The Pacific Ocean: Is It Really True That One-Third Of Young Americans Can’t Find It?

Pacific OceanWhile reading fellow Gadling blogger Chris Owen’s post about a Twitter mix-up between Chechnya and the Czech Republic, I was horrified to read that one-third of young Americans can’t find the Pacific Ocean.

I was horrified, but not surprised. I taught for several years in a community college and no amount of public ignorance surprises me anymore – not after a student handed in a paper stating that Iraq and Afghanistan were cities.

But I’m always suspicious of statistics. It’s a well-known fact that 85 percent of all statistics are wrong, so I emailed Chris and asked for his source, which turned out to be the Around the World geography project. They cite a National Geographic study that found 29 percent of U.S. 18-24 year olds couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on an unlabeled map.

Looking at the original study, it turns out they got it wrong. “Only” 21 percent of those quizzed couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean. The 2006 study quizzed 510 Americans aged 18-24 on a number of geographic issues. The one that concerns us here was a blank map test to see if the participants could correctly point out certain countries and geographic locations. Boundaries were clearly labeled; they simply needed to match the shape and location with the country or ocean.

The Pacific Ocean wasn’t the only hard-to-find location. A staggering 63 percent couldn’t find Iraq, despite near-constant media coverage. Closer to home, 50 percent couldn’t find New York state. Check out the link to read more disheartening statistics.

I suppose we could blame the educational system, but 48 percent of the participants said they had a geography class sometime between sixth grade and senior year, so I suspect the blame lies with parents for not instilling a desire to learn about the world and the young Americans themselves for not realizing this information could be useful.

When I was discussing this post at the breakfast table my7-year-old scoffed, “I know where the Pacific Ocean is!”

I decided to test him. He correctly pointed out the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean and Red Seas. I stumped him on the Sea of Azov, though. Can’t let him get too big for his britches.

Of course he enjoys a key advantage – parents who channel his natural childhood curiosity into learning about the world around him and foster an enthusiasm for exploration and discovery.

In other words, we give a shit about his education.

[Image of the Pacific Ocean courtesy NASA]

National Geographic Expeditions Celebrates 125th Anniversary With New Travel Options

National Geographic Adventures offers new tours for 125th anniversaryExactly 125 years ago today the National Geographic Society was officially formed. Its founders set out to create an organization “for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge” and considering everything that Nat Geo has accomplished over the years, I’d say they succeeded. The Society will celebrate this important milestone in a variety of ways throughout this year, including adding a number of special itineraries to their award-winning travel service, National Geographic Expeditions.

Exploration and discovery have long been at the heart of what drives the National Geographic Society forward and the trips that they have scheduled to celebrate their 125th anniversary reflect those values quite clearly. All told, there are ten itineraries to choose from, ranging from a seven-day excursion to Mayan ruins with Nat Geo grantee William Saturno to a 38-day epic journey through South America that includes stops in eight countries. Other options include a visit to East Africa to spot primates and a sailing adventure along Canada’s wild coast. There are even four specially designed photographic adventures that combine amazing destinations with photo workshops. Those destinations include places like the Grand Canyon, Tanzania and Morocco.

Of course, many of these itineraries are available from competing travel companies, often at a lower price. But what sets the Nat Geo Expeditions tours apart are the amazing men and women that you’ll have the opportunity to interact with along the way. For instance, on the photo expeditions you’ll hone your own skills by learning from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, while the other trips are led by NG Explorers-in-Residence, writers, biologists and more. These extraordinary people can provide experiences and insights that simply can’t be found elsewhere.

Checkout the entire list of National Geographic Expedition tours on the company’s website and help Nat Geo celebrate its 125th anniversary in style.

[Photo Credit: National Geographic]

National Geographic jumps into the adventure travel arena

National Geographic announces 11 new adventure travel options The very name National Geographic evokes images of adventure and thoughts of exciting journeys to far away places. The iconic Society has probably done more to inspire travel than any other single entity ever. Several generations have grown up gazing at breathtaking images in the organization’s popular magazine and reading about daring explorers on those beautiful, glossy pages. Now, in what seems like a long over due move, Nat Geo is throwing its hat into the adventure travel ring, announcing 11 unique trips that will offer a compelling mix of cultural and physical activity with some of the most stunning scenery on the planet as the backdrop.

The aptly named National Geographic Adventures have itineraries that are sure to appeal to any adventure traveler. For instance, they offer a 15-day trek through the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that takes you to the 23,997-foot Chomo Lhari – the most sacred mountain in the country. If you prefer your trips keep you closer to sea level however, then perhaps the 9-day Alaska excursion would be more to your liking. That trip features sea kayaking and whale watching in Glacier Bay National Park. Meanwhile, backpackers will likely be enthralled with the 14-day hike through Chile’s stunningly beautiful Patagonia region. Other itineraries take travelers to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, on safari in Tanzania, and across Mongolia on horseback.

Each of the itineraries has been specifically crafted with the help of a National Geographic expert, who has applied their knowledge of the various regions to create a series of trips that are unlike any other. Those trips come with an activity level rating, with easy, moderate, strenuous, and “ultimate challenge” options available. Accommodations range from luxury tents to quaint mountain lodges and inns, and the group size is capped at just 16 to ensure the best travel experience possible.

To find out more about these new adventure travel options, click here, and for the full line up of trips from Nat Geo, check out the National Geographic Expeditions website as well.

National Geographic maps available on new GPS device

National Geographic maps avaialbe on the Active 10 TREK GPS deviceEarlier this week National Geographic announced that it was joining forces with Satmap to release a handheld GPS device that offers support for a range of maps from their library. The collaboration of the two organizations means that backpackers, hikers, and adventure travelers will have an electronic version of Nat Geo’s award winning Topo!, Trails Illustrated, and AdventureMaps in the palm of their hands for the first time.

The Active 10 TREK is a fully featured GPS device that has been on sale in Europe for some time, but makes its way stateside thanks to this partnership. It comes fully loaded with U.S. and World base maps, which offer a solid level of detail for the average user looking to navigate between landmarks. But the device also supports expansion through the use of SD cards, and that is where the National Geographic maps come into play.

Nat Geo has already made 14 of their Topo! map guides, which contain USGS topographic map data, available for use on the Active 10. Those maps cover Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, the Mid-Atlantic region, Montana, Nevada, New England, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The rest of the states and other regions of the U.S. will be made available in the first quarter of 2011. Additionally, three of the Trails Illustrated maps are available as well covering California’s Sierra Nevada, the Southern Appalachians and America’s “Greatest National Parks.” Entries into the AdventureMaps category, which includes international destinations, will be added in the future as well. Topographic map packs are also available for most Western European countries too.

The actual GPS device clocks in at an MSRP of $369.99 and each of the National Geographic Maps SD cards run $99.99 each. The complete line of products launched this week and is already available online. Click here for more information on the Active 10 Trek and here for a look at the various maps packs that are currently available.

This combination of the Active 10 and the Nat Geo map packs should be a great tool for adventure travelers. The National Geographic maps are packed with information and preset points of interests, which make them perfect for navigation in a variety of remote locations around the world. The device has plenty of nice options as well, including a long battery life, a bright, color screen, ruggedized construction, and a fast processor, all of which help to ease the navigation process. I know I’d certainly enjoy finding one of these under my tree this holiday season.

Indiana Jones exhibit whips up international tour

He’s everyone’s favorite fictional archaeologist. Even real archaeologists, once they’re done nitpicking his lack of scientific technique, usually admit that they love the guy. Now Indiana Jones is the subject of a new international exhibition.

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition will open at the Montreal Science Centre on April 28, 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the first movie in the series. Tickets are already selling fast.

The exhibition will include clips and memorabilia from the movies, as well as an educational component to show the public that archaeologists don’t generally carry bullwhips and get into fights with evil cults. My own Masters program offered no classes on bullwhip technique, but that lecture I attended on Aztec human sacrifice certainly convinced me that not all religions are created equal. On one excavation I got too close for comfort to a Palestinian viper and nearly had a 3,000 year-old wall fall on me, so it’s not all libraries and dusty museums.

The educational portion of the exhibit is being planned by Frank Hiebert, the Archaeology Fellow for National Geographic. Real archaeological artifacts from Quebec and around the world will be on display and visitors will learn the painstaking processes archaeologists use to piece together the past. It’s not as exciting as being chased over a rope bridge by sword-wielding cultists, but it’s still pretty cool.

Interactive displays will explain some of the myths behind the movies such as the stories of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition will run from April 28 to September 18 before going on an international tour. Not all dates and locations are set, so check the official website for updates, and stayed tuned here to Gadling.

[Photo courtesy user Insomniacpuppy via Wikimedia Commons]