Adventure in 60 Seconds: This Week in Exploration
Text by Tetsuhiko Endo
At the NG Adventure Blog, our reporting often focuses on adventurers of leisure–people who test themselves against Mother Nature in dogged adherence to the George Mallory school of philosophy: "Because it's there." Risk and reward for these modern thrill-seekers is high, but measured on a mostly personal scale. However, there is another class of adventurer for whom the stakes are often higher, the odds longer, and the prestige much less. These are the vocational adventurers, people who tempt fate every time they punch the clock.
Among this intrepid, yet under appreciated crew are crab fishermen, war correspondents, emergency aid workers, and most pertinently, the people who are currently trying to fix what could turn out to be the worst ecological disaster of our time, the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. A few days ago, BP engineers lowered a cap onto the underwater oil leak that is designed to divert the flow of some of the crude to tankers sitting on the surface, roughly a mile overhead, reports the BBC.
However, this measure is only designed to alleviate a problem that can't be fixed by engineers alone. The fate of the gulf, its coastal inhabitants, and perhaps large parts of the Atlantic Ocean now rests in the hands of roughnecks. For those unfamiliar with the term, "roughneck" loosely refers to anyone who works on an oil rig. When everything is running smoothly, it's among the most dangerous and thankless jobs in existence. In times like these it embodies the old adage: "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it." The job in question is the drilling of "relief wells" to the bottom of the original, leaking well. Once either wells reaches its target, mud and cement will be pumped into it in order to plug the the leak. The roughnecks drilling the relief wells work for Transocean, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig whose collapse caused the problem in the first place. Read about their mission at the New York Times .
In climbing news, the Himalaya season came to a close this week, while the Karakorum season kicked off. In one final tragedy, Mount Everest claimed the life of British climber Peter Kinloch who succumbed to frostbite and exhaustion after summitting. As with so many who perish on Everest, his body remains on the mountain with no definite plans to remove it (www.timesonline.co.uk). The danger in climbing that mountain might actually be increasing, reports the BBC. Environmental studies and anecdotal evidence from Sherpa who worked on the mountain this year show that rising temperatures have caused less snowfall and more glacier melt than years past. As far as summitting is concerned, this means more exposed rock faces and more technical, vertical climbing.
In the Karakorum, climbing is only half the battle for Swede Frederik Ericsson who is planning a ski descent of K2. To put this into perspective, K2 is the second highest of the 8000'ers and the most difficult to climb. As opposed to the 5,000 plus people who have stood at the peak of Everest, only 306 can say the same of the peak also known as the "Savage Mountain." As of 2008, 77 people had died on the mountain, meaning that, for every four people who summitted, one died. The only mountain with a higher ratio of summits to fatalities is Annapurna. But unlike Annapurna, K2 has never been climbed in the winter. One life not included in the 77 was that of the Italian skier Michele Fait, who was Ericsson's partner on the same mission to K2 last year. The attempt ended when Fait fell to his death while skiing down the Cessen route from Camp 2 on a practice run before the summit attempt. This year, Ericsson has partnered with the American, Trey cook in hopes of putting the ghosts of last year to rest and completing the first leg of his mission to summit and ski the three highest peaks in the world. If things weren't hard enough, he will be climbing without supplementary O2, with his skis on his back, and in alpine touring ski boots. Follow him on his blog.
To round things out, we are going to take a quick peek at another overlooked part of the adventure world, the government. Government-sponsored adventure has declined since the days of the space race, or the race to the North Pole, for that matter, but it is by no means extinct. President Barak Obama, who has recently drawn criticism from some for his decision to make traveling the cosmos an endeavor run by private companies, was at Cape Canaveral this week to inspect the Falcon 9 rocket. This vessel, designed by the Californian company SpaceX, is trying to get the government contract that will allow it to shuttle astronauts to and from international space stations. However, as the BBC reports, it will have plenty of competition from rival companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Our second piece of political adventure took place in Hawai'i where Governor Linda Lingle issued an executive order establishing the beaches of Waikiki and all of the sand between Ali'i to Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu as "surfing reserves," reports the Australian surfing magazine, Stab. The idea behind this designation is similar to that established by the UN's World Heritage Sites.
- Nat Geo Expeditions