In Earth Explorers, several explorers are featured within the interactive experiences, giving you a glimpse into their everyday adventures. Learn about the daring people who venture into dangerous and remote parts of the world to discover new places, help protect our planet’s biodiversity and unearth new scientific discoveries.
Paul Nicklen, biologist and photographer
Growing up in an Inuit village on Baffin Island provided Paul Nicklen with superb wilderness skills and a taste for raw seal meat. It also inspired him to share his love of Earth’s polar regions with the rest of the world, even as they undergo rapid transformations due to climate change.
Paul Nicklen has specialized in photographing polar regions since 1995. His work includes capturing ice diving among leopard seals in Antarctica, covering hundreds of miles of terrain in -40°F temperatures, and mastering aerial shots from his ultralight plane. A unique childhood among the Inuit in Canada’s Arctic and a professional background as a biologist in the Northwest Territories enables him to take on the most inhospitable places on our planet. His images reflect a reverence for the creatures inhabiting these isolated and endangered environments, and he hopes to generate global awareness about wildlife issues through his work.
Carsten Peter, photographer
When Carsten Peter set out on a cross-country bicycle trip at age 15, he began a lifelong fascination with interactions between biology and geology. On his first expedition, Peter unearthed fossils from a quarry and mailed them home for further study. One of the hottest locations he has photographed was the Cave of Crystals in Naica, Mexico. His hopes for future exploration are infinite.
“First of all, there’s still a lot to explore,” Peter said. “Sometimes it sounds as though everything is explored, but actually if you solve one question, you have 10 new ones. We will never get to an end of exploration. Exploration can begin in front of your doorstep.”
Steve Winter, photographer
Since Steve Winter started taking photographs at age 7, he’s been exploring the world through a camera lens. He has been stalked by jaguars in Brazil, charged by a grizzly in Siberia, and trapped in quicksand in the world's largest tiger reserve in Myanmar. He's flown over erupting volcanoes and visited isolated villages where residents had never before seen a blond foreigner — or a camera.
“I did a reconnaissance trip to test the terrain for the snow leopard project,” explained Winter. “Ice needs to be one foot thick to walk on it, and I fell through and got hypothermia. But fear is what saves us. Fear is good! To be somewhat fearful is to make you intelligent. Trust in my team members is also mission critical. I couldn’t work with dangerous animals if I didn’t have trust in the people I’m working with.”
Sarah McNair-Landry, adventurer and cinematographer
Sarah McNair-Landry and her brother Eric have explored the Arctic for months at a time, covering huge distances by walking, dog sledding, kite skiing and even kayaking. McNair-Landry’s earliest adventures began right in her own backyard above the Arctic Circle.
“I grew up with a team of dogs and the Arctic Ocean in my backyard," McNair-Landry said. “At the age of 10, my brother Eric and I decided that we wanted to head out on an overnight hiking trip, all by ourselves. So for the week leading up, my parents made us practice and prove that we could light the stoves, work the radio, and camp outside by ourselves on our back porch. Once we had proven our skills, Eric and I got to head out on our camping trip. We continued to head out for longer and longer trips, which eventually led to multi-month expeditions."
Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
When ocean conservationist Enric Sala dives into unexplored areas of the sea, he never knows what he’ll find. While diving near the Southern Line Islands in the Pacific, Sala discovered a paradise where sharks are so abundant that they account for 85 percent of the biomass.
"When I was a kid I watched documentaries with Jacques Cousteau, who showed us this amazing marine world,” Sala said. “When I started going into the ocean, I realized that this world wasn’t there anymore. We had taken too many fish out of the ocean. But then one day I dove in a marine reserve where fishing had been restricted and I saw the fish had come back. I understood that there was hope.”
Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
Ever since Sylvia Earle was knocked over by a wave on the Jersey Shore at age 3, she’s wanted to know more about the power and mystery of the ocean.
“I consider a dive into the ocean—even in 10 feet of water, let alone 10,000 feet—a dive into the history of life on the Earth, because essentially all of the major divisions of life are there," Earle said of her lifelong fascination with the ocean. “Even in a bucket of water you can get as many divisions of animal life as you can in the richest rain forest. The ocean is alive—no ocean, no life. No blue, no green."
Michael Fay, conservationist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
Step by step, data point by data point, conservationist Michael Fay provides proof of degraded ecosystems and the inspiration needed to protect unspoiled regions. After walking through a spectacular rain forest corridor connecting Congo and Gabon, Fay successfully lobbied for the creation of 13 new national parks. For Fay, exploration is conservation, and National Geographic has supported his work since 1986.
Michael “Nick” Nichols, photographer
Sometimes called “The Indiana Jones of Photography,” Michael “Nick” Nichols first learned his craft when he was drafted into the U.S. Army’s photography unit in the 1970s. He soon developed his own form of combat photography by risking life and limb to advocate for rare and endangered species. The Megatransect is an epic expedition Nichols and conservationist Michael Fay undertook to study and preserve vast swaths of the Central African rain forest.
“You can have a Megatransect in your own backyard,” Nichols said. “You can study box turtles in Virginia and have a great effect on what happens to box turtles. You can study the stream that runs closest to your house and you’re going to find out what affects that stream. None of this is out of reach.”
Kenny Broad, environmental anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer
From the moment Kenny Broad started scuba diving at age 11, all he ever wanted was to be “in or under water.” As a cave diver and environmental anthropologist, he is on a quest to understand connections between fresh water supplies, caves, and coastal communities.
“Take any opportunity to do something different, learn a new skill, and challenge yourself,” Broad shared. “The only failure is not trying. And remember—what comes around goes around, so be sure to share what you learn and help out your friends. It’s as fulfilling to be a team member as it is to lead a team.”
Broad enjoys exploring the Bahamas’ deep underwater caves, or blue holes, the diver’s equivalent of summiting Mt. Everest in the Himalayas. It requires the perfect blend of physical stamina, masterful diving technique, and sophisticated equipment, such as rebreathers that recycle a diver’s exhaled air.
Joyce Poole, behavioral ecologist and conservationist
Joyce Poole, who grew up in Africa and spent her school holidays on safari, knew at an early age that she wanted to study animal behavior when she grew up. She dedicated her life to researching elephant behavior and protecting these amazing animals through her organization ElephantVoices.
“My hope for the future is connecting individual people with individual animals,” Poole said. “If we want to keep all of these incredible species and the forests that give us air to breathe, we have to go out of our way. You don't have to see elephants in the wild to know that they matter. This whole web of life matters.”
Bob Poole, wildlife cinematographer
Filmmakers know Bob Poole as a Swahili-speaking cinematographer who will ride out dust storms, ford crocodile-infested rivers, and hike miles in the pre-dawn hours to get the perfect shot. As sister and brother who grew up in Kenya, Joyce and Bob made the perfect team for the nearly impossible: getting close enough to the jittery elephants of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park to make a film, after decades of poaching and human conflict had torn apart their world.
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