MINNESOTA ADVENTURERS DESCEND AMAZON’S “RIVER OF DOUBT”
One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt, America’s “Rough Rider” and “Wild West” adventure president, undertook his biggest physical challenge – the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon, the legendary “River of Doubt.”
During the two-month trek, Roosevelt’s crew faced great hardship. They lost their boats and supplies to punishing whitewater. They endured starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning and a murder within their own ranks. The ordeal brought Roosevelt to the brink of suicide and left his health debilitated. But he later said he wouldn’t have traded this epic experience for anything. It added the Rio Roosevelt, as it’s now called, to the map of the Western Hemisphere and prompted several books, including his own and the 2005 national bestseller The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard (Anchor, 2006).
This month, two Ely, Minn., guides, Dave Freeman and Paul Schurke, are teaming up with native Brazilians to retrace Roosevelt’s fabled expedition. Unlike Roosevelt, this centennial trip, which departed in late May, is employing lightweight Kevlar and collapsible folding canoes. In contrast, Roosevelt’s crew relied on one ton dugouts they crafted along the way – canoes they found nearly impossible to portage around the miles of whitewater rapids through dense jungle that define the river’s upper end.
That portion of the river remains unchanged, surrounded by impenetrable jungle that’s protected from development of any kind. And it remains the realm of the Cinta Larga, an Amazon tribe whose first significant contact with the outside world didn’t occur until the 1970s. Plans call for a six-week, 400-mile descent, through the end of June, starting near the headwaters and finishing where the Trans-Amazonian Highway crosses the Rio Roosevelt’s lower reaches.
For more information: Daily updates on the River of Doubt Expedition can be found on WildernessClassroom.org, a geography and wilderness education website targeting 85,000 students enrolled at over 600 schools.
Cousteau Grandson Begins Month-Long Submersion
The grandson of explorer Jacques Cousteau has started a 31-day underwater expedition in the Florida Keys. Fabien Cousteau is among a group of five people spending a month inside the Aquarius Reef Base, a pressurized lab 63 feet below the ocean's surface nine miles off the coast of Key Largo. The mission began on June 1 (see EN, September 2013).
Mission 31 researchers will study the effects of climate change and pollution on the reef, while also making a documentary.
Jacques Cousteau is credited with creating the first ocean floor habitat for humans. Mission 31 expands on his ocean exploration while coinciding with the 50th anniversary of his underwater travels.
This is the first time the Aquarius lab, which is operated by Florida International University, has been used for a mission of such duration at the only underwater marine habitat and lab in the world.
Watch the mission live here:
Solo New York to Gallipoli Row Postponed
Erden Eruc, the first person to complete an entirely solo and entirely human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth, has postponed by a year the launch of his solo 5,700 nautical mile Journey for Peace - New York to Gallipoli (Turkey) Memorial Row. The reason is a lower back injury requiring additional rest.
“Launching later this season is not possible (due to) increased hurricane risk for New York departures after mid-June,” he posted to Facebook. The injury happened on April 30 during a heavy workout; proper diagnosis was not made until 30 days later. (See EN, ¬¬¬August 2013)
Despite the setback, he was a cordial host when EN saw him during a fundraiser on May 31 at an Australian bar in New York. The Gallipoli Campaign, a notable failed offensive by the Allies in World War I, took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915.
Learn about his plans here:
It’s a Jungle Up There
“If only I had a tail I could explore so much easier,” says Dr. Margaret D. Lowman, aka Canopy Meg, during a May 23 presentation to the Northern chapter of The Explorers Club. Dubbed the "real-life Lorax" by National Geographic and the "Einstein of the treetops" by Wall Street Journal, Lowman has earned an international reputation as a pioneer in forest-canopy ecology, canopy plant-insect relationships, and devising ingenious canopy-access methods. Using climbing ropes, hot air balloons, construction cranes, inflatable treetop rafts, and walkways, she’s dedicated her career to conducting forest canopy research, a place she calls the “eighth continent,” where 50 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity lives.
“The world has chopped down 50 percent of its forests,” she laments. “We must save what we have, replant what we lost.”
She believes that canopy walkways can generate more tourist income for local communities than logging and is working closely with Coptic priests in Ethiopia to save the last five percent of forests in the country's northern region.
Educating youth is another passion she shared. "One of the biggest issues facing the next generation is keeping our kids linked to nature," says Lowman, a sentiment reflected in her recent book, It's a Jungle Up There (Yale University Press, 2006), co-authored with her two sons Edward and James.
For more information: www.canopymeg.com
NASA Scientist Worried About Greenland Ice
“If the Greenland ice cap melts, sea levels would rise 22 feet,” warns Ian Fenty, Ph.D., a scientist from NASA’s JPL Science Division. He was speaking to guests from The Explorers Club on May 9 while docked at a Hudson River pier aboard the 116-ft. MV Cape Race, an expedition vessel restored for charter. Satellite images show the Greenland ice sheet is thinning, especially along the coasts; water from the melted ice is flowing into the ocean, he said.
Fenty displayed images of West Greenland’s Jakobshavn glacier, site of the longest calving (1.8 cu. mi.) ever videotaped. It has retreated 10 miles in just eight years and at 20 meters per day is considered the fastest-flowing glacier in the world.
“We know there’s a human effect, it’s not small and it’s causing the sea level to rise. In fact, half of global mean sea level change is due to Greenland melting.” He believes the U.S. needs to commit to climate science as France has done.
Communicating Field Work
It’s one thing to conduct field research, and quite another to tell the world about it. Gaelin Rosewaks, 34, of New York, grew tired of sitting at her computer so she developed a passion for field work. She told an audience at the Wilton (Conn.) Library on May 28 that she’s found her calling: these days her Global Ocean Exploration, Inc. works with scientists to communicate the research conducted on field expeditions, through video, photography, blogging, and public speaking, as she was doing that night in a presentation moderated by photographer and explorer Daryl Hawks.
She’s been a guest angler and scientific consultant on the National Geographic Channel's series, Fish Warrior with host, Jakub Vagner, catching and studying white sturgeon on the Fraser River. She was named one of six "Sustainable Stewards" at the Sustainable Planet Film Festival for her outstanding contributions to marine conservation. Rosenwaks also earned a master’s from Duke University, where she studied the migratory movements of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
“Scientists want to get their message out there and explain their work, but usually don’t have the time to do it,” she said. “I’ll do what’s right for the expedition: photography, writing, video or a combination of all three.”
She believes television exposure is the most effective means of reaching the widest number of people. “My ‘aha’ moment about the global power of television came when I was recognized in a spice market in Turkey.”
For more information: www.globaloceanexploration.com
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Floating above the clouds, materializing out of the mist, mountains appear to belong to a world utterly different from the one we know, inspiring in us the experience of the sacred.”
– Edwin Bernbaum, Sacred Mountains of the World (University of California Press, 1998)
Santa Maria Believed Found Off Haiti
More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria, came aground in the Caribbean, archaeologists now believe they have finally discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains off the north coast of Haiti. If confirmed, it’s likely to be one of the world’s most important underwater archaeological discoveries.
Eleven years ago, marine archaeological investigator Barry Clifford, 68, of Provincetown, Mass., believed he had found the shallow-draft ship in 10 to 20 feet of water, but there wasn’t enough proof to go public.
In May, after it became evident that the wreck site was looted, and a cannon – called a lombard – was missing, Clifford decided to announce his findings in hopes of protecting the site and return shortly for further study.
On May 15, Clifford held a press conference at The Explorers Club headquarters in New York, a media event that became one of the most visible held there in recent years. Over 90 people crowded into the historic Clark Room of the Club; there was a scrum of 13 video cameras in the back, and an equal number of still shooters.
After 522 years, there wasn't much left of the wreck site located in the Bay of Cape Haitien – no Santa Maria nameplate, no inscribed ship's bell, no “Chris loves Isabella” carved in the mast. Methodically, Clifford presented his findings to confirm the discovery.
“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this is the wreck of the Santa Maria,” Clifford said. “There is overwhelming evidence this is the Santa Maria exactly where it’s supposed to be.”
Clifford added, “It has to be excavated properly, then put on display for posterity.”
As a result of his announcement, over 1,600 news stories appeared worldwide. It was a story that even broke through to popular culture. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon facetiously congratulated CNN for finally moving on from coverage of the missing Malaysian airplane.
“Yeah, we were all wondering where the ‘Santa Maria’ has been all year,” he joked.
After Clifford held a late May meeting with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the Haitian government created a High Level Commission to monitor the possible discovery. The Commission will be composed of experts from UNESCO, ministries of culture and tourism experts from the Museum of Haitian National Pantheon (MUPANAH), and Clifford himself.
History Channel and October Films have snagged exclusive rights to Clifford’s exploration and will air the expedition at a later date.
Clifford, who believes the available evidence is irrefutable, nonetheless has work cut out for himself. Kevin Crisman, Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M, remains cautious, noting that several Spanish ships were wrecked off Haiti and it will be difficult to confirm that this is the Santa Maria, adding that the ship sank so slowly in 1492 and that the crew had time to retrieve all objects, such as guns, which could allow to identify it.
Clifford expects to submit his exploration plan in June and return to the site this summer. He said, “We need to move quickly on this exploration to determine with certainty that these are, in fact, the remains of Christopher Columbus’ ship.
“This is an emergency situation. We need to preserve this ship for mankind. If we put it on display in New York City, imagine how many people will pay to see it. We should charge admission with the money going back to Haiti.”
See the Jimmy Fallon clip at approximately two minutes:
Here’s the story that broke on May 13 in the UK Independent:
CLIMBING FOR DOLLARS
Amelia Earhart Search Hopes to Get Kickstarted
They’ve been looking for Amelia Earhart ever since she disappeared in 1937, but now searchers have a powerful new weapon: the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter.com. At press time, there was only seven days to go to raise $1.96 million to search for the aviatrix.
There has never been a credible artifact recovered from the flight, though it hasn’t been for lack of trying. It’s been less than two years since The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) failed in its efforts to find the missing airplane near the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro. This time, a different organization, Howland Landing Limited, Carson City, Nev., is preparing to launch Expedition Amelia, searching an area near Howland Island.
By donating money to the cause through Kickstarter, the group says supporters will receive daily updates on the progress of the expedition and a detailed look into the life and disappearance of Earhart. The information gathered during the expedition will be edited into a documentary.
The leader of the expedition, Dana Timmer, has been searching for Earhart’s airplane for 15 years. His team has used sonar equipment to search an area at a depth of over three miles in hopes of finding the Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Analysis of the collected data by sonar experts has identified several targets that he says are the approximate size of the aircraft.
The effort is not an easy one, and industry insiders give it almost no chance of success. “The Earhart/Noonan Electra is 18,000 feet down in the vicinity of Howland Island and may even yield a range of artifacts that could rival the finds of the Titanic,” said Dr. Tom Crouch, senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum.
For more information:
Another Reason Why There’ll Always Be an England
The U.K.’s Calor Gas Ltd. will continue to support the plucky Nick Hancock, 39, in his revived attempt to set a world record by living solo for 60 days on Britain’s loneliest outpost. Rockall has been called the most isolated speck of rock surrounded by water on the surface of the earth.
Hancock had to abandon a previous effort in 2013 to reach the tiny remote Atlantic rock, after rough seas prevented him from landing. The English-born chartered surveyor from Ratho, west of Edinburgh, is now in the process of trying again.
His aim is to spend two months on the rock, the tip of a dead volcano 260 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. Success would mean beating endurance records for the longest solo occupation of the rock – the current record is 42 days set by three Greenpeace campaigners in 1997. Hancock also hopes to raise £10,000 (approx. $16,800) for the Help for Heroes charity.
The island of Rockall is just 100 feet wide and 70 feet high and supports no inhabitants except for the occasional mollusk. No wonder: due to the extreme weather and waves that regularly lash the top of the rock, nothing grows there, other than algae, seaweed and black lichen.
Calor will be providing all the natural gas Hancock needs for his 8-ft. survival pod perched on an 11- by 4-ft. ledge.
Follow Hancock at @rockallnick. For more information: www.rockallsolo.com
Here’s the Dirt: Explorers Wanted to Blog About Scrubba Wash Bag
The late explorer Norman D. Vaughan liked to talk about how he handled his underwear during Robert E. Byrd’s 1928-30 Antarctic expedition. He told of Byrd instructing his team to wear the same underwear for ten days, then switch to new pairs, then after 20 days go back to the old pairs. In a twisted sense of polar logic, that’s how team members convinced themselves they had clean underwear.
Today’s explorers? Well, often you can smell them before you see them. Now there’s hope.
The Scrubba wash bag, the “world’s first pocket-sized washing machine,” is a 5 oz. waterproof sack with a flexible internal washboard made up of hundreds of washing “nobules” which are backed by a patterned grip surface. To wash clothes, travelers add cleaning liquid and two to three quarts of water, seal the bag, expel the air and rub for as little as 30 seconds. Rubbing for a full three minutes is on par with washing machine performance.
Like a real washing machine, it has a transparent window to view clothes getting clean. Rinsing can be accomplished in the bag or in the shower, and then it’s simply a matter of hanging the clothes to dry.
The Scrubba wash bag was conceived in 2010 when founder Ash Newland took a four-month break from his job as an Australian patent attorney to climb Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. Realizing he couldn’t possibly travel with 24 pair of underwear, nor return with well-worn, er, pungent pairs, he looked for a portable washboard to take along – not a particularly convenient option.
“It was then that I had the idea that if we could incorporate a highly flexible washboard into a waterproof sealable bag, we could change the way people wash clothes while traveling,” said Newland.
Newland is looking for a select group of explorers to take a Scrubba on their next trip, then blog about its performance. There’s no pay involved, but recipients will be sent a free Scrubba (value: $64) for the test. For more information: www.thescrubba.com. To apply, send an e-mail to email@example.com. Be sure to explain where you’re going and how you’ll give the product a good “scrubbing.”
World Explorers Bureau Opens U.S. Branch in San Francisco
The two-year-old World Explorers Bureau (WEB), a niche speakers agency based in Ireland, announced the opening of its first U.S. office in San Francisco to be run by Charlotte Baker Weinert. She has a 20-year career working in motion pictures and advertising. The announcement was made by Tim Lavery, the founder and CEO of the Bureau.
WEB represents 70-plus explorers and extreme adventurers, including the very best of British, Canadian and U.S. adventurers.
For more information: Charlotte Baker Weinert, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.worldexplorersbureau.com
In the Kingdom of Ice – The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, August 2014)
Reviewed by Robert F. Wells
The year 2015 will be the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition, when his Endurance became frozen fast in an ice floe. Few recall a similar venture more than three decades earlier to the North Pole by commanding officer George De Long who hoped to enter the Arctic's "Open Polar Sea" and discover the North Pole, via a path through the ice created by the warm Kuro-Siwo currents. It was thought to be a “gateway to the pole.” But in the 1870's, who knew no such channel existed?
The voyage was funded to create news fodder for the slightly outrageous James Bennett – owner and publisher of New York's very successful Herald newspaper. Bennett put "colorful" to shame. Staging carriage races at night up Broadway – totally naked – was one of his trademarks. He won the first trans-oceanic yacht race and was (and still is) The New York Yacht Club's youngest commodore. One evening when visiting his fiancee at her family's fancy-dancy mansion, nature called through his inebriated fog... he unbuttoned his pants and arced a perfect line of pee precisely into her father's grand piano. What a perfect guest. And a perfect person to bankroll a polar voyage of discovery.
A bit of context: At the time, horrors of the Civil War stood tall in peoples' memories. In 1867, the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia. A financial crisis gripped the world during the mid-1870's. Good news was scarce. A legendary cartographer from a small town in Germany (Dr. Petermann) was cranking out maps touting the feasibility of polar exploration made possible by following temperate Pacific currents. De Long was gnashing at the nautical bit. Bennett was game. A capable craft was readied, as was a truly international crew. And in no time, the Jeannette was steaming up California's coast to parts unknown.
From here, Hampton Sides launches into a gripping tale of saltwater, endless impenetrable ice packs, a pressurized destruction and sinking of the Jeannette, dog sled treks to find relative civilization in Siberia, frostbite, boots oozing seawater, fearful footfalls over "messes" of rotten ice, walrus slaughters interspersed with starvation, a desperate scramble of three small boats over a hostile open sea to reach land... followed by fate. The author uses journals and logs from De Long, published by Emma De Long in 1883, as well as horrific tales from others in the crew. But that came later. From 1879 through most of 1881, the world revolved on an endlessly silent void of news, as the USS Jeannette was simply lost.
So today, before we all slide into the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's "endurance" in the Antarctic, warm yourself up with De Long's voyage to the North Pole. In the Kingdom of Ice will launch you into a mood, with "ice as far as you can see.” Don't forget to bundle up.
Robert 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 (see 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.
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 new 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: http://www.amazon.com/Get-Sponsored-Explorers-Adventurers-Travelers-ebook/dp/B00H12FLH2
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