceland, among other academic and private industry experts. 

The Fallen American Veterans Foundation, Inc., advocates for surviving families of the 83,000 U.S. Military Personnel Missing In Action (MIA) since WWII through advocacy and proposed legislation and lobbying.

For more information:


Sven Hedin (1865 - 1952) was a famous Swedish explorer and one of the very first honorary members of The Explorers Club - elected before 1910. By simple course and distance measurements, he alone explored and mapped larger areas overland than any other person in history. In total he spent almost 20 years in the field filling out the blank spots on the map of Central Asia. 

Hedin's autobiography, My Life as an Explorer (Asian Educational Services, 1996), was marketed by his New York publisher in 1925 as "the greatest story of exploration and adventure by the greatest explorer of them all." In 2001, National Geographic Adventure selected the book as one of the world's 100 greatest adventure books of all time.

Sven Hedin dressed for success in 1906 (photo courtesy of The Sven Hedin Foundation)

"Although Hedin was once an international celebrity and a national hero in Sweden, his strong support for Germany, throughout both World Wars, made him deliberately disappear from our collective memory and today he has been largely forgotten by the general public, even in Sweden," writes Lars Larsson.

Larsson is an explorer from Are, Sweden, who in 2013 was funded by National Geographic to depart on the first of a series of expeditions to Asia in Sven Hedin's footsteps to raise awareness and knowledge about environmental and climate change, as well as increase the knowledge about Sven Hedin's role in the history of exploration. 

Larsson's main objective is to study and document how the natural and cultural landscape has changed in the locations Hedin visited more than 100 years ago. His main method is repeat photography, taking advantage of Hedin's vast photographic collections, consisting of thousands of images, held at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm.

Lars Larsson (photo courtesy Peder Lundqvist)

Larsson hopes to retrace all of Sven Hedin's expeditions carried out between 1885 and 1935, an epic journey that will take him up snow-clad mountains, down wild rivers and through the burning deserts of Central Asia. So far, six years into the project, he has done five trips - three to Iran, one to the Caucasus and one to the Pamirs, the latter spanning the countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Xinjiang, China. 

What was originally conceived as a five-year project has become an open ended and potentially life-spanning mission. Larsson is focused on journeying to Tibet within two years, Hedin's main staging area. Beforehand, he tells EN,"I will probably do a couple of easier trips in between, such as traveling from Tehran in Iran to Karakol in Kyrgyzstan, passing through the big cities in Central Asia. That is a trip Hedin did in 1890-91."

Besides his focus on Central Asia, Larsson is also an expert whitewater kayaker, a former Swedish champion, member of the National Swedish Team for ten years, and a pioneer of over 40 whitewater first descents in Scandinavia. 

For more information:

Learn more about the project at


American paleontologist and geologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara

Dr. Kenneth Lacovara Wins The Explorers Medal

The Explorers Club announced this week that Dr. Kenneth Lacovara FN'03 is the 2019 recipient of its highest honor, The Explorers Club Medal. Awarded for extraordinary contributions directly in the field of exploration, scientific research, or to the welfare of humanity, he joins a renowned legacy including Adm. Robert E. Peary (1914), Roy Chapman Andrews (1932), Auguste Piccard (1954), President Herbert Hoover (1961), the crew of Apollo 11 (1971), Sir Edmund Hillary (1986), Mary Leakey (1989), Jane Goodall (1993), James Cameron (2013), and many more.

Dr. Lacovara has unearthed some of the largest dinosaurs ever to walk the planet, including the super-massive Dreadnoughtus, which at 65 tons weighs more than seven T. rex.

He is founding Director of the Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University in New Jersey. In the depths of its quarry, Lacovara and his team are uncovering thousands of fossils that provide an unprecedented view of the last pivotal, calamitous moments of the dinosaurs.

He will be honored at the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner, at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Saturday, March 16. For ticket information:

Molecular Frontiers Journal Announces "Solutions for Planet Earth" Awards

Earlier this month, World Scientific announced the Molecular Frontiers Journal Award inviting students who are excited about helping the planet to get creative and submit proposals that identify opportunities and challenges for future earth and to come up with solutions for these. 

The competition is open to high school students from around the world ages 13 to 18. The top three entries selected by a scientific committee will receive a cash award and certificate. The submissions will also be highlighted on the Molecular Frontiers Journal page and the winners will be invited to produce an article for the digital open access publication. Deadline for submission is Feb. 28, 2019. 

For more information:


Ben Lecomte witnessed extensive plastic pollution during Pacific swim attempt.

Benoit Lecomte, 51, is a French-born long-distance swimmer (now a naturalized American citizen) who claimed to be the first man to swim across the Atlantic Ocean without a kick board in 1998.

Recently, he attempted to become the first person to swim the Pacific, departing June 5, 2018, from Choshi, Japan, in the Kanto region. After covering an arduous 1,500 nautical miles, the effort was abandoned in late November when a storm caused "irreparable" damage to the mainsail on his support boat. He had been trying to raise awareness of climate change and plastic pollution throughout the journey. It was not long after he reached the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," a zone dominated by ocean plastic, that he was presented with typhoons and severe storms.

"I am very disappointed because I had not reached my mental and physical limits," he said in a statement. "I realized that the danger is not the shark, it's the plastic that we see every day that is there and that shouldn't be there."

Reportedly, he's continuing his mission with a new focus: documenting the extent of plastic pollution on Earth, starting with an expedition from Hawaii to California.

Sponsors include Lifeproof, Shotz, Tyr, and XPrize.

During his 73-day, 3,716-mile Atlantic swim 20 years ago, Lecomte was supported by a 40-foot sailboat that had an electromagnetic field to ward off sharks. He was accompanied by a crew of three aboard the sailboat, where he could rest and eat between each swimming period. Lecomte typically spent eight hours swimming each day in sessions of two to four hours.

Learn more about his attempt here:


"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens, an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer  


Mars Insight Lander (photo courtesy NASA

Missions To Mars Have Experienced a High Failure Rate 

NASA's Mars InSight probe finally made it to the red planet after a 300-million-mile journey lasting seven months. The spacecraft slammed into the Martian atmosphere at 12,300 mph late last month before settling on the Elysium Planitia, an extensive lava plain near the equator. The $814 million lander will use a sophisticated array of onboard instruments to study Mars' core, crust and mantle to help scientists learn more about how the planet was formed.

There's a reason they call the descent "seven minutes of terror," writes Statista data journalist Niall McCarthy on "Given the price and amount of work put into the endeavor, all of that trepidation is understandable given the high failure rate of previous missions to Mars. Whether its landing a probe on the Martian surface, orbiting the planet or merely conducting a flyby, only 40% of previous trips have proven successful."

He reveals NASA has enjoyed considerable success with 16 missions succeeding out of 22. On the other hand, the USSR/Russia has seen 15 out of its 18 missions end in failure.


Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques (illustration by Oriana Fenwick)

Packing for Space in a Shoebox

Engineer, astrophysicist, physician and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Montreal and Houston, tells Air Canada's Enroute in-flight magazine (December 2018) how he preps and packs for six months in space. 

He tells writer Katie Underwood, "It's everything from athletics to Russian language training to learning to fly and using the Canadarm. And we have to learn all the emergency procedures of the space station and the rocket. All in all, it's like a mixture of getting a pilot's license, public speaking and training for a sports event."

Saint-Jacques continues, "Your suitcase is the size of a shoebox. You only need to bring personal effects, like a wedding ring, or mementos you want from Earth. Everything else, like toiletries, is standard issue. I'm bringing something to remind me of my children and my wife, and a Rubik's Cube that my parents gave me when I was a kid."

He and his two fellow crewmembers reached the ISS earlier this month, the first to be sent to the space station since a crewed Soyuz launch was aborted in October after a booster rocket failed to separate properly, crippling the rocket.

Read the interview here:

Amundsen Biopic is Coming to a Theater Near You

SF Studios has unveiled the first teaser trailer for the upcoming biopic film Amundsen, profiling the life of iconic Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen is a legendary name in Scandinavia, however not many people from America seem to know about him. He was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, and the first person to reach both the North and South Poles in 1926, along with many other daring accomplishments exploring the coldest places on Earth.

The film is the solo directing debut of Espen Sandberg, who previously co-directed Kon-Tiki and Dead Men Tell No Tales. It premieres Feb. 15, 2019. 

See the teaser trailer here:

Applications Accepted for AAC Research Grants 

AAC Research Grants support scientific endeavors in mountains and crags around the world, funding projects that contribute vital knowledge of the climbing environment, enrich understanding of global climber impacts and support and improve the health and sustainability of mountain environments and habitats.  

In addition to their relevance, applications are considered in terms of their scientific or technical quality and merit. The application period is now through January 15. AAC Research Grants are powered by the National Renewable Energy Lab and Ridgeline Venture Law, and supported by the Arthur K. Gilkey Memorial Fund and the Bedayn Research Fund.

Apply here: 



Lama bags first solo ascent of Lunag Ri

You Won't Believe This Footage of a First Solo Ascent of Nepal's Lunag Ri

We know that headline sounds like click-bait, but if there was an Oscar for best climbing footage, it would go to the video team behind this clip of Austrian alpinist David Lama's first solo ascent last October of the formidable Lunag Ri Massif (22,661-ft.) in the Himalayas, on the border of Tibet and Nepal.

Lama climbed the beautiful, and terrifying, peak alone. This POV and drone footage captures the ascent beautifully. Lama honored Conrad Anker, his former climbing partner during a 2016 attempt, with total praise in a blog post on his site. Although only a little over three minutes, it had our heart racing and our frontal lobes firing.

See it here:


To paraphrase the late Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, one cannot be too rich or too thin, or have too much outdoor gear. When it comes to cool gadgets or kit that can be used on an expedition or adventure, too much is never enough. 

For that special adventurer or explorer in your life, we respectfully suggest a few must-haves for under the tree this holiday period. While it's too late for Hanukkah, these are all ideal choices for Christmas, Kwanzaa or even Chrismukkah and Festivus (yes, those are a thing). 

Christie's Head of Handbags & Accessories Matthew Rubinger with the Louis Vuitton trunk.

*            Louie's Aluminium Explorer Trunk

Designed for intrepid explorers, this historic travel trunk could become the most valuable trunk in history. Louis Vuitton produced just a handful of these aluminium trunks - designed for the most intrepid of explorers - in a single year: 1892. Today, only two examples are known to exist. 

One is in the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. The other is this one, offered in Christie's Handbags & Accessories auction. In addition to filing patents for special hinges and clasps, Vuitton was the first to make a flat-top trunk that could be stacked. (Prior to this, trunks were made with curved lids.) 

Pricey, yes. Your recipient can use it to store the flotsam and jetsam of their  entire expedition - in fact, the whole schmegegge - including that expedition underwear they wore so many days their chest hair grew through the fabric (hey, it happens). Estimated auction price:  £50,000-100,000. (

Smile! You're on Canine Camera. 

Go Fetch

This harness puts the "pet" in POV. The rugged GoPro mount can handle mushing to the North Pole or competing in the Iditarod race. On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog, except if your pooch is FaceTiming with this rig behind your gift recipient's back. ($39.99,

Lokai bracelet has its high and low points. 

Pass Water 

If your friend or loved one failed in that second Everest summit attempt, here's a consolation prize: gift them a white Lokai bracelet that contains water from Mt. Everest, reportedly taken from Camp Two. It also includes one black bead containing mud from the Dead Sea (earth's highest and lowest points, get it?). ($18,

Have blankie will travel.

The Expedition Binky

It's a chaotic world out there, especially on an expedition or adventure. So your gift recipient will find comfort in the Kachula Adventure Blanket. A better binky has yet to be found. Use it as a blanket, travel pillow, light sleeping bag or even emergency poncho. It's water resistant, has a removable hood and a "stash pocket" (in case you're camping in, let's say Colorado, or some other 420-friendly state). ($72,

Good for Tinkling with a Skunk


Perfect for the Democratic woman representative in your life.  

After a tumultuous meeting with President Trump on Dec. 11, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you." Well if that's ever the case with a female friend or loved one this holiday period, get them the Tinkle Belle, the "best stand-to-pee accessory" on the market, or so says the company that makes this 9-in. hydrophobic funnel-like device that's, thank god, top-rack dishwasher safe. 

So there's that. 

To avoid subjecting our readers to TMI, it's best you watch the video yourself at

Then decide if this is the right gift. ($27.50,

Friend or foe?

Send the Little Buggers on a Trip

Now here's a must-have for anyone active outdoors, which come to think of it, is all of us. This little kit, which we admit is fairly cringey, will help determine if a tick is a carrier of Lyme Disease before symptoms appear. Trouble is, the Cutter Lyme Disease Tick Test requires one to capture the tick and send it off to a lab. Not so easy finding the tiny critter, but we're sure your holiday gift recipient can figure it out. 

Results come back within three business days of its arrival at the lab. Sure, this might be a strange holiday gift, but it's a whole lot more practical than soap-on-a-rope. ($24.99,


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 April 2019: Travel With Purpose, A Field Guide to Voluntourism(Rowman & Littlefield) by Jeff Blumenfeld

Pre-order it here:

Advertise in Expedition News - For more information:

EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, LLC, 290 Laramie Blvd., Boulder, CO 80304 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 EN blog at