Monday, January 25, 2021

Socially Distance Yourself Like a Pro

EXPEDITION NOTES
Officials from Nepal's Survey Department measuring the height of Mount Everest. (Nepal Survey Department/Nepal Survey Department) World’s Tallest Peak is Even Higher After more than a decade of dispute and controversy, China and Nepal have finally agreed on how tall Mount Everest is. The world's highest peak, which sits at Nepal's border with Tibet in the Himalayas, stands at 8848.86 meters (about 29,032 feet), officials from both countries announced on December 8. This is less than a meter higher than the previously recognized height. The agreement marked the end to a long-running debate over the precise dimensions of the mountain, known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and Qomolangma in Tibet. Over the years, the two countries – as well as other governments around the world – have offered up differing estimates of the mountain's height, according to CNN. Read more here: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/mount-everest-height-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
The Unistellar eVscope at Meteor Crater Name the Asteroid Telescope maker Unistellar and SETI Institute have mobilized the world's largest citizen astronomer network to conduct valuable astronomical research on Near-Earth Asteroid 1999 AP10. Citizen astronomers observed 1999 AP10 in October and November of 2020 after being alerted by the SETI Institute team of researchers. The team used Unistellar eVscopes, a smart telescope that reveals the cosmos quickly and easily, to conduct the research. This worldwide effort led to a better understanding of this still-mysterious body. Even though 1999 AP10 is one of 20,000 known Near-Earth Asteroids, only 1,250 have a size estimate and, among these, only 68 have a shape estimate. Citizen astronomers across the planet are helping expand knowledge of this asteroid, so Unisteller and SETI are offering the world's astronomy lovers a chance to leave their mark on science. They are asking for suggested nicknames for the asteroid. To enter, submit your asteroid name with a short paragraph of justification. Finalists will be evaluated by a panel of judges. Deadline is Dec. 16. The top 10 names will be announced Dec. 21. One Winner shall receive one (1) 3D model of Asteroid NEA 1999 AP10, with an approximate retail value of $20. The winner shall also receive a lifetime of pride and bragging rights, which are priceless. NEA 1999 AP10 won’t be this close to the Earth again for another 11 years when Unistellar hopes to study it further but under a friendlier name. For more information: https://www.seti.org/citizen-astronomers-across-globe-partner-world-record-research-near-earth-asteroid FEATS
World’s Highest Bike Ride to Benefit The Starr Trust Charity The Guinness World Record for the highest bicycle ride is held by two Germans at 7211m (23,658 ft.) on Muztagata, China, in 2009. In fall 2021, a team of eight British adventurers, Nepalese Sherpas and a film crew will climb a currently undisclosed 7000m+ peak in Nepal. Members of the team will then cycle back down the mountain in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record. The expedition is being organized and led by the entrepreneur, explorer and Special Forces veteran Neil Laughton, who climbed Mt. Everest with Bear Grylls, has three cycling Guinness World Records and holds a number of altitude records.
The project will benefit The Starr Trust which supports individuals and community projects which enable young people, aged 10 to 18, to fulfill their potential in sport, art and education, by providing mentorship and financial assistance at a time when they need it most. During a November Zoom talk hosted by the Scientific Exploration Society, Laughton, 57, said, “Expeditioning is my drug. I love it. It forces you to focus on the here and now, not whether you fed the cat back home.” He also said that on expeditions he tries to be mentally prepared and think through the “what ifs” to get himself out of scrapes. The team of experienced mountaineers and record breaking cyclists are seeking expedition partners willing to financially assist this project in return for an opportunity to participate in the expedition by cycling and trekking with the team to Nepal and benefiting from other special events, talks, interviews, branding, PR and social media activity. Sponsorship ranges from £5,000 to £40,000 ($6,682 to $53,459). For more information: neil@neillaughton.com, +44 (0) 7973 289 552, www.neillaughton.com QUOTE OF THE MONTH “We all know that some level of risk is vital for success. We need to take risks to improve skills, go to new places, have fun, and, in the case of mountain rescue, help people in trouble and save lives. “In the outdoors we take risks to help us excel. We become skilled at an activity, physically fit, and mentally sharpened by taking risks. The more subtle but equally important benefit of risk is that we gain self-confidence and self-respect by taking positive risks. In short, taking risks builds character.” – Christopher Van Tilburg, MD, Search and Rescue: A Wilderness Doctor’s Life-and-Death Tales of Risk and Reward (Falcon Guides, 2017) MEDIA MATTERS
Selena Gomez Selena Gomez to Play Lesbian Mountaineer Selena Gomez will portray pioneering Peruvian mountaineer and social entrepreneur Silvia Vasquez-Lavado in a new film, based on Vasquez-Lavado's upcoming memoir In the Shadow of the Mountain. Vasquez-Lavado (born 1974) is a Peruvian-American explorer, mountaineer, social entrepreneur and technologist. According to Variety (Nov. 12), Vasquez-Lavado is the first gay woman to complete the Seven Summits. She is also the founder of Courageous Girls, a nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking, and has organized excursions for abuse survivors to the Mount Everest base camp. In the Shadow of the Mountain is expected to be published in 2022. Learn more here: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/selena-gomez-play-lesbian-mountaineer-silvia-vasquez-lavado-new-film-n1247454
U.S. explorers Robert Peary and Frederick Cook fight over the credit of discovering the North Pole in a 1909 illustration from the French newspaper Le Petit Journal Wade Davis on the Art of Exploring The true and original explorers, men and women who actually went where no humans had been, were those who walked out of Africa some 65,000 years ago, embarking on a journey that in 2,500 generations, roughly 40,000 years, carried the human spirit to every corner of the habitable world, writes Wade Davis in the Sept. 1, 2020, Financial Times. “Since then, terrestrial exploration has rarely been divorced from power and conquest.”
Wade Davis is professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, former explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and winner of the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He is the author of 23 books, the latest is Magdalena: River of Dreams (Bodley Head). He continues, “Searching for a passage to the Indies, the French explorer Jacques Cartier is said to have discovered the St. Lawrence River in 1534, though the valley was clearly settled at the time, and the waters offshore crowded with the Basque fleet, fishermen with no interest whatsoever in flaunting the location of their discoveries, a cod fishery that would feed Europe for three centuries.” The 20th century brought more of the same. Another example from Wade Davis: Hiram Bingham shot to international fame and a place in the U.S. Senate with his discovery of Machu Picchu, an Incan site well known at the time to local farmers, who told him where it was and how to get there. “Reaching the North Pole was less a journey of discovery than a quest for personal glory and fame. Men such as Frederick Cook and Robert Peary clung desperately to their claims, often demonstrably false, even as they branded their expeditions indelibly with themselves. “With endorsements, sponsorships, book deals and lecture tours in mind, Robert Peary did nothing to share the glory with his indispensable companion, Matthew Henson; the four Inuk men who accompanied them both to the pole remain little-known footnotes to the story,” Davis writes. Read the story here: https://www.ft.com/content/161dde1b-4c31-4001-9a74-48e7e42d66c5
Antarctica researcher David Knoff Isolate Like a Pro The New York Times turned to the pros – explorers – on how to successfully survive lockdowns, especially in late 2020 and early 2021 for what is expected to be a long, lonely winter due to Covid-19 restrictions. Times reporter Tim Herrera spoke with these people to get advice on coping with life in extended isolation – and how to deal with not quite being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. David Knoff, interviewed in the story, lives in Antarctica, perhaps the most remote place on the planet — and his most exciting evening lately involved penguins. Since November 2019, Knoff has led a team of 24 people at Davis Station, a permanent research outpost in Antarctica run by the Australian Antarctic Division. The yearly average high temperature there is around 19 degrees F., and during the darkest days of winter – typically from May to July – there are some weeks when there are zero hours of daylight. “The darkness had more of an impact on mood and energy than many of us expected, for a few months during the depths of winter the sun barely made it above the horizon (or not at all),” Knoff, 35, wrote in an email to the Times. To get through a bleak winter, Knoff said, it’s important to change with your surroundings and train yourself to learn to make the best of a tough situation. “It is surprising how well you adapt to your surroundings and conditions,” he said. “Not every day can be sunshine and penguins,” Knoff wrote in an email to the reporter. “You will have bad days/weeks/months, and the highs and lows will oscillate faster and higher as the months roll on, but stay focused on the positive and have a goal in sight.” He added: “Although not entirely accurate during an Antarctica winter, the sun will always come up tomorrow!” Read the story here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/25/style/coronavirus-tips-for-quarantine-isolation.html
Borge Ousland with his daughter near their home in Oslo. Exploring Isolation “Isolation has been difficult for many people during the pandemic, but explorers face a special challenge. With international travel all but frozen they have had to suppress the urge to probe the world’s deepest caves and densest jungles or to brave polar bears or sharks and make do with ordinary life,” writes Paul Berger in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 12) Borge Ousland skied and paddled for 87 days across almost 1,000 miles of ice and water at the North Pole before flying home to Oslo shortly before the new coronavirus pandemic interrupted life in Norway, according to Berger. Ousland spent the months that followed confined to the area around his suburban home in Fornebu exploring what he calls “the little world” around him, cycling, camping, kayaking and picking mushrooms with his 9-year-old daughter. During a live stream discussion with fellow adventurers in May called “Exploring Isolation,” the 58-year-old pointed out his newly circumscribed life has a bright side: “There is no polar bear going to eat me.” Bertrand Piccard, who circumnavigated the globe by balloon and by solar-powered plane, sat down to dinner in the third week of March with his wife, his three daughters and their three boyfriends and told them they had a choice: refuse to accept the crisis and suffer, or embrace it and develop new skills. The 62-year-old Mr. Piccard says that moment in their home on a vineyard outside Lausanne, Switzerland, was like the beginning of an expedition. “It’s a moment of rupture,” he says. “You leave behind what you know and you enter into the unknown.” Read the story here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/worlds-explorers-hemmed-in-by-pandemic-discover-ways-to-cope-with-lockdown-11605199630 WEB WATCH Dish Disaster The National Science Foundation released stunning video footage earlier this month capturing the exact dramatic moment the Arecibo Observatory's 900-ton platform fell into the 1,000-foot wide dish below. A drone happened to be performing an up-close investigation of the cables that still held the platform above the dish as the cables snapped. The video of the massive radio telescope shows both the drone footage and the view from a camera in the visitor center that shows the platform falling into the dish just above the jungle floor in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Two massive chunks of the cement towers that the cables were attached to can also be seen falling. Two of the cables had previously broken, one in August and another in November, destabilizing the telescope. It’s rather horrifying. https://www.cnet.com/news/see-unreal-drone-footage-of-arecibo-observatory-catastrophic-collapse-this-week/
The Enigma cipher machine found in the Baltic Sea was handed over to a German archaeological office by divers. XHJFUTRZ: German Enigma Cipher Machine Found After 75 years under the waves of the Baltic Sea, it looks kind of like a rusty lasagna, or a deep-fried typewriter. A rare Enigma cipher machine, used by the Nazis during World War II, has been retrieved from its watery home by German divers searching for discarded fishing nets. It's been donated to the Archaeological Museum Schloss Gottorf in Germany. The divers were working on behalf of the conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) to retrieve abandoned fishing nets that posed dangers to marine life. Take two minutes and watch the c/net site’s video explaining how the enigma machine worked. Hint: it’s all in the cribs. Fascinating. https://www.cnet.com/news/divers-retrieve-enigma-code-machine-the-nazis-sank-in-baltic-sea-in-1945/ BUZZ WORDS Third Quarter Phenomenon When you’ve passed the halfway point of a project but not near the end, and you start to drag. It’s the decline in performance during the third quarter of missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments, regardless of actual mission duration. (Source: 2018 study published in The Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments). Moon Trees Next year is the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission. During that flight, the late Stuart A. Roosa, Command Module pilot, on his third crewed mission to the moon, carried a small canister holding 500 tree seeds aboard the Kitty Hawk orbiter. The seeds orbited the moon 34 times before being brought back to Earth for germination and became known as Moon Trees. Many were distributed across the country as part of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. For a list of Moon Trees see: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html Point of No Return (PNR) The point in the flight of an aircraft beyond which the remaining fuel will be insufficient for a return to the starting point with the result that the craft must proceed. (Source: Our thanks to UK explorer Neil Laughton for this reference. In a November Scientific Exploration Society presentation that included his quest for the Seven Summits he said, “You know you’re going to Antarctica at that point.” EN HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE Locked down at home for 10 months, there are only so many times you can clean your sock drawer or watch The Crown on Netflix. But it won’t always be this way. And when the world opens up again, those on your holiday gift list will thank you for these, er, somewhat unusual gifts. After all, we’re guessing that for the people you know, a necktie just won’t do. Here’s our favorites this holiday season.
Can You Dig It? How did paleontologists get so smart? We’re guessing many of them started with Dig It Up Dinosaur Eggs. Each kit includes 12 individually-wrapped projects, each with its own chiseling tool and instructions. Scrape away at the egg to reveal the surprise dinosaur inside. It comes with a free excavation tool set so you don’t have to hide the family toothbrushes. (Mindware.com, $24.95)
Time for Adventure While we’re pretty sure a $50 Timex will tell time just as well, if your gift recipient is interested in celebrating the “Spirit of Mountain Exploration,” consider the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere inspired by the professional Minerva watches from the 1920s and 1930s, which were conceived for military use and exploration. This handy little timepiece is dedicated to the world’s Seven Summit mountaineering challenge, the holy grail of mountaineering adventures. It comes in a 42mm titanium case combined with blue and contrasting icy white design details (not just white, mind you, it’s “icy white”), finding inspiration in the colors of glaciers. It tells time in 24 time zones, which will be fun to visit once that vaccine kicks in. (Montblanc.com, $6,100)
Everest Explorers Jacket Protects Pooches When filling out your holiday gift list, lest us not forget the four-legged members of the team. The Everest Explorer Jacket from Canada Pooch is made of a rugged water-resistant shell to keep your expedition dog protected, with soft fleece lining and faux-down insulation for ultimate warmth. There’s also a faux-fur trim to keep a fleabag’s real fur warm and dry. (CanadaPooch.com, $44)
How’s Your Aim? In this social distancing era, bota bags, those wineskin sling pouches usually made of leather to carry martinis, cheap rotgut wine or some other alcoholic sustenance, are having a moment. In fact, no less a drinking authority than Ernest Hemingway explains in the 1926 novel The Sun Always Rises: “He was a young fellow and he held the wine bottle at full arms’ length and raised it high up, squeezing the leather bag with his hand so the stream of wine hissed into his mouth. He held the bag out there, the wine making a flat, hard trajectory into his mouth, and he kept on swallowing smoothly and regularly.” In this Covid-wary world, passing around hits of Jagermeister will give way to passing the bota bag like some Hemingway character, then simply taking aim. A perfect holiday gift for that explorer in your family who likes a tipple or two. (Campingsurvival.com, $9.95)
What a Doll! Don’t forget the youngsters on your holiday gift list ….. Mattel says polar marine biologists are curious explorers, learning about the animals, habitats and ecosystems in the chilly polar regions at the top and bottom of the Earth. Barbie doll is an adventurous spirit, always enthusiastic about exploring the world, and she's partnered with National Geographic to encourage imagination, expression and discovery through play. She wears a professional outfit with themed accessories that include a penguin. (barbie.mattel.com, $14.99)
Stuff Happens It’s a dangerous world out there and stuff happens on the road. Pepper spray has been used to deter four-legged animals like bears, but what about the two-legged kind? PepperBall, makers of non-lethal defense and a trusted supplier to the U.S. Army, over 5,000 law enforcement agencies, and consumers nationwide, offers its single-shot PepperBall launcher just in time for the holidays. PepperBall projectiles are made with a proprietary outer shell and food-grade irritant compound engineered to burst on impact into a temporarily incapacitating cloud with no permanent effects. While it doesn’t do much to foster that holiday spirit of peace on earth, it could prove handy in a pinch. (pepperball.com, $24.99)
Visit the Titanic This is the big one folks, only second to a trip to outer space. Why settle for soap on a rope when you can gift a trip to the legendary Titanic? If you want to explore the Titanic firsthand, planning ahead is key. You need to apply to be a Mission Specialist, OceanGate’s term for someone who is part of the submersible team. She wasn’t discovered until 1985, and now, 36 years later, the OceanGate Titanic Survey Expedition is making it possible for your gift recipient to see the Titanic with their own eyes. Starting in 2021, they can descend to the wreck site in a state-of-the-art submersible and explore the remains. It’s eight hours roundtrip and according to the site’s FAQ, there’s only a small portable toilet and privacy screen available. Guests need to reduce food and liquid consumption prior to, and during the dive to reduce the need to use the facilities as much as possible (ya think?). EN editor’s ancient bladder might not make it, so he’s out. But as the Western world’s first official Covid-19 vaccine recipient says, “Go for it.” (https://oceangateexpeditions.com/titanic, $125,000) DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS Red Wigglers Last month we misidentified the worms being grown by Ken Kamler for fun and profit. They were red wigglers, not earthworms. And Dr. Kamler hastens to add that it is his partner, Granis Stewart, not he, who runs the whole operation. In 2005, Stewart set the women's world record for the largest striped bass shot with a speargun while freediving (55.3 lbs.), so apparently she’s a woman of many talents.

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