News briefs 1st Quarter 2014

During the first quarter of 2014 the Washington Group had several members in various stages of field exploration and activities, many with an aqueous theme.

Expert wilderness canoeist John Lentz FE ’97 addressed over 500 attendees at the annual Wilderness and Canoeing Symposium in Toronto, Ontario, where he presented his file of correspondence with the late Eric Morse, considered the dean of modern wilderness canoeing, to the Canadian Canoe Museum.  The Museum participated in the recent publication of John’s book of paddling memoirs, Tales from the Paddle.

Rear Adm (ret) Dr. Joyce Johnson FN ’03 and former US Coast Guard Surgeon General deployed to the Philippines for three weeks as a Project HOPE volunteer immediately after the devastating typhoon Haiyan.  She completed a public health and medical needs assessment for the directly hit Camotes Islands.

Piotr Chmielinski FN ’98 ventured into the Atlantic off the coast of Bermuda to check on Aleksander Doba, the 67-year-old solo unsupported Polish kayaker crossing the 4,700 miles between Lisbon and Florida. There was a question whether Doba was disabled but Piotr found him in great spirits with plenty of food resuming his voyage after consecutive bouts of rough weather despite poor communications.

Dr. Lew Toulmin MN ’04, working in the Prime Minister of Vanuatu’s office, recently traveled to the Cameron Highlands hill station of central Malaysia, to further investigate the 1967 disappearance of Thai silk industrialist Jim Thompson, an American.  Numerous theories abound about this event which left no traces despite intense searches.

Dr. Tom King FN ’02, senior archaeologist for The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) published a piece for the Huffington Post called Exploring Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance. TIGHAR has mounted several expeditions searching for the aviatrix. Tom King’s Huffington Post story

The Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the remote Ecuadorean Amazon Yasuni Reserve was the destination of a site visit by Dr. Michael Manyak MED ’92 in preparation for sending the nationally selected Eagle Scout Biologist there this summer.  This is one of most highly biologically diverse areas in the world with the highest concentration of jaguars and ocelots.

The year-end gala event was an excellent finale to a great year of programs and the new year started with a flourish for the ECWG.

  • Dr. Lee Berger FN ’13, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence, fascinated the attendees of our annual gala with his presentation of paleoanthropology discoveries in South Africa, including that of a 1.9 M year old new early human species.  Lee had just returned from the field a few days before his trip here and shared the first reports of an amazing brand new discovery that will make world news when released.  One could not help but note the comparison to Professor Challenger reporting to the Royal Geographic Society in the movie Journey To The Center of the Earth.  A grand time was had by all.
  • Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, curator of The Smithsonian and Distinguished Lecturer for the Paleontological Society, presented recent discoveries about the evolution of whales.  Based on his research in Iceland and South America, he demonstrated how new 3-D tools play an important role in the dissemination of information surrounding the terrestrial to marine evolution of these dominant predators.
  • Dr. Joshua Bell, spoke about the knowledge embedded in the intricate art forms and rituals of the Purari Delta inhabitants of Papua New Guinea.  A Smithsonian Curator, Dr. Bell discussed the impact of habitat change with the incursion of logging and gas/oil development and how this affects the traditional knowledge and identity of these indigenous peoples.
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