Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Internet Opens Doors for Explorers

By Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, July 1, 2009

For someone crisscrossing oceans in a 70-foot sailboat to stay at sea for 1,000 days without stops or resupplies, Reid Stowe (pictured) is one of the planet's most accessible people — online.

His — for a voyage which started from New Jersey on April 21, 2007 — offers far more than daily entries such as Friday's post noting "the breaking wavetops spoke to me" or his explaining Sunday that "for me, speaking to you is speaking to God." The site also has satellite tracking, video, audio, an online store, a handy way to use Paypal to pay $20-$49 to become an official "seaman" and listings of at least 33 corporate sponsors backing the venture.

Jeff Blumenfeld, who publishes Expedition News and wrote a new book called You Want to Go Where? that explains how explorers can get sponsorships, notes money was drying up for expeditions until the Internet arrived because sponsors didn't see much payoff. "And then sponsors started to get it," he says. "These wouldn't be explorers who'd take off and you wouldn't hear from them for months. Online, you'd get exposure from them constantly."

Lots of expeditions were able to get backing, he says, that "would have had no chance without the Internet." Like the explorer who hit golf balls across Mongolia, a driver who went across Europe in a truck powered by vegetable oil scavenged from restaurants and a mountain biker pedaling from North America's lowest spot — Death Valley — to its highest — Mount McKinley's peak.

Online, Stowe has chronicled plenty of drama — wild storms, exotic sealife and his girlfriend, Soanya Ahmad becoming pregnant and going ashore — even as he mixes in shout-outs to sponsors who make his isolation possible. Says Blumenfeld: "Without the Internet, he'd just be the Kon-Tiki."


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