Explorer Moment of the Week
The Little Foxes
Photograph by Tomas Meijer
In the winters of 2012 and 2013, National Geographic grantee Anders Angerbjörn and his Ph.D. student, Rasmus Erlandsson, studied an extremely threatened species, the Scandinavian arctic fox. The current population numbers fewer than 150 individuals in mainland Europe so many of the young foxes are having difficulty finding a non-related partner. Other threats to the species include competition from the red fox for the scarce small rodents they both depend upon for food. Angerbjörn and Erlandsson monitored the arctic fox population in Västerbotten and Norrbotten, Sweden, to identify the best territories for further conservation actions. This included tagging the baby foxes, which proved to be a challenge.
“When catching arctic foxes it is easy to believe that the smaller ones are the easiest to handle. In some aspects it is true. Their teeth are smaller and the jaws less powerful. Combined with a naïve lack of aggressive attitude it seems to make up for an easy piece of work to ear-tag a 700-gram cub. Well, sometimes it is, but just as human children have a hard time keeping still, the really small cubs do too.
“We handle the foxes in a bag while tagging, and the trick is to keep the animal still between your thighs while kneeling. And here comes the tricky part. How do you keep a small, wild fox still? You cannot apply too much force—it is barely a kilo of an endangered carnivore you are dealing with. You really do not want to hurt it. Just as with small children the best tool is patience, but at the same time you want the handling to be as short as possible.
“One particular cub had a technique I had never experienced before as it insistently tried to turn [onto] its back, for no obvious reason. I had to reach the ears, so I quickly turned the cub upright. The cub stayed still for a few seconds, and then began to roll onto its back again. The same maneuver, once again! And again! Finally, I got the tags in place, and after making measurements and taking some samples, I finally released the little fellow and it disappeared like lightning into the den.”
—Ph.D. student Rasmus Erlandsson, team member with Anders Angerbjörn, Global Exploration fund grantee
Related: Arctic Fox
Photograph by Paul Salopek
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek is retracing on foot our ancestors’ migration out of Africa and across the globe. His 21,000-mile odyssey begins in Ethiopia and ends seven years later at the tip of South America.
Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden world walk is an exercise in slow journalism. Moving at the slow beat of his footsteps, Paul is engaging with the major stories of our time—from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival—by walking alongside the people who inhabit them every day. As he traverses the globe from Africa to South America, he is revealing the texture of the lives of people he encounters: the nomads, villagers, traders, farmers, and fishermen who never make the news.
"Winter in the desert of Djibouti. The sun does not shine equally for all.
"By 9 a.m., the thermometer pegs 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). I begin to stew in my sweat. The Afar guides, meanwhile, shiver under shirts, sweaters, scarves. Mohamed Youssef, a cameleer, zips himself inside a Tom Tailor brand parka from China. The only uncomplaining one is Madoita, the lead camel. He is both warmed and shaded by a $600 blanket of photovoltaic silicon cells. He is a belching, furry, ambulatory wall plug for my satellite phone. We take turns cleaning the dust from these cells with a cloth. A new chore on an ancient caravan trail: Wiping down your solar camel."
—Paul Salopek, National Geographic Fellow
Magic at Malinowsky
Photograph by Rick Stanley
Gabby Salazar is a 26-year-old photographer from Greensboro, North Carolina. She has traveled throughout North America and to over 15 countries to take photographs. Her work as a Young Explorers grantee with a focus on tropical conservation led her to Peru to work with the Amazon Conservation Association to document the creation of the Manu-Tambopata Conservation Corridor. Salazar worked at over 15 sites along the corridor to document community-based, government-based, and foreign conservation efforts.
“We arrived at Malinowsky Guard Station, a checkpoint for entry into the Tambopata National Reserve, in the afternoon. After settling in for ten minutes, we grabbed our camera gear and headed right out on the trail.
“It turns out there’s only one trail here and it’s about two miles long. Otherwise, we’re blocked in by a river on one side and dense forest everywhere else. We started out on the trail and had a magical experience within the first 500 meters. As I was photographing a patch of mushrooms, Rick noticed that a blue morpho butterfly was hanging around. It’s pretty common to see a morpho in the forest—a flash of iridescent blue gliding down the trail and disappearing into the landscape just after you score a fleeting glimpse. However, this morpho was circling us and coming closer and closer. After a few minutes, Rick called out to me when he found the morpho on his shirt and then on his cheek. Our clothes were soaked with sweat from a boat ride in the hot sun, and the butterfly was clearly attracted to the salt covering our skin.
“We took a few fun photos of the butterfly on our clothes and then Rick got creative—he placed it on my nose. The image above is our favorite from the series because it shows just how big the morpho was. We tried to let the butterfly go after that, but he just kept following us. It was a really magical hour in the jungle with a beautiful creature, and one of my favorite memories from Peru.”
—Gabby Salazar, Young Explorer grantee
Photograph by Chris Rainier
K. David Harrison is a linguist and leading specialist in the study of endangered languages. He is an associate professor at Swarthmore College. Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson is a linguist who is director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the documentation, revitalization, and maintenance of endangered languages. Together they lead Enduring Voices, a project dedicated to documenting endangered languages and preventing language extinction by identifying the most crucial areas where languages are threatened and embarking on expeditions to assist indigenous communities in their efforts to revitalize and maintain their languages. Chris Rainier, a renowned documentary photographer, joins them in communicating stories of the remaining natural wilderness and indigenous cultures around the globe.
"The island nation of Papua New Guinea represents the greatest single concentration of linguistic diversity on Earth, with 830 listed languages identified thus far and an unknown number remaining to be scientifically documented. Part of Papua New Guinea also falls within a language hot spot. Without it, no survey of the world’s languages or understanding of the current global process of language extinction would be complete.
“During a three-week trip, the Enduring Voices team recorded interviews with speakers of 11 indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea. These languages embody the various forces that drive language threat and endangerment, and language shift.
“Our expedition took us to East Sepik Province, where we encountered several small endangered-language communities. These local Karawari region languages lack [a presence in] teaching materials and books, and many people blame this for the rising dominance of pidgin. In many villages, there is only passive knowledge of the ancestral Pondo-family languages Yokoim and Karim, while in others, not even passive knowledge of the heritage tongue among schoolchildren is found. It may be too late for the Karim language to rebound (Christina Yimasinant, pictured here, is a speaker), but the Yokoim language can still be maintained in some of the communities with adequate revitalization efforts.
“People would be outraged if we tore down the Pyramids of Giza or the Notre Dame Cathedral, but languages are much more ancient and complex and even more impressive as monuments to human genius.”
—K. David Harrison, National Geographic Fellow
Related Book Excerpt: The Last Speakers
The Beauty of Beekeeping
Photograph by Catherine de Medici Jaffee
Catherine de Medici Jaffee has spent the past three years living in eastern Turkey, where she works to bridge regional traditions with the growing demand for ethically produced honey. Joined by videographer Claire Bangser and funded by National Geographic, Jaffee started the world’s first honey-tasting, trekking, and artisanal honey products company. Led and inspired by village-based rural women, the effort supports local communities and revives struggling bee populations.
“With beekeeping, everything happens in seasons and cycles. Fall is the time for honey and harvests and either moving the bees to lower ground or indoors from the harsh impending winter. The summer days are long. We wake up with the bees and sleep with them all night to protect them from bears and thieves. The fall is the time to restrengthen the hives, restore the lost queens and the weak swarms, and prepare for the revitalizing rest that is winter. Every natural close on the Anatolian steppes is actually just the preparation for a new beginning to come.
“One day, I saw an enormous swarm of bees exit the hive, as they generally do in early summer. This swarm was huge. They landed on the side of one of the village homes, and our program beekeeping ladies (Birsen Baki, pictured above) all emerged with pots and pans and spoons and followed them around the home, clacking and rattling their plates. The bees circled the house three times and then reentered the hive as if nothing had ever happened. It was a dance of bees and women unlike anything I had ever seen. Once the bees settled back into their hive, the women responded to my shocked expression: ‘See, we told you the pots and pans would work.’
“What I have learned from many long hours working with beekeepers is that we should be trying to build better businesses and change the way that our human societies operate. We measure the health of a society by how many people own cars and how many new malls have been built. We build, we grow, and we destroy. Bees aren’t that way. The world is more beautiful—plants are pollenized, local ecosystems thrive—because a bee was there. If we could just shape the way we build businesses, the way we travel, and the way we interact with each other to be a fraction as poignant, we will all have a much stronger chance at survival.”
—Cat Jaffee, Young Explorers grantee
Gemina Garland-Lewis: Azorean Whaleboats
Photograph by Gemina Garland-Lewis
In the summer of 2012, National Geographic Grantee Gemina Garland-Lewis documented how whalers in the Azore Islands used 18th-century techniques to hunt sperm whales well into the 20th century.
“I’d been out in Azorean whaleboats before, though mostly for sailing. Today was rowing, a whole new beast. A couple of hours before sunset, I met the women’s rowing team in the Horta marina and smiled as they started to prepare the boat Senhora da Guia, which was my favorite. The boat’s namesake is the patron saint of whalers on the island of Faial, and to this day they honor her during an annual mass and procession for the blessing of the whaleboats.
"I took a seat (as out of the way as I could be in a canoe built for seven) to watch and photograph the incredible synchrony and hard work of these women as they rowed. Their official, Ana, shouted out “Força! Força! Força!” which means strength, force, power. After the practice had finished the women offered me a chance to row. Each oar is about ten feet long and made of solid, dense wood. I was warned that if I couldn’t lift it right and it hit the water too soon, the oar would smash into my chest and knock me over backward into the boat—and sure enough, it did. Four times. Every so often I’d get into the rhythm of it but then inevitably I’d falter. The oar hit with a slow force of something that simply couldn’t be stopped with human strength. It was nothing personal, just physics. There was nothing to do but fall back with as much grace as possible and get back up again … and again, and again.
"Until this moment, I hadn’t fully appreciated how much rowing a whaleboat was about finesse as well as strength. I thought about all the men I had been interviewing, ex-whalers who actually had to do this day in and day out. They had to be good enough at it to pursue and capture a sperm whale. I thought about their tales of bleeding hands from grabbing the oars and bleeding legs from rubbing against the boat. I understood those stories better now since I’d tried my hand at rowing. I was thankful for the experience but grateful that I didn’t have to make my living at it!"
—Gemina Garland-Lewis, Young Explorers grantee
Annie Agnone: America by Night
Photograph by Annie Agnone
Annie Agnone's America by Night project, funded by National Geographic, explores the complex relationship between Americans and nighttime. It is an account—told through writing, photographs, and audio—of the people and places encountered on a driving tour of the United States, set entirely at night.
“Just after midnight, the pilgrims rise and dress. They walk across the monastery's lighted courtyard, toward the main chapel and the sounds of bells and chanting voices.
“Inside the chapel it is dark. The congregation stands and sits and bows. Friends whisper to one another in English and Greek. A man named Christos lights prayer candles, a gentle breeze ruffling their flames.
"The monks who live here have long beards and sit in high-backed chairs surrounding the altar. They move often, to visit the icons hung around the nave, crossing themselves and leaning forward to kiss the images. Services begin at 1 a.m., but the monks, I learn, have already been awake for hours.
“Saint Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery was founded in Florence, Arizona, in 1995. Of the 21 monastic communities under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Saint Anthony's is the largest. It’s an oasis of fat palms and tall pines—fountains and grass and terracotta roofs among miles of sand, saguaro, and mesquite. Parakeets chirp in their cages and cats stroll the winding walkways lined with snapdragons, roses, and sunflowers.
“The afternoon before the service I met with Father Paisios, the monastery's abbot. He has dark brown eyes and a long gray beard. Night, he explained, is the highlight of a monastic's 24-hour day. It is a time of solitude and few distractions, an eight-hour span when monks are not expected to work. And so they rise, three hours after going to bed, to seize that moment of uninterrupted prayer before services begin. They remain in their cells. They find a quiet bench in a stand of cypress. They walk away from the monastery's lights and perfumed air, out into the star-crusted desert night, out into a different kind of oasis.”
—Annie Agnone, Young Explorers grantee
Related: Inside a Vegas Wedding Chapel
Ancestral Andes Mystery Solved
Photograph by Eduardo Rubiano Moncada
New genetic research led by the Genographic Project team, including Fabricio R. Santos, Genographic project scientist, and Spencer Wells, explorer-in-residence and Genographic director, shows a distinctive ancestry for the Uros populations of Peru and Bolivia that predates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and may date back to the earliest settlement of the Altiplano of the central Andes some 3,700 years ago. Here, Wells surveys the landscape from aboard a boat on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.
"The timing of human settlement in the Andean Altiplano is one of the great mysteries of our species' worldwide odyssey. A vast, high-altitude plain, the Altiplano seems utterly inhospitable, yet it has apparently nurtured a complex culture for millennia.
"This significant new study reflects the importance of the Genographic team's careful, patient work with the members of the indigenous communities living in this remote corner of the mountainous South American terrain, and sheds light on how our species has adapted to disparate ecosystems since its relatively recent exodus from an African homeland less than 70,000 years ago."
—Spencer Wells, explorer-in-residence and Genographic director
Sea Star: Sylvia Earle
Photograph by Al Giddings, National Geographic
The ocean first grabbed National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Rolex laureate Sylvia Earle's attention at an early age—when a wave knocked her over on the New Jersey shore. After moving to Florida, she had the Gulf of Mexico for a backyard. Now the oceanographer known as "Her Deepness" reflects on the Gulf of her youth and its current threatened state.
"When I first ventured into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s, the sea appeared to be a blue infinity too large, too wild to be harmed by anything that people could do. I explored powdery white beaches, dense marshes, mangrove forests, and miles of sea grass meadows alive with pink sea urchins, tiny shrimps, and seahorses half the size of my little finger. I learned to dive in unexplored areas offshore from the many rivers that flow into the Gulf, where jungles of crimson, green, and brown seaweed sprouted from rocky limestone reefs.
"Then, in mere decades, the blue wilderness of my childhood disappeared: It was biologic change in the space of a lifetime.
"By the mid-1950s manatees were already scarce, and monk seals—once common as far north as Galveston—were gone. By the end of the 20th century, up to 90 percent of the sharks, tuna, swordfish, marlins, groupers, turtles, whales, and other creatures that prospered in the Gulf for millions of years had been depleted, many by overfishing. Rivers that once nourished the Gulf with vital nutrients now carried toxic loads of pollutants, forming massive dead zones.
"As a child, I did not know that people could consciously protect something as vast as the ocean, nor that they could cause it harm. But now we know: The ocean is in trouble, and therefore so are we. As biologist Edward O. Wilson has observed, 'We are letting nature slip through our fingers, and taking ourselves along.' Smothered in an avalanche of oil and poisoned by toxic dispersants, the Gulf has become a sea of despair. Protecting vital sources of renewal—unscathed marshes, healthy reefs, and deep-sea gardens—will provide hope for the future of the Gulf, and for all of us."
Inca Mummies: Frozen in Time
Photograph by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic
Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Johan Reinhard's research in the Andes and his expertise in mountain people's sacred landscape beliefs draw him to high altitudes every year. He has investigated Inca ceremonial sites including Peru's Ampato volcano (above, in 1995), the Nasca Lines, and the ancient ceremonial centers of Machu Picchu, Chavin, and Tiahuanaco.
"I was approaching Ampato's 20,700-foot summit for the first time since we had discovered a frozen Inca mummy, the Ice Maiden, the month before. We had found her by chance during a normal ascent, and we had no time to make a closer search of the summit area. We were rushing to get the mummy to a city and into a freezer before she unfroze. We had found the mummy lying on the surface, because its burial site had been destroyed when Ampato's summit ridge collapsed. It and other Inca objects had been strewn down a gully into the summit crater 200 feet below. I returned with an archaeology team, and we had recovered two more Inca mummies at a 19,000-foot site only days earlier. Unfortunately, both had been badly damaged by lightning, but we felt certain that we would find more well-preserved Inca artifacts—and possibly another mummy—near the summit. Although some people believe the erupting volcano visible in the photo (above) must have posed a threat, we gave it no thought, as it had been active for the past few years and become a part of daily routine. Our main concern was of snow. Any that might have fallen on the summit in the past weeks would make a search difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, we were able to recover rare Inca artifacts, although no more mummies.
"The Ice Maiden was an important discovery because she was one of only a few frozen Inca mummies found and the first one in Peru, the homeland of the Inca. It was also the first female frozen mummy. She provided unique insights into the dress of an Inca noblewoman. Also scientific studies to be carried out would increase our understanding of the Inca culture of 500 years ago.
"True time capsules, these frozen bodies allow a view into the past that cannot be obtained through any other means, including that of the best-preserved mummies found in other climates, such as in the deserts of Egypt. Due to their excellent preservation, finds made at high altitudes enable unique opportunities for studies ranging from the biological (perfect DNA, ancient diseases, nutrition, etc.) to the archaeological. Because of the Inca practice of making human sacrifices at sites on high mountains, the Andes region is the only one in the world with a good chance of finding frozen mummies—assuming systematic work is conducted before they are destroyed by looters and lost to mankind forever."
—Johan Reinhard, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and Rolex laureate
Photos: Adventures in Nepal
Photograph by Tim Hussin
In the spring of 2011, National Geographic Grantee Tim Hussin and his brother Noah set off on a nearly 5,000-mile trek across the United States, riding bicycles built from recycled parts. As they biked west, the filmmaking duo encountered rich diversity in the rural communities that took them in—and from those experiences they created their documentary film, America reCycled. Between adventures, the brothers occasionally took a break from biking; here, Tim (left) and Noah relax in desert hot springs after a strenuous week.
"After cycling for ten days across the Chihuahuan Desert, we rejuvenate in the Langford Hot Springs. J. O. Langford was one of the first homesteaders in the area and developed the springs into a commercial bathhouse. The structural remains now lie in Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande.
"A year and a half into the journey, our bodies and relationship had been heavily strained by the road, and tensions were running high. The healing waters and loving people of Texas' Big Bend fully embraced us, recharging us for the final leg of the adventure."
—Noah Hussin, brother of Tim Hussin, Expeditions Council grantee
Related: America reCycled
Photograph by Paul Colangelo
Paul Colangelo had a business degree under his belt and an insurance job on the line. Then, driven by an impulse to capture the stories of wildlife and their habitats before they disappear, he dropped everything to pursue his passion for wildlife photography. Since then the National Geographic grantee’s repertoire has grown and flourished, and his various projects have sent him to some of the most remote areas of the world. Colangelo shot this photo of two rams competing for female attention during a 2012 trip to the Togadin Plateau in British Columbia.
“The Todagin Plateau bursts to life each fall with the frenzied activity of Stone’s sheep battling for the chance to mate. Overcome by hormones, the usually sedate sheep battle and vie to win the attention of desirable partners. The rams, with their large, curled horns, compete in fierce head-butting contests to establish the hierarchy within the male ranks. Fights continue to erupt when insubordinate juveniles are caught trying to mate behind the backs of their superiors. The females alternate from playing hard-to-get, fleeing from the less impressive rams, and fawning over the impressive full-curls. The yearlings seem to watch in amazement as the usually calm and steady adults lose all control.
“I am camping on Todagin Mountain throughout November and December to photograph this high-energy season. The high winds on Todagin, which destroyed camp in the summer, only get worse during the winter, so I have to base camp halfway down the mountain, protected among the trees. I start each day with a two-hour hike in the dark up the snow-covered mountain to reach the rutting grounds by sunrise and then spend the day on the exposed plateau with the sheep before hiking back in the dark after sunset. I wake up in my tent at 4 a.m. in minus 12˚F temperatures and have some instant oatmeal and strong coffee before heading out. I return to camp by 7 p.m., eat a freeze-dried dinner in a bag and am asleep by 8 p.m. To make this schedule seem normal, I set my watch two hours ahead, creating my own Todagin time zone.”
A Free-Hanging Photo Shoot
Photograph by Mikey Schaefer
For National Geographic photographer and filmmaker Jimmy Chin, a typical photo shoot involves a rope, a cliff, and a several-thousand-foot climb. In his images, Chin attempts to convey the beauty of the natural world from its highest peaks, which have included Yosemite’s Half Dome (from which he dangles in the photo above) and Everest. As Chin notes, photographing from a swinging rope can sometimes be a shot in the dark.
“Dangling like a spider more than 2,000 feet off the ground never gets old, especially when you're watching the rope seesaw back and forth over the edge of the cliff while you're ascending your fixed lines.
“In the photo, I'm headed back to the top of Half Dome after shooting Alex Honnold climbing on the sheer northwest face of the iconic granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. Shooting from a free-hanging rope, where you're not touching the wall, is especially difficult since you’re slowly spinning in space without any control which way you're facing. Most of the time, as Murphy's photo law would have it, you end up looking out in space with your body facing away from the subject.
“As you can see, I'm hauling out another 60 meters of rope on my harness since I had to rappel close to 400 feet down the rock face to shoot Alex. Ascending ropes with a ton of gear is a great way to get in shape! My favorite part about this image is that I had no idea I'd just shot my first cover image for National Geographic magazine.”
—Jimmy Chin, National Geographic emerging explorer
Related: Jimmy Chin’s Blog
The Soul of Coffee
Photograph by Reza
National Geographic photographer Reza’s work marries visual storytelling with humanitarian heart, and has earned him several awards and distinctions, including the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérité and the University of Missouri School of Journalism Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.
The National Geographic fellow’s latest project, “The Soul of Coffee,” shines light on the lives of coffee workers across the world. His wife, Rachel, talked about the photo above, in which seasonal workers separate mounds of red coffee cherries, awaiting inspection.
“This plantation in Karnataka, India, has been operated by the Rodrigues family for four generations, as couples arrive from different regions to work here during the coffee cultivation season. Husbands and wives often work together in harvesting the cherries. There was an abundance of cherries on the terrace, and their gathering remained the subject of attention. Nothing bypassed the eyes and hands of these seasonal workers, as they are paid by the quality and quantity of coffee berries that are gathered and sorted out. An inspector passed by the mounds of these red cherries for a last verification. After his approval, the coffee cherries are stocked in sacks. When it is time for them to be weighed, each name corresponds to a weight and the amount collected. The cherries were then carried on to be washed before being separated from their core, leaving us with the coffee bean.”
On Thin Ice
Photograph by Borge Ousland, National Geographic
Subzero temperatures and encounters with Arctic predators are everyday hazards to National Geographic grantee and polar explorer Børge Ousland. In 1997, he made history as the first person to cross the Arctic unassisted. Since then, Ousland has journeyed to both of Earth’s Poles and successfully circumnavigated the North Pole.
Here, Ousland and a polar bear lock eyes through a tent opening during an expedition to Franz Josef Land in Russia.
“We wanted to do the entire Nansen and Johansen journey, so we started at the North Pole on the first of May, 2007 and skied south. That meant that we had to cross more than 1,000 kilometers of drifting ice just before we reached land. This was a huge undertaking. After about one and a half months, we finally saw land. When you’ve been away for a long time on the packed ice, that’s a great moment—a really magical moment with lots of feelings. When finally we came to the ice edge, the ice stopped and was just water. We skied and also paddled from one island to the other.
“We were in the middle of June now, so everything was melting around us. But there was also much more wildlife than we have in the winter. The sky was just filled with birds like mosquitoes, breeding on every cliff we went by. And also, of course, lots of polar bears. We met about 40 of them on this expedition, and when you meet a polar bear out skiing that’s fine. You see them at a distance normally, and you have time to sort out who is the boss. But when you’re in your tiny little tent trying to sleep, with this thin fabric between yourself and those padded footsteps outside, that’s not always so easy. And [team member] Thomas, he’s a snorer—he snores quite a lot. But that is not enough to scare away a polar bear. It happened sometimes when we opened the zipper in the morning, there was just this big wide piece of fur standing outside.”
Photograph by Michael Christopher Brown, National Geographic
When he isn’t traversing the Alaskan wilderness, competing in a 100-mile ultrarun, or delivering a powerful presentation about his many hikes, adventurer and National Geographic grantee Andrew Skurka is planning his next great trip. His expeditions have taken him as far as 7,775 miles at a time—on foot. Hikes like this require foresight, and Skurka always travels prepared. Here, he stops to try on a new pair of shoes at a post office in Cordova, Alaska.
"After my parents, the United States Postal Service played the most important role in my trip logistics. Food, supplies, maps, and fresh gear were all sent in Priority Mail flat-rate boxes, addressed to General Delivery. I'm still not sure how a 12-pound box of food can be shipped from Massachusetts to bush-village Alaska for just $15, but I don't want to question it. Receiving new shoes, a stack of crisp maps, pounds of chocolate, and (if I was lucky) some homemade cookies from Mom was one of the most cherished experiences of the trip."
—Andrew Skurka, National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee
Related: Circling Alaska in 176 Days
In the Realm of the Rain God
Photograph by Jesus Lopez
Archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Francisco Estrada-Belli has settled at the crossroads of exploration and preservation. With the aid of GIS and remote sensing, Estrada-Belli works to uncover the buried truths of ancient Maya society by locating and studying archaeological sites. In 2010 he founded the Maya Archaeological Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Maya heritage in Guatemalan schools. The grantee’s extensive research has brought him to Peten, Guatemala, where he currently studies early Lowland Maya civilization in the ancient Maya city of Holmul. Here, Estrada-Belli poses beside a carving of the rain god Chaak, a significant find in the world of Preclassic Maya archaeology.
"In this photo I am looking with a bit of stupor at this wonderful carving of the rain god Chaak. It once adorned the front of a Maya pyramid at the site of Dos Aguadas, in northeastern Peten, Guatemala. It was deeply buried by later pyramids, and the only way we had been able to find it was by digging a deep tunnel through the rubble left by looters. I was very surprised to see this carving because it was not the image of a Maya god I was expecting.
"Most Preclassic Maya pyramid carvings we know of (a handful, for sure) are decorated with images of the sun god in human or birdlike form. This is a completely different example and adds an important new element to our understanding of Maya religion and the meaning associated with pyramids. It appears that this pyramid and site was an important place of worship of the rain god, dating to the first century B.C.E. It is my goal now to find more of these images so we have a fuller picture of which gods the Maya worshiped in their pyramids as they developed their fascinating culture.
"This is an amazing find for us Maya archaeologists, because it shows that we have much more to learn about Maya religion and culture, especially in regard to the early periods. For me, it was an incredible stroke of luck, because the carving was perfectly preserved and full of details that I am now studying. As a final and personal note, I think it is a neat coincidence that I should find an image of the rain god. In my decadelong work in this remote part of the Maya jungle, I had to work through many difficult rainy seasons, including a few severe floods. In 2002, I was actually struck by lightning, but by some miracle survived with no permanent damage (that I know of). So, I am very happy to see good old Chaak up close and say thank you."
Photograph by Jim Harris
Earlier this year, nomadic Mongolian cattle herders and their wolverine neighbors shared an unforgiving spring with conservationist Gregg Treinish. For nearly a month Treinish and his team of four scaled rugged terrain to track wolverines, record natural phenomena, collect potential DNA specimens, and maintain a regular audio blog—all between dreams of warm toes, chocolate, and potato chips. Here, the emerging explorer measures wolverine tracks with expedition member Jason Wilmot. Below is an excerpt from Treinish's audio journal.
"Hi, this is Gregg with our update. Our current location is 51.482 degrees north and 99.863 degrees east. We’re at 5,893 feet. We had a slow day getting started today, but it was amazing coming down a frozen river with big canyon walls on both sides. We found two fresh sets of wolverine tracks today and picked up five hairs and two scats. It was another pretty spectacular day.
"I think the highlight for everybody today was when we got down to the main confluence for the day, we encountered the spring migration of the nomadic people of the Darhad, who were coming from Lake Khövsgöl and going into the Darhad Valley. There were probably three hundred head of yaks, sheep, goats, cows, and horses. It was spectacular to see. We had the amazing treat of being invited into a ger, sitting down, and being fed makh or meat (it was sheep), traditional breads, and a type of tea that’s pretty creamy with mutton in it. Delicious.
"We’ve made decent progress today. You’ll see if you plot our coordinates that we’re about halfway up this valley. We’re really trying to balance food with the distance we have to make. Coupled with slow progress because of faceted snow, which is really deep in places where we’ve got to punch through it, it just takes all the strength and time that we have to get through. So that has been a challenge. And warm temperatures have also raised some concerns for us.
"Overall, we have been doing great with wolverines. Every single day we’ve been out here has really been a huge success."
—Gregg Treinish, National Geographic emerging explorer
Photograph by Kenneth Garrett
Paleoanthropologist, National Geographic grantee, and Rolex laureate David Lordkipanidze is no novice in the art of skepticism; he has been challenging conventional knowledge of human origins since 1991. It was then that he and a team of archaeologists discovered a collection of 1.8-million-year-old apelike hominid remains in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia—remains nearly a million years older than contemporary scientists thought possible in that region.
Lordkipanidze’s involvement in the ongoing Dmanisi excavation has produced unprecedented insight into the primitive lives of these early hominids. Here, he and fellow scientists carry the remains of an early Homo erectus. Lordkipanidze suspects the contents of the crate they hold may shed light on the earliest traces of a very human trait: empathy.
"We humans are really very interesting in our origin. I would say that human evolution is a mystery. From my childhood, I loved crime stories. I really adored them. My profession somehow resembles a crime story: to find answers to questions which are buried in the ground.
"One tiny spot in Georgia helped us to reconstruct a very important episode of our human evolution: Dmanisi. In ‘91 during the last day of our excavation, by chance, we found our first human bone. This was a human jaw. It was really a very big surprise that has challenged prevailing views. We could definitely say that the answers of the questions—who left Africa when, and why—have been challenged. We brought new information saying that it happened much earlier, that they were much more primitive, and that it was no necessity to have sophisticated stone tools to spread out of Africa.
"What we really want to learn is, who were these people and what were they doing? To reconstruct a crime story, it helps to put puzzles together. For example, we had this find a few years ago. It was a complete cranium—the skull and jaw—that had no teeth. For at least two years, this individual lived without teeth. How could we explain this? Maybe we can see human behavior … something that is human emotion. We can see traces of compassion. Let’s say that Dmanisi helps us to bring up new issues and also stories not told.
"What is most important, I would say, is to look to the future. To look to the future and to bring the new generation into our field and into science in general. I’m sure among these kids there are some new heroes who could give us new evidence about human evolution."
—David Lordkipanidze, National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration grantee and Rolex laureate
Ray of Hope
Photograph by José Alejandro Alvarez
Isla de Plata, an island off the coast of Ecuador, is home to the Machalilla National Park. This hub for marine research is where conservation biologist Andrea Marshall, founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, leads her team in discovering new and conserving known manta ray species. While this National Geographic emerging explorer has seen her fair share of rays in the surrounding waters, Marshall views every encounter as a breathtaking experience. Here, on a day with particularly high manta activity, she shares a dive with her favorite gentle giant, nicknamed “Super Manta” for an S-shaped propeller scar on its back.
"There are days where we encounter over 70 giant manta rays as they aggregate in the shallow bays of this island. On this day, as we descended on our dive a particularly inquisitive manta ray, almost six meters in wingspan, came to greet us. She spent over 20 minutes playing in our bubbles, posing for photographers, and allowing me to collect various measurements and samples for our research program. She was perhaps one of the most friendly and tolerant manta rays I have ever encountered.
"What struck a chord was that, like most mantas in this region, she bore wounds that suggested that she had been struck by a boat and cut up by its propeller. She also had an old rusty hook embedded in her flesh and old scarring from past net entanglement. Despite all of the anthropogenic pressure that she had endured in her life, this animal was still so gentle with us, still so tolerant of our presence. Manta rays are among the most inquisitive and engaging animals in our ocean. With the largest brain-to-body ratio of any fish, its social nature is more reminiscent of marine mammals than other fish species. Encounters with these gentle giants are life changing. I study them for a living and every time I see one it literally takes my breath away.
"But these iconic animals face countless threats from man, and growing fisheries for their valuable gill rakers threaten to wipe out even the largest known populations. Like many of the incredible megafauna species of the world, manta rays are now vulnerable to extinction. The common threat for each of these species? Mankind. Unable to claim ignorance anymore, mankind must now hold itself accountable for its actions. Without swift and focused change, our devastating crimes against the environment will be our lasting legacy to the planet."
—Andrea Marshall, National Geographic emerging explorer
Your Parrot May Already Have a Name
Photograph by Soraya Delgado
While studying green-rumped parrotlets in Venezuela, National Geographic grantee Karl Berg discovered an incredibly rare behavior—the adults appear to "name" their young. Berg’s long-term study of parrotlets is beginning to shed light on some important questions about parrot communication. With each new season, more is sure to be revealed.
"We recently discovered that parents use slight variations in their calls for different offspring. Baby birds appear to recognize specific calls designated for them.
"Parrots have been difficult to understand in the wild, but the study site has specially built nests which allow us to record video and audio of social interactions between siblings and parents. These green-rumped parrotlets (Forpus passerinus) have been studied intensively for the past quarter century, which means we know the age, parents, grandparents, aunts, first cousins, friends, and enemies of each individual. This knowledge allows us to record their vocalizations in some very specific contexts.
"Parrots have long been icons of mindless mimicry, but the question has always been: What are they communicating about to each other? Are they born with this ability or do they have to learn it? If they have to learn it, do they need to be taught how to use it?"
—Karl Berg, National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee
Related Video: Do Parrots Name Their Babies?
Steady Hands and Fins
Photograph by Jennifer Hayes, National Geographic
Exploring the world's waters, National Geographic photographer and Rolex ambassador David Doubilet has photographed in the depths of such places as the southwest Pacific, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Tasmania, Scotland, and the northwest Atlantic. Here, he explores a shipwreck that has been turned into an artificial reef. His work has taken him to freshwater ecosystems such as Botswana's Okavango Delta and Canada's St. Lawrence River. He has photographed stingrays, sponges, and sleeping sharks in the Caribbean as well as shipwrecks in the South Pacific, the Atlantic, and at Pearl Harbor.
“What separates humans from other animals is not just an opposable thumb, not just our ability to create electric trains or build buildings; we have this extraordinary appreciation of beauty. Given the right moments, we also have an extraordinary ability to destroy things. There are a million scientific reasons why we should save a tiger, or a tiger shark, and they are real reasons. But ultimately, the bottom-line reason is because it is beautiful.
"The ocean is beautiful. A coral reef may arguably be the most beautiful environment on the face of the planet. It's a place that's flooded with light, yet has the most intense colors of any other environment on the planet. We can't destroy this; we have to hold onto this thing and pay attention. “
Related: Photos: Toxic Nudibranchs
Shadow of Everest
Photograph by Ed Viesturs
National Geographic grantee and Rolex ambassador Ed Viesturs has done what most folks would consider impossible; he has summited all 14 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. He is one of the few elite climbers in history to accomplish this feat. In 1997, he became the first non-Sherpa to summit Everest five times and survive. He has now summited Everest seven times.
"On the morning of May 23, 1997, I was making my way up toward the summit of Everest, once again, via the Southeast Ridge. We began our ascent at 10 p.m. from our high camp at the South Col. Exactly one year earlier, I had reached the summit for a fourth time as the climbing leader of an IMAX film team. Recalling the consequences of the crowding on the final summit ridge in 1996, we decided on this expedition that an early start from camp would be a great way to get ahead of the others who were hoping for a summit ascent the same day. Leaving camp well before midnight allowed us to be very high on the mountain at dawn. At about 27,800 feet, as the sun rose, I looked to the west and witnessed this beautiful phenomenon of Everest’s shadow, a perfect penumbra, on the landscape. Thankfully, I had the strength, patience, and clarity of mind to stop and take a photo. My mittened hands and the subzero temperatures made keeping the camera steady a huge effort. At the time I was still using a film camera and it would be weeks before I could see if the photo turned out. I still consider it one of my favorite shots and it will always bring back great memories of my fifth ascent of Everest on that beautiful day."
1,000-Mile Baja Trek
Photograph by Justin DeShields
On February 2, 2013, Bryan Morales and Young Explorer Grantee Justin DeShields departed on foot to traverse one of the most arid, alluring, and misunderstood frontiers in North America—Baja California. Carrying a surfboard, survival equipment, and cameras of all types, they are documenting every step of the adventure.
“Whoever said trudging through the desert all day, every day, for two months sounds like fun? Compound that with a 50-pound pack, a surfboard lashed to your back, and a shadeless, windy coast—sounds like a punishment from the Dark Ages. In the last 60 days we've dodged hundreds of cars, fallen down crumbling coastal bluffs, been attacked by a coyote, and suffered through blisters. Only when we stopped using our car and traversed on foot were we able to access parts of Mexico's Baja Peninsula that few humans have ever laid eyes on. Our surfboard keeps the morale up when we're down!
“With 600 miles behind us, we have left the sea and are heading inland to cross the peninsula at the Sierra de San Francisco. We'll hike trailless mountains of volcanic rock, cactus, and oasis before ending up in the Gulf of California. In the town of Mulege, we'll begin a new chapter in our human-powered journey as we exchange our backpacks for stand-up paddleboards and traverse the next 600 miles of the peninsula along the Sea of Cortez.”
—Justin DeShields, Young Explorers grantee
Seeking a Solo Ascent
Photograph by Lonnie Dupre
In January 2013, climber and Rolex Laureate Lonnie Dupre attempted to be the first to solo ascend Alaska's Mount McKinley (Denali in native Athabaskan) in the dead of winter. Dupre huddled in a snow cave for seven days, waiting for high winds to subside, but the window of stable weather he needed to continue to the summit never came. He will try again in 2014.
“For as long as I can remember, I have loved snow and ice. As a result, I have spent most of my life exploring the Arctic region. These journeys have brought such joy and beauty to my life that I have dedicated myself to helping preserve these wonderful frozen places. More than ever before, I am driven to share my passion for the Arctic, a region whose health and stability have far-reaching consequences for us all.
“I have been fortunate to have traveled and explored much of our world’s frozen places and shared those experiences with folks back home. These regions have a special place in my heart. In the Arctic, climate change has already altered the lives of the Inuit and animals dependent on sea ice, such as the polar bear and walrus, that face extinction.
"For explorers safety comes from knowledge and thorough planning. One thing explorers can’t do anymore is plan accurately for what weather they may encounter—and knowledge of climate is what keeps you alive. We no longer have stable weather on this planet, which will make it difficult for future expeditions.”
Photograph by Bryan Smith
In the summer of 2010 National Geographic grantee Bryan Smith led a team of whitewater kayakers on a monthlong expedition to Russia’s remote Kamchatka Peninsula. The team made source-to-sea descents on several previously un-run rivers, working with a diverse team of scientists, NGOs, and locals to help demonstrate the importance of Kamchatka’s river ecosystems to the long-term survival of wild salmon.
"Probably the most surreal place I have ever paddled in my life. As we entered the Karimskia River in the Kamchatka Peninsula of far eastern Russia, we were mesmerized by an active volcano that kept erupting every 30 minutes. It took us two hours just to paddle a kilometer of flat water because we were gazing at the stunning scenery. This was just the start of what would become a four-day journey through one of the last truly wild places on Earth."
—Bryan Smith, National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee
Photograph by Jeff Kerby
In the thin mountain air of the Guassa plateau in the Ethiopian Highlands, ecologist and photographer Jeff Kerby joined anthropologist Vivek Venkataraman, a young explorer, on a 2011 expedition to study the interactions between gelada monkeys and Ethiopian wolves.
"The open expanses of Ethiopia’s Afro-alpine grasslands make perfect playgrounds for juvenile gelada monkeys. Their constant chattering, play fighting, and terrible coordination are enough to divert the attention of even the most hardened field observer away from more pressing project goals.
"This young male caught my attention at the end of a long day Vivek and I had spent searching for wolves. Sitting atop a giant lobelia plant he was uncharacteristically relaxed as he gnawed on an unpalatable, latex-filled leaf. We shared a brief moment, captured here, where a mature gaze eclipsed his youthful playfulness. As soon as I clicked the shutter he promptly flopped backward off the plant, rolled awkwardly after falling about a meter, and then ran off to bite his sister."
—Jeff Kerby, photographer on expedition with Young Explorers grantee Vivek Venkataraman
Canopy in the Clouds
Photograph by Drew Fulton, Canopy in the Clouds
The tropical montane cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica, have over 750 species of trees, approximately the same number as occur in the entirety of the United States. In 2011, tropical ecologist Greg Goldsmith traveled to these beautiful forests looking to provide a comprehensive perspective of long-term change in tropical montane cloud forest dynamics.
"I study tropical montane cloud forests. Although they occur all over the tropics, they are one of the world's rarest ecosystems. The circumstances necessary to have a tropical mountain cloud forest don't occur very often—you need tropical mountains where there is constant cloud cover. These forests capture a lot of this cloud moisture, and the plants and animals that live in the forest depend on them for their survival. They're also a source of freshwater for many of the people living around them.
"I'm really interested in how changes in climate affect the survival of cloud forest trees. My research has shown that plants actually respond very dramatically when it starts to dry out.
"One of the major predictions is that cloud cover in many tropical montane cloud forests will decrease due to global warming. I think these forests are a really interesting test case for climate change because they seem to be so sensitive to even small changes in weather.
"The research that I'm doing makes me concerned about the future of this forest and whether this amazing ecosystem will survive past our lifetimes."
—Greg Goldsmith, National Geographic Society/Waitt grantee
New Orleans’ Ninth Ward
Photograph by Caroline Gerdes
In 2012, New Orleans native and storyteller Caroline Gerdes began creating an oral history of that city’s Ninth Ward. By compiling the stories of longtime residents—people who braved the devastating 1927 flood, saw jazz legend Fats Domino get his start, witnessed the struggle for civil rights, and survived Hurricane Katrina—she hopes to preserve this historical and culturally important district before it’s too late.
"My subjects have stayed in touch since the months following the interviews, as more stories come to mind and holidays pass, so I wasn’t surprised when I received a package in the mail. Oral history subject Charles Capdepon had sent me a small bag of blessed fava beans in anticipation of upcoming Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19. This is a real-life example of the customs and kindness I am trying to preserve.
"St. Joseph’s Day is a dedication to St. Joseph, who prevented famine in Sicily. The holiday was observed in the Ninth Ward with altars in churches or homes that had been blessed by a priest. Intricate breads and pastries were baked and decorated for the offerings. Of the ten or so American cities with St. Joseph’s Day observations, New Orleans boasts the largest. In the early part of the 20th century, the Ninth Ward was the epicenter for the holiday, as it was home to a large number of Sicilian immigrants."
—Caroline Gerdes, Young Explorers grantee
Ireland's Lucky Seals
Photograph by David Thompson
In 2012 on an island off southwest Ireland, Michelle Cronin set out to continue a study on grey seals on Ireland's continental shelf. By placing GPS tags on adult gray seals, Cronin hopes to understand the spatial overlap between these top marine predators and commercial fisheries.
"The relief amongst the team was palpable—only minutes earlier we were all racing toward a herd of over 1,000 adult gray seals on a remote beach on an island in the wild Atlantic, off southwest Ireland. Our mission: to capture and tag eight males, using a 'rush and grab' approach. We stormed the beach from the sea by Zodiacs, taking the seals by surprise. The chaos that ensued increased our chances of capture. We were after males this time—a daunting task considering they weigh up to 300 kilograms (over 600 pounds). Following capture, I drugged the seal and in his sleepy state seized the moment to glue a GPS tag to the fur. As the glue dried I breathed a sigh of relief, savored the privilege of being so close to a wild animal amidst the beauty of the Blasket Islands, enjoying the camaraderie of the team, and put in an order for a cup of tea.
The weeklong tagging expedition—exciting, challenging, nerve-racking, and fun—will result in months of data on the seals' movements and foraging behavior. It's the biggest colony at the edge of their range in the northeast Atlantic. The tags will contribute valuable information to assess their range and conservation status and help us understand their interactions with fisheries, a contentious issue globally."
—Michelle Cronin, Global Exploration Fund—Northern Europe grantee
Photograph by Joe Riis
Deep in the remote Wokomung Massif in the Pacaraima Mountains of Guyana, photographer Joe Riis joined herpetologist Bruce Means on a 2012 expedition to study pebble toads and look for new frog species.
"This is a female pebble toad or Oreophrynella macconnelli. It's the only arboreal toad in the world that climbs trees, with handlike front and back feet.
"The tiny pebble toad was climbing up toward me, like they often did during this expedition. However, this time was different; it stopped and turned to look back down the branch. Meanwhile I was able to make one picture, which looks likes it's waving to the viewer. I love this picture; it brings a smile to my face and my mind back to this expedition every time I see it!"
—Joe Riis, Young Explorers grantee
Photograph by Jim Hellemn
While exploring the Bloody Bay Wall off Little Cayman Island in 2012 to chronicle its biofluorescent creatures, marine biologist David Gruber felt the strange sensation of stepping into his backyard and beholding an unknown and surprising universe.
"Just a few hours after this photo was taken, darkness fell and I descended down the sheer face of the coral wall, along with teammates Jim Hellemn and John Sparks. The wall drops 1,000 feet, but we hovered at just 90, capturing the large biofluorescent mural that now appears in the traveling exhibit ‘Creatures of Light.’ On that evening, we unwittingly photographed many cryptic biofluorescent animals whose secret light had never before been glimpsed by human eyes.
Fluorescent proteins from marine species have already provided science with one of its most valuable tools for illuminating processes in living cells and neurons. So when it was announced that President Obama’s administration is planning to launch a decade-long initiative to map the human brain, I was inspired by new possibilities. Just as biofluorescence plays many roles for corals and fishes in their dim, blue-lit world, it may also come to play a greater role in understanding how our own brain cells communicate.
For example, as a thought pops into my head, my neurons fire (a process illuminated to science by biofluorescent tags decoded from the DNA of marine organisms). I imagine a role reversal: a pair of Warteye stargazers (Gillellus uranidea) exploring Greenwich Village with special lights and cameras, trying to discover how we communicate so as to better understand themselves. This planet is full of unsuspected biological connections and we are just beginning to explore the bioluminescent and biofluorescent universe under the sea.”
—David Gruber, National Geographic Society/Waitt grantee
Going Back in Time
Photograph by Cheryl Zook
In the vast Colorado River Delta, National Geographic fellow and freshwater conservationist Sandra Postel had the opportunity to survey its current state while keeping a picture of its former glory in mind. Despite the cracked earth and desiccated landscape, the Delta still survives and Postel has hope that if we give it more water, life will return.
"Occasionally, a moment in the field takes you wondrously back in time.
That happened to me last week, as I traveled across the vast delta of the Colorado River in northwestern Mexico. Our team traversed miles and miles of desiccated landscape. The sun beat down on cracked earth. No vegetation—or water—was visible as far as my eyes could see. I took in what the once lush and vibrant delta had become in the era of big dams and massive water diversions.
But then, heading east, we suddenly come upon an aquatic Eden. Cattails reach for the sky along the banks of a labyrinth of lagoons. American coots glide along the surface. On the sandbars, black-neck stilts do their circus walks and long-billed dowitchers poke into the mud for snacks. Off in the distance a clapp-clapp-clapp signals the presence of the elusive and now highly endangered Yuma clapper rail.
Suddenly, I am transported back to 1922, when the great conservationist Aldo Leopold canoed through the delta’s marshes. I savor a tiny taste of the “milk and honey wilderness” and “land of a hundred green lagoons” that he described. The river that for Leopold was “nowhere and everywhere” as it meandered its way toward the sea was long gone. But here in La Ciénega de Santa Clara’s 14,000 acres of marshes—amazingly sustained by spent farm water—was a precious reminder of the delta’s former glory. La Ciénega speaks of resilience. The Colorado Delta, once presumed dead, still lives. And the more water we give it, the more life will return."
—Sandra Postel, fellow
The Rim of Africa Mountain Passage
Photograph by Jay Simpson
Storms, the sweltering African sun, river crossings, and limited access to water were all challenges that Jay Simpson overcame to be the first person to walk the entire 400 miles on the Rim of Africa Mountain Passage in 2012. Halfway through his trek, he snapped this picture of Henry Fletcher, who hiked part of the passage with him, and recorded the moment below.
"I awoke at first light feeling the sun on my face and sleeping bag. There was something out of place— a sound like a vacuum cleaner— that drowned the typical wild melody of birds. I spot a pesticide tractor weaving a cloud of grey mist in the rows of grape vines, its mechanical whine echoing over the valley. I hate the sound and its control and dominance over a landscape I had come to see as free and wild. The group of hikers I joined agree that it is time to leave the valley. We walk through apple orchards with the trees transplanted in lines, their bodies restrained against posts and guide wire, their limbs trimmed, their buds sterile.
oil masked as vine
constrict, choke, and cleave the wild,
how sweet is our loss?
We leave the farm roads, dig our boots into the soil and quickly find ourselves walking through the bush again. Our erratic, spontaneous path takes us higher and higher until we are back walking the spine of the ridge line. We never meant to walk this high. The noise of the pesticide tractors is lost in the wind and the ground underfoot is now free from manicured perfection. Up here we find the scent of the clouds and the untamed inside us."
—Jay Simpson, Young Explorers grantee
Then and Now
Dereck and Beverly Joubert have been filming and researching African lions since the 1980s.
From Teddy Roosevelt hunting African rhinos, to rangers protecting them today, compare National Geographic magazine photographs.
Technological advances allowed submarines to stay on the ocean floor for many hours, compared to minutes.
Photographers transition from using film cameras, to digitally stitching multiple images together.