Friday, November 30, 2012

Expedition News - December 2012 - Life Discovered in Antarctic Brine

December 2012 – Volume Nineteen, Number Twelve

EXPEDITION NEWS, now in its 19th 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.


In March 2013, American John Huston and Norwegian Toby Thorleifsson will take part in the New Land 2013 Ellesmere Island Expedition, a 72-day journey across 630 miles of one of the last untouched wildernesses on Earth, the Canadian Arctic. With sled dogs and on skis, the four-man party will retrace historic expedition routes of Norwegian Otto Sverdrup (1854-1930), who led a team of 17 men between 1898 and 1902 in discovering and mapping more than 150,000 square kilometers of Ellesmere Island, the northernmost landmass of North America. Few people have ventured there since, according to a presentation at the Norwalk (Conn.) Maritime Aquarium on Nov. 29.

“It’s a land that some people call ‘Arctic Eden,’” Huston said. “It’s largely untouched.”

Fewer than 150 people live on the island, which is the size of Great Britain. But animal life includes Arctic wolves and foxes, musk oxen, caribou, lemmings and polar bears.

Goals of the 2013 expedition are to film a documentary about Ellesmere Island and celebrate Sverdrup’s accomplishments.

“It’s one of the least-known of the Norwegian expeditions of that time period, but it was one of the most successful,” Huston said.

Huston, 36, from Evanston, Ill., is a polar explorer, cross-country ski racer and photographer whose major expeditions have taken him to Greenland and both of the earth’s poles. From 2000 to 2006 he estimates he’s slept outdoors for 200 days a year. He’s passionate about relatively unknown historic winter expeditions. “These are lesser-known because they were successful.”

Huston explains, “The humble explorers are the ones who live, the ones who are successful. We call it being ‘smart tough.’”

Huston continues, “I am a huge fan of the early polar explorers and the lessons they can teach us. They were the astronauts of their time.”

In 2005, Huston was the only American to join a Norwegian team’s restaging of Roald Amundsen’s 1911 expedition to the South Pole for The History Channel using only 1911-period clothing, equipment and food. “I like to dive into the pages of my favorite history books by exploring in 100-year-old gear – no Gore-Tex, no plastics.”
A training video shown during the aquarium presentation was rather amusing – team members were shown dragging five truck tires at a time through a Chicago park.

“We kept hearing the same sarcastic remarks,” Huston said.

“Hey, dude! Where’s your car?”

“Is your wife punishing you?”

Huston’s recent book co-authored with Tyler Fish, Forward (Octane Press, 2011), recounts a two-month adventure in 2009 where he and adventurer Tyler Fish became the first Americans to walk to the North Pole without help from support crews. They hauled 300-pound sleds holding everything they needed.

His New Land Expedition partner, Tobias Thorleifsson, 33, from Oslo, is a polar explorer, historian, photographer, and consultant to the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. After completing his naval service in the Norwegian Arctic, he joined several major Arctic expeditions, including a sailing voyage to Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic and a 65-day dogsled expedition on Ellesmere Island.

On the coming trip he’s keen to employ kite skis. “Won’t that subject the team to the potential of catastrophic injury?” EN asked.

Thorleifsson replies, “During the coming expedition we’ll be on flat terrain, not over the frozen ocean. Besides we will be supported in case of emergency.”

Additional sponsorship funding is being sought.

(For more information:

Scheduled to speak next at the aquarium is oceanographer, aquanaut and author Dr. Sylvia Earle on Jan. 24 (


Taking Lung Transplant Physiology, Prosthetics,
and PTSD Research to Kilimanjaro

In January 2013, lung transplant physiology research goes to the top of Africa for the first time as a group of U.S. combat wounded veterans take on the summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The 14-man team, including amputees, will partner with Alaska Mountaineering School and St. Petersburg College to demonstrate to other combat wounded veterans facing seemingly insurmountable challenges and obstacles, that anything can be overcome.

The wounded vets will collect valuable information and medical data to contribute to the science of human performance, rehabilitation and recreation under extreme conditions. The unique information gathered is being prepared for dissemination to relevant groups including cardiopulmonary and rehabilitation professionals who will find it useful to advance the state of science and inform the rehabilitative care of others with similar needs, according to an announcement from the group.

Among the climbers will be U.S. Navy SEAL Platoon Commander LT Justin Legg who, in July 2010, underwent a double lung transplant for complications related to treatment of leukemia. He has been rehabilitating to take on new challenges as he prepares for the rarified air of Kilimanjaro. Dr. David Zaas, Chief Medical Officer for the Private Diagnostic Clinic at Duke University, will conduct medical research involving pulmonary vascular response to high altitudes encountered by LT Legg. Additional sponsorship is being sought.

(For more information:, 727 942 8415).

Life Discovered in Bitter Antarctic Brine

Where there’s water there’s life – even in brine beneath 60 feet of Antarctic ice, in permanent darkness and subzero temperatures.

While Lake Vida, located in the northernmost of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica, will never be a vacation destination, it is home to some newly discovered hearty microbes. In the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nathaniel Ostrom, Michigan State University zoologist, has co-authored “Microbial Life at -13º C in the Brine of an Ice-Sealed Antarctic Lake."

Ostrom was part of a team that discovered an ancient thriving colony, which is estimated to have been isolated for more than 2,800 years. They live in a brine of more than 20 percent salinity that has high concentrations of ammonia, nitrogen, sulfur and supersaturated nitrous oxide ­– the highest ever measured in a natural aquatic environment.

“It’s an extreme environment – the thickest lake ice on the planet, and the coldest, most stable cryo-environment on Earth,” Ostrom said. “The discovery of this ecosystem gives us insight into other isolated, frozen environments on Earth, but it also gives us a potential model for life on other icy planets that harbor saline deposits and subsurface oceans, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

The research team comprised scientists from the Desert Research Institute, the University of Illinois-Chicago, NASA, the University of Colorado, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Montana State University, the University of Georgia, the University of Tasmania and Indiana University.

Gold Rush Steamboats Catalogued

John Pollack, a research associate with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, has posted a comprehensive update for the Yukon River Steamboat Survey. Pollack and his colleague, Dr. Robyn Woodward of Vancouver, have been working in the north since 2005, and in that time they have catalogued the remains of 24 historic stern wheel steamboats dating back to the Klondike Gold Rush. A well-illustrated website with the chronology of their work, findings and publications is located at:

Pollack’s next project is now located at Halong Bay and Bach Dang, Vietnam. He is the sidescanning and mapping leader for a multinational team. Participants will include archaeologists from Vietnam, Australia, Japan and Canada. One of the team’s goals is to locate remains of a Mongol invasion fleet destroyed by Vietnamese forces on the Bach Dang River in 1288 AD.

AAC Speaker Warns of Toxic Chemicals

The 33rd annual dinner of the New York section of the American Alpine Club on Nov. 10 almost didn’t happen this year, coming so soon on the heels of superstorm Sandy. But New York chairman Philip Erard reasoned that if any group could weather a storm like Sandy, it would be a group of risk-taking climbers. Keynote speaker was American mountaineer and environmental health scientist Arlene Blum, Berkeley, Calif., who explained that when she started climbing in the early 1970s, women were not considered strong enough or mentally stable enough to climb.

Her group of so-called “Denali Damsels” was the first all-women team to summit Denali (1970). Perhaps her greatest achievement was the successful American Women’s Expedition to Annapurna in 1978. Until then, only eight climbers had summited that most dangerous of Himalayan peaks, none American. She showed her resourcefulness in helping to finance this expedition, in the face of heavy male skepticism, through the sale of cheeky t-shirts reading, “A Woman’s Place is on Top.”

Later in her career, as a biophysical chemist, she launched a crusade against the use of Tris fire retardant in infant pajamas. In the 1970s, the CPSC banned brominated Tris and removed chlorinated Tris from use on children’s pajamas after they were found to mutate DNA and were identified as probable human carcinogens.

Blum, the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile (Sept. 9), warns, “most chemicals are not effectively regulated in the U.S. and we are not protected against toxic chemicals.” She explained that while Tris is now banned from sleepwear, furniture still contains one to two pounds of the chemical, which is known to migrate to household dust. (For more information:,

Sea Stories Reveal Deep Mysteries

On Nov. 10, The Explorers Club hosted a full-day slate of presentations focused on the sea, with representatives from the Nautilus Exploration Program, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Women Divers Hall of Fame, and elsewhere.

• Explorers Club member and attorney David Concannon, an advisor to eight Titanic expeditions and participant on three, explained that visiting the 12,500-ft. deep wreck site in a submersible is something relatively few people have experienced. He reports only 130 people have made dives to the fabled ship versus 534 who have flown in space, and over 5,000 who have visited Everest’s summit.

“In 1912, the Titanic was the largest manmade moveable object in the world. It took 14,000 people four years to build and one man (the captain) just five hours to sink it.”

He continues, “Today, the Titanic is a magnet for exploration, dollars and technological development.” Concannon said over 30 new species of new marine life have been found in the vicinity of the wreck. Bacteria is eating away over a half-ton of steel every day. “It’s melting like a candle from the top down.”

Traveling to the site involves a 12-15 hour dive in a submersible the size of an SUV with no heat and no bathroom. “It’s 32 degrees inside, you’re dehydrated, you haven’t gone to the bathroom in 12 hours, and there’s nothing to drink or eat.”

There is a one liter pee bottle available just in case, but the first one to use it loses a $50 bet, he told the group.

• Underwater photographer Stephen Frink, publisher of Alert Diver, bemoaned the fact that the oceans are changing due to acidification and overfishing. “The water I jumped into 30 years ago is not what new photographers are seeing today.”
He also warned that the population of invasive lionfish is exploding on the eastern seaboard. “We can’t eat our way out of this problem. You don’t get much meat off them. The only chance the ocean has is to figure out how to kill them in the embryonic stage.”


“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”

– Henry David Thoreau, American writer (1817-1862)


Light My Fire Competition

Light My Fire, Swedish maker of outdoor accessories, is seeking seven different adventurers in 2013 with one finalist to be named “The Light My Fire Adventurer of the Year.”

Seven finalists will be chosen to blog about their outdoor adventure on the Light My Fire Adventure blog and will receive a gift package of Light My Fire products. One winner will be awarded the title, “The Light My Fire Adventurer of the Year” and win approximately $3,890. The adventure does not have to be extreme in nature to be selected as a finalist, but must take place outdoors in 2013.

The prize money will be a scholarship for the winner to plan their next great adventure for 2014. Deadline is Dec. 31, 2012.

(For more information:


Trees Offer a Natural High

Tree climbing is no longer kids’ stuff according to William L. Hamilton’s story in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 5-6, 2012). Recreational tree climbing is now largely “technical tree climbing,” or climbing with ropes. “Free climbing” – what you did as a kid – is discouraged as a sport, because of the danger it represents to the tree.

“A good climbing tree has fairly simple access and lots of relatively evenly spaced branches,” says Zev Reuter of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (

Tree Climbers International is an Atlanta-based organization that offers a variety of classes for beginners and advanced climbers (

On The Rocks

Several rocks taken from humankind's first lunar landing have been unearthed once again, with the moon rocks this time turning up on the dark side of a Minnesota storage area.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (Nov. 26) reports that the pebble-sized samples collected by the Apollo 11 voyage in 1969 somehow ended up in a government storage area in St. Paul.

"The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found amongst military artifacts in a storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul," Army Maj. Blane Iffert, the former state historian for the Minnesota National Guard, told the newspaper. "When I searched the Internet to find additional information about the moon rocks, I knew we had to find a better means to display this artifact."

Each state was given a sample of the moon rocks after Apollo 11's successful voyage.
Even if Iffert had wanted to sell the rocks, rather than donate them, he wouldn't have had much of a choice. Moon rocks are considered a national treasure and selling them is illegal.

Reportedly, 180 of the 270 Goodwill Moon Rock samples former President Nixon gave to the 50 states after the Apollo 11 and 17 missions are currently unaccounted for.

Read the complete story here:

Carl Sagan’s Plea

Carl Sagan’s impassionate 1981 plea to the The Explorers Club to (finally) admit women was praised in Emily Lakdawalla’s blog for The Planetary Society (Nov. 13). Sagan writes in part, "If membership is restricted to men, the loss will be ours."

Sagan wrote in 1981, “women had played a significant but unheralded role in the history of exploration.... There are several women astronauts. The earliest footprints – 3.6 million years old – made by a member of the human family, have been found in a volcanic ash flow in Tanzania by Mary Leakey. Trailblazing studies of the behavior of primates in the wild have been performed by dozens of young women, each spending years with a different primate species. Jane Goodall's studies of the chimpanzee are the best known of the investigations which illuminate human origins.”

Sagan continues, “The undersea depth record is held by Sylvia Earle. The solar wind was first measured in situ by Marcia Neugebauer, using the Mariner 2 spacecraft. The first active volcanoes beyond the Earth were discovered on the Jovian moon Io by Linda Morabito, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft. These examples of modern exploration and discovery could be multiplied a hundredfold.”

Later that year, The Explorers Club started admitting women. Today, women make up approximately 22 percent of its 2,900-person international membership.
(Read it here:


You Want to Go Where on a Balsa Wood Raft?

The 2012 trailer from the true story about legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his epic crossing of the Pacific in 1947 is fascinating, making us want to see the actual movie. Starring Paal Sverre Hagen and directed by Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, it highlights the skepticism Heyerdahl first encountered when he proposed to sail from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, “further than from Chicago to Moscow, 5,000 miles.” The $16 million film, which premiered in August, is the most expensive ever made in Norway.

See the trailer here:


We can imagine Christmas morning last year. There you were sitting in flannel pajamas with your nuclear family around the tree, feigning excitement for soap on a rope, a preppy tie decorated with spouting whales, or a food basket full of figs and artichokes. Make this holiday season different. Drop a few gift-giving hints about receiving these outdoor products for explorers that are worth jonesing for.

Torment Your Teen with Paul Bunyan Approved Headwear

The legendary and extremely hirsute lumberjack knew a thing or two about staying warm in cold weather, especially with that bird’s nest on his chin. offers knit beard caps that combine the comfort and warmth of a traditional knit cap with the styling of having a simulated beard and moustache on your face. Yeah, it looks ridiculous, but it’s warm. Be sure to wear it around your teenager, especially when his or her friends are around. ($24.99,

Da Brim is Da Bomb for Brain Buckets

The sun at high altitudes is a formidable foe. We get that. But it still takes an especially secure outdoor enthusiast to wear this flexible fabric brim that fits around outdoor sports helmets. The interchangeable hubcap-sized fabric “donut” pulls down over your brain bucket while still allowing air to flow through the vents. It looks weird, but not so weird as your sorry melanomic face without a nose. ($36.95 to $39.95,

Shower Yourself With This Gift

As we all know, explorers have a certain scent about them, especially after being away so long that their chest hairs grow through their long underwear tops (it’s been known to happen). The late Col. Norman D. Vaughan used to brag about how many days he and his teammates, including Admiral Richard E. Byrd, wore their long johns in Antarctica in 1928-30. They wore the same underwear for 10 days, switched to new pairs, wore those for 20 days, then went back to the old pairs. “Boy, they felt good,” Vaughan told us shortly before he died in 2005.

Too bad they didn’t have the Klenz XXL Shower in a Towel. Use it to remove dirt, perspiration, odors, suntan oil, insect repellant, even sled dog slobber. Each 2-ft. by 4-ft. pre-moistened disposable towel is 20 times larger than baby wipes, but whoever gives this to you may be crying about the cost – about 5.49 each. (

O’s to Go

Truth be told, we get splitting headaches in Denver, the Mile High City. That’s why we like to travel with a personal can of oxygen-enriched air. But we’re wimps; we’re sure you’ll appreciate a gift of TruO2 Personal Oxygen the morning after a wild night celebrating at Everest base camp. A starter size containing 95% O2 by volume, provides 50 inhalations of oxygen per can. (29.85,


Explorers are nothing if not nature lovers. Now for the holidays, convince someone to gift you the Wearable Hummingbird Feeder. This nifty item, proudly Made in USA, uses a full-face face shield with a miniaturized hummingbird feeding tube built into it on the inside. Hummingbirds feed right in front of your eyes, right between your eyes, about an inch above your nose. Online videos at actually prove it works. Yet another way to embarrass your teenager.


Moonwalker Charles Duke Interview at The Explorers Club, Jan. 11, 2012

General Charles Duke, one of only 12 humans to have walked on the moon, will be interviewed at The Explorers Club on Jan. 11, 2013. Duke became the youngest man to step onto the lunar surface on April 20, 1972, as part of Apollo 16. The live interview session, led by Jim Clash, is part of the Club’s new Exploring Legends series. The interview begins at 7 p.m. and is open to Club members and guests. Location: 46 E. 70th Street, New York. (For more information: 212 628 8383,


Drone On

We ran an incorrect web link for last month’s story about the peaceful use of drones by Dedicam at the Trango Towers in Pakistan. You can see the correct link here:


Yosemite Housing

Stay at Hans Florine's home in Yosemite: Mention you saw the listing in the Expedition News and receive 10% off.

New York-area Housesitter Available

New Yorker Maura Kinney is looking for an explorer’s apartment or home to house sit or sublet while the owner is away on an expedition. She’s available in New York and southern Connecticut. A travel marketing expert working in Manhattan, Kinney is also an avid equestrian. Reach her at, 917 488 4755.

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:

Ripped From the Pages of EN

Read the book that was spawned by Expedition News. Autographed copies of You Want to Go Where? – How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams (Skyhorse Publishing) – are available to readers for the discounted price of $14.99 plus $2.89 s & h (international orders add $9.95 s & h). If you have a project that is bigger than yourself – a trip with a purpose – learn how it’s possible to generate cash or in-kind (gear) support. Written by EN editor Jeff Blumenfeld, it is based upon three decades helping sponsors select the right exploration projects to support. Payable by PayPal to, or by check to Expedition News, 1281 East Main Street – Box 10, Stamford, CT 06902

EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 1281 East Main Street – Box 10, Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Tel. 203 655 1600, Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2012 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through Read EXPEDITION NEWS at Enjoy the EN blog at

Public Invited to Will Steger Explorers Club Talk, Dec. 5

Will Steger, world renowned polar explorer, educator, photographer, writer and lecturer will present a retrospective of a life in the arctic regions of the world, Dec. 5 at The Union Club in New York.

He has logged thousands of miles of travel by dogsled and has become a voice calling for understanding and the preservation of the arctic. The presentation “Eyewitness to Global Warming,” is his vivid account of the changes that he’s witnessed firsthand, caused by global warming pollutants, in Arctic regions over four decades of polar exploration.

Steger shares stunning photographs from his expeditions along with compelling data and satellite imagery to document the deterioration in the polar ice caps. While the issue is critical, and the presentation is dramatic, Steger’s message is one of hope and empowerment.

An understanding of our role in the causes and effects of global warming make this personal. But as Steger explains, solutions are readily available and by making economically and environmentally smart choices people can make a difference.=

***NOTICE: This event will take place at The Union Club, on 69th and Park Ave -- a one block walk from The Explorers Club Headquarters -- and as such attendance will require a coat and tie.

6pm Reception, 7pm Dinner, 8pm Presentation

Member Ticket price: $65

Guest Ticket Price: $70

Reservation Notes:

Dinners are open to Members and their guests.

Non-members are welcome to attend as nominal guests of Daryl Hawk MN'98, organizing chair of Explorers Club Members Dinners.

To make a reservation please email: reservations@explorers.orgor call the Club at 212-628-8383

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Expedition News - November 2012


British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 68, announced last month plans to lead the first team on foot and motorized vehicle across Antarctica during the southern winter. The Coldest Journey expedition starts from the Russian base of Novolazareskaya (“Novo”) to Captain Robert F. Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound via the South Pole. The expedition will take six months and span 2,485-mi./4000 km, mostly in complete darkness. This is reportedly the first-ever attempt at a trans-Antarctic winter expedition.

On the equinox, March 21, 2013, the six expedition members will begin their journey to reach the Ross Sea. One hundred years ago on the same ice shelf, Capt. Scott and his polar team died on their return from the South Pole.

The Coldest Journey team will be entirely self-sufficient and there will be no search and rescue facility available, as aircraft cannot penetrate inland during winter, due to darkness and risk of fuel freezing.

Sir Ranulph and his skiing partner will lead on foot, pulling a ground-penetrating radar system which will help them avoid crevasses up to 200 feet deep.

The rest of the team will follow closely behind in a Mobile Vehicle Landtrain (MVL). The MVL will be made up of two Caterpillar D6N track-type tractors which will pull two specially designed cabooses for scientific work, accommodations and storage, including fuel designed not to freeze.

During the traverse, the expedition team will live in the main living caboose, which will consist of two 28-ft. insulated containers locked together to create four heated areas.

Described by Guinness World Records as the world's greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph has run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, and at the age of 65, climbed Everest. Of the Antarctic traverse, Sir Ranulph said, “This will be my greatest challenge to date. We will stretch the limits of human endurance. Britain and the Commonwealth have a strong heritage of exploration, from Captain Cook 300 years ago to the present day.”

The Coldest Journey team is also attempting to raise an impressive US $10 million for Seeing is Believing, a global initiative to prevent and treat avoidable blindness (

During the sea voyage to the Antarctic coast, the team will carry out scientific tasks to provide data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology. While crossing Antarctica they will also help scientists who are compiling information about changes to the ice shelf and the effect of climate change upon the poles.

The effort will be sponsored in part by Bridgedale WoolFusion Summit socks which the team tested in a cold chamber, and an impressive list of 160 other partners and sponsors including Microsoft and Panasonic. The Coldest Journey is an entirely independent venture said to be one of the U.K.’s largest non-governmental initiatives ever.

(For more information:


Bringing the Boys Home

Lou Sapienza, an explorer/polar archaeologist from North South Polar, Inc., East Hampton, N.Y., has returned from a successful mission to Køge Bugt, Greenland, for the U.S. Coast Guard to locate the debris field of a WWII amphibious U.S. Coast Guard biplane that crashed with three on board in 1942. The debris was found by ground penetrating radar (GPR) at a depth of 38 feet below the ice sheet surface. The project was titled “The Duck Hunt” and began in 2008. North South Polar (NSP) is a team of preeminent explorers, scientists and specialists, all global experts joining forces for the most difficult recovery missions in the most challenging environments on earth.

Sapienza’s team will return in 2013 to excavate and recover the crew to return them to their families through the US DoD Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). The team will also attempt to locate eight additional in-glacier aircraft this season (See EN, July 2011.

The forthcoming book, Frozen In Time by Mitch Zuckoff, due for release in spring 2013, is an account of the crash history of the three aircraft involved, the ordeals and fates of their crews, and the recovery effort thus far.

“The expedition was epic in its accomplishments. Sir Ernest Shackleton would have been proud,” Sapienza tells EN. “But what could go wrong did. Through sheer team determination and improvisation we overcame all obstacles and succeeded in our six-day mission just 45 minutes before the helicopters came in to evac us from the site. Adding to the drama – we even had a team member fall through an ice bridge into a crevasse – lucky we're always roped.”

Sapienza continues, “We now have 43 MIAs on our docket to locate and recover – from Greenland to Antarctica to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and even California. We hope to provide closure to families that still long to have loved ones home after 70 years.”

(For more information:,,


Busy Week for Exploration in New York

Just a few weeks before Hurricane Sandy devastated the metropolitan New York region, the exploration world came together at The Explorers Club for the 2012 Lowell Thomas Awards weekend. Events included an entertaining “Exploring Legends” discussion with deep-sea explorer Don Walsh, an awards dinner in a renovated garage in Chelsea, and a three-quarter page photo essay featuring Club members in the New York Times one week later. Here are some highlights:

• One With Your Machine – The Exploring Legends event was covered by Megan Snedden of The Huffington Post (Oct. 15). James Clash, moderator, asked Don Walsh, who accomplished a record dive with Jacques Piccard to the Mariana Trench in 1960, whether he ever got scared.

Snedden reports Walsh’s reply, “No, you're on your game, you're very alert. Being scared and having fear zaps your mental acuity and you can't afford to do that because you have to stay very sharp. All these practice dives we had been making in Guam were exactly the same, so by the time you reach the deepest dive... you become, I don't want to say 'one with your machine,' but close to it.”

Walsh says he and Piccard checked their depth during the dive using TNT charges. “What we used were four-pound blocks of TNT... and we had someone with a stopwatch and we'd hear (the TNT) go, 'bang,' then we'd stop the stopwatch... and that gave us an indicator.”

Read the HuffPo story here:

• “Mindfulness” Dinner – Approximately 200 members and guests attended the black tie Lowell Thomas Awards fund-raiser on Oct. 13, many decked out in exploration medals, kilts, strapless cocktail dresses, and funky knit caps. While the New York Times photographed members in a makeshift studio alongside one wall, attendees bid on such diverse items as a phrenology hand-painted bicycle helmet from Belle Helmets, an autographed Sir Edmund Hillary dinner menu from 1985, a ride in the Goodyear Blimp, and a mini Explorers Club flag signed by astronauts James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin.
Here are some memorable quotes from three recipients of the Lowell Thomas Awards:

“There are still people in the Amazon living independently from our industrial world. This is one last frontier we must truly protect.”

– Scott Wallace, author and journalist

“There are ways to tell complex stories without dumbing them down. There’s not a square yard of earth not mapped by satellites which can show us where problems exist.”

– Sir David Attenborough, filmmaker

“I inherited the family business of envelope-pushing. … who better than explorers to lead the way in the 21st century?... Too many people live within a comfort zone. Exploration is the opposite. We need to step outside the comfort zone and outside certainties. As pioneers, we must fight against common assumptions … we need to get into the unknown and search for that moment of rapture which is magical … life has meaning and hope as soon as we try to explore it.

– Bertrand Piccard, keynote speaker, aeronaut

• Experiential Glint – Photographer Christopher Lane spent two days at Club events photographing over 1,500 images of dozens of members for a photo spread in the Oct. 21 edition of the Times. While some female members grumbled that only one woman was included – Thor Heyerdahl’s daughter Bettina Heyerdahl – the coverage was considered exceptional in terms of building awareness for an organization always in search of new members and financial support. Writes reporter Alan Feuer, “(the Club is) actually about the faces: some fresh, some craggy, but all bearing that experiential glint brought back from the planet’s farthest places.”

View the Times story here:
Climbers Applaud Peaceful Use for Drones

Good to know there’s a peaceful use for drones, at least in the exploration field. Word comes about a climb last summer by Mammut pro David Lama who stood together with Peter Ortner and Corey Rich on the summit of the 20,509-ft./6,251m Nameless Tower in Pakistan, also known as Trango Tower. Starting from the sun terrace, it took them ten hours to complete the Eternal Flame route, long considered to be one of the toughest routes over 5,000 meters (16,404 feet).

There were three members in the rope team on the imposing face, but a fourth pair of eyes was following and watched their every move. Remo Masina from the Swiss company, Dedicam, controlled a backpack-sized camera drone, supported by four propellers, from the base of the face. Events on the rock were documented up close using a mounted camera. This resulted in breathtaking video and stills which had never been produced before in this area and at these heights.

"The outcome was completely uncertain," said Masina. "We were unable to test the drones under real conditions before the project." A completely new type of drone had to be constructed for the expedition to Karakorum in order to ensure that all requirements relating to height and range were met.

The joint project between Mammut and Dedicam achieved a milestone in the alpine photo and film world, and opens up new possibilities with so far unseen pictures of the largest mountains in the world.

View some of the drone images here:

Eleven Months to Go Until Exploration Day

Seems not everyone is quite so thrilled with Christopher Columbus whose special day was first celebrated nationally in 1937. Columbus Day is, needless to say, viewed very differently by different groups of Americans. Some people forget it's a holiday at all. Some Italian Americans see it as a point of cultural pride. Other people — especially Native Americans — point out that Columbus personally oversaw the murder and enslavement of thousands and see the holiday as an intrinsically cruel celebration of the beginning of massive genocide and generations of oppression.

A campaign is underway to replace Columbus Day with Exploration Day. The logic is this: Columbus Day is about one man and the (actually untrue) claim that he was the first person to discover America. Inherently, that's Euro-centric, which is a big part of why it sits awkwardly in a pluralistic country. But exploration is inclusive. The ancestors of Native Hawaiians were explorers who crossed the ocean. The ancestors of Native Americans explored their way across the Bering land bridge and then explored
two continents.

Look at the history of America and you can see a history of exploration by many different people, from many different backgrounds. Sometimes we're talking about literal, physical exploration. Other times, the exploration is conducted in a lab. Or in space. But the point is clear: This country was built on explorers. And it needs explorers for the future, say organizers of Exploration Day.

Exploration Day would allow Americans to honor the importance of exploration – and
the pride taken in being explorers – without marginalizing some Americans and without perpetuating damaging myths about U.S. history. Bonus: Exploration Day could double as a holiday for science.

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Himalayan Stove Project Issues Commemorative Everest Poster

A poster commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first five U.S, mountaineers to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May 1963, has been created by the Himalayan Stove Project. The poster is being released in a numbered, limited first edition of only 250, and is available for a contribution of $250, exclusively on the website of the Himalayan Stove Project – The group provides clean cookstoves to individuals and families living in the Himalayas who now cook with traditional, rudimentary cookstoves or over open fire pits inside their homes, consuming excessive amounts of precious fuel and polluting the indoor air to dangerously unhealthy levels.

Climber Braves Hurricane Sandy

Everest climber Sherman Bull was seen walking his dog Denali, a stocky long-haired Alaskan husky, down the streets of New Canaan, Conn., during the height of Hurricane Sandy. Bull tells the New Canaan News (Nov. 2), “I enjoy bad weather. I climb mountains. I get a rush from it. I’ve seen higher winds in Antarctica. I do watch for falling debris, though; that’s something you have to look out for.”

Bull appears in director Michael Brown’s new film, High Ground (2012), a documentary that follows a team of veterans returning from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq as they set out to climb a towering Himalayan peak in Nepal to overcome challenges and heal the mental and emotional ravages of war.


When we were young, we loved to climb, run, jump and swing: to play. It’s part of who we are, yet it’s often absent from our adult lives. We have evolved to expect, and to endure, a little physical hardship every now and then, but it’s often absent from our lives. But the fact is that we feel and act much better when we push ourselves – and play a little too.

– David Breashears, filmmaker, explorer, mountaineer, and author in the foreward to You’ll Know at the Finish Line: A Spartan Guide to The Sport of Obstacle Racing by Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg (Spartan Race, Inc., 2012). The e-book is free at Spartan


Anti-Science Cynics Cannot Win
By Erden Eruç

Felix Baumgartner, 43, an Austrian skydiver and BASE jumper set the world record for skydiving an estimated 24-miles, reaching an approximate speed of 834 mph, or Mach 1.24. In doing so, he became the first person to break the sound barrier on a descent without vehicular power. Erden Eruç is founder of the nonprofit Around-n-Over with a mission to educate and inspire children. He has completed a human powered circumnavigation and holds records in ocean rowing. He’s particularly upset regarding one story about Baumgartner that aired on NBC.

On Oct. 14, I was riveted in front of my computer to watch the live broadcast of the high altitude jump by Felix Baumgartner. It took me back to the day when as a middle school student I had watched astronauts walk on the moon live on a black and white television. Felix executed a controlled experiment, carried out methodically after seven years of well-defined preparations. The highest altitude and the fastest fall were among the firsts to explore for mankind.

There was no desire for an adventure, all had to remain under control, a complete checklist was carried out during the mission, the outcome was a successful landing. Of course there were unknowns to be explored, data to be collected, hence the experiment. A whole team of trained minds had been assembled to collaborate in making history, to design a variety of equipment ranging from the spacesuit to the balloon to sensors for scientific experiments to cameras, in order to see through that challenge.

Now retired Joe Kittinger, the distinguished USAF pilot who held the record for the highest jump since 1960, was his voice link at mission control. Dr. Jonathan Clark, the husband of the late Columbia shuttle astronaut Laurel Clark, was the medical director on the team. Dr. Clark had been on the SCSIIT (Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team) assembled by NASA in 2004 to investigate the ways astronauts might survive a crippled spacecraft in the future. The least that a person on the street could have done was to have some humility, to shut up and to learn from the experiment.

However when I clicked haplessly on a news piece on the MSNBC website hoping for new information, I found NBC’s Mike Taibbi, categorizing Felix among “history’s other daredevils in search of fame, not heroes risking all for others or even for a noble idea.” In the same breath, Taibbi was juxtaposing Felix whose achievement he framed as a one shot wonder to be admired, with the space shuttle astronauts who were “the best of us, the hopes of mankind testing the limits of human achievement.” (See:

Taibbi was so off the mark and sounded so ignorant about how integrated and linked the two were, it was mind boggling. Neither this person, nor his producers, nor their minions who had assembled his contrarian statement probably days in advance of the jump for purposes of boosted ratings, could connect the dots. They had missed an opportunity to educate their audience.

Baumgartner had just jumped from the edge of space becoming the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. There was poetry in the fact that 65 years earlier on the same date in 1947, Chuck Yeager had piloted the Bell X-1 rocket plane to become the first person to achieve supersonic speed. Yet Taibbi was belittling Baumgartner as a daredevil who would be forgotten tomorrow. Thanks to what we learned from this mission by Baumgartner, the future astronauts will perhaps have a way to jump off a failed spaceship to survive and will not have to burn with such a ship upon reentry into the earth's atmosphere. Shouldn’t Taibbi be asking instead whether Baumgartner will be remembered along with John Glenn, a pioneer of space exploration, or with Chuck Yeager, a wizard of flight who was the first to break the sound barrier?

It is such deliberate cynicism, such closed-minded babble, such willful ignorance from his kind in the media that corrupts the social conscience about what is possible for mankind. These reporters and correspondents forget that their amplified voice on the public airwaves is a privilege to be handled responsibly. They act as kingmakers, they promote their own cronies, they categorize the public into winners and losers, and they insult our intelligence in doing so. If an accomplishment is so grand that it defies being ignored, they carry on to denigrate the same, becoming parasites to share the spotlight. They trip us, they stand in our way; they corrupt our minds about our limits as humanity, about our future.

It is our duty as explorers, as parents, as educators, as role models to combat this insidious anti-science venom with equal passion, to push back with all the power that we can muster. We cannot let the cynics clip our wings, shape our destiny, define our future, or deflate our desire to explore our boundaries, be it in space, or at the depths of oceans, or under miles of rock in a cave, or among mounds of encyclopedias in a library.

Erden Eruç



Fishing for Meteorites? You Need a License Now

A fishing license for the sky. That’s what Leonard David of calls the Bureau of Land Management’s new policy governing the collection of meteorites found on public lands.

The policy, issued Sept. 10, provides guidance to the BLM’s field office managers for administering the collection of meteorites on public lands in three "use categories”: (1) casual collection of small quantities without a permit, (2) scientific and educational use by permit under the authority of the Antiquities Act, and (3) commercial collection of meteorites through the issuance of land-use permits.

As noted in the new policy, the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites, as well as their relative rarity, "has made them highly desirable to casual collectors, commercial collectors and scientific researchers."
In the world of meteorite collecting, the new rules have sparked a flurry of comment on the Internet and on a special mailing list dedicated to the topic, according to

"I have mixed feelings about the new BLM guidelines," said Michael Gilmer of Galactic Stone and Ironworks, in Lutz, Fla. "I think this is all about money. Meteorites flew under the regulatory radar for a long time.”
The bottom line is that no one has any rights to collect meteorites on federal lands for profit or for science without permission from the BLM in the form of a permit, according to the federal agency.

For more information:


New IMAX Award Announced for Aspiring Filmmakers

It can be tough to get a movie made if you don’t have a major studio backing you with gobs of cash. But soon, aspiring filmmakers will have another avenue to pursue their dreams.

Newsweek and The Daily Beast announced last month that the company is creating the IMAX Award, a new honor for filmmakers interested in creating movies around the theme of exploration. A $25,000 prize will be awarded either as a scholarship or given as a lump sum for production expenses.

The contest was designed to commemorate Newsweek’s Explorer issue, which will go on sale Jan. 6. It will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of IMAX, which revolutionized film production by providing a method to shoot larger images with greater resolution.

The deadline for submission of a maximum two-minute trailer is Nov. 30, 2012. A panel of judges will select 10 finalists, which will then be voted on by the public. The winner’s film will premiere at Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Explorer event set to take place in January 2013.

(For more information:


What Color is That Glacier?

It sounds like a simple question – what color is a glacier? Allen Pope, a glaciologist from Cambridge, UK, compiled a video from six field seasons around the Arctic and Antarctic, to show how complex that answer is, why it matters, and his role as a researcher to help answer that question. Pope is studying for a Ph.D. in Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge (Trinity College).

You can see his fascinating three-minute video here:

Explore Responsibly with

Explorers and outdoor enthusiasts have a powerful new, and absolutely free tool literally at their fingertips when heading out for their next big project. The brainchild of an outdoorsman, pilot and engineer, iNeversolo allows you to create a plan for your outdoor activity so that, if you don’t make it back when you said you would, an email and text alert goes out to the people you designate and they can track you down.

Developed by Colorado engineer and licensed pilot, Jed Mitchell, iNeverSolo is built on the tried and true model of the pilot’s flight plan. “The simple goal,” according to Mitchell, “is to let others know where you’ve gone, in case you don’t make it back.” Outdoor users can enter and activate their plan with iNeverSolo for free; sponsors and advertisers cover the site’s costs. (For more information:


Exploring the Boundaries: the Science of the Extremes, May 28-29, 2013

Lorie Karnath, former president of The Explorers Club, is co-chairing along with Prof. Bengt Norden, chair of physical chemistry at Chalmers University and former Nobel Committee chair, a two-day symposium to be held May 28-29, 2013, at the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm called Exploring the Boundaries: the Science of the Extremes.

The program will focus on planet earth, space, other planets and satellites and theoretical aspects of extreme exploration, while considering the convergence of physical forces and chemistry as well biotic prerequisites such as how life forms exist in extreme conditions.

The symposium will include a number of preeminent research and field scientists who will look into questions ranging from the beginnings of the universe and the possibilities that this holds, to prerequisites for survival under varied extreme conditions … and if life is found elsewhere could mankind communicate?

The program is hosted by The Molecular Frontiers Foundation and The Royal Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prizes each year for the sciences. The Foundation represents a global effort to promote the understanding of science. (For more information:,


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EXPEDITION NEWS is published by Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc., 1281 East Main Street – Box 10, Stamford, CT 06902 USA. Tel. 203 655 1600, Editor/publisher: Jeff Blumenfeld. Assistant editor: Jamie Gribbon. Research editor: Lee Kovel. ©2012 Blumenfeld and Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1526-8977. Subscriptions: US$36/yr. available by e-mail only. Credit card payments accepted through Read EXPEDITION NEWS at Enjoy the EN blog at