As Donald Trump this week weakened provisions of the endangered species act in a move that literally nobody asked for and few support, we retrospectively examine a few of the modern explorers charting some of the most remote and naturally pure locations in the world.
Oft travelled and photographed to death, the bottom of the canyon is in places so desolate and barren that few have ever truly travelled to its depths. Just over three years ago, two men took 71 days to document the state of the Grand Canyon in an expedition where they were barely supplied, and had to find fresh water every two days just to stay alive.
The 271 mile journey was undertaken to document an unseen side of the canyon, the walkable path that goes through the length of it. The majority of its visitors see it from above, peering down into the massive canyon. A smaller cohort see it from the perspective of the Colorado River as it cuts through the canyon. This journey documented the paths that the two men undertook on foot, crossing the entire expanse of the massive canyon. Because of the difficulty of charting a single, crossable path through a canyon cut through by a river, the pair ended up hiking more than 800 miles, factoring in the hiking that had to be undertaken to crisscross the water on their sides. The details of their journey can be seen in a recently released documentary.
Like Ansel Adams, who found his fame shooting expansive, massive shots, some of Adam’s most remarkable shots were those which captured a low depth-of-field, the trees and not the forest; so too is the journey different when the canyon is seen in its most personal, close enough to touch, to breathe in, but too close to snap a cell phone photo.
The Trump administration has rolled back restrictions on uranium mining in the canyon, threatening its pristine status, as well as the water supply for the majority of the population of the state of Arizona. As our global water supplies become more and more stretched, we as a society need to make important decisions over whether not only our precious water supplies, but our most treasured natural splendors, and perhaps even the survival of our species are worth the pittance of economic development that will occur from natural resource extraction, which happens to be occurring at the base of the water supply for three states.
The whereabouts of Amelia Earhart, famed female pioneer of aviation, have been one of the most tantalizing mysteries of American culture for the past half-century. Earhart disappeared at the tail end of a revolutionary global circumnavigation trip, with no sign of her whereabouts and has been missing since 1937. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, and claims to have some superior techniques for mapping the underwater landscape is now attempting to locate the wreck of the airplane, based on information that her plane may have landed
Amelia Earhart’s plane went missing while flying the very large gap between New Guinea and Howland Island in the South Pacific. There is speculation as of late that Earhart’s plane may have overshot Howland, a remarkably small US outpost in the south Pacific, during a time with no GPS and limited instrument navigation. She was assumed, at the time, to be flying in a Northwestern trajectory, so had she overshot it, she likely would have gone on to a Southeastern trajectory, aiming for the nearest island, Nikumaroro.
The island of Nikumaroro is also small, although it is actually larger than Howell island. At the time of Earhart’s disappearance, the tide on Nikumaroro was unusually low, making the flat reef areas an attractive site for an emergency landing. The variance in tides and intensity of ocean activity in the reefs there make it likely that if she did manage to land there, her aircraft would have been pulverized into the surrounding sea very quickly, explaining why it may have gone undiscovered.
There have been dozens of expeditions to the island in search of remains of her ship, yet this is the first with this level of technical expertise and equipment. Robert Ballard, whose most famous discovery includes finding the the wreckage of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic, using a submersible named the Nautilus, aimed to use the same technology and ocean floor combing techniques to scour the floor near Nikumaroro for signs of her craft.
Just last week, Ballard concluded his search of Nikumaroro island, searching the nearby reefs and underwater cliffs surrounding the island, speculating that the plane, and its much more durable pieces including the landing gear and engine, may have survived for the 80 years that have passed since the disappearance, and been pushed deeper into the depths by the volatile reefs. The Nautilus is now heading to Howell island itself to continue the search for any possible remains of her aircraft.
With oceans covering a majority of earth’s surface, and their depths mostly undiscovered, we need to maintain not only our respect, but a sense of wonder at the multitude of mysteries that lay beneath the surfaces of the ocean. Our species may be self-worshipping, and revel at our own achievements, but we have not even begun to conquer the earth or the space around it. The world is still very much a wild place, full of unexplored and unmapped locales, impenetrably deep and dangerous places, and life forms and vistas that humans have never before laid eyes on. We simply need to dare to seek them out.
Staff writer: Ari B.