News Briefs 4th Quarter 2011

The Washington DC area explorers reported a variety of activities during the last three months of 2011.

The ECWG Exploration and Field Research Grants Program announced another successful year and are awaiting this year’s applicants.  Since the initiation of the program in 1997, 94 awards totaling $152,000 have allowed graduate students enrolled in a local area college or university (DC, VA, WV, MD) to conduct pilot programs or gather data that has helped secure additional funding from such sources as the Fulbright Program, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian, and other sources.  Many thanks to the hard work of committee members Naval Research Laboratory geologist Dr. Joan Gardner FN ’03, National Geographic Cartography Editor Markie Hunsiker FN ’98, and National Science Foundation polar scientist Dr. Polly Penhale FN’91.

Robert Atwater meets a camel during the “Messengers of Peace” meeting in Saudi Arabia

Robert Atwater LF’05 attended the “Messengers of Peace” initiative from September 26th through October 2nd in Saudi Arabia at the invitation of HRH King Carl Gustaf of .Sweden and the Saudi royal family.  The Messengers of Peace initiative is a co-operative effort by the royal families to extend peaceful relations between all countries and religions through the programs of World Scouting.  Attendees were given extensive tours of archaeological and other historic sites near Jeddah and the northern Saudi districts including Nabatean Tombs like those at Petra, Jordan.  Bob and the other attendees are Life Fellows of the World Scout Foundation’s “Baden Powell World Fellowship!”

Dr. Richard Williams FN’03, NASA Chief Health and Medical Officer, was quoted extensively in an article in the Sept 27 Washington Post regarding a visual problem experienced by space shuttle astronauts.  The condition which causes blurred vision is probably related to increased cerebrospinal fluid pressure due to microgravity and affects about 30 percent of shuttle pilots and 60 percent of those who have stayed 6 months on the shuttle.  Gradual improvement in visual acuity usually occurs within months of return but may not be complete.

The book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Dr. Wade Davis HON ’87, was reviewed in the December 4 NY Times Book Review.  This “assiduously researched” book details George Mallory’s attempted Everest ascent amid the context of the post World War I British generational devastation and the need to re-establish national pride. On Dec. 29 National Public Radio’s Morning Edition featured an interview Davis, about  You can listen to interview here. Knopf in the U.S.  and Canada, and The Bodley Head in the UK published the book that Davis worked on for more than a decade:  Davis considers it “by far the best book I have ever written,” and reviewers agree. For example: “Brilliantly engrossing. . . . A superb book. At once a group biography of remarkable characters snatched from oblivion, an instant classic of mountaineering literature, a study in imperial decline and an epic of exploration.” —Nigel Jones, The Guardian, UK.  Davis described this trip and answered questions at the ECWG Nov. 19, 2011 dinner.

Marilyn Engle FN’03 took a flag to study human health impacts of mercury emissions from gold refining shops in two regions of Peru, the Amazon and high altitude locations. Mining accounts for about 30% of all human-related mercury release.

Dr. Lee Talbot MED’57 and Marty Talbot FN’04 explored the remote, roadless Nam Theun watershed in the high Annamite Moun- tains of Laos. At the behest of the Lao Government and World Bank, they surveyed a mostly unknown remote forest and grassland area, gained important information about rare or threatened wildlife, and demonstrated that Vietnamese poachers have free reign in the area.

Robert Atwater LF’05 took a flag with other Club members Josh Bernstein FR’04 and Curt Bowen FN’11 to the Yucatan and located Mayan pottery and human remains after diving in over 50 cenotes. Bob also went with Shellie Howard AN’10 and Idee Belau AN’10 and a team of explorers led by Jim Thompson FN’05 to the Mojave Desert to conduct surveys of ancient lava tubes for a NASA Mars project near the town of Baker. Bob was elected to the Board of Directors of the Institute for Nautical Archaeology (INA) located at Texas A&M.

J. J. Kelley SM’07 released his documentary about paddling home- made wooden boats down the 1300 mile Inside Passage from Alaska to Seattle with a friend. Featured previously on PBS via National Geographic’s Wild Chronicles, Kelley’s film features unusual encounters with unexpected marine life.

Scott Wallace FN’06 recently returned from exploring several remote jungle

Scott Wallace with Ashénkinka elder on the Alto Tamaya River, Perulocations in the watersheds of the Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon border.

locations in the watersheds of the Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon border.  These rugged headwaters frontier regions contain uncontacted indigenous communities which remain in isolation from the world.   Traveling by helicopter, bush plane, canoe, and on foot, this three month expedition into the land of the flecheiros (Arrow People) is chronicled in his forthcoming book entitled The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes.  We are pleased that Scott returned unscathed as the flecheiros are known to repel intruders with showers of deadly arrows. He was also a guest on the NPR Radio “Weekend Edition” discussing his experiences in the remote Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon border.  His book was reviewed in the December 4 NY Times Book Review which included a photo of Scott. He told the story behind the book at the ECWG’s Nov. 19 Cosmos Club dinner.

Dr. Lew Toulmin MN’04 organized a survey with Federal and state archaeologists to find the missing plantation of his ancestor, Brig. Gen. Andrew Williamson (1730-1786), near Greenwood, S. C. Williamson was a Patriot leader in the American Revolution, then took British protection, and was reviled as the “Benedict Arnold of South Carolina.”  Later it was revealed that he spied on the British for a year while in their headquarters, making him America’s first important double agent.  His plantation, White Hall, was a fort, depot, prison, military base and battlefield during the war. The survey team found Revolutionary War-era evidence of a structure that will be the site of future field research.

ECWG members appeared in the media as well over the past few months.  Jack Williams FN’03 was a guest of the NPR Kojo Nnamdi Show discussing the effects of Hurricane Irene.  As the recently retired founding weather editor of USA Today, Jack is a frequent resource for weather and climate issues for the media and government.  Among his recent publications is one from July 2011 Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine on why lightning doesn’t knock airliners out of the sky when it hits them.  His recent book The AMS Weather Book: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Weather is a highly respected resource and he is completing a book for the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Thomas King FN’02 was interviewed about his work as the senior archaeologist with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) on the search for Amelia Earhart, on Fairfax County VA Public Television.  He also presented a paper at the World Archaeological Congress’ Intercongress on Heritage Management in East and Southeast Asia, in Beijing, as a guest of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In other news, Dr. Michael Manyak MED’92 was recently named to the board of directors of the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) of the Boy Scouts of America.  He also was an invited guest speaker at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business graduate program to lecture on aspects of expedition medicine.  Dr. Manyak also presented his experiences in expedition medicine as the dinner program speaker for The Adventurers Club of Chicago.  Anyone interested in a fascinating artifact display should visit this club which shares common roots of Teddy Roosevelt involvement and remote travel with The Explorers Club.

Most importantly, we welcome new members to ECWG and look forward to their participation and contributions to our chapter: James Abely MN‘11, Michael Blakely MN‘11, Jacob Bressman SM‘11, Carrie-Lee Early AN‘11, Kenneth Kambis FN‘11, Michael Max FN‘05, and Nicolas Temnikov FN‘78.

Compiled by Dr. Michael Manyak

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