I hope this message finds you healthy and happy this holiday season. 2015 has been quite a year for Vanguard, and we have a lot of exciting things in the works for the future. So I wanted to look back over a few highlights from the past year, and update you all on what's ahead in 2016/17. I'd also like to extend my sincere gratitude for all the hard work and hours my team has invested into the ongoing evolution of The Steep N' Deep Project. It means the world to me and I'm honored to be working with such an amazing group of professionals.
So in chronological order:
We started out the year with an opportunity to present the SN'D Project concept to the Director of High Performance at Red Bull's Global Athlete Development Program. We were very well received and we are continuing to craft our proposals for how we can collaborate and utilize RB's human performance expertise to train our expeditionary diving team as high altitude athletes.
Wilderness Medical Society
In February, we were invited to attend the winter conference of the Wilderness Medical Society in Park City, Utah by WMS CEO Dr. Loren Greenway. The generosity of my friends Grace Tazewell and Levant Tinaz enabled us to accept the invitation and fly 4 of us out to the conference. Accompanying me on the trip were my partners Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj, Bourton Scott and Gareth Carr. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and met some of the dedicated medical professionals who make up the WMS membership while participating in several courses, lectures and skill assessments. Through discussions with Loren and others, we outlined a training concept for an expeditionary Dive Medical Technician program we are developing with WMS and others. We have also recently brought a new team member on board to help us create this program and serve as our expedition medic. Thank you to Loren and the rest of the Society for making this such a great experience, and a special thank you to Grace and Levant for making this important trip possible.
University of Utah
While we were in Salt Lake City for the WMS Conference, we took the opportunity to discuss glacial science and the Steep N' Deep Project with my alma mater, the U of Utah. We spent the morning meeting with various members of faculty, the Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, and Dr. Ken Golden - a brilliant researcher and Antarctic explorer. After lunch, Ulyana gave a talk about her dissertation research in the Himalaya, and I introduced the SN'D Project to my old professors and their current students. It was a great experience and we were even offered a book deal by the university press! Pretty exciting. Thank you to Dr. Marjorie Chan for setting this up.
Marine Debris Removal
Once spring rolled around, we wanted to get a jump on cleaning up the mass amounts of garbage that had accumulated along the Lake Ontario shoreline over the winter. So Carly Brenner, Gareth Carr and myself organized a volunteer shoreline cleanup and trash removal dive in Toronto. We made some new friends with Vancouver Aquarium, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.
The cleanup event was filmed by Bell Media for an episode of Crowded and we removed a truckload of junk in a matter of hours. This was the start of another environmental project we are working on focused on recovering abandoned fishing nets and traps from the coastal waters of British Columbia, and elsewhere.
Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj established Black Ice Himalaya and the Sherpa-Scientist Initiative (SSI) while completing her PhD fieldwork in Nepal. Her concept was to train the Sherpa mountain guides she was working with to assist with data collection and other science-related tasks in these extreme environments. We have teamed up to expand the capabilities of the Sherpa-Scientist Initiative and explore the mysterious depths of Nepal's glacial lakes. We are collaborating with Midwest ROV LLC, OpenROV and Deep Trekker to investigate these unstable lakes from the inside out.
We are currently among the top contenders for a very prestigious grant to make large strides with SSI. Our plan is to run 3 science expeditions into the Himalaya over 18 months to investigate 3 separate glacial lakes and train the first Sherpa ROV pilots through a combination of classroom and field sessions. We intend to provide several OpenROV underwater exploration robots to these mountain communities. We will teach them how to build, operate and maintain the bots, and gather useful subsurface data from glacial lakes in the Sagamartha/Mount Everest region. Our field team will also include 2 graduate students from Nepal and the US to encourage international collaboration for climate change adaptation.
In addition to the Sherpa-Scientist training program, we are developing other Camp-to-Classroom educational programs to engage students around the globe in science and exploration. We aim to build interactive curricula that teaches academic concepts in the context of exploration, adventure and individual participation. From piloting an ROV in a Himalayan glacial lake via remote linkup, to experiencing the awesome applications of science and mathematics via expedition media, we hope to offer students an alternative to traditional word problems and the other stuff that makes kids think learning is boring, or unimportant.
Licancabur Volcano Diving Expedition
We have made a lot of progress over the past year building a framework to mount our expedition to dive the world's highest lake atop Licancabur volcano on the Chile/Bolivia border. Due to the momentum we're rapidly gaining on the glacial science aspects of The Steep N' Deep Project, we are focusing our energy on the Sherpa-Scientist Initiative in 2016, and must therefore push the Licancabur expedition to 2017. Licancabur planning, preparation and fundraising will continue to be a major part of our efforts in 2016. The added time is also helpful for coordinating with government agencies, chamber trials, equipment testing and other necessary components of this expedition.