Tuesday, December 6, 2011

EXPEDITION NEWS - December 2011

December 2011 – Volume Eighteen, Number 12

EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 17th year, is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.


On November 16, a team of six adventurers flew to Antarctica – Canadian Richard Weber; Briton Chris de Lapuente; Americans Kathy Braegger and Ruth Storm; New Zealander Michael Archer; and South African Howard Fairbank. The entire team started skiing from the Ronne Ice Shelf at a location called the “Messner Start,” 540-mi./900 km from the South Pole. The team plans to pull all supplies in sleds for the 35-day expedition while Fairbank will ski off on his own for a solo attempt.

At the South Pole, it gets interesting: they will receive a re-supply, the skiers will change boots, skis and sleds, Ruth Storm will fly back, and Fairbank will re-join the team. Then the group will kite-ski 660-mi./1100 km back to the edge of the Antarctic continent at Hercules Inlet. The South Pole, at an altitude of almost 10,000 feet, experiences cold air flowing down toward sea level. Using this wind, the team expects to reach Hercules Inlet in about 15 days and hopes to depart for home on January 12, 2012.

According to Weber, despite numerous South Pole expeditions these days, a roundtrip to the bottom of the earth has only been completed twice in history. Once by Amundsen in 1911, and another team in 2004, but never on this route. The expedition will send text and images via satellite telephone, which can be seen at www.WeberArctic.com, Kathy Braegger’s website, www.southpoleroundtrip.com, and Chris de Lapuente’s site, www.south-pole.weebly.com/.

Expedition sponsors are Fischer skis, 7Systems endurance supplements, Brother Labels (see related story), and Recon GPS. Weber considers the Recon his coolest piece of gear. The goggles have a built-in GPS display that provides speed, temperature, latitude and longitude, considered a huge advantage while kite-skiing and navigating in bad light. “No need to look down at the compass or to get out a handheld GPS. The battery can be recharged from one of our mini solar panels,” Weber blogs.


Mike Horn Pangaea Expedition Conducts First U.S. Study

Last month, South African Mike Horn and seven selected young explorers representing five different nations lead the first and only Pangaea expedition to U.S. territory for dynamic study of the Gulf of Mexico’s fragile aquatic eco-system and exploration of the Everglades – the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S.
For more than two decades, Horn has undertaken feats of adventure and environmental analysis that have extended the boundaries of human achievement, natural discovery and ecological education (see EN, October 2008). His latest endeavor, the Pangaea Project, is a four-year circumnavigation of the world on a 115-ft. aluminum ketch through a series of 12, tri-annual expeditions each to different climates and biospheres including mountain, desert, ocean, rainforest and tundra.

 (For more information: www.mikehorn.com)

Stowe Away (Again)

New York City artist and sailor Reid Stowe, 59, and photographer Soanya Ahmad, 28, the couple who sailed the longest sea voyage in history, departed last month for another adventure, this time to the jungles of Guyana with a crew of six men and three women – most of whom have never been on the ocean before. (See EN, July 2010).

After Stowe’s schooner Anne returned from her record-breaking 1,152-day voyage in June 2010, she was still seaworthy but in dire need of maintenance. One and a half years later the 70-ft. yacht will finally get the attention she needs. The month-long ocean adventure will take the Anne and crew up a jungle river in Guyana where extensive repairs will be made. From there the crew will sail through the Caribbean and back to New York City. The entire voyage will take six months, returning them to Manhattan in May 2012.

The crew will work with the World Water Rescue Foundation (www.wwrf.org) to foster awareness about the sustainable uses of water.
Stowe is in the process of pitching two book deals with a literary agent, one about the three-year voyage, the other called, Survival Food Stockpiling: A Proven Three Year Technique Without Resupply. Meanwhile, Stowe is busy promoting and selling his art at www.reidstoweart.com

He tells EN, “Most people are quite surprised that we are not more famous and celebrated for our unprecedented accomplishments, but none of us have really figured this out. We are still busy trying to promote and share our story.” (For more information: www.1000days.net)

A Toast to The Boss

Turns out Sir Ernest Shackleton left behind a few “necessities” following his expedition to the Magnetic South Pole and that’s the reason over 120 guests gathered at The Explorers Club on Nov. 10 – to toast in his honor, raising high a glass of his very own whisky. Well, almost. In February 2007, a team of archaeologists from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered two crates of 100-year-old Scotch whisky beneath the floor of a hut built by Shackleton during his 1907-1909 Antarctic Nimrod Expedition. (See EN, December 2009).

In 2010, one crate, labeled Mackinlay's whisky, was brought to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, where it was thawed under precise laboratory conditions.
Whyte & Mackay, the Scottish distillery that now owns the Mackinlay's brand, launched the recovery effort to carefully analyze samples they could use to relaunch the defunct Scotch. As the original recipe for the blend no longer exists, famed Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Richard “The Nose” Paterson was enlisted to replicate the historic old brand. He calls it, quite unabashedly, “A gift from heaven for whisky lovers.”

Paterson, who is said to have a nose insured for more money than Lady Gaga’s legs, has since successfully reopened this window of history by carefully and meticulously reconstructing the whisky’s formula – a whopping 47.3 percent alcohol (94.6 proof), presumably making it necessary to employ a designated musher).

“The reformulated whisky we’re having tonight contains malts 10 to 30 years old and if I see you putting ice in it, I’ll kill you,” Paterson joked.

The tasting also commemorated Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky becoming a corporate sponsor of The Explorers Club, the very same organization that bestowed upon Shackleton honorary membership.

Following the relaunch, 50,000 bottles of the long-lost malt will go on sale for $175, with a percentage of each sale being donated to the Antarctic Heritage Trust. (For more information: www.enduringspirit.com)


SD Card Takes a Licking and Keeps on Clicking

Just how tough is your average DSLR memory card? Apparently tough enough to survive a year at the bottom of the ocean. Naturalist and aspiring photographer Markus Thompson was scuba diving in Deep Bay near Vancouver, British Columbia, when he found a Canon EOS 1000D. Curious, he brought it to the surface and took out the SD card, and was able to recover about 50 photos.

With a bounty of pictures and a desire to find the camera's owner, Thompson logged onto social networking sites for help. He posted his find to Google+, including pictures of the camera itself as well as the photos he was able to recover from the SD card. He eventually tracked it down to a firefighter in British Columbia.

Read the story here: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/technology-blog/camera-lost-sea-returned-help-social-networking-174129626.html


“We live in a society that tends to glorify risk, blithely airbrushing away the potential consequences. We laud risk when it succeeds and denigrate it as reckless when it does not. By definition, some risky ventures are going to fail. Managing risk is a balancing act between a desired outcome and the probability of achieving it. Knowing your goal is key because it is your ‘yardstick for success’ and helps determine how much you are willing to put at risk.”

– Jill A. Fredston. With 25 years experience predicting avalanches, Fredston has made a specialty of speaking about decision-making, and strategies for dealing with uncertainty and change. She is author of Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches (Harcourt, 2005)


The Last Tango in Norwalk

Pedaling past the Wilson Cove Marina in Norwalk, Conn., this past summer we noticed a forlorn and strange-looking white and orange boat in dry-dock. The 850-lb. self-righting carbon fiber and cedar craft today bears little testimony to its history setting the fastest west to east human-powered crossing of the Atlantic.
After capturing the imaginations of young and old alike at the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium where she was prominently displayed for almost two decades, the 24-ft. pedal-powered boat is now ready to capture the imaginations of adventurous souls in a new yet to be determined location.

Back in 1991, we were approached by its owner, Dwight T. Collins, then age 34, for help in promoting his planned Atlantic crossing. Collins, who logged some 4,000 hours on a recumbent stationary bicycle in his living room to train, received $35,000 in seed money from beverage importer Schieffelin & Somerset to support the trial run on behalf of Moet & Chandon champagne. Breitling Watches stepped up later and Virgin Atlantic contributed at the end when Collins was 200 miles from completion.

Why does champagne make sense as a sponsor? Champagne is quaffed by the gallons during ocean crossings (think Noel Coward sloshing across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary). And to celebrate a sailboat race, as much champagne is spilled as it is consumed. So there was indeed logic in securing a bubbly sponsor. The boat was christened Tango after Collins’ first wedding dance with wife Corrine. Collins crammed the whole forward compartment with mostly freeze-dried food, along with what turned out to be his favorite snack – Fig Newtons.

Once outfitted, he departed St. John’s, Newfoundland at 2:30 p.m. on June 14, 1992. A small crowd was there to watch the former SEAL, fully enclosed and seemingly safe from the ocean seas with the winds at his back, attempt to pedal at a faster speed than anyone expected – The Little Engine That Could. Or maybe not. Nevertheless, a childhood dream realized.

With the setting sun of the first day, the insidious effects of the frigid southerly Labrador Current hampered his eastward progress to the Gulf Stream and its prevailing easterly winds. After discouraging progress the first week, a mixed blessing arrived in the form of a major gale which brought with it 20-plus foot waves and winds over 70 knots. The good news: the Labrador Current was left in the dust and he achieved greater speed than anticipated. The bad news was that this was the first of three storms that kept Collins wide awake to prevent Tango from turning parallel to the waves and rolling.

Collins pedaled an average of 19.5 hours per day during the trip, sitting there in his hydrophobic, sweat-wicking sports apparel, energy bars and sports drinks at the ready.
At times waves were up to 30 feet and winds reached gale force. Despite the rough ride, heavy weather helped slingshot him eastward. “By the end of the trip, I had gone through so many gales I could hardly keep track,” he told Amy Nutt of Sports Illustrated.

He dodged trawlers, suffered major bouts of boredom when his Sony Walkman died due to moisture, and had a 12-foot shark trail him for a few terrifying minutes. At times he donned a waterproof survival suit for protection. His only serious mishap occurred when a violent roll threw him out of his bunk across a beam, tearing a gash in his forehead.

Collins arrived July 24 at 3:30 p.m. in Plymouth, England, 40 days and about 2,300 miles later – the fastest human-powered west-to-east crossing of the Atlantic ever recorded. He blew away the previous record crossing, a 55-day solo row set in 1987 by British oarsman Tom McLean.

One British tabloid considered Collins a madcap mariner obsessed with the call of the wild, someone who “. . . can’t face life without proving his manhood.” Harsh words indeed for someone followed by thousands of armchair adventurers each day of the journey.

Collins’ personal credo was written on a note and cast adrift in an empty Moet champagne bottle. It read, “To whoever finds this bottle – may you have the courage to pursue that which means the most to you.” The bottle was found five months later off the Brittany coast by an old fisherman who received his weight in Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne No. 1, courtesy of the expedition’s main sponsor.

So there it sits in the Collins backyard in Noroton Heights, Conn. High and dry. For now. Collins, a Stamford, Conn., real estate developer and father of three, says, “I’m looking to place it in a good home, where it can continue capturing the imagination of young and old.”

The last Tango? Not if Dwight Collins can help it. (Reach him at: dcollins@collins-llc.com, 203 541 1305).


Science and Exploration are Intertwined

Robert W. Duffy, associate editor of the St. Louis Beacon, believes science and exploration are closely linked in today’s world. He writes in the Oct. 11 issue, “…. science, that broad and brilliant field of human endeavor that ennobles us all, widens our world, cures our illnesses, feeds us and quenches our thirsts, designs various transportations to take us places near and far, heats and cools our buildings and allows buildings to reach the skies.”

He continues, “Everywhere we look, exploration and science affect us and ultimately extract order from chaos. Too often nowadays, all too often, both dimwits and demagogues anathematize science as some sort of elitist plot. Doors of the mind left wide open to science and exploration are passages to the light of truth. Slammed shut: oblivion.”

Read his entire column here:

Old Man of the Mountains

Fred Beckey, 88, is the most prolific first ascensionist in the history of climbing, according to Michael J. Ybarra of the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 10). Climbing magazine bestowed upon him a lifetime achievement award, impressed by his “enduring climbing-bum lifestyle.”

“Fred’s the ultimate dirtbag,” says Patagonia Inc. founder Yvon Chouinard, who during the first ascent of the Beckey-Chouinard route on South Howser in Canada watched Beckey settle in for a cold night on a ledge by stuffing the pockets of his jacket with pages torn from a Louis L’Amour novel – an old hobo trick.

Beckey laments, “Most people just seem to lose their keenness for outdoors adventure when they get older. People my age aren’t doing much any more. It just works out that way. It doesn’t have to.”


“Mountains for Water” Plans Kili Climb in January

In January 2012, a group of dedicated climbers will ascend Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest peak on the continent of Africa, while fundraising to construct a water reservoir for a community in need in Northern Kenya.

In 1998-2000, Kenya experienced a two-year drought. Ongoing issues have prevented communities, livestock and wild animals from having enough water to drink. Daily, Samburu women have to walk for an hour or more to collect water. The shortage of water means ill health and dehydration within the whole community – often leading to the prevalence of Trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye and the leading cause of painful blindness. Reservoirs are of huge benefit to alleviate damage in times of drought, says expedition spokesperson Peter Kojalo.

The climb hopes to raise funds to construct a rainwater reservoir, which will benefit a local community for decades to come. A few open places remain for interested climbers.

(For more information: http://www.elevatedestinations.com,
info@elevatedestinations.com, 617 661 0203).

Deadline Nears for Polartec Challenge Grant

Dec. 31 is the deadline to apply for the 2012 Polartec Challenge Grant which since 1991 assists low-impact teams who set an example for responsible outdoor recreation through respect for local cultures and the environment. Grant recipients are chosen for the vision, commitment and educational and cultural value of their expeditions.

Legendary Polartec Challenge Grant recipients over the past two decades include Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, Marko Prezelj, Andrew McLean, Greg Hill and John Shipton. Recent recipients include Kate Harris and Melissa Yule, who are exploring environmental conservation while cycling from Europe to Asia, and Jon Turk and Erik Boomer, who recently completed the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island.
(To apply: www.polartec.com/polartec-challenge).


Explorers Demonstrate Durability of Brother P-touch Labels

When Brother came to EN for help locating explorers to test its new labeler in extreme conditions (see EN, June 2011), we had a suspicion that more than a few explorers would respond with interest. In fact, we referred over 18 projects, from which Brother selected at least four. The company is now promoting its label durability message with the help of British explorer Jeremy Curl, solar educator Stephen Ramsden, shark researcher Greg Skomal, polar explorer Richard Weber, and others. See the P-touch “Extreme Offices” story at www.ptouchtough.com.


Warning: Geezers Ahead

Andrew Burmon of The Huffington Post writes an amusing plea to his parents to take it easy out there. “The travel industry is increasingly oriented toward older people who want to get off the beaten path. The problem is that no one is on the path anymore and the wilderness around it is full of people with bad knees. It turns out the no limits approach to travel is not actually feasible. We all bring our limits with us and, yes, aging people have more limitations than whippersnappers,” he posts on Nov. 4.

“Here is my plea to my parents and to the generation of aging travelers who opened up the world to people my age: Please be careful.

“I'm not telling anyone to sit out their retirement. I'm just saying: maybe go boogie boarding instead of surfing; maybe go bouldering instead of rock climbing; maybe take it easy with the heli-skiing.

“As boomers begin to enjoy their retirement, there will be a glut of global travelers. It would a pity and a lost opportunity if these travelers were too busy getting bandaged after cliff diving to enjoy some whitewater rafting. Wrinkles make you look wise. Stitches don't,” Burmon writes.

See the entire posting here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-burmon/an-open-letter-to-older-adventurers_b_1074677.html?view=print&comm_ref=false


Ken Burns Keynotes Explorers Club Annual Dinner, Mar. 17, 2012

The 108th annual gathering of the world’s foremost explorers and adventurers, The Explorers Club Annual Dinner (ECAD), is scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 17, 2012, at New York’s Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. This year’s dinner, which is expected to attract 1,000 explorers and guests, is themed “How Far Is Far: Remote Exploration” and will focus on the use of technology to understand the world in which we live.

"Recent scientific and technological capabilities have upped the stakes on what we consider remote in exploration today," said Lorie Karnath, president of The Explorers Club.

Keynote speaker is Ken Burns (The Civil War, Lewis & Clark, The National Parks), who has been named one of the most influential documentary filmmakers of all time by Realscreen magazine. He will be joined at the dais by master of ceremonies Robin Esrock, creator, writer and co-host of Word Travels, a 40-part adventure series seen in over 100 countries and 18 languages.

Tickets are available for members, guests and friends of the Club. For more information, call 212 628 8383 or log onto: www.explorers.org


Again this year our team of shopping experts scoured the world looking for holiday gifts to recommend this season. Well, maybe not. But there are a few drool-worthy items we’re jonesing for this year and they’re not what you might think. Here are a few adventurous gifts that appeal to our twisted, somewhat irreverent view of the exploration field.

“Oh, the Humanity”

Deepsea submersibles are so 1990s. There are personal shoppers, personal digital assistants, and now the personal blimp. Skyacht Aircraft’s personal aircraft is filled with hot air rather than helium, or god-forbid hydrogen. Hot air allows it to easily deflate between flights. The Alberto is 102 feet long and 70 feet in diameter. Price is in the low six figures. (www.personalblimp.com)

Hang up on Ralph

When crossing the Drake, is your friend or loved one tired of calling Ralph on the porcelain phone? Charles Darwin was famously stricken by seasickness during his voyage, but your gift recipient needn’t suffer the same fate with QueaseEase, an aromatic inhaler containing natural oils said to reduce motion sickness. When inhaled through the nose, molecules in the essential oil vapor travel to the olfactory bulb. Chemical messengers are then formed, which communicate with the limbic system of the brain and signal the central nervous system to take it easy. Really? Better play it safe and send it gift wrapped inside a plastic bucket. (www.soothing-scents.com)

Become a Card-Carrying Explorer

If your friend or loved one doesn’t have the chops to join the RGS or American Alpine Club, no matter. Get them an official MileagePlus Explorer Business Card from United Airlines. Perfect for wannabes and armchair explorers, especially any of them 1 percenters we’ve been hearing so much about – the Explorer card comes with 10,000 bonus miles after the recipient spends $25,000 within a calendar year. (www.explorerbusinesscard.com)

Sittin’ Pretty

That explorer in your life is undoubtedly a hearty soul. He or she treks through jungles defying dengue fever, consume untold billions of pathogens eating fish tacos at roadside stands, and even face the insidious candiru which can enter a man’s, er, manhood. For the holidays this year, PlaneSheets is ample ammunition for germ warfare we fight in flight (especially where we sit, back with the chickens and goats). These cotton sheets solve the cootie problem by completely encasing an airline seat. Just slide it over the headrest, tuck and sit. Friend or loved one may look like they suffer from OCD, but they’ll be napping better than anyone else. (www.planesheets.com)

Belay Glasses

We first caught glimpse of these specs in Climbing magazine and knew we had to have them. Triangular prisms in these German-made specs bend sight lines 90 degrees to the vertical so the climber in your life can belay without craning their neck. They also make it easier to hit the call button when sitting on a set of PlaneSheets. (www.powernplay.com)


Ballard’s War – A WW-II spy thriller with all the intellectual pyrotechnics (plus an aching love story) for which author Tom Holzel (The Mystery of Mallory & Irvine, The Air Rifle Hunter's Guide) is well known. A mysterious American approaches the Abwehr – the German Secret Service – bearing gifts: advance intelligence that helps turn the tide of war. But there’s a catch. And Oskar Faulheim (the Darth Vader of the Gestapo) wants to know how he does it. With Ballard protected by the Abwehr, Faulheim sets his sights on his new girlfriend – the Italian widow Sabina Pergolesi. E-book or paperback from Amazon.com.

Women Needed for Peaks Foundation Trek – Peaks Foundation has launched 10 new climbs for 2012 and are looking for women who want to travel to unique regions, bag a peak and create positive change for women and girls in mountain communities across the globe. Trek the Peruvian Andes, the high Himalayas or even the mountains of Morocco. For more information on how to join a climb, visit www.peaksfoundation.org or contact info@peaksfoundation.org.

DreamQuest Productions - An award-winning full service film production company with over 20 years of experience in adventure & expedition film production. Contact us to see how we can help your expedition! Tel. 661 492 3188, www.dreamquest.tv, info@dreamquest.tv

Advertise in Expedition News – For just 50 cents a word, you can reach an estimated 10,000 readers of America’s only monthly newsletter celebrating the world of expeditions on land, in space, and beneath the sea. Join us as we take a sometimes irreverent look at the people and projects making Expedition News. Frequency discounts are available. (For more information: blumassoc@aol.com).

Saturday, November 26, 2011


On November 16, 2011, a team of six adventurers flew to the continent of Antarctica –Canadian Richard Weber; Briton Chris de Lapuente; Americans Kathy Braegger and Ruth Storm; New Zealander Michael Archer; and South African Howard Fairbank. The entire team started skiing from the Ronne Ice Shelf at a location called the “Messner Start,” 540-mi./900 km from the South Pole. The team plans to pull all their supplies in sleds while Howard Fairbank will ski off on his own for a solo attempt. The journey to the South Pole is expected to take about 35 days.

At the South Pole, it gets interesting: they will receive a re-supply, the skiers will change boots, skis and sleds, Ruth Storm will fly back, and Fairbank will re-join the team. Then the group will kite-ski 660-mi./1100 km back to the edge of the Antarctic continent at Hercules Inlet. The South Pole, an altitude of almost 10,000 feet, experiences cold air flowing down toward sea level. Using this wind, the team expects to reach Hercules Inlet in about 15 days and hopes to depart for home on January 12, 2012.

According to Weber, despite numerous South Pole expeditions these days, a roundtrip to the South Pole has only been completed twice in history. Once by Amundsen in 1911, and another team in 2004, but never on this route. The expedition will send text and images via satellite telephone, which can be seen at www.WeberArctic.com, Kathy Braegger’s website, www.southpoleroundtrip.com, and Chris de Lapuente’s site, www.south-pole.weebly.com/.

Expedition sponsors are Fischer skis, 7Systems endurance supplements, Brother Labels (see related story), and Recon GPS. Weber considers the Recon his coolest piece of gear. The goggles have a built-in GPS display that provides speed, temperature, latitude and longitude, considered a huge advantage while kite-skiing and navigating in bad light. “No need to look down at the compass or to get out a hand held GPS. The battery can be recharged from one of our mini solar panels,” Weber blogs.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Expedition News - November 2011 - Technology Lends a Hand

November 2011 – Volume Eighteen, Number 11

EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 17th year, is the monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures. It is distributed online to media representatives, corporate sponsors, educators, research librarians, explorers, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. This forum on exploration covers projects that stimulate, motivate and educate.


Soldiers to the Summit is Bullish on Connecticut Surgeon

In 2010, seven disabled soldiers reached the 20,075-foot summit of Lobuche, a spectacular Himalayan peak at the foot of Everest. The “Soldiers to the Summit” team included four members with post traumatic stress, three leg amputees, two blind climbers, and one who had spent over three years in a wheelchair. Also on the trip was Stamford, Conn., surgeon Sherman Bull, 75, who at the age of 64 was at the time the oldest climber to summit Mt. Everest (2001). (See EN, October 2010).

Dr. Bull addressed a church group in his hometown of New Canaan, Conn., on Oct. 12, telling the audience of mostly retirees, “We have created a generation of damaged goods (through war) that will be with us for a lifetime and beyond.

“I felt tremendously responsible for this team. We were ready to stress them physically but not mentally and emotionally – many were experiencing post traumatic stress including one veteran who had killed so many people they wouldn’t let him re-enlist.”

Bull later said the veterans on the trip “took partying to a new level,” as he flipped a Powerpoint slide to an image of an amputee drinking out of his prosthetic limb.

The expedition, which included blind climber Erik Weihenmayer, is the subject of a documentary from Serac Adventure Films called High Ground, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael Brown and the Outdoor Adventure Film School.

High Ground is in final production now and will be released next year, initially at some major film festivals. Also planned is a nationwide tour with special screenings for sponsors as well as VA hospitals.

Next spring and summer, soldiers will travel to Colorado for two intensive training sessions. Then in December 2012, they will travel to Ecuador and to climb Cotopaxi, a 19,347-ft. volcano. (For more information: www.soldierstothesummit.org, www.seracfilms/highground).


Walking the Amazon

On Aug. 9, 2010, British explorer Ed Stafford walked into the history books after completing the longest jungle expedition ever undertaken, thus becoming the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River.
 Previously thought of as an “impossible” feat, Stafford’s success in navigating the entire length of the 4,000 mile Amazon on foot from its source in Peru to the mouth of the river on the shores of Brazil proved once and for all that if you have a dream, and you have the determination to succeed then nothing is impossible.

Stafford, 35, a former Captain in the Devon & Dorset’s Light Infantry regiment of the British Army who was inspired by reading the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, filmed and blogged his deadly journey the entire route.

At The Explorers Club on Oct. 26, he tells EN, “Sure we had all the technology – but we were in areas of the Amazon where rescue was hopeless. We could have Facebooked and Tweeted ourselves with great photos showing us dying. That’s just the risk we understood going into this.”

Up to 70 percent of the trip involved hacking through dense jungle at the rate of four miles per day. “But it was easy really,” he joked. “All we had to do was put the river on our left and keep walking downhill.”

His tale of true grit, bravery and determination to succeed against all odds has led to him being described by The Daily Mail as, “Britain’s most intrepid hero since Scott of the Antarctic.” His new book, Walking the Amazon, comes out in the States in spring 2012. (For more information: www.edstafford.org).

First All-Female Team Paddles From Minneapolis to Hudson Bay

Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren finished the historic 2,250-mile route from Minnesota to Hudson Bay in 85 days, becoming the first all-female team to canoe the journey. The project was supported by Sierra Designs. Titled the “Hudson Bay Bound” adventure, the trip was inspired by the fur trade route outlined in the 1935 book Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid who recounts a canoe trip with his friend Walter Port.

Raiho and Warren were struck by the fact the trip had never been completed by an all-women’s team, and saw a potential journey as a way to inspire other women to plan and embark on their own multi-day adventures.

Raiho and Warren were not only the first women’s team to complete the arduous journey, but also were the fourth team ever to complete the trip.

The two canoeists left Minneapolis on June 2, and reached York Factory in Hudson Bay on August 25. In total, 70 days were spent canoeing, including seven wind-bound days on Lake Winnipeg.

“Our biggest physical challenge was paddling upstream on the Minnesota while the river was in flood condition and the state was experiencing record high temperatures for June,” said Raiho. (For more information: www.hudsonbaybound.com).

Hardest Climb by a North American Woman

adidas Outdoor athlete Sasha DiGiulian, 18, achieved the most difficult documented climb by a North American woman on Oct. 15, when she completed “Pure Imagination” in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, a 5.14d grade 9a climb, in only six attempts. Pure Imagination was first climbed by American Jonathan Siegrist in November 2010.

DiGiulian has been climbing for the past 11 years. At the present time she is first in the world ranking for Female Outdoor Sport Climbing, winning first place overall at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Arco, Italy, this summer. She is also the current Pan-American Champion; the U.S. National Champion, female division; and undefeated Junior Continental Champion, female category. (For more information: www.sasha-digiulian.com)

North Face Team Summits Meru’s Shark’s Fin

The North Face athletes Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk summited the Shark's Fin route on the northwest face of the 20,700-foot Meru in the Garhwal Himalaya, one of the last great unclimbed features of the range. With favorable weather, complementary skills and good climbing conditions, the group was able to finish on Oct. 2, almost a week ahead of schedule in a stark contrast to previous attempts.

Anker first attempted the route in 2003 but had to turn back two-thirds of the way up. In 2008 Anker returned with his current climbing team and spent 19 days on the wall before having to retreat just 100 meters from the summit.

Shark's Fin represents one of the world's ultimate mountaineering tests. In the last 30 years top alpinists have attempted the climb but none of them were successful, until now. The face represents a combination of climbing features – the first third is an alpine snow-and-ice route, the middle section is a mix of ice and rock, while the last section is a grueling overhanging headwall.

To outfit their expedition, the group used and tested The North Face's new Meru Kit, built specifically for high-altitude mountaineering. According to Chin, the trio used knowledge from their previous attempts to incorporate certain design elements into the products. At the end of the day the kit allowed the climbers to focus on the important aspects of their ascent.

As Ozturk said, “climbing with such close friends in one of the most visually stunning parts of the Himalayas is the kind of adventure that fuels my soul.” (Read the expedition dispatch here: http://www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/meru-sharks-fin/).

Jawbone Found of Earliest Known Modern Human in Northwestern Europe

A piece of jawbone excavated from a prehistoric cave in England is the earliest evidence for modern humans in Europe, according to an international team of scientists. The bone first was believed to be about 35,000 years old, but the new research study shows it to be
significantly older – between 44,000 and 41,000 years old, according to the findings that will be published in the journal Nature. The new dating of the bone is expected to help scientists pin down how quickly modern humans spread across Europe during the last Ice Age. It also helps confirm the much-debated theory that early humans coexisted with Neanderthals.

Beth Shapiro, the Shaffer Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State University and a member of the research team, explained that the fragment of maxilla – the upper jaw – containing three teeth was unearthed in 1927 in a prehistoric limestone cave called Kent's Cavern in southwestern England. Shapiro explained that the new and more-accurate date is especially important because it provides clearer evidence about the coexistence of Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans. (For more information: Beth Shapiro, 814 863 9178, 814 321 8389, beth.shapiro@gmail.com). See high resolution images at

Apple Macintosh Makes Field Research Easier

Three explorers advised how technology has changed the face of exploration during a first-ever Explorers Club presentation Oct. 18 within the Apple store on New York’s Upper West Side. As crowds of Mac addicts clamored for the latest iPhone 4S gizmo and bellied up to the Genius Bar, Edmundo R. Edwards, Patricia Vargas Casanova, and Claudio P. Cristino of the Easter Island Expedition explained how they used Apple products to understand the culture of Eastern Polynesia and the mysterious moai that stand on the shores of Easter Island. The presentation was introduced by Explorers Club President Lorie Karnath.

After the three purchased an armload of gear at bargain prices compared to their native Chile, they explained how Macintosh computers were used to reconstruct 30,000 tons of statues – 15 in all – destroyed in the 1960s by tsunami.

Vargas enters her field notes directly into iPads to save time transferring data later. Before the Mac, every day in the field required another day keyboarding findings. “Now, we take notes at the site and synch it later that night to our main computer,” she said.

“This kind of equipment is incredible. Plus, if we stumble upon a find on our day off, we can record it using the iPhones we carry in our pockets everyday.”

Their next stop is Pitcairn Island in the southeast Pacific, home of the Bounty mutineers. (For more information: www.islandexplorer.org).

Exploration Continues to Thrive

Two of the six awards at The Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award dinner in St. Louis on Oct. 15 went to researchers from a technology institute at the University of California, San Diego – Thomas E. Levy and Albert Yu-Min Lin. Both are passionate about championing the use of advanced technologies to shed light on – and conserve – the world's cultural heritage. Lin was on hand to accept his award, while Levy recorded his remarks from the field, where he is leading a new expedition and living in a remote tent camp without electricity in southern Jordan.

"We are searching for the political and economic center of Iron Age copper production some 3,000 years ago in the southeastern Mediterranean basin," said Levy. "We are using state-of-the-art cyber-archaeology to help revolutionize our understanding of the relationship between archaeology and ancient Near Eastern texts – specifically, the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible."

Fellow UCSD researcher Albert Lin was cited for his exploration of the Mongolian steppe in search of uncharted heritage sites, notably the lost tomb of Genghis Khan. Accepting his award, Lin talked about his four-year effort to do so without digging in the ground. Instead, his team used non-invasive technologies, including satellite imaging, ground-penetrating radar, and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as crowdsourcing to engage the public in the search via a National Geographic web portal running applications developed at UCSD.

Recalled Lin after the event, "It was clear from other awardees and fellow Explorers Club members that exploration in the name of understanding the world around us continues to thrive, with even more purpose than before, given the urgency of taking what we learn and applying it to conservation."


The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

– St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)


McNeill-Nott Award Deadline Nears

With the untimely death of Sue Nott and her partner Karen McNeill on Mt. Foraker in 2006, The American Alpine Club partnered with Mountain Hardwear to establish an award in their memory. The McNeill-Nott Award seeks to preserve the spirit of these two talented and courageous climbers by giving grants to amateur climbers exploring new routes or unclimbed peaks with small and lightweight teams.

The Award focuses on projects that have strong exploratory and adventuresome mountaineering objectives. These elements are more important than the technical rating of the climbing objective.

Two or three grants totaling $7,000 are awarded annually to amateur teams that best meet the criteria for pursuing an exploratory objective. The application deadline is Jan.1, 2012.
(For more information: www.americanalpineclub.org, grants@americanalpineclub.org.


Uniforms for Armchair Explorers

English designer Nigel Cabourn conducted a “style autopsy” on the body of George Mallory, discovered on Everest in 1999. Cotton gabardine, woven silk, tweed, a shred of flannel shirting has provided inspiration for this season’s hottest looks, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal by Darrell Hartman (Oct. 8-9). All the rugged, retro winter wear out there can be read as an attempt to dig these bygone heroes out of their frozen graves.

“The difficulties these expeditions faced, their sheer determination to reach into the unknown, it sparks an idea,” said Gilded Age designer Stefan Miljanich who is showing fur hoods and hand-knit sweaters inspired by North Pole explorer Robert Peary.

Cabourn continues, “People don’t think of Everest as romantically as they used to. In the 50’s, if you went up there, you couldn’t get help from helicopters. I think heroes like Hillary have captured something precious that we don’t have today.”

Five U.S. Peaks to Tackle

Gordon Ranow, the director of programs for Alpine Ascents, a guiding outfitter in Seattle, states the obvious in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 13). He tells reporter Jen Murphy that anyone gearing up for a climb should get outside as much as possible.

“There is a big difference between working out for an hour in a gym and an hour outdoors in all weather. If you have to work out inside, try to do things that mimic climbing, like the stair climber or elliptical.”

He suggests walking three or four days a week with a heavy pack to prepare for a climb, and recommends this bucket list of worthy U.S. mountains to attempt: Mount Shasta (Northern California), Mount Whitney (California), Mount Rainier (Washington), Grand Teton (Wyoming) and Mount Washington (New Hampshire).


X Marks the Spot

A competition to build an underwater robot is just one of the initiatives that might be funded under a new partnership between the X Prize Foundation and the Shell Oil Co.
The three-year, $9 million program, called the X Prize Exploration Prize Group, aims to spur the development of innovative technologies to explore the Earth, sea and space through competitions with significant cash payoffs.

"We're here to celebrate a new partnership with the vision of reinvigorating and inspiring a new generation of explorers," X Prize Foundation chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis said during an October Explorers Club news conference to announce the initiative. "We're entering a day and age where anybody who really, truly has the impulse and desire to go and explore someplace can make it happen." (For more information: www.xprize.org)

Wingsuit Pilot Joins Evolv Sports Team

Footwear manufacturer Evolv Sports has added legendary climber Steph Davis to its climbing team. Davis is a professional rock climber, alpinist, big-wall climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit pilot currently based out of Moab, Utah. She is the author of High Infatuation (Mountaineers Books, 2007) and blogs at www.highinfatuation.com. She is currently writing another book about wingsuit flight and free soloing called Learning to Fly, to be published by Touchstone/Simon and Schuster. Davis has been pushing the limits of climbing for 20 years in many disciplines. She is known for her free ascents of El Capitan, climbing some of the hardest cracks in Moab and free soloing long, committing routes. (For more information: www.evolvsports.com).

Everest IMAX Filmmaker Partners with Coke

Beginning this month, white will be the new red. Coca-Cola and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are joining forces in a new campaign to help protect the polar bear’s Arctic home. For the first time ever, Coca-Cola is turning 1.4 billion of its iconic red cans white in celebration of the polar bear and committing up to $3 million to WWF’s polar bear conservation efforts. The Coke is also asking fans in the U.S. to join the “Arctic Home” campaign by texting donations.

Coca-Cola and WWF also have partnered with Academy Award nominated filmmakers MacGillivray Freeman Films, which is working with Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX Corporation to co-produce the new IMAX film, To The Arctic 3D, scheduled for release in 2012. Coca-Cola’s “Arctic Home” television commercials and content on the website, ArcticHome.com, feature sneak preview footage from the film. (For more information: www.ArcticHome.com, www.oneworldoneocean.org/tothearctic).


Why Travel the World?

National Geographic Society chairman emeritus Gilbert Grosvenor tells Ford Cochran in a website post on Sept. 19, “ Travel, I believe, is the best way to acquire an education. When you stay home, you miss out on the sensations you experience and the insights you gain when you travel. … You absorb the sights, the sounds, and the smells of a place when you’re there on the spot. You mingle with the people. You get a feeling for contemporary life that you simply can’t get in any classroom. I value that kind of education, and I’ve continued it on into retirement because I find it so stimulating.” (Read the entire interview here: http://blog.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/2011/09/why-travel-the-world/)

Or You Can Just Dial for Matches

Backpacker magazine Editor in Chief Jon Dorn shows you how to get a fire going with nothing but your cellphone, a piece of steel wool, and some tinder. It would have to be pretty grim before we take our phone apart for warmth – how else could we play Angry Birds? But it’s a good skill to know nonetheless. See:

Rob Hall's Daughter Climbs Kilimanjaro at 15

Sarah Arnold-Hall, 15, the daughter of New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall (1961-1996) who died on Mt. Everest in 1996, has climbed the highest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, with her mother, Jan Arnold. The mother and daughter took eight days to climb the 19,341-ft./5895m peak as part of a three-week trip to Africa in September, according to Wayfarer, the blog of polar explorer Bob McKerrow.

Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world and every year an estimated 30,000 people make the arduous, but not technically challenging climb.

"Someone said the last day is like trying to climb three Empire State Buildings on a 16-degree angle, and on one lung," Sarah said.

When she was 10 she visited Mt. Everest's base camp at 17,598-ft./5364m, but said she found the extra altitude on Mt. Kilimanjaro much harder.

Sarah's father died on Everest nine weeks before she was born. An expedition leader, he was trapped 656-ft./200m from the south summit in a deadly storm with a client. Eight climbers died in that storm and before he died Hall called his wife in Christchurch via satellite phone telling her not too worry too much and to "sleep well, my sweetheart.”

But, as Sarah and Arnold gently imply, the fact she completed the climb is not a cue for reporters to write, as some have done in the past, that Sarah is following in her famous father's footsteps.

Arnold, who climbed Everest in 1993 with Hall, is keen to continue climbing. But Sarah is up-front in that she doesn't necessarily share her parents' love of climbing, McKerrow blogs. She has her eyes on Paris as her next overseas destination, and among other things would like to see the Eiffel Tower.

Arnold says Rob Hall was much more than a climber. "He was a designer and entrepreneur and by age 23 he had 12 people working for him manufacturing tents and packs. He had quite another side to him."

McKerrow posts on his Wayfarer blog, “Rob Hall's death was tragic but it is such a pleasure seeing his daughter Sarah, who Rob never knew, and her mother Jan, climbing Kilimanjaro and enjoying life.” (See the entire post here: http://bobmckerrow.blogspot.com/2011/10/rob-halls-daughter-sarah-climbs.html).


“Hominology” – Paging All Sasquatches

A still-unrecognized branch of biology that studies hairy upright walking creatures, as championed by a handful of Russian devotees. It sounds more scientific than “Yetiology,” “Bigfootology,” or “Sasquatchology.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29-30)


Michel Peissel, Tibet Expert and Adventurer

Michel Peissel, a French explorer and an ethnologist who devoted a good part of his life to recording the culture of Tibet and led numerous expeditions to seldom-traveled places, died on Oct. 7 at his home in Paris. He was 74. The cause was a heart attack, his son Jocelyn said.

In 16 books and more than 20 documentary films, Peissel chronicled his explorations of inaccessible or ignored regions of the globe, including the Tibetan high plateau, remote Russian river towns and unrecorded Mayan ruins, according to his obituary in the New York Times (Oct. 16).

A noted storyteller, he was fond of sharing some of his harrowing tales, such as the time he lay with two broken legs in freezing winds, or the time his truck was stuck for days in mud and ice until a passing caravan of yaks pulled it free, or the day a part of his mule train dropped off a precipice and animals, tents and provisions were swept away in a roaring stream.

“Travel with him was always a triumph over the impossible,” said one of his sons, Olivier, a sometime travel companion.

Added Explorers Club member Frederick P. Selby, author of Postcards from Kathmandu (Vajra Publications, 2008), "Michel Peissel was a passionate, curious, adventuresome, restless man. He was one of the last 'real explorers' who utilized endurance and body strength to reach his objectives. The Himalayan regions were never out of his thoughts, particularly the land and people of Tibet.”


Women Needed for Peaks Foundation Trek – Peaks Foundation has just launched 10 new climbs for 2012 and are looking for women who want to travel to unique regions, bag a peak and create positive change for women and girls in mountain communities across the globe. Trek the Peruvian Andes, the high Himalayas or even the mountains of Morocco. For more information on how to join a climb, visit www.peaksfoundation.org or contact info@peaksfoundation.org.

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Advertise in Expedition News – For just 50 cents a word, you can reach an estimated 10,000 readers of America’s only monthly newsletter celebrating the world of expeditions on land, in space, and beneath the sea. Join us as we take a sometimes irreverent look at the people and projects making Expedition News. Frequency discounts are available. (For more information: blumassoc@aol.com).

EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 28 Center Street, Darien, CT 06820 USA. Tel. 203 655 1600, fax 203 655 1622, editor@expeditionnews.com. Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon. ©2011 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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mountain Film Festival Comes to Film Society of Lincoln Center, Oct. 21-23

Friday, October 21st, and running all weekend long, the Film Society will host a special film festival: MountainFilm Festival. This unique and rich program provides a varied slate of shorts and features emphasizing the wonders of adventure, exploration, sports, and environment. The festival also highlights human rights and activism through food, environment, and community development. MountainFilm Festival is filled with screenings, panels, and some complimentary discussions regarding these intriguing subjects, with appearances from the program's filmmakers and activists.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forty-six Days Cycling through Iceland… with Kids

Trip Report by Charles Scott
September 2011

“Are you crazy?” I often got this reaction while cycling 1,500 miles across Iceland with my 10-year old son Sho and 4-year old daughter Saya to raise money for a United Nations environmental campaign. Sho pedaled behind me on a connected trailer cycle, and Saya sat snugly behind him strapped in a bike trailer. We carried about 100 pounds of gear.

“Crazy” is a relative term, but not necessarily pejorative. It might describe any act that includes seemingly unnecessary hardships, falls outside of mainstream behavior, or challenges the status quo. That’s why I usually answered the question with a smile and a simple, “Yes.”

Yes, I’m crazy and lucky. Cycling for forty-six days with my kids through this dramatic, rugged, inspiringly beautiful country offered a remarkable contrast to our mainstream life in the dense urban mess of New York City, where I feel disconnected from nature’s rhythms. Most days, I sit in a climate-controlled environment staring into a computer screen for hours on end. And I am bombarded by constant temptations to consume material goods. In addition to raising money for a United Nations tree planting campaign, the trek through Iceland was an attempt to share with my kids an experience of unspoiled nature, a place where humans have not yet subjugated their surroundings.

Many people were concerned about the welfare of my kids, asking me, “Don’t you think it’s dangerous to ride with your kids on busy roads with passing cars?”
Answer: We trained on the streets New York City. If you wear reflective gear and don’t go too fast, I think it’s reasonably safe.

Several asked, “Won’t your daughter get bored, riding for hour after hour in a bike trailer?”

Answer: Yes. What’s wrong with being bored? That’s what imagination is for.

Others asked, “Isn’t it too much to expect a ten-year old boy to cycle for six weeks, often through rain and cold wind?”

Answer: Sho didn’t think so.

He and I cycled across Japan, 2,500 miles in 67 days, when he was eight years old. And he’s already looking forward to another adventure cycling trip next summer.

He regularly tells people, “A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think.”
Arriving on the summer solstice in Reykjavik, latitude 66 degrees north, it took us a few days to get used to the near-constant daylight.

But the magical experience of cycling beneath a midnight sun made up for the mild disruption to our sleep patterns, and served as a real-world science lesson for my kids.

Sho marveled at the phenomenon and explained the earth’s tilt to Saya.

But at four years old, she preferred an anthropomorphic explanation: “The sun doesn’t want to miss summer, so it stays up all night.”

The ride through Iceland was like taking an inspirational and educational field trip. Sho and Saya discovered a tiny carnivorous mountain plant, snacked on wild crow berries while hiking past majestic waterfalls, explored a massive glacier, witnessed the powerful calm of a humpback whale diving and resurfacing, and scaled the edges of towering, vertigo-inducing bird cliffs that overlooked an endless, sparkling ocean expanse. We became enthusiastic bird watchers, identifying oyster catchers, puffins, snipes, eiders, razorbills, and arctic terns.

While cycling through the east fjords, we came across a scene I will not soon forget: fifteen whooping swans coasting serenely over the sea, large alabaster forms stretching out long necks to take gentle sips of the glowing water. We ate lunch amid vast lava fields strewn with black boulders and belching sulfur vents. We rode sturdy Icelandic horses, camped in the wild, and awoke to the cries of arctic terns hunting above the softly lapping ocean surf nearby.

While inspired by Iceland’s raw beauty, I also felt small and fragile in the face of nature’s power and indifference. A glacial flood triggered by a volcano washed away the road we had traversed just days earlier. Sometimes the headwind was so strong that we struggled to maintain a pitifully slow pace. Sho and I shivered, despite many layers of clothing, when the temperature dropped to the low 40’s F, and rain soaked through our “waterproof” gloves and socks (my daughter stayed safe and warm in her trailer). Our answer was to pedal harder to stay warm. I told my son, “This ride was supposed to be hard. Sometimes an adventurer just suffers for a while.”

We met a stream of friendly people. Passing motorists stared at our unusual bike setup and often gave us a thumbs up.

Some tourists pulled over to snap our picture as we cycled past. Sho usually gave them a wave, while Saya made crazy faces and stuck out her tongue. Locals who heard about our charity ride offered us places to stay, gave us discounts or free entry to museums, and commiserated with us about the wind and rain.

Many people told us about recent changes in the country’s climate. A group of scientists we met explained that, while Iceland’s glaciers are retreating steadily, the most dramatic change is happening beneath the surface, as the ice is hollowed out by ever increasing amounts of flowing water.

A fisherman told me that, since 1980, he has measured a 2 degree Celsius increase in the average temperature of the water where he fishes. In the past few years, great numbers of mackerel have begun to appear off the coast of Iceland, moving north in search of colder water and causing tensions between Iceland and the EU over fishing quotas. People speculate that one reason for the recent decrease in the local puffin population may be that the encroaching mackerel are eating the sandeels that are the puffins’ primary food source. When we visited the Westman Islands, previously home of the world’s largest puffin colony, we learned that the vast majority of nests were empty this year.

Living in New York City, it is easy to ignore or minimize the impact of these climatic changes.

But as I cycled through a country in which the forces of nature so clearly held sway, I felt a powerful and humble connection to the world around me. We cycled past baby sheep peeking out from behind a protective mother, or ducklings crowding close to their parents. We ducked below aggressive arctic terns swooping down from above to protect their young. Hearty shrubs and bright delicate flowers struggled to grow in harsh lava fields. I recognized in these animals and even in the plants the same resilience that I hope to cultivate in my children.

As we cycled along one of Iceland’s many dramatic fjords, Saya declared, “I’m in love with horses and arctic terns!” It is this sense of connection to the natural world, and a desire to treasure and protect the wilderness that remains, that I hope my children will internalize. It is something I hope we will all take to heart, treating the earth, and our brief time on it, as a gift to be cherished. Perhaps then we can begin to reverse the cycle of unsustainable living that has become our generation’s signature legacy.

Call me crazy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner, Oct. 15, St. Louis

The St. Louis chapter of The Explorers Club will host the Lowell Thomas Awards dinner at the Missouri History Museum (Forest Park, 5700 Lindell Boulevard) on Oct. 15th. This is the first time the award, established in 1980, has been given outside of New York.

The theme of the dinner is “Exploring the World’s Greatest Mysteries.” Master of Ceremonies is Explorers Club Honorary Chairman Jim Fowler, former star of the TV show Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom.

Previous recipients of The Lowell Thomas Award include Isaac Asimov, Clive Cussler and Wade Davis; astronauts Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell and Kathryn Sullivan; and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.

This year’s honorees are:

• Edmundo R. Edwards, Patricia Vargas Casanova, Claudio P. Cristino for studies of the culture of Eastern Polynesia, and the enigmatic moai that stand on the shores of Easter Island.

• Albert Yu-Min Lin, Ph.D., a research scientist attempting to find the tomb of Genghis Khan and protect a sacred region of Mongolia.

• Thomas E. Levy, Ph.D., who has revolutionized the dating of the Biblical land of Edom, pushing the sequence some 500 years earlier than the scholarly consensus – and brought researchers closer than ever before to testing for the potential existence of “King Solomon’s Mines.”

• Brent S. Stewart, Ph.D., J.D., a senior research scientist praised for studies of the mysterious whale shark and other migratory marine species.

• William C. Stone, Ph.D., one of the world’s foremost expeditionary cavers and a proponent of using technology to help explorers survive and thrive as they challenge new frontiers.

• Kenneth R. Wright and Ruth M. Wright, J.D., partners whose work on water conservation has brought enduring benefits to the environment, water resources, and communities in both North and South America.

Tickets start at $200 and can be ordered through http://ltad2011.explorers.org/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vern Tejas’ 50th Summiting of McKinley Probably a Record

Guide Vern Tejas logged his 50th summit of Mount McKinley this summer, prompting an obvious question: Does that make him the ruler of North America's highest roost? Beth Bragg of the Anchorage Daily News (July 20) reports officials with the National Park Service don't know if anyone has been to the top of McKinley more often than Tejas, because they didn't begin tracking summits until 1995. They think Tejas, who boasts numerous claims to fame gained in the Alaska Range and beyond, probably owns the record for the most McKinley summits. (See EN, September 2009).

Tejas, 58, a guide for Alpine Ascents International, said his first two McKinley summits came in 1978, one as a client and one as a guide. An impressive – but not unprecedented – four summits came in 1988, when Tejas became the first person to complete a solo climb of the mountain in the winter. No. 50 came June 30, when he was the guide of an eight-person team that made it to the summit.

"Mt. Vinson in Antarctica would be my next most climbed mountain, however it's not even close to Denali at a mere 27 summits," Tejas tells the Daily News.

In 1988, Tejas made it to the top of McKinley four times, an achievement that began in March when he became the first person to make a successful solo winter ascent of the mountain. "My endless winter," Tejas calls it.

Tejas guided adventurer Norman D. Vaughan in 1994 when, at age 89, Vaughan climbed a 10,320-foot Antarctic peak that Admiral Richard Byrd named in his honor 65 years earlier during their historic 1928-1930 South Pole expedition.

Tejas also continues to pursue adventures outside Alaska, but nothing inspires him like McKinley. "Denali is the most beautiful mountain in the world," he wrote, "and I want to climb it as long as I can – 65 summits when I am 65 sounds great to me. A nice round number."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jetman Video is Home Run for Breitling

In 2006, Swiss pilot Yves "Jetman" Rossy became the first man in history to fly like a bird, albeit with fiberglass and carbon fiber wings powered by kerosene-fueled engines. Since then he has crossed the English Channel and, most recently, flew over the Grand Canyon. This beautifully produced video has it all – great scenery of the Grand Canyon shot in May 2011, p.o.v. footage from his 190 mph flight, stirring Cirque du Soleil-like music (with even a pan flute thrown in), and lots of visual identification for Breitling, his sponsor. View it here: http://timetosignoff.com/video/?id=16545

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Explorers Club Discovers Its North Face

Members of The Explorers Club, the world renowned international exploration organization, discovered a bit of urban archaeology unseen for years – the North Face of their iconic Upper East Side headquarters named for famed broadcaster and Club member Lowell Thomas.

The 107-year-old Club celebrated completion of the restoration of its 46 East 70th Street north-facing façade, and removal of construction scaffolding, with a public open house on July 28. Immediately following the ribbon ceremony, a climber descended the east exterior wall of the six-story building, highlighting the next area of the building targeted for Phase II of the renovation project. The Phase II renovation will also focus on the Club’s outside terrace and a colonnade of particular historical import that dates from the medieval period, another portion of which is believed to be housed at The Cloisters.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Public Invited: Explorers Club Open House, July 28

Members and Public Discover
The Explorers Club “North Face”;
Celebration of completion of
Phase I Headquarters Renovation

Open House, Thursday, July 28,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Public Welcome

NEW YORK, N.Y. (July 26, 2011) – Members of The Explorers Club, the world renowned international exploration organization, will soon discover a bit of urban archaeology unseen for years – the North Face of their iconic Upper East Side headquarters named for famed broadcaster and Club member Lowell Thomas.

The 107-year-old Club will celebrate completion of the restoration of its 46 East 70th Street north-facing façade, and removal of construction scaffolding, with a public open house starting with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, July 28, at 11 a.m. Immediately following the ribbon ceremony, a climber will descend the east exterior wall of the six-story building, highlighting the next area of the building targeted for Phase II of the renovation project. The Phase II renovation will also focus on the Club’s outside terrace and a colonnade of particular historical import that dates from the medieval period, another portion of which is believed to be housed at The Cloisters.

Upon taking office as president in 2009, Lorie Karnath ¬– the 37th president and second female president in the Club’s 107-year history – launched a fundraising campaign to raise capital to begin the much needed revitalization of the 100-year-old headquarters. This initial campaign has raised the most amount of money to date for the Club under one administration.

“As explorers our mission is to not only conduct field research and add to man’s body of scientific knowledge, but to help ensure cultural and historical preservation as well. In this instance, cultural preservation starts at H.Q.,” stated Karnath.

In addition to restoring the façade of the Jacobean revival mansion, Phase I of the renovation involved repairing 114 stained-glass windows; installing a new roof membrane; replacing limestone ribs on the exterior; and repointing the South and East façades.

A spectacular 3-1/2-story bay window was meticulously rebuilt with reinforced stone, cast and color matched to the original that had deteriorated beyond repair.

The initial building fundraising campaign “Preserve a Brick” called for $50 donations to preserve each brick. “Adoptions” of stained-glass windows were offered beginning at $5,000 each, supplementing the numerous donations received from private individuals as well as a number of foundations including the Mabel Dorn Reeder and Richard Olson Foundations.

Rarely Viewed Artifacts

Rarely viewed artifacts from the Club’s extensive collection will be displayed throughout the day. These will include fragments of matting used in the burial of 10th century Alaskan mummies; a Polar Capsule left at the North Pole by the 1986 Steger North Pole Expedition and recovered off the north coast of Ireland three years later; an axe from 1911 used in the construction of Robert Falcon Scott's base shelter in Antarctica; and a 1906 recording made by Robert E. Peary, who would successfully claim to reach the North Pole in 1909.

There will also be a solar display courtesy of event sponsor Eastern Mountain Sports where guests can charge their cell phones while viewing the building’s elegant interior.

The unveiling of the North Façade and open house will be followed that evening by a presidential picnic hosted by President Karnath to launch Phase II of the capital campaign (tickets required). Old Pulteney has prepared an appropriate whisky tasting for the event in celebration of the restored North Face of the Lowell Thomas Building, the Club’s polar traditions, and Old Pulteney’s current Arctic expedition, “Row to the Pole.”

For more information: www.explorers.org.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Explorers Club Flag Program is on Track

The Explorers Club is Monitoring Flags Like Never Before

©Copyright 2011 The Explorers Club

During the early part of the 20th century, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an Honorary Member of The Explorers Club, carried three flags on his second Antarctic expedition in 1933-35. Yet by the mid-1950s, when their whereabouts were still a mystery, the celebrated explorer was reportedly miffed that Club officials would ask for them back. You can imagine the sense of unease when the Club president solicited board volunteers: “Who here wants to ask Admiral Byrd to return our flags?”

There are 202 numbered flags in existence, but several are still unaccounted for. Occasionally they turn up from time to time. In fact, just last spring, while rummaging through some old archives, polar explorer Paul Schurke of Ely, Minn., found number 124 that he had taken on his 1989 Bering Bridge Expedition. “It was mismarked in a box marked ‘Flags Flown at Pole,’” he reported somewhat sheepishly. It has since been returned.

Now flags are being tracked like never before thanks to a new website feature at Explorers.org. Log on, click Expeditions-Flag Expeditions–Interactive Map and view a real-time map of the flags almost anywhere in the world (the polar regions have yet to be added). Click an individual flag to read the Flag Report from that expedition, a report flag-carrying members are required to submit upon completion of their project.

The Explorers Club flag represents a history of courage and accomplishment and has been carried on hundreds of expeditions since 1918: to both poles, to the highest peaks of the greatest mountain ranges, to the depths of the ocean, and to outer space, perhaps someday even to Mars and beyond. Flag expeditions fulfill a fundamental part of the Club's mission: To engage in scientific exploration and share the results. Flags are constantly being re-circulated, even more so now. New durable nylon fabric construction withstands the rigors of expedition travel better than the cotton flags of old which often returned stained and in shreds.

Consider the tale of Flag no. 170. Starting in 1956 it went to the South Pole with Albert L. Raithel, Jr., then Nepal with John Alley (1968), the North Pole with Rev. Laurie Dexter (1981), Madagascar with Terry J. Cooper (1985), and the North Pole again with Will Steger’s first confirmed dog sled expedition (1986), with numerous stops in between.

“Flags are the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for an expedition. We receive fantastic applications that are really impressive,” said former Club director and Flag and Honors Committee member David Concannon. Each year, the committee considers about 100 applications, rejecting at least half because they do not meet exacting standards of what constitutes a flag-worthy expedition. Just being first to do something is not enough; what matters is the science, the research, and how the project improves understanding of the world, according to Concannon.

Flags require a $250 deposit and, like Hollywood’s Oscars, can never be sold. Members don’t own the flag, they can only be borrowed. One year when a flag came up for auction at Christie’s, the Club had it removed despite strong interest from collectors to own one the easy way – with just a few strokes of a well-heeled checkbook.

Flags are only retired if they were taken on a trip where a member died, or if they participated in an historic expedition, such as the flags taken on three moon voyages and now displayed under glass in the Clark Room in the Club’s Lowell Thomas Building in New York. Nearby is flag number 2, featuring an older design, taken to the Gobi Desert in 1925 by famed paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews. Also on display is Thor Heyerdahl’s retired flag no. 123 carried on the historic voyage of the Kon Tiki, an expedition that inspired many of today’s explorers. You can see it in one of the images in his famous book about the expedition.

Sadly, the last flag to be retired was no. 68 in 2009, carried by highly regarded British diver Carl Spencer, 37, who perished in 400 feet of water while diving the Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic. The flag began its career in 1937 and had twice voyaged aboard the Space Shuttle.

“Members have studied some of the world’s greatest mysteries,” said Club President Lorie Karnath. “The Titanic, the tombs of pharoahs, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. I’m sure we’re up to the task of locating more of the missing flags, especially with the help of the new mapping feature on Explorers.org.” She tells Club members, or anyone else for that matter, “If you have a flag, or know the whereabouts of one, let us in on the mystery and we’ll track it down.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Steger North Pole Expedition 25 Years Later: Where Are They Now?

For the first time in 25 years, the eight-person Steger North Pole Expedition team reunited in St. Paul for a two-day reunion slash lovefest attended by hundreds of Minnesota fans. Held at the Minnesota History Center, the May 17 event included displays of the famed Polar Capsule, on loan from The Explorers Club; an original sled and clothing; and vintage copies of the September 1986 National Geographic magazine that featured what is recognized as history’s first confirmed and unsupported dog sled expedition to the North Pole.

Steger credited Paul Schurke’s knowledge of the sextant with navigating the team in an era before GPS. He also revealed that 1909 photos of Cmdr. Robert Peary ferrying his teams on blocks of ice over open leads provided the 1986 team with the idea of doing the same. “Now you can’t make the pole by dog team because of the open water caused by global warming,” Steger told a capacity audience of 330.

Added Richard Weber, “Today you can’t use a sextant because it’s too warm and there is less sun to shoot. It’s unbelievable how thin the Arctic ice is now.”

Later Weber said, “If someone says climate change doesn’t exist they should take a trip to the Arctic because it’s really, really scary up there.”

As one might expect from such a dedicated, athletic group, the years have treated each kindly. While perhaps a bit heavier and grayer, some saddled with reading glasses, the Steger team has continued to follow their passions for exploration:

Will Steger, Ely & St. Paul, Minnesota – In 1989-90, he led the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica with a team of seven from seven countries, another milestone in his 45-year career of leading some of the most significant polar expeditions in history. He has become a formidable voice on Arctic climate change and a global environmental leader through his "Global Warming 101" website and Will Steger Foundation. For over 22 years he’s been building a five-story conference center on an isolated lake outside Ely that he hopes will someday become a center for leadership in environmental policy and industry. It is funded not with sponsorship, but the old fashion way through sweat from lecturing, writing and photography, and clothing design.

On a personal note, Steger can stretch a dollar until it’s screaming for mercy. He picked us up in a 1992 Camry with 258,000 miles on it, purchased for $1,400 over 100,000 miles ago. There was dust on the dashboard, a year’s supply of expedition gear in the back, spare tires all the way around, and some sticky, food-like substance between the seats. This guy knows how to save a buck in addition to saving the planet.

(For more information: www.WillStegerFoundation.org)

Paul Schurke, Ely, Minnesota – In 1989 he co-led the Bering Bridge Expedition from Siberia to Alaska, a journey that Presidents Bush and Gorbachev credited with hastening the opening of the U.S.-Soviet border following the 40-year Cold War. He and his wife Sue operate Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and founded Wintergreen Northern Wear, an outdoor apparel business based upon designs Sue developed for the 1986 North Pole trek. They live on a beautiful lake outside Ely with 70 sled dogs, three house dogs who think they rule the place, and an endearing pet rat named “Chevy” who comes running when called. (For more information: www.dogsledding.com).

Ann Bancroft, Scandia, Minn. – In 2001, Bancroft and fellow explorer Liv Arnesen skied to the South Pole, securing Ann's place in history as the first woman to trek to both ends of the earth. Her Ann Bancroft Foundation promotes the potential and achievements of women and girls. Ann is planning another expedition to Antarctica in 2012. (For more information: www.AnnBancroftFoundation.org).

Geoff Carroll, Pt. Barrow, Alaska – A wildlife biologist living in the northernmost community of the U.S., Carroll is an expert on arctic ecosystems and sea ice and maintains a dog team to enjoy life on the land.

Richard Weber, Alcove, Quebec – Canada's top polar explorer, he has lead over 50 arctic expeditions. In 1995, he completed the first and only trek from Canada to the North Pole and back with no outside assistance, and with his wife, Josee, operates an eco-lodge on Lancaster Sound in the Canadian High Arctic. (For more information: www.weberarctic.com).

Brent Boddy, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut – Granted the Order of Canada award for his polar endeavors, Boddy continues his love of arctic adventuring in his retirement from overseeing public works for a native village in Canada's western arctic.

Bob McKerrow, New Zealand – A mountain climber and polar explorer who was a member of one of his country's first teams to winter in Antarctica, he works with the International Red Cross. Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, McKerrow has been coordinating relief efforts and public health projects in India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. An avid blogger, you can read about his reunion trip at http://bobmckerrow.blogspot.com.

Bob Mantell, Albuquerque – "Ironman Bob," as he was called for his dogged perseverance and legendary stamina on the 1986 expedition, is a former employee of Outward Bound who now works installing cell towers.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Explorers and adventurers are nothing if not organized, what with all the gadgets and gizmos we take into the field. Brother, makers of P-touch labelers, wants to lend a hand with its durable, laminated TZ series label tape.

This month Brother is launching the P-touch Test Team and is looking to provide monetary and in-kind sponsorship to a select number of projects in all kinds of environments – cold, hot, windy, sunny, dry – most of the places we often find ourselves in.

If you’re planning to go into the field with a newsworthy expedition or adventure that could use an efficient labeling system, explain your project in a short e-mail of no more than 200-300 words. Attach a photo if you’d like.

The labelers, powered by six AAA batteries, use laminated TZ series tapes ranging from ¼ to 1” in. wide for indoor and outdoor use. These are tougher labels than you may think – they are heat-, UV-, cold-, and water-resistant – perfect for the trail, the mountaintop, or out at sea. (For more information: www.brother-usa.com).

Tell us where you’re going (or where you’re already at), when you plan to leave and return, the significance of the project, and how you’d intend to use the P-touch labeler.

P-touch Test Team members selected for this program will receive a P-touch labeler, plenty of TZ laminated tape, and instructions on their use. They will be asked to submit field reports in the form of 6-8 blog or Facebook posts throughout the project and a final report within 30 days of its conclusion (a template for posts and final report will be provided). Posts and final reports should include as many photos as possible to illustrate the conditions and terrain in which you are testing the product.

A small payment will be made when you leave, then upon the presentation of the final report. Brother will ask for the rights to use your name in publicity (which could also help promote your project), and requests rights to two images for editorial purposes. Any advertising use will be negotiated separately.

Interested? Tell Brother what you have in mind by e-mailing Jeff Blumenfeld at jeff@blumenfeldpr.com. Deadline: June 1, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Apa Sherpa Summits Everest for Record 21st Time

Apa Sherpa, Climbing Leader of Eco Everest Expedition 2011 reached the summit of Mt. Everest for the 21st time on May 11 - a new world record. Apa said he is committed to supporting the efforts of Dawa Steven Sherpa, leader of the Eco Everest Expedition to bring awareness to the world community about Climate Change and to help remove old garbage from the slopes of Mt. Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest).

Dawa Steven Sherpa said that “This Expedition is focused on climbing in an Eco-sensitive manner to keep Everest clean and collect garbage, debris and waste left by past expedition groups. The collected garbage will be brought down to the Base Camp by members of the clean up team for proper disposal. The Eco Expedition used alternative energy solutions such as parabolic solar cookers, solar lights, ultraviolet light pens for water purification, and portable toilets called CMC (Clean Mountain Can).

In addition wreckage parts of the Italian Army helicopter were also recovered from the edge of the Khumbu Icefall. The helicopter crashed at 6100 to 6500m during the Italian Everest Expedition in 1973 (thus demonstrating the movement of the Khumbu Icefall 1.3 km over the past 36 years. Also more than 400 kilos of human waste produced by Eco Everest Expedition was removed, along with four dead bodies brought down from the mountain for a dignified burial.

The sponsors of this year's Eco Everest Expedition 2011 "Cash for Trash" garbage collection program are Asian Trekking Pvt. Ltd and The North Face.

Dawa Steven Sherpa and his Eco Everest Expedition team are continuing this initiative to create awareness among the local people and among the climbers to help keep Mt. Everest and the Himalayan Mountains clean.