Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis Roils Exploration World



By its very definition, exploration is dependent upon travel. Explorers have a desire to make sense of the unknown, to see what is over the other side of the hill. During the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, travel has been severely restricted, at worse banned.

As the world turns to science and technology for a solution to the coronavirus, explorers are adapting accordingly:

*    Everest is now closed. Following an announcement from China that it would restrict climbing on its half of the mountain due to coronavirus concerns, Nepal followed suit with a full shutdown of the mountain's southern side, completely closing off the peak to climbers hoping to summit this spring.
The decision to close Everest largely concerns the nature of the virus itself, which affects respiratory function in affected individuals. In a low-oxygen environment like Everest, respiratory impairment would prove doubly dangerous. The communal nature of Everest base camps, where climbers live in close quarters, also played a part in China and Nepal's decision to close the mountain, according to the outdoor trade publication SNEWS.

Alpenglow Expeditions and other guide companies planning ascents on the Tibetan side of the mountain have already cancelled spring trips. As of Mar. 12, Nepal still had no overt signs of the health crisis. That could change on a dime.

Read more here:

*    The Explorers Club Monday night public lectures have usually been streamed online. Now plans call for this to continue, albeit without an audience. The Club's annual dinner was postponed until Oct. 10, 2020. For more information: www.explorers.org

*    Companies in the outdoor industry throughout the world are asking employees to work from home indefinitely. Petzl America, for instance, manufacturer of life safety equipment, asked all employees with the ability to telecommute to do so.

Patagonia has taken the unprecedented step of temporarily closing all stores, shutting down ordering on its website, and suspending all orders.

REI is temporarily closing its 162 retail stores nationwide starting March 16, until March 27. "I believe that is the right thing for our community. In fact, I believe it is our duty-to do all we can to help keep one another safe in this unprecedented moment," announces Eric Artz, President & CEO, REI Co-op. All orders through REI.com will get free shipping while stores are closed.

"The outdoors remains a vital part of all our lives, especially in moments like this," says Artz.

*    Some of the industry's biggest warm-season shows, like the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, scheduled for June 23-25 in Denver, are proceeding uninterrupted for now, according to SNEWS.

Organizers are undoubtedly hoping that we'll have weathered this storm by then.

Demonstrating incredible resiliency, otherwise homebound Italians literally shouted from the rooftops and balconies this month, singing arias, the national anthem and pop songs. These impromptu songs show the resilience of the human spirit as millions of residents in Italy experience lockdown. Be sure to watch to the end of this viral video for a heartwarming rendition of Puccini's Nessun Dorma. It brought tears to our eyes.

In many of our lifetimes we've persevered through the Cold War, Y2K, 9/11, the Vietnam and Gulf wars, and other world crises. Together we'll get through this, of that we are sure.

EXPEDITION UPDATE



Explorers Club Inks Deal With Discovery Channel

These are uncertain times for any nonprofit, thus it was heartening to learn that The Explorers Club successfully inked a groundbreaking multiyear deal with Discovery Channel. It is the largest brand partnership in the Club's 116-year history.

The Club has been working on the agreement since Fall 2018. Since then it was presented to Chapter Chairs and unanimously approved by the Board of Directors.

According to TEC board member Richard Garriott, who helped negotiate the deal, Club officials engaged in more than 12 months of negotiations to arrive at a 3-to-10 year deal.

"This agreement likely represents between $6 million and $20 million to the club, which is nothing short of transformative to the future of our organization," he said in a Mar. 15 email to membership. The exclusive media partnership includes:

*    Infrastructure - Two million dollars for improvements to the headquarters building on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The punch list includes replacing the electrical and plumbing systems (which have not been updated since the building was built in 1910); overhaul of IT and media infrastructure; adding climate control to preserve and protect collections and archives; and repair or replacement of the building's aging elevator, thought to be one of the oldest in New York City, according to Garriott.
 
*    Expedition Grants - One million dollars per year for TEC expeditions, including  media and educational dissemination opportunities. Both TEC and Discovery must approve of any "Discovery" grant. "Discovery gets de facto 'media rights' to any expedition which accepts the grants, but no one is required to take the money, and each expedition can negotiate directly with Discovery if there are important issues," Garriott says.
 
*   Naming and Archive Rights - Discovery will pay a few hundred thousand dollars per year to The Explorers Club. In return, Discovery will have usage of two rental offices, some archives access, and for the term of the agreement, temporarily rename the building to a mutually agreeable name yet to be determined.

Naming rights to the building, currently honoring broadcaster Lowell Thomas, have appeared to be the most contentious part of the agreement among membership, but is a fairly typical request, dating to well before Sir Ernest Shackleton named one of his 23-foot whalers, the James Caird, after a rich benefactor. There are numerous examples of nonprofits in New York offering naming rights; Avery Fisher Hall, NYU Langone Medical Center, and The Julliard School immediately come to mind.

Discovery Channel will have access to the full historical archives of The Explorers Club, including 13,000 books, 1,000 museum objects, 5,000 maps and 500 films. This vast catalog will serve as the foundation of additional educational content creation.
Scenes from the Apollo 50th anniversary reunion during the 2019 Explorers Club Annual Dinner appeared in a Discovery Channel documentary last year.

*   Marketing SupportDiscovery will also provide millions of dollars in value through "in kind" advertising of the TEC brand. Last year, Discovery collaborated with the Club to produce Confessions From Space: Apollo, which included interviews with members who were recognized at the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. 

"Exploration as an endeavor has always relied on outside funding, as well as media. We feel strongly that our brand, our ability to communicate our mission, and our capacity to bring explorers together, will be greatly enhanced," said Club president Richard Wiese.

Read the Discovery announcement here:

EXPEDITION NOTES
Gregg Treinish honored.

Gregg Treinish Honored by World Economic Forum
   
Gregg Treinish, 30, founder of AdventureScientists.org, has been named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (YGL) for 2020 - joining an illustrious network of influential people aiming to improve the planet. He joins an international community under age 40 - including Pete Buttigieg, Amal Clooney, Megan Rapinoe, and Juan Guaidó - recognized for driving positive change.

"It's not enough to be just an explorer any more, it's 'been there, done that,'" says Treinish, who recruits today's adventurers to conduct scientific research in some of the world's most inaccessible places.

Over the last decade, Treinish's organization has co-opted thousands of adventure travelers to do the field research that lab-based researchers could not. One of the first projects was getting Everest mountaineers to obtain samples of plants growing at almost impossibly high altitudes. U.S. researchers were able to determine how that moss could survive in such extreme conditions and used the results to develop methods of increasing yields and protecting crops from adverse weather events.

On the sea, Adventure Scientists has used a network of 6,000 citizen researchers to build what it believes is the world's biggest database on microplastics in oceans around the world.

The 115 Young Global Leaders for the Class of 2020 includes a decorated Olympian and World Cup winner, the youngest Prime Minister of Finland, an accomplished and pioneering digital journalist in Africa, an advocate of social justice and reform in Nepal and a human rights lawyer fighting for an inclusive society in Ethiopia and beyond.


Citizen astronaut Richard Garriott on board the International Space Station (2008).

Space Adventures Agrees With SpaceX to
Launch Private Citizens on Crew Dragon Spacecraft

Building on the success of Crew Dragon's first demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March 2019 and the recent successful test of the spacecraft's launch escape system, Space Adventures, Inc. has entered into an agreement with SpaceX to fly private citizens on the first Crew Dragon free-flyer mission. This will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight and see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program.

If interested parties are secured, this mission will be the first orbital space tourism experience provided entirely with American technology. Private citizens will fly aboard SpaceX's fully autonomous Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by the company's Falcon 9 rocket, the same spacecraft and launch vehicle that SpaceX will use to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

Said Eric Anderson, Chairman, Space Adventures, "Creating unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space is why Space Adventures exists. From 2001-2009 our clients made history by flying over 36 million miles in space on eight separate missions to the ISS. Since its maiden mission in 2010, no engineering achievement has consistently impressed the industry more than the Dragon/Falcon 9 reusable system.

"Honoring our combined histories, this Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity - capable of reaching twice the altitude of any prior civilian astronaut mission or space station visitor," said Anderson.

Responding to a question on Twitter about a possible price tag of $52 million per seat, Anderson tweeted: "Per seat price for a full group of four not quite that much (not dramatically less, but significant enough to note). Definitive pricing confidential, and dependent on client specific requests, etc."

The company's orbital spaceflight clients include Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi, Richard Garriott (see related story), and Guy Laliberté.

For more information: www.spaceadventures.com

Read the full announcement here:

Watch the sizzle reel:

Mehgan Heany-Grier (Photo by kefskiphoto.com)

The Power Of Adventure

Mehgan Heaney-Grier, a lifelong ocean adventurer with more than 20 years experience working above and below the waterline, talked to the Rocky Mountain chapter of The Explorers Club on Feb. 25, 2020, about "The Power of Adventure." In 1996, at the age of 18, Heaney-Grier established the first constant weight free-diving record in the U.S. with a dive to 155 feet (47.26 meters) on a single breath of air. 

She's an accomplished athlete, professional speaker, marine educator, conservationist, expedition leader, stunt diver and television personality.

In 1998 Heaney-Grier captained the first United States Freediving Team to compete in the World Cup Freediving Championships held in Sardinia, Italy. In 2000, Heaney-Grier was inducted as part of the inaugural roster into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.

As an ocean advocate, adventurer and storyteller across multiple media platforms, Mehgan is dedicated to raising awareness and empowering the next generation of ocean stewards to engage and tackle the critical issues facing our oceans today.

Heaney-Grier told the chapter, "Exploration is the older, wiser version of adventure, but adventure is where we begin ... the underwater universe is awe-inspiring. It's profound and humbling and reminds us we're a part of something so much bigger than ourselves."

For more about Mehgan: www.mehganheaneygrier.com

 
The Arctic Watch crew. 

Will Work for Pemmican

Are you hard working and adventurous? Think the Arctic is an inspiring environment and wish to share it with others? Weber Arctic is looking to hire new guides at two wilderness lodges in Canada's Arctic this summer - the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge and Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge.

Assuming the coronavirus crisis eases by then, Weber Arctic is looking to add guides to its team of ambitious adventurers. The small family business's two lodges in Canada's Nunavut territory provide guests a large variety of experiences including: sea kayaking the Northwest Passage, fly fishing, fat biking, hiking, quading, and the chance to see polar bears, muskoxen, beluga whales, narwhals, arctic wolves, caribou and much more.

Learn about the opportunity here:


To apply for this position, send your resume and cover letter to mail@WeberArctic.com

FEATS


Slackliners Featured in New Film 

Slacklining is both an art and a sport that requires balance training, recreation and is also described as a moving meditation.

This extreme sport is demonstrated in a new, inspiring short film called Pathfinder. The documentary brings viewers on a cinematic journey highlighting a never-before attempted milestone in the world of slacklining, taking place under the Northern Lights in the Senja Island, Norway.

A rich and meaningful story, the 10-minute film explores the physical and spiritual aspects in the world of six slack-liners with insights from Norwegians on the folklore and mysticism surrounding the Northern Lights, the nature of the setting, and the indigenous people of the north: The Sámi.

See the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/390192829 (password 1234).

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

- T.S. Elliot (1888-1965), U.S. poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, and literary critic.

MEDIA MATTERS
Boulder Film Festival Provides Vicarious Thrills for a Troubled World

It was certainly a case of flop sweat.

EN's heart was racing and beads of perspiration formed on our brows. Yet we were hardly moving. Instead we spent last weekend watching a procession of outstanding films at the 16th annual Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), enjoying pulse quickening scenes of  "superpower dogs" lowered onto avalanche victims by helicopter; blind athlete Lonnie Bedwell paddling the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon; superfit Faroe Islands pastor Sverri Steinholm running along knife-edge ridges; storm chasers playing tag with tornados; and the late U.K. piano restorer Desmond O'Keeffe, delivering an upright to 14,000-ft. Lingshed in the Indian Himalayas. 

If the audience was nervous about the coronavirus, they didn't show it. Funniest moment was when actor Ryan Gaul, during a talkback for the film Jack, featuring a cat about to be euthanized (it's funnier than it sounds), yelled "run!" and mockingly fell to the floor when the moderator sneezed. It was a moment of comic relief we all needed along with another shpritz of hand sanitizer.

BIFF attracted 25,000 films, filmmakers and movie buffs from around the world to Boulder for a four-day celebration of the art of cinema. This year, the festival debuted the Adventure Film Pavilion at eTown Hall to celebrate the most exciting new adventure films of the year.

Adventure Pavilion moderator Isaac Savitz said his selection committee viewed 400 adventure films in three months to select 35 for the BIFF audience. If you didn't like one, just wait a few minutes and another film was screened that would drop your jaw to the floor.

The 2020 line-up included four shorts programs and three features, including Home, about UK Adventurer Sarah Outen who traversed the globe by bike, kayak, and rowboat; Climbing Blind, about Jesse Dufton who attempts to be the first blind person to make a gripping "non-sight" lead of the iconic Old Man of Hoy seat stack in Scotland; and Lost Temple of the Inca, about Boulder scientist Preston Sowell's journey to Peru where he discovers a lost temple of the Inca Empire. It was a behind-the-scenes look inside a cutting edge expedition at the headwaters of the Amazon river, a race against time as mining companies seek to ruin the Peruvian Andes Lake Sibinacocha region.

Legendary grizzly expert, Green Beret medic, and eco-warrior Doug Peacock, the real-life inspiration for the character George Hayduke in Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, said in Grizzly Country, "Saving habitat is the most satisfying expression of joy I know. If you're down and depressed get outside. It's the best cure I know for the metaphysical icky-poos."

Survivor's Guilt in the Mountains

The New Yorker (Mar. 2), in a story profiling Bozeman, Montana, therapist Tim Tate,  provides an inside look at the North Face athletes program, revealing that it does not offer health insurance or life insurance. The pay can range from substantial six-figure annual salaries for the stars (who have agents that typically handle the negotiations) to four-figure stipends, or even just free gear, for up-and-coming "ambassadors," according to an examination of the risks inherent in climbing by Nick Paumgarten (Feb. 24).
 
"The athletes would pursue these activities with or without us," Arne Arens, the president of the North Face, tells Paumgarten. "We know the inherent risks. We try to limit them as much as we can. They choose the objectives. Our role is to make it as safe as possible."

According to the story, generally, the athletes develop their own projects and pitch them to the company, which in turn shapes them not only to market the brand but also to road test new technology and gear. "If it weren't for the athletes, we wouldn't be able to push the limits ourselves," Arens said.

The New Yorker story shares a page from Conrad Anker's journal which recounts about three dozen names handwritten on it - friends and partners who'd died. The list begins with Anker's mentor, Mugs Stump, who fell into a crevasse while descending Denali, in 1992. Scott Adamson, Justin Griffin, Hans Saari, Doug Coombs, Ned Gillette, Mira Smid, Hari Berger, Todd Skinner, Walt Shipley, Ang Kaji Sherpa, Ueli Steck, Dean Potter. "Martyrs without a cause, except perhaps that of their own fulfillment," Paumgarten writes.
 
"Mountain climbing is a modern curiosity, a bourgeois indulgence. It consists mostly of relatively well-to-do white people manufacturing danger for themselves."

Read the entire 9,700 word story here:

WEB WATCH

Still from Michael Churton's Bound to Everest

Witness to a Tragedy

Adventure filmmaker Michael Churton's camera was rolling on the deadliest avalanche in Everest history. His new feature-length documentary, Bound to Everest, recounts that fateful day in April 2015 when a 7.8 earthquake hit the mountain. At Everest Base Camp, the violent vibrations trigger an immense avalanche. Snow, rock and ice catapult by at savage speeds, blasting Churton into the rocks. The camera is rolling as a bright member of Churton's expedition team vanishes next to him in a fury of white.

The death toll at base camp rises to 19 and surpasses the 2014 avalanche tragedy to become the deadliest day in Everest history. Bound to Everest is an examination of the adventure of a lifetime gone wrong and a survivor's search for closure.

Still in rough cut form, it promises to be both horrifying and inspiring when it comes out in October.

Watch the trailer here:

BUZZ WORDS

Sawanobori

The Japanese art of climbing up flowing streams and waterfalls. (Source: The New Yorker, Mar. 2, 2020)

(Earth photo courtesy of NASA.gov)

Overview Effect
 
A cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space. It is the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, "hanging in the void", shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative.

Michael Collins of Apollo 11 says, "The thing that really surprised me was that it (Earth) projected an air of fragility. And why, I don't know. I don't know to this day. I had a feeling it's tiny, it's shiny, it's beautiful, it's home, and it's fragile."

EXPEDITION CLASSIFIEDS

 
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: tinyurl.com/voluntourismbook @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.

Buy it here:

Advertise in Expedition News - For more information: blumassoc@aol.com

EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, LLC, 290 Laramie Blvd., Boulder, CO 80304 USA. Tel. 203 326 1200, editor@expeditionnews.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2020 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through www.paypal.com.   

Read EXPEDITION NEWS at www.expeditionnews.com. Enjoy the EN blog at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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



SEARCHING FOR THE GHOSTS OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S WWII PAST


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: https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/c-47/41-18564.html)

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: www.ghostmountainboys.com.

Interested trekkers can contact James Campbell at bogmoose@frontier.com or at 608 333 1177

EXPEDITION UPDATE
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:


EXPEDITION NOTES

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. (RECCO.com)
 
 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. (https://www.avametrix.com/avyscanner)

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. (unitedbyblue.com)

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. (pocsports.com)

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"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)

MEDIA MATTERS

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, info@dogsledding.com 218 365 6022

EXPEDITION FOCUS

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.

EXPEDITION MARKETING

 
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."



EXPEDITION CLASSIFIEDS

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: tinyurl.com/voluntourismbook @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: blumassoc@aol.com.