Hongu Expedition Video
Audio Slideshow: Glacial Lakes Risk Assessment
About the Project
NGS/Waitt grantee Alton Byers—working with The Mountain Institute (TMI), Hokkaido University, Japan; the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal; and the American Alpine Club (AAC)—launched a scientific field expedition to the remote Hongu Valley of Makalu-Barun National Park in eastern Nepal to scientifically assess the condition of nine glacial lakes that have grown significantly over the past 20 years as a result of global warming.
A range of field methods was used, and expedition results provided valuable insight to existing analyses of the valley based entirely on remote sensing. Lake 464, located at the base of Chamlang's precipitous north face, was considered to be of concern because of its size, depth, volume, terminal moraine, and potential outburst "triggers," such as overhanging glaciers or ice. Considerable damage to downstream population centers could be expected in the event of a flood (e.g., Cheskam and beyond).
The team made two trips to assess the dangers of the lakes in the Hongu Valley. Methods included analyses of features as they relate to the likelihood of outburst floods; determination of the altitude of lower limit of permafrost to analyze the relationship between permafrost and moraine dam integrity; paleohydrological and sedimentological assessments of possible overflow events in the past; bathymetric surveys of lakes; and interviews with local people.
The expedition also included an analysis of prospective downstream impacts in the event of a catastrophic glacial lake outburst flood between the upper Hongu Valley and the village of Cheskam, 31 miles (50 kilometers) to the south. Methods included the use of Terrain Unit Analysis to classify landscapes into probable damage categories; inventories of landscapes and infrastructure encountered and their sensitivities and vulnerabilities to catastrophic floods; and in-depth interviews with local farmers, shepherds, villages, and government officials.
More NGS/Waitt Grants Projects
- 10 Essential Accessories for the Drone Traveler
- Raven’s Perspective: Photos of a Science Expedition to the Sea of Cortez
- How Much Food Does a Thai Elephant Eat in a Day?
- When Ice Melts: Tipping the Scales in the Predator/Prey Arms Race in Antarctica
- ‘Clockwork Lion’ in London Cries, “Time Is Running Out for Big Cats”
- Video From a Whale Shark’s Point of View
- Earliest Cat Domesticated in China Was the Leopard Cat, Scientists Say
- Hanging Out With Sea Lions at Los Islotes
- Brink of Extinction: A Technological Approach to Saving the Last Vaquita Porpoises
- Individuals Matter Among Africa’s Wild Animals
Meet Our Explorers
To mark the National Geographic Society's 10,000th grant, experts have named Nat Geo's top grant projects since 1890.
Listen: Explorer Interviews
Listen to Nat Geo Explorer Interviews
Fascinating Conversations From Our Weekly Radio Show—Nat Geo Weekend
00:11:00 Bob Ballard
Boyd heads out of the studio to join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard aboard his vessel the E/V Nautilus. Currently in Turkey, Ballard tells Boyd about the many shipwrecks he is finding in the Mediterranean. You can follow Ballard and his team, live as they explore the ocean at www.nautiluslive.org.
00:06:00 Valerie Clark
National Geographic grantee Valerie Clark licks frogs for a living. As Clark tells Boyd, she’s not looking for Prince Charming. Instead, she is studying how the diet of frogs in Madagascar relates to the toxicity of their skin.
00:11:00 Lee Berger Audio
National Geographic grantee and paleoanthropologist Lee Berger has been searching for the fossils of human ancestors, but it was his 9-year-old son who stumbled upon the find of a lifetime: a partial skeleton that may very well change our understanding of the genus Homo.
00:07:59 Brad Norman
Some go swimming with dolphins or stingrays, Brad Norman, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and marine conservationist, talks about swimming with the largest fish in the world: the whale shark. Norman speaks with Boyd about his research concerning whale shark habitats, tracking and conservation.
00:11:00 Losang Rabgey
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Losang Rabgey has found her life's work in strengthening rural communities on the Tibetan plateau, which includes building schools to educate local students. Rabgey joins Boyd with updates on the successful work of Machik, the non-profit she founded and now directs.
00:11:00 Dereck and Beverly Joubert
National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert capture astounding images of African wildlife in their beautiful films. The Jouberts live in the African bush alongside the lions and other animals they profile. They explain to Boyd that, because big cats are in such danger, their work is now focused on conservation projects such as the Cause an Uproar program.
00:11:00 Nathan Wolfe
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and virus hunter Nathan Wolfe says there is a disease pandemic lurking just around the corner. But, we can prepare ourselves. Wolfe says there are even ways to harness and use the power of viruses. Wolfe joins Boyd to talk about his new book, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age, which is changing the way we think about viruses.
00:09:00 Joshua Ponte Audio
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Joshua Ponte was a successful young English entrepreneur when, over breakfast one morning, his eye fell on a newspaper ad that said "Gorilla Reintroduction Program, Gabon." His life has never been the same since. Pursuing his passion for conservation, Ponte moved to a central African forest where 13 orphaned gorillas were being studied. Boyd talks with Ponte about the joys and dangers of raising young gorillas.
00:11:00 Wade Davis
How did the death and destruction of World War One lead young British climbers to attempt an epic conquest of Mount Everest? National Geographic Explorer in Residence Wade Davis answers that question in his new book “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.” Davis joins Boyd in the studio to chat about the book.
00:11:00 Sylvia Earle
National Geographic Explorer in Residence Sylvia Earle has been deeper undersea than any other woman. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer, field scientist, and an inspiration to women around the world. She recently received the Royal Geographic Society’s 2011 Patron’s Medal. Boyd talks to Earle about some of her early dives in the Jim Suit.
00:11:00 Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner(blurb here)
00:08:00 Bruce Bachand
Many people picture archaeology as the swashbuckling adventure portrayed in the Indiana Jones trilogy. But in reality, it can be much more tedious than discovering the Holy Grail and fighting Nazis. National Geographic grantee Bruce Bachand has been meticulously sewing a 3,000 bead necklace back together in Mexico after discovering a pre-Olmec burial site that housed a tribal chief and his wife, undisturbed for several centuries.
00:09:00 Catherine Jaffee
Turkey is famed for its honey, which is music to Boyd's ears—he has a notorious sweet tooth. He visited National Geographic grantee Cat Jaffee, a beekeeper who left her job in Washington, D.C. to make honey in rural Turkey. She says that bees harvest pollen from their surroundings: the best honey comes from bees with natural surroundings, large meadows, rather than urban environments. Most people, Jaffee says, eat honey that is basically a synthetic mix of sugars from all over the world.
00:09:00 Elizabeth Lindsey
Most of human history existed before the advent of GPS technologies that can pinpoint where we are at any time. National Geographic Fellow and ethnonavigation expert, Elizabeth Lindsey has taken it upon herself to understand what it was like for Polynesian explorers to colonize tiny, remote islands across the south Pacific Ocean. To better appreciate the skills it takes to study the clouds and winds in search of land, Lindsey plans to join a team of Polynesian women who are island-hopping using traditional methods: no GPS, no cellphones and no compass.
00:11:00 Lucy Cooke