I’ve been at sea for the past three weeks on an expedition I found both fascinating and inspiring. You can read details about it at http://www.bezosexpeditions.com/updates.html.
It has been an honor and a privilege to participate in this endeavor.
Currently at sea, finishing up 3-week expedition. Details to follow.
NOTE: This talk has been rescheduled for Tuesday evening, June 18 at 8:15pm. The link below still works. For people who purchased tickets for the original February 10 date, your tickets will be honored on June 18th. See you there!
I’ll be giving my annual talk at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 8:15pm. Hope you can attend! Tickets can be purchased using this link.
I’m not the first to point out that the spam ‘bots of the web world have infiltrated this site over the past year. It’s been frustrating for me, too—every day, more and more irrelevant, inappropriate and sometimes offensive posts have been appearing on the Message Boards. After careful review and discussion with techies, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the ability to become a member of the site. We’ve also frozen posts on the boards in an effort to get things under control. Over the next week, we’ll go through all the discussions and delete spam posts. My apologies is we accidentally delete a legitimate post or ban a valid member - we’re doing our best.
In 2013, JoshBernstein.com will undergo a proper overhaul and upgrade - for now, though, we’re doing what we can to just stop the spam and make the current posts easy to read without distraction.
The deepest point on the planet, called Challenger Deep, is located in the Mariana Trench, about 310 miles southwest of Guam. It is 36,070 feet (10,994m) deep and the bottom was first reached by Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe Trieste on January 23, 1960. The story of their descent and the entire Project Nekton are both fascinating. But what’s perhaps even more fascinating (or puzzling) is that no one has returned to Challenger Deep since. For over 50 years, that record stood and, with the passing of Jacques Piccard in 2008, Captain Don Walsh is now the only man on the planet who can claim to have been there. Until perhaps this week.
Things are now brewing in Guam. James Cameron (director of Titanic and Avatar) has recently announced the DeepSea Challenge, a venture backed by a number of organizations, including National Geographic and Rolex. Check out the official website- it’s pretty awesome. So is James Cameron. The man is a tireless and passionate explorer, having made over 76 deep-water submersible dives, including 33 to Titanic. For the past eight years, he has been working with his team of experts (including Captain Walsh) to build the DeepSea Challenger submersible. It looks like a huge green torpedo, vertically suspended in the water. The main website for the endeavor has tons of great content, including a remarkable letter from James Cameron to Captain Walsh after he completed an 8000m test dive.
The team is now making its way to the Mariana Trench, and Captain Walsh is on board. Fingers crossed all goes well!
Most New Yorkers are aware of the 92nd Street Y and how prestigious their educational programs are. Given this, I’m pleased (and proud) to share that I’ll be speaking at “The Y” on Sunday, November 20th, at 7:30pm.
My talk is titled “Around the World in 50 Minutes” and will be a lecture / slideshow of my travels around the planet. Tickets can be purchased via this link. Hope to see you there!
I’m excited to report that I’ll be delivering a keynote address to students at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York on November 8th. If you’re in the area (or on campus) I hope to see you there!
As some of you know, I’ve always been protective of my private life, keeping personal matters out of interviews over the years. That said, I feel it’s important to share some news that, while extremely personal, is big enough that those of you who take the time to keep up with what I’m doing will appreciate hearing it from me.
Obviously, my writing / blogging has been sporadic in recent months. This was intentional, as my energies and attention have been elsewhere for much of July, August and September. The reason? Well, in September, at what had to be one of the most magical and elegant weddings in recent history, I got married!
I’ve decided (with my wife, of course) to keep the details of the wedding and the subsequent honeymoon private, but thought I’d share at least this one photo so you could appreciate the nature of the event and the absolutely picture-perfect quality of the ceremony itself. The wedding was in Jerusalem, Israel, a place that has always been very special to me and is now even more so. The guest list was relatively small and we intentionally avoided any media attention.
The wedding itself was special beyond words.
There’s so much more to this trip in Iceland than I can write about. Truthfully, it’s been hard to keep up, as this time of year it’s easy to be outside doing things until 1 or 2am each night. However, this evening’s experience was the perfect end to my 8-days here leading/guiding a trip for Delta Airlines. Thanks to someone who will not be named in print (but you know who you are), I was put in touch with Iceland’s First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff. She and I traded e-mails for a few weeks with the hope that I could make a special visit to Bessastaðir, the President’s residence, with my group. At the last minute, everything came together and this evening I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting Iceland’s President, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.
I first heard President Grimsson speak at The Explorers Club’s Annual Dinner in March, 2005. However, that was to a group of 1000 people at the Waldorf=Astoria. Tonight, it was just me, my group of 18 clients, and the President himself (and his dog Samur).
We had a fantastic time discussing our journey in Iceland, how amazing everything had been, and the special quality of the country. And, of course, we learned a lot about the challenges he faces as the country’s president given the economy and global market fluctuations. All in all, it was an amazing week and I think that I’ll have to return one day with a camera crew in tow so that I can properly document everything all over again. For now, though, I encourage you make the trip to Iceland!
In my continuing quest to fully-explore Iceland and experience all it has to offer, I decided to go whitewater rafting down the Hvítá (pronounced Kveetau) River. Hvítá means “white” in Iceland and for obvious reason — it can churn. But this trip, which I did with the people at Adventure.is, was pretty accessible. The trip began at the Drumbó River basecamp, where I was given a huge BBQ lunch and then the appropriate gear for rafting. Basically, I brought thermal fleece underwear and they provided the rest — waterproof Farmer John-style overalls, booties, helmet and paddle. I then boarded a bus with a large group of fellow participants to the put-in area on the Hvítá. Once there, we went through a basic introduction to whitewater rafting and paddling technique, followed by some in-water practicals. These lessons were about the same as others I’ve gotten in Colorado or Costa Rica: quick, efficient and fairly focused on giving clients the basic moves and commands. Once my boat was under some semblance of control, we took off downriver.
The day was overcast with a slight drizzle, so not the best conditions for appreciating Iceland’s rugged beauty. But it was glorious nonetheless and we all had a fun, if not frozen, time. After 45 minutes of splashing down the rapids, everyone in my boat was pretty chilled. The water, after all, was glacial—the same 37 or so degrees that I was diving in a few days earlier, only this time, we weren’t wearing drysuits. Thankfully, the activity and adrenaline helped.
Two-thirds of the way down the route, the guides steered us through a narrow canyon with 50 foot walls on either side and then into a small eddy where we could climb onto shore. For those intrepid enough to try, we could jump off the cliff and into the water at either of two heights: the lower 25-foot jump or the higher 50-foot jump. I opted for the higher jump. I mean, I’m here, right? Might as well get the most bang for my buck.
The technique, we were told, was to jump straight out from the cliff and keep our arms down by our sides. Then, as we plunged into the water, kick and pull like mad until we broke free of the current and reached the boats on shore. Here you can see someone jumping, and in perfect form.
Unfortunately, the person taking pictures missed my jump, but you get the idea. I have to say that the water wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. By the time I hit it, I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body that I was pretty oblivious to anything else. But I swam to shore, climbed up the bank, and jumped again just to make sure I really appreciated every moment of it.
We then paddled downriver some more and returned to the buses and Drumbo Basecamp, where we could shower and put on dry clothes. Perhaps not the ideal activity for those who like to avoid getting wet or being cold, but I found it thrilling and heartily recommend it. I also recommend a nice dinner in Rekykjavik afterward.
One can’t really spend much time in Southern Iceland (near Reykjavik) without doing the Golden Circle Tour. It would be like going to New York City and skipping the Empire State Building. So today I went for a drive from Reykjavik through Thingvellir until we got to Gullfoss Waterfall, the first stop. Gullfoss means “golden falls” and I suspect the name comes from the way light plays in the mists above Europe’s largest waterfall.
The volume of water is truly awesome, in the literal sense, and one can’t watch the pounding rush of the Hvita’s glacial waters and not feel something special for Iceland’s landscape. Should you go, make sure you take the extra 40-minutes needed to hike out to the edge of the falls, where you can see people in this picture. It’s a simple hike and SO worth the trip.
From Gullfoss, we left the comfort of the highway for the fun and thrill of some off-road driving. In Iceland, they call these vehicles “Super Jeeps” but they’re really Super Land Rovers that are ultra-modified to drive on dirt, snow and lava — and through water. Again, if you ever get the chance, it can be a thrilling way to travel. My favorite part was crashing through the door-high riverbeds.
The next destination was the geothermally-active valley of Haukadalur. The landscape looks very much like Yellowstone National Park - hot pools of bubbling, geothermal water pockmark the landscape and there’s the definite smell of sulfur in the air. The two main attractions are Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir is where the English word geyser comes from—this is the namesake of all erupting springs. The Icelandic word geysir comes from the Old Norse “geysa” which means to gush. Truth is, Geysir herself doesn’t do much gushing these days, but Strokkur delivers a spectacular explosion of geothermal water every 5-10 minutes.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how suddenly it erupted and how high the water column reached. It’s similar to Old Faithful, only more frequent and not nearly as crowded. Definitely a thumbs up.
After a morning of looking at glacial and geothermal water, it was time to get closer to the Hvita river. In the afternoon, I went whitewater rafting, but that’s for another post.
For those of you who SCUBA dive, here’s an unique opportunity and something to consider doing when you come to Iceland: dive between two continental plates. Once I found out about this, I simply had to do it. To make it happen, I contacted Tobias Klose and his team at Dive.Is, The “Sport Diving School of Iceland.” Hossi, the general manager, made things very easy to coordinate.
This afternoon, Tobias himself picked me up at my hotel and we made the drive out to Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir is a site worth visiting in its own right—the location where the world’s first parliament was held. It’s a magical place to walk around—something I did a few years ago for an episode of Digging for the Truth. But on this trip, we headed to Silfra, a site at the northern end of Lake Thingvellir.
The dive started just after 7pm, which would be late for most dive trips. In Iceland, though, one can do this as it really doesn’t get dark this time of year. So we got in the water at 7:20pm and, for those curious, it was COLD. This is definitely drysuit not wetsuit diving. According to my dive computer, the water was 36.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 degrees Celsius). Thankfully, the Waterproof suit I was wearing was up to the challenge, as it’s a proper arctic drysuit.
We descended into the water using a ladder that I’m guessing Dive.is and other dive companies installed to ease access for clients. Once in, we swam just a few feet to a spot where, if you wanted to, you could dive down about 15 feet and stretch your arms out so that you could literally touch two continental plates at the same time. It’s the only place on the planet, I think, where you can do this! Thanks to the ever shifting nature of plates, the gap separates about an inch more each year. In 15-20 years, it may be harder to span the distance with your arms, but for now it made for a fun experience:
Once that was done, the rest of the dive was just a swim along the channel, south to Lake Thingvellir. Before we got to the lake (max depth approx 375 feet), we turned east and swam into a shallower section of mostly broken rocks and algae.
My average depth for the dive was 20.8 ft, max depth of 47.5 ft. What was truly astounding, though, was the visibility. The water in Lake Thingvellir comes from glacial water that is filtered through volcanic soil for over 50 years before it comes up into the lake through springs. This makes it essentially the cleanest, purest water on earth. The cold temperature and purity combine to create the greatest visibility I’ve ever dove in — they say you can see 300 feet in the lake, and I believe them. In the past, my best viz dives have been in the caves and caverns of the Yucatán Peninsula, but this completely blew that away. And what was even more interesting was that if you wanted to, you could drink the water while diving by letting it slip past your (slightly frozen) lips on your regulator. Again, I can’t stress just how much fun this dive was. Next time I’m in Iceland, I’m planning to go back to Silfra again just for the thrill of it.
I’ve come to Iceland for 8 days of work, which is really play, as my job this week is to set up and then guide a trip for some of Delta Airlines most valued clients. I arrived Monday morning and the group arrives Friday morning. My challenge—create an unforgettable 72-hour experience for 18 or so people who have never been to Iceland before. My plan—to fill our days with whale watching, Super Jeep tours, white water rafting, horseback riding, and finally, the Blue Lagoon Spa. Oh, and there’s a surprise at the end that’s pretty awesome. It’s going to be one truly amazing adventure. There will be FB posts and tweets along the way, so stay tuned!
I’m in Fort Worth, Texas, attending the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) Annual Conference. Tomorrow, I deliver the Dr. Susan Kronheim Memorial Lecture. More info here.
I’m writing this from the airport in Belize City. I’ve just spent the past week here in Belize, scouting and having fun exploring the jungles and caves in the region for an upcoming project. (More on that later.)
Belize gained independence just 30 years ago, in 1981. Before that, the country was British Honduras. As a result of that heritage, English is the national language (the only country in Central America where this is the case) and it’s a very traveler-friendly place for those who don’t know Spanish. There’s also a fascinating mix of cultures in Belize, a real melting pot of Kriol, Mestizo, Garinagu, Chinese, Mennonite, Maya and American influences. If you’ve never been, I’d definitely recommend it.
This is my third trip to Belize and certainly the most active. I was here with Curt Bowen, Walter Pickel, Jon Bojar, and Eric Deister — divers / explorers from the ADM Exploration Team. Our goal was to informally scout the country, evaluating possible sites for future dive expeditions. Of course, those would have to be done through appropriate government agencies and, most likely, archaeologists in order to get permits. But for this week, we just hiked through the jungle a bunch, studying the terrain of the central lowland Maya and getting a feel for the topography, geography and geology of the country. Many bushwhacked miles, ticks and bug bites later, we all feel like the week was worthwhile and a lot of fun. Hopefully, we’ll return later in the year for a more thorough exploration when, ideally, we’ll dive some caves. For now, though, I’m happy to let the bug bites heal and get back to the US for a bit.
"JoshBernstein: @epmasia "PNG Mummies" was my favorite episode of Into The Unknown. Thanks for working on it!"
17 May 2013 | 7:11 am
"JoshBernstein: @apriledmonds Thanks, April, for listening and the tweet!"
17 May 2013 | 7:10 am