Countdown to Zero     (7)

Gary Clarke is a Scottish DP (Cameraman) whom I’ve worked with a number of times. For example, he and I did the Gladiator episode of Into The Unknown together (with others, of course). And we did a fantastic show in Bulgaria about archaeology that become one of the “Lost Episodes of 1997.” You can read about it in the archives (Expedition #40).

Anyway, Gary sent me an email this morning about a new project he’s been working on called Countdown to Zero. Here’s the trailer, which I thought you might enjoy:

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Categories: Movies, Books, TV

The New Old Spice - Hilarious     (4)

I know this video premiered during the SuperBowl and went viral shortly thereafter, but I’ve been busy offline and haven’t had much time to write here. Now that I’m back (hi, everyone!), I thought I’d start up again with some humor.

When I was a kid, my dad wore Old Spice. Since then, I’ve always associated it with him (of course) and the nautical world of sailboats, navy peacoats and off-white turtleneck wool sweaters. (Perhaps that’s a result of 1970’s marketing campaigns…) Anyway, this new campaign for Old Spice starring Isaiah Mustafa has spread like wildfire. The clip on YouTube has been viewed over 18 million times, which is astounding.

Even more astounding is how this commercial was made—barely any CGI at all. When you have a spare 20 minutes, watch this clip and be amazed. Enjoy!


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Categories: Miscellaneous

Rest in Peace: Wes Skiles     (4)

I just read that Wes Skiles, a pillar of the cave diving and underwater filming community in Florida, has died. I don’t know much more than that at this point—only that he was diving for National Geographic off of West Palm Beach. So sudden. So unexpected. I was just reading National Geographic’s cover story on Bahamas’ Blue Holes—photography by Wes C. Skiles. While many of the divers I know have been acquainted with Wes for years, I just met him a few months ago at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride. He came to one of the breakfast panels that I was on and, afterward, we talked a bit about possibly working/diving together and he gave me his card. It’s sitting right here on the table next to my computer…

Technical diving is, as many know, a high-risk endeavor. I don’t think anyone in the diving community refuses to acknowledge that. Whether it’s in a cave or on a deepwater wreck, there’s little to no room for error. Last year, veteran diver Carl Spencer died while on a National Geographic expedition to the Brittanic. In Carl’s case, he made the mistake of breathing the wrong air mixture while at depth. I haven’t heard what led to Wes’ death—perhaps it wasn’t dive related at all. Perhaps he just had a heart attack. But the risks inherent to underwater exploration are well documented, so every diver knows what could happen when he or she enters the water. It’s just surprising (and sobering) when something like this happens to someone as experienced as Carl or Wes. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to dive together, Wes. Rest in Peace.

[Post Script—This article just turned up online and offers a little more info….]

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Categories: Diving Photography

Chasing Mummies: The Adventures of Dr. Zahi Hawass     (29)

I caught this promo yesterday and laughed with joy—Dr. Zahi finally has his own TV series! Mabrouk, Zahi!

The posters just went up in NYC this week, as History has begun promoting the July 14th premiere. From what we can see in this promo (and from what I’ve heard from my friends who were involved), it’s part archaeology, part reality-show, and part just-hold-on-and-see-what-Zahi-does. He truly is a man of boundless energy and I’m hopeful people respond well to the series. Lord knows he’ll love that attention.

I give History and Leslie Greif credit for making this happen, and for injecting a little fun into the project. The title alone sounds like a comic book—perfect for someone larger than life like Dr. Zahi.  Official site for the show is here.  Curious what you think of the show.

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Categories: Archaeology Movies, Books, TV

A Conversation with Dr. Tom Lovejoy     (3)

Looks like another Mountainfilm-related post… Go figure.  I just found out that my 13-minute interview with Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Heinz Center Biodiversity Chair, is online. Here it is:

Minds of Mountainfilm - Tom Lovejoy from Mountainfilm in Telluride on Vimeo.

You can also watch a fun conversation between Sarah Holbrooke and director Tom Shadyac here. “Spooky action at a distance.”  Love it.

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Movie of the Week: Gasland     (3)

You ever see buses or cars driving around with bumper stickers on them saying “this vehicle runs on clean natural gas”? Here in New York City, over 900 of the MTA’s 6,200 buses run on natural gas (and have that sticker). Well, natural gas may burn cleaner than diesel, but it’s certainly not a clean fuel to produce. Of all the films I saw at Mountainfilm last month, few left as strong an impression on me as Gasland. Here’s the trailer:

Filmmaker Josh Fox does a commendable job weaving his personal story through a quagmire of political bureaucracies, special interest groups, corporate greed and environmental short-sightedness. The film is playing tonight (June 21) on HBO. I suggest you make time to watch it and get involved in stopping hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from happening near you. For more info on HBO, visit this link.  For the official Gasland site, visit here.

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Categories: Environment Movie of the Week

Mountainfilm’s 2010 Symposium on Biodiversity     (5)

It’s been a busy few weeks for me—most of it spent in Utah at BOSS working on pre-season preparations. For some reason, I’m not as inclined to write/blog while there—I suppose it’s a retreat of sorts (which is good). But I enjoyed our 6th Annual Slickrock Gathering and then had a great retreat with my staff.

I’m now in Telluride, Colorado, where I’ve spent the last 8 hours on stage as the Master of Ceremonies for the Mountainfilm Festival’s 2010 Symposium. It was an honor and a privilege to spend time with some truly interesting and engaging people: Terry Root, Mike Fay, Nicole Rosmarino, Joel Sartore, Rick Ridgeway, Greg Carr, Maya Lin, Louie Psyihoyos, Dave Foreman and Tom Lovejoy.

Each of the 10 speakers was given 20 minutes to speak in addition to 3 25-minute panels where we took questions from the audience (and I asked a few as moderator). It was so fascinating and educational. My gratitude to the people at Mountainfilm for creating such a worthwhile event before the weekend of films and for making this year’s Symposium so significant.

Now I get to relax and enjoy the weekend of films!

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The Renewed Israel Museum: A Vision in the Holy Land     (4)

I’ve spent the last 5 or so days in Jerusalem to attend the Israel Museum’s annual International Council. Over 520 people from 15 countries have flown here to attend it—the largest Council ever. The reason for the record turnout and all the excitement? In just a couple of months, on July 25th, the museum will reveal the results of a three-year, $100-million renewal project. The attendees of the Council represent major donors, sponsors, supporters and others who have played a critical role in this project. As part of the Council, I was honored to visit the museum a little early to witness the final stages of the construction and hear about the design features from the people who led it (for photos of everything, see my Twitter feed and photos on Twitpic).

The entire project was, in large part, the vision of James S. Snyder, the museum’s director since 1997. Under his astute insights and careful watch, and with the architectural expertise and sensitivity of Jamie Carpenter and the people at James Carpenter Design Associates in New York, the entire campus has been revamped. Not only have so many of the old buildings been completely redone, but new buildings have been brilliantly inserted into the campus and the architectural elevations in a way that both improves the flow of the visitors’ experience and enhances the original vision of the museum’s design by Alfred Mansfield in 1965. Things that weren’t possible 45 years ago but are now possible today were done. For example, the windows that allow Jerusalem’s special light to come into the galleries couldn’t be transparent back in the 60’s because the UV rays of the strong sun in Israel could have damaged the artwork. But today, thanks to advances in glass technology and multi-layered filters, new glass panes (and therefore, new lighting) give each gallery and the artwork within an elegant glow.

In addition to straightforward changes like the glass, the campus has been reorganized, consolidated (in some places) and expanded (in others) so that building functions are more logical and the flow across the campus more efficient. Everything has been streamlined, important for an encyclopedic museum that sits on 20+ acres. In honor of the renewal, two unique pieces were commissioned by the museum. The first is a spectacular 9-ton Anish Kapoor piece entitled “Turning the World Upside Down [Jerusalem]” that reflects the sky to the ground and the ground to the sky. Honestly, it’s mesmerizing to walk around it and watch the reflection change.

You’ll find the second commissioned piece at one end of the all-new “Route of Passage” tunnel carved into the very bedrock of the hill. It’s an installation by Olafur Eliasson called “Whenever the Rainbow Appears” and will greet people as they approach the museum galleries from below-ground. I wasn’t able to see the real piece (only a temporary placeholder), as it hasn’t been installed yet, but the effect should be pretty incredible—a 50’ by 8’ spectrum of colors celebrating the rainbow that signified the covenant between God and Abraham in the Bible.

And then there are all the other exhibits in the newly refurbished wings and galleries of the museum, including the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing (my favorite). Honestly, if you ever find yourself in Jerusalem or even anywhere near the Holy Land, you should give yourself a full day or two to walk around the Israel Museum. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to return in late July for the official grand unveiling.

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Categories: Archaeology Travel

The Myth of Stress     (10)

My twin brother Andy’s first book came out last week! It’s called The Myth of Stress - Where Stress Really Comes From and How to Live a Happier and Healthier Life, and his website does an excellent job telling you all about it. The book outlines a process called ActivInsight that my brother created over the past 20 years.

In a nutshell, ActivInsight is a process that teaches you how to eliminate or greatly reduce stress by changing your understanding of where stress comes from and how, once you have this understanding, to better handle it. Like many of the more profound teachings in the world, it’s surprisingly simple and highly effective. I’m not trying to sell the process or his books; I just want you to be aware of them and to express how proud I am of Andy for creating this! If you’re interested in learning more, the links above can help. You can also follow links to order the book from the Myth of Stress website. Congratulations, Andy!

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Categories: Miscellaneous Movies, Books, TV

A Trip to The Holy Land     (5)

I’ve come to Jerusalem, Israel for 5 days at attend the Israel Museum’s 2010 International Council. Will have more to share in the days ahead.

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Categories: Dispatches

The Life Aquatic     (17)

Just returning from 10 days of technical diving in the Florida Keys. Dive trainer Richie Kohler, and co-instructors Gary Mace (of Conch Republic dive shop) and Cliff Diamond (of Empire Divers in NYC), were running a course for the past 10-days, and I tagged along for the fun.

As I’ve mentioned on Twitter and here, I need a certain number of hours on my CCR (closed circuit rebreather) in order to take the next level of training, so I had 8 days of diving with no real agenda except to enjoy the dives on the reefs and wrecks of the Upper Keys. Places like Conch Wall, Davey Crocker, and Molasses sprang to life with everything from large Spotted Eagle rays, Nurse sharks, Sea turtles and Goliath Groupers to small Sergeant Majors and nudibranchs like the Red-Tipped Sea Goddess. And then there were the artificial reefs—the wrecks!—that make diving the Keys so fun. I dove the Bibb, the Duane, the Spiegel Grove, the Eagle—enjoying the swim-throughs on some and doing proper wreck penetration on others (Note: you must be trained for this). And then yesterday, on my final dive, Richie and I went on a fantastic dive into the very bowels of the Bibb, heading as far aft as one could, to the deepest part of the ship. We suspect no one has been in that room since the ship was sank on November 28, 1987.

All in all, it was a truly memorable trip, and I’m hopeful I can do even more fun diving later in the year—including drysuit dives so I can start exploring Arctic waters. And, yes, I need to get an underwater camera so I can share more of the experience. Will do so before my next trip. Stay tuned…

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Categories: Diving Fun & Games Travel

Diving the Keys     (5)

In Tavernier, Florida (near Key Largo) for 10 days of CCR (Closed Circuit Rebreather) diving. Will post photos and update blog when able—long days of diving, as I need to log 30-40 more hours on my CCR unit to qualify for the next level of training. More to come, including tweets on Twitter throughout the day.

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Categories: Dispatches

Hero of the Month: Captain Don Walsh     (20)

On January 23, 1960, US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard descended to the bottom of Challenger Deep—the deepest spot of the Mariana Trench—in the Trieste bathyscaphe. The descent took almost 5 hours, at which point the Trieste touched down in a cloud of silt, roughly 35,800 feet below the surface. After 20 minutes on the bottom, Walsh and Piccard ascended back to the surface (which took 3 hours and 15 minutes). Their accomplishment has not been repeated by another manned vessel since, and their success has influenced a half-century of oceanography and deep-sea exploration.

Last week, 50 years after the Trieste and its crew completed their historic mission, Capt. Don Walsh and the children of Jacques Piccard (who died in November, 2008) came to Washington, DC to take part in a number of ceremonies and celebrations. The first was a dinner hosted by The Explorers Club’s Washington chapter on Tuesday evening at the Cosmos Club. On Wednesday afternoon, a reception was held on Capitol Hill to acknowledge H.R. 1027, a resolution passed on Jan 23, 2010 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the descent. On Wednesday night, in a private ceremony at National Geographic’s Hubbard Hall, Capt. Walsh received the Hubbard Medal, the highest honor from the National Geographic Society for “distinction in exploration, discovery, and research” and the U.S. Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award.

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Navy welcomed a small group of guests with the Walsh and Piccard families to the Washington Navy Yard, where Capt. Walsh spoke (among others) in front of the Trieste.

After a brief lunch, Capt. Don Walsh, oceanographer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Tim Shank of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, engineer Graham Hawkes of Hawkes Remotes, and officials from NOAA and the NSF hosted a press conference at the National Press Club to discuss the past, present and future of ocean exploration. And finally, on Thursday evening, 500 people gathered in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to again celebrate and honor the achievements of Walsh and Piccard. In front of the supportive crowd, Capt. Walsh was given the Administrator’s Award, NOAA’s highest honor.

I attended most of the above events and had the good fortune of spending a surprising amount of it with Capt. Walsh and his family. Through it all, I was deeply impressed by Capt. Walsh’s tremendous accomplishments over the past 50 years (see this list) and deeply touched by his humility while receiving so many awards and so much recognition. He took time to answer everyone’s questions. He stayed late at every event. He took pictures with anyone who asked (including me). For all of these reasons and many, many more, Capt. Don Walsh, USN (ret) is my Hero of the Month.

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Categories: Diving Hero of the Month News & World Events

NYC & The Explorers Club     (11)

I’ve returned to NYC to present a seminar at The Explorers Club on Tuesday evening. The topic is “Explorers & The Media” and my talk will give members of the Club a sense of the media landscape today (as far as exploration goes). The seminar, like all member seminars, is for Explorers Club members and their guests only. I expect I’ll have 30 or so people in the Trophy Room.

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Categories: Dispatches

Back in DC     (4)

I’ve returned to DC to support Captain Don Walsh, legendary oceanographer, deep-sea explorer, and Honorary President of The Explorers Club. More on the celebrations and fanfare later. Will tweet along the way.

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Categories: Dispatches

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