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Capturing Everest in VR

May 2017

Glasbrenner on the Khumbu Ice Falls (Photo courtesy of Endemol Shine Beyond USA.

Sports Illustrated is sharing online virtual reality footage of a 2016 Everest Expedition whose team members included Brent Bishop, 50, the son of Barry Bishop, a member of the first American team to summit Everest, in 1963; Lisa Thompson, 44, former director at a medical-device company who decided to take on Everest after beating breast cancer; and Jeff Glasbrenner, 44, who lost his right leg below the knee in a childhood farming mishap.

Last spring was the first climbing season on Everest after two years of cancellations due to bad weather and safety concerns. The group summitted on May 18, 2016 and the climbers recorded their seven-week climb in 360-degree video. The result is the documentary series Capturing Everest, a co-production of SI and Endemol Shine Beyond USA ­-reportedly the first bottom-to-top climb of Everest in virtual reality. 

View it at: 

Extreme Ice Survey Marks 10th Anniversary

April 2017

Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a long-term photography program that provides a visual “voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems marked its 10th anniversary last month. EIS installed its first time-lapse camera at Iceland’s Solheim Glacier in 2007. (See EN, April 2016).

“Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the world change. Glaciers have disappeared. Lakes have formed. And our cameras caught it all,” according to a recent announcement.

Today, the Extreme Ice Survey project includes 43 cameras at 24 sites around the globe – from Greenland to Antarctica. Its pictorial archive serves as a visual legacy and provides a baseline – useful in years, decades and even centuries to come – for revealing how climate change and other human activity is dramatically impacting the planet.

Recently an Extreme Ice exhibit opened at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

According to founder James Balog, “Arctic and Antarctic glaciers are changing every day of every year. As we move into the next decade, we will continue to capture their story. But we also aspire to place more cameras in more places ­- most notably glaciers in South America which are rapidly disappearing.”

The organization is also at work on a new feature-length documentary film examining the Anthropocene (the current geological age), which will debut in early 2018.

Watch horrifying footage taken from April 2007 to June 2016 that shows how the Sólheimajökull Glacier in Iceland is retreating due to a combination of stream erosion and ice melt. The cracks (“crevasses”) seen forming parallel to the flow indicate that the glacier is also spreading out (thinning) as it flows forward. 

Learn more:

To donate:

Solar Eclipse This August 2017

March 2017

Dr. Douglas Duncan, director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado, previewed the Aug. 21, 2017 total eclipse last month in Boulder.  Duncan has been chasing total eclipses since 1970.  

This summer, you won’t have to fly your Lear Jet to Nova Scotia. For the first time in 40 years, a total eclipse will cross the entire U.S. 

“A total eclipse is one of the most spectacular sights you can ever see,” Duncan gushes. 

“It looks like the end of the world might look. There is a black hole in the sky where the sun should be. Pink flames of solar prominences and long silver streamers of the corona stretch across the sky. It gets cold, and animals do strange things. 

“People scream and shout and cheer, and remember the experience their whole life.  But total eclipses are important scientifically as well. They let us see parts of the sun’s atmosphere that are otherwise invisible,” Duncan said. 

Are you feeling lucky? Watch the eclipse for Baily’s beads – the rugged lunar topography allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places, and not in others.

Duncan is a faculty member in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences of the University of Colorado, where he directs the Fiske Planetarium. 

In 2011 he received the prestigious Richard Emmons award presented to the “Outstanding Astronomy Teacher in the U.S.” Duncan broadcasts science commentary on the Colorado Public Radio program, Colorado Matters.

For more information, including details on buying eclipse glasses, view:

Michael Aisner of Boulder, Colo, is a self-professed “eclipse freak” who has seen 11 total eclipses around the world for an elapsed time of 35 min. 13 sec. Share his passion for eclipses at:

Finally, if you want to know if the skies will be clear when you haul ass to Lincoln, Neb., check out Historical Cloud Cover Charts at:

Go Wild at The Explorers Club, Feb. 23-26, 2017

February 2017

The New York WILD Film Festival, Feb. 23-26, is the first annual documentary film festival in New York to showcase a spectrum of topics, from exploration and adventure to wildlife and the environment, bringing all things wild to the most urban city in the world. 

Co-sponsored by The Explorers Club, the festival will present a range of adventure and eco-minded films, including Before the Floodin which Leonardo DiCaprio heads deep into countries affected by climate change, and 4 Mums in a Boat, a doc about a group of female Brits who aim to break the world’s record for oldest rowers across the Atlantic. 

Films will be shown at the Club HQ at 46 East 70th Street, New York.  For ticket information and to view the 2-min. trailer, go to:

Holy Moley! Vaughan was the Oldest Polie

January 2017

Media coverage surrounding Buzz Aldrin’s evacuation from the South Pole (see EN, December 2016), reported that at age 86 he was the oldest man to reach the bottom of the earth. Long-time EN reader Carolyn Muegge-Vaughan, widow of the late Col. Norman D. Vaughan, says, au contraire. 

We checked and yes, the late Colonel at the age of 90 was on a commercial expedition to the pole with ANI based at Patriot Hills. In fact, he returned a year later with philanthropist and prominent socialite Mary Lou Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, and gave a talk to the Polies he met, his widow reports. Vaughan died in 2005 shortly after his 100th birthday.

“We had also stood at the equator,” says Muegge-Vaughan. “And we were going to the North Pole (with Mary Lou again) following this trip. 

“It would have been great fun for Norman to have been at 90 degrees south, 90 degrees north, and zero degrees at the age 90:  90 & 90 at 90. But alas, the weather was bad for the Geographic North Pole so we only bagged the Magnetic,” Muegge-Vaughan tells EN.

See an image of Vaughan’s 1995 polar visit here:

Ranulph is Fiennes After Antarctic Summit

December 2016

Veteran British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has successfully climbed to the summit of Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. The Dec. 6 feat forms part of his pledge to climb the highest mountain on every continent between August 2016 and May 2017.

The 72-year-old faced minus 40 degree F. temperatures and severe winds to summit the 16,050 ft. (4892 m) peak.

The explorer from Exmoor, Somerset, is halfway to completing the Global Reach Challenge in aid of the Marie Curie charity which he has been raising funds for since the death of his first wife Ginny in 2004.

He has already crossed both polar ice caps and climbed Mount Everest in Asia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mount Elbrus in Europe. To complete the challenge, he still needs to summit Aconcagua in South America, Mount Carstensz in the continent of Australia, and Denali, the highest peak in North America.

Sir Ranulph has had two heart attacks, a double heart bypass, has vertigo and a breathing condition called Cheyne-Stokes while climbing, according to the BBC.

"Blurring Effect" Can Be Deadly During Himalayan Expeditions

November 2016

Five decades of Himalayan treks show how collectivism operates in diverse groups. 

By studying climbers summiting Mount Everest, Professor Jennifer Chatman of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, learned when collectivism works, and when it can be deadly. 

Cooperation is valued as a key attribute of successful groups, encouraging cohesion among diverse members. But Chatman discovered that there can be a high cost when it comes to decision-making and performance because the tentative ties among diverse group members cause them to overemphasize their shared group identity and overlook the individual differences in skills and experience that can help the group succeed.

She calls this a “blurring effect,” which is detailed in her new study, “Blurred Lines: How Collectivism Mutes the Disruptive and Elaborating Effects of Demographic Diversity on Group Performance in Himalayan Mountain Climbing.” 

“By simply asking people in a diverse group to focus on commonalities within the group, they appear to be unable to also focus on the attributes that differentiate group members from one another. It is like asking people to focus on the forest, which seems to preclude them from also focusing on the trees,” says Chatman.  

To study how collectivism fails, the researchers tapped the Himalayan Database, a compilation of all expeditions in the Nepalese Himalaya since 1950. Journalist Elizabeth Hawley began compiling this database in 1960, when she moved from the U.S. to Kathmandu, Nepal, and interviewed thousands of climbers who are required to register their expeditions with the Nepalese government.

Read the study here:

BBC's Planet Earth II is Stunning

October 2016

A decade since the critically acclaimed BBC Planet Earth was broadcast to great acclaim, it’s back again in a six-part series, only this time host Sir David Attenborough will be joined by the latest high-tech film technology, including ultra high definition or UHD.

Planet Earth II explores “the characteristics of Earth’s most iconic habitats and the extraordinary ways animals survive within them,” according to a BBC announcement.

The extended trailer is available and contains nearly three minutes of some of the most amazing wildlife shots ever captured on film including leopards leaping, Komodo Dragons brawling, and plenty more eye-popping animal action in addition to tons of ultra-high definition close-ups of earth’s most stunning creatures.

The documentary will be broadcast next month in the United Kingdom on BBC One and BBC One HD. The original Planet Earth: The Complete Collection (2006) is currently available on Netflix.  

See the trailer here:

Travel Channel Goes Behind the Scenes of Mount Everest Climbs

September 2016

Maria’s Field Notesbali-maria-baltazzi

Having trekked to Everest Base Camp in 2009, I can speak of the truly magical land that one travels through to get to Base Camp. I was in constant awe of the surrounding epic beauty, and equally humbled. Here one really gains perspective on what’s important in life and how fleeting it is… Value today, we know not what tomorrow brings. From the second you land at 9,300 feet in Lukla, the starting point of the journey to Base Camp, all the cliques about living in the moment become crystal clear.

Check our expedition to Everest Base Camp.

Travel Channel’s Everest Air, a special six-part event that premieres Oct. 26 at 10 p.m. ET/PT,will chronicle the real-life experiences of Jeff Evans, an Everest mountaineer, adventurer and medic, and his skilled crew of Sherpas and helicopter pilots.

“There’s no doubt that Mount Everest casts a mystical net at those who have marveled at the idea of climbing the mountain,” said Evans. “Every person that decides to climb it has a deep-seated desire to push themselves – it’s an itch that has to be scratched. Leading an Everest rescue team was one of my most satisfying projects. Every day I witnessed an extraordinary group effort.”

Jeff Evans is featured in a new Travel Channel series.

Patrolling Everest’s slopes from base camp to its balcony, Evans and the Alpine Rescue Service team go higher and further than any group has gone before to aid climbers in need, according to the Travel Channel announcement.

Learn more here:

Maria’s Field Notes

I actually met Sir Ranulph Fiennes when I did my trek to Everest Base Camp in 2009. It was his 3rd attempt at the summit, finally succeeded. The night Ran returned from the summit, he told me that if he had not succeeded this time that was it for Everest. Ran thought he was getting to old! Really? Now look at what he is doing at the young age of 72… A true testament to the notion that ‘you are never too old’!

Check our expedition to Everest Base Camp.

Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is embarking on a new record-breaking challenge – attempting to become the first person to have crossed both polar ice caps and climb the highest mountain on every continent.Between now and next May, the 72-year-old aims to climb Mount Carstensz in New Guinea, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in Argentina and finally Denali, the highest peak in North America.

Sir Ranulph has already reached the North and South Poles by crossing the Antarctic continent and the Arctic Ocean (1982), climbed Mount Everest in Asia (2009), Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (2004), and Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, earlier this month.

Throughout the challenge, the veteran adventurer will highlight his fundraising campaign for Global Reach Challenge which will raise money for Marie Curie, the UK charity that supports people with a terminal illness. He will share his experiences thanks to a package of satellite communication equipment and airtime supplied by Inmarsat, a leading provider of global mobile satellite communications.

Two IsatPhone 2 satellite phones will keep Sir Ranulph, his support team and a production company filming his endeavor in touch with each other and the rest of the world. With IsatHub, Inmarsat’s smart device connectivity service, they will be able to keep followers updated on his progress with images, blogs and social media updates.

Inmarsat’s BGAN HDR high speed streaming will power live broadcasts throughout the challenge on the BBC TV’s Breakfast Show.

Major sponsor is TMF Group, one of the world’s leading providers of global business services. For more information: TMF Global Reach Challenge. (August 2016)

Artifacts Discovered on Return Expedition to Antikythera Shipwreck

August 2016

ae9f4df7-c303-47c8-87e9-5f340c0a5a6aLed by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the team recovered 60 artifacts including gold jewelry, luxury glassware, a bronze spear from a statue, elements of marble sculptures, resin/incense, ceramic decanters, and a unique artifact that may have been a defensive weapon to protect the massive ship against attacks from pirates.

“Our new technologies extend capabilities for marine science,” said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI. “Every new dive on the Antikythera shipwreck delivers gifts from the ancient past. The wreck offers touchstones to the full range of the human experience: from religion, music, and art, to travel, trade, and even warfare.”

The Antikythera shipwreck, the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered, was possibly a massive grain carrier. It was discovered and salvaged in 1900 by Greek sponge divers. In addition to dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, they uncovered the Antikythera Mechanism – an astounding artifact known as the world’s first computer.

The Mechanism is an ancient analog computer used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposesas well as the Olympiads, the cycles of the ancient Olympic Games.

Found housed in a wooden box, the device is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears. Its remains were found as one lump, later separated in three main fragments, which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation works.

The project is supported by corporate partners Hublot, Autodesk, Cosmote, Costa Navarino Resort and others.

Learn more about the Antikythera Shipwreck. (July 2016)