Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Matthew and Athena Downes have been living in Indonesia restoring a phinsi-rigged wooden vessel for the past two years. A phinsi is a traditional Indonesian ship handcrafted on the beaches of Tanah Beru and constructed of ebony "ironwood/ kayu besi" and teak "jati". Phinisi carry seven sails and are designed by the "bugis" tribe of South Sulawesi who gained their reputation hundreds of years ago as the fearsome sailors or "bogeymen" of the East Indies.

The Downes' KLM Citra Pelangi ("the image of a rainbow") was launched in 2000 and is just under 131 feet. They currently hope to become only the second-ever Indonesian phinsi to cross an ocean, and the first phinsi to enter the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea by sail.

The current crew includes a man named Ismail, the son of Muhammad Hasan who was one of the sailors aboard the Nusantara Jaya, the only other phinisi to successfully cross an ocean in 1986 from Sulawesi to Vancouver, Canada via Hawaii.

This previous expedition was financed by Suharto, the former authoritarian and polarizing president of Indonesia for 31 years (which kept it from becoming a huge international success as well as kept it from being fondly remembered by present day Indonesians).

The three Downes moved onto the Citra Pelangi in September 2009 with a mission and a dream. Along with a crew of dedicated professionals, they hope to make history by studying and preserving nautical life, assuming they can raise $500,000 to assist with the ocean voyage and the making of a feature-length documentary. As a team, the Downes and the ship owners William and Johnna Anderson have spent the last two and a half years, strengthening, streamlining and preparing the ship for this voyage.

They hope to depart from Benoa, Bali, Indonesia in Fall 2012 to cross the Indian Ocean, navigate through the Red Sea and Mediterranean, and then sail trans-Atlantic to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies – approximately 12,500 nautical miles.

(For more information: Matthew and Athena Downes, www.mayantriangle.com,
seawolf@mayantriangle.com, citra.pelangi.charters@gmail.com,
+62 (0) 821 8744 5120)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Explorers Club Elects Alan Nichols President

One day after The Explorers Club held its 108th annual dinner in the Waldorf=Astoria on Mar. 17, the international exploration society’s board of directors selected Alan Nichols, from Belvedere, Calif., as its 38th president since the Club was founded in 1904.

Nichols, 82, an explorer who specializes in Tibet and China, and the world’s sacred mountains, replaced Lorie Karnath, who served the Club for three years.

Shortly after the selection, Nichols praised the achievements of Karnath during her tenure as Club president. "Lorie Karnath has delivered to the new administration a Club in pristine condition, with a refurbished building. She has added important sponsors, enhanced relations with our worldwide chapters and created plans to continue the protection of our museum-quality headquarters," Nichols said.

Nichols has served The Explorers Club at the chapter level and in a variety of officer- and committee-level positions where he has gained a reputation as a motivating speaker and the ability to moderate differences between conflicting ideas
among often strong-willed explorers.

He plans to expand upon the Club's ability to support field expeditions for which the Club has become famous. Initial goals are to encourage increased membership and secure new sources of funding and in-kind support, especially now that “exploration is so active in these times of expanded technology," Nichols said. “Where world field exploration intersects with 21st century communications, that’s where you’ll find our membership.”

Nichols’ experiences and knowledge of Tibet come from many years of study and journeys to the sacred mountains of Bhutan, China, Kashmir, Ladakh (“Little Tibet”), Nepal, and Sikkim. He was the first Westerner to circumambulate sacred Mt. Kailas in southwestern Tibet after Tibet was opened to foreigners. He was also the first to bicycle the entire Silk Road from Xian, China’s historic capital, to the Mediterranean, a feat achieved in four stages from 2001-08 with the help of his wife and others.

Nichols is author of many books including “To Climb a Sacred Mountain” (Illuminated Way Press, 1979), which he wrote under a pen name. It was the first book to establish the relationship between religions and mountains.

Nichols served as president of The Sacred Mountain Foundation, San Francisco, and is former president of the San Francisco School Board and City College of San Francisco. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, and has practiced law for 50 years in San Francisco.

Nichols resides in Belvedere (Marin County) with his wife Becky, who, between them, have six children and four grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Longest Rickshaw Journey

It's more of a feat than an expedition, but we admire his pluck ...

London-based adventurer Tim Moss has just been awarded the Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Rickshaw Ride, for his 856-mile rickshaw journey in 2010 from Aviemore, Scotland to West Molesey, England to raise awareness for Special Olympics Great Britain. He actually pedaled 1,000 in 31-days but the Guinness folks didn't count his visit to his parents.

The rickshaw Moss used for his attempt was a second-hand, box-standard, three-wheeled rickshaw, capable of carrying passengers. Throughout his journey, he visited several Special Olympics locations as his journey was made to raise money for Special Olympics Great Britain. He rode solo for most of his journey, but did, on occasion, pick up a passenger or two.

The distance between Aviemore and London is only 529 miles as the crow flies but Moss planned a scenic route, visiting all of Special Olympic GB’s 19 regions and many of its 135 clubs and meeting its athletes and volunteers along the way.

For nearly 35 years, Special Olympics Great Britain has been providing daily, year-round sports training and competition programmes in England, Scotland and Wales for children and adults with learning disabilities of all ability levels (learning disabilities are also known as intellectual disabilities indicating someone with an IQ of 75 or lower).

Special Olympics is the third member of the Olympic family and is often confused with the Paralympics which is for elite disabled athletes. Both are Olympics and both are Special.

Monday, March 12, 2012

“Somebody Left the Gate Open”

It’s nice to see the marketing team for Citibank decided to strive for authenticity with its on-going TV campaign for the Citibank ThankYou card. The 30-sec. spot shows professional climber Katie Brown on Fisher Towers in Utah, but only after she equipped her climb with climbing gear described as "... a new belt, some nylons, and what girl wouldn't need new shoes?" – all thanks to her ThankYou Premier card.

Accompanying her is climber Alex Honnold who correspondent Lara Logan interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes last October. Climbers Colin Haley and Beth Rodden also auditioned for the spot but didn’t make the cut.

The ad team responsible for the spot also scored big hiring the group LP whose song, “Into the Wild,” contains the infectious refrain, “Somebody Left the Gate Open.”

You can hear the song here: http://www.iamlp.com/home.html

See the Citibank commercial here:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Top Cat: Height Doesn’t Faze Lowell the Cat

A constant presence at The Explorers Club HQ in New York is a female cat brought into the building in fall 2009 to hold down the mice population. Lowell, named for the famed broadcaster, Lowell Thomas, has the run of the place, and can often be seen basking under the light in the Member’s Lounge, or by a lobby heating vent. Originally from a shelter in Philadelphia, Lowell is a favorite of members and visitors alike, performing daring feats of agility, including perching on a banister overlooking the six-story stairwell, like some feline Messner or Hillary (see her photo at www.expeditionnews.blogspot.com).

A few years ago Lowell was accidently knocked from her high altitude vantage point, and not being on belay, fell a few stories. Lowell was quickly brought to a vet and soon resumed her mouse-hunting duties. “It was just one of her nine lives, I guess,” says Club receptionist Emerald Nash, who often has to chase Lowell away from her desktop mouse.

Says Matt Williams, executive director, “We haven’t seen a mouse since she’s arrived. She’s clearly pulling her weight.”

Lowell is particularly well trained, using a cat box consistently on the fourth floor. Otherwise, there would be hell to pay for sure, and likely a new feline appetizer on the Club’s annual dinner menu.