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]

Explore Papua New Guinea Through The Lens Of A Photographer

Looking to improve your photography skills while exploring one of the world’s most beautiful countries?

Asia Transpacific Journeys
recently launched a new photo excursion tour of Papua New Guinea, led by renowned photographer Michele Westmoreland. Called “Papua New Guinea Through The Lens,” the 12-day adventure journeys from Port Moresby to Mount Hagen, Kumul, Nondugi, Karawari, Kundiman and Tufi. Highlights of the trip include a cruise along the Sepik River; sea kayaking in coastal Tufi and an excursion to the Wahgi Sing-Sing Festival, which showcases traditional cultural performances from the Wahgi Valley.

Westmoreland’s tour will not just be an introduction to Papua New Guinea; it will also be an introduction to photography for both veterans and newbies, with expert advice on lighting, composition and editing.

The package costs $10,695, and the next one kicks off in June 2013. For a sample of what’s in store, check out the photo gallery below.

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[Photo Credit: Michele Westmoreland via Asia Transpacific Journeys]

British Woman Prepares To Row Across The Pacific

Sarah Outen will soon start her row across the Pacific OceanLast April we posted a story about Sarah Outen, an adventurous 26-year-old from the U.K. who had set out to circumnavigate the globe using nothing but her own power. Sarah called her journey the London2London expedition and over the past 12 months she has traveled by kayak and bike across Europe and Asia. Now she is preparing to embark on the next stage of her journey, a solo row across the Pacific Ocean.

Sarah is currently in Choshi, Japan, where she is busy making the final preparations to her 21-foot rowboat named Gulliver. That boat will be her home for the next seven months as she undertakes the physically and mentally demanding task of crossing the Pacific. If all goes as planned, and the weather is right, she’ll set out tomorrow on a 5179-mile row that will eventually end in Vancouver, Canada.

This isn’t Sarah’s first ocean crossing under her own power. Back in 2009 she rowed solo across the Indian Ocean as well. That expedition took more than four months to complete and covered approximately 3100 miles of open ocean. The Pacific will provide a similar experience, albeit on a much grander scale.

After setting out from London last year, Outen paddled down the Thames River and crossed the English Channel in a kayak. Arriving on the shores of France, she climbed aboard a bike and began peddling east, crossing through numerous countries in Europe and Asia along the way. She arrived in Japan last October, but the Pacific is unforgiving in the autumn and winter so she has waited until now to start this stage of the journey.

After she completes her row across the Pacific, Sarah will once again return to her bike and continue her round-the-world adventure. The next stage will involve riding across Canada and the U.S. Finally, she intends to cap the journey by rowing across the North Atlantic and back up the Thames River, finishing where she started under the London Bridge.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

[Photo courtesy Sarah Outen]

James Cameron to dive the Mariana Trench

The deepsea submersible used by James CameronLegendary director James Cameron is no stranger to big adventures. After all he is the man responsible for bringing such Hollywood hits as Titanic and Avatar to the silver screen. Last week Cameron announced plans for a big adventure of his own, saying he now plans to dive to the lowest point on the planet, which is found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Located in the Pacific Ocean, the mysterious trench stretches 1580 miles in length and plunges nearly seven miles below the Earth’s surface. Using specially designed equipment, Cameron plans to spend about six hours at the Challenger Deep, the absolute lowest point inside the trench. While there he’ll collect samples for use in research in marine biology, microbiology, geology, and a host of other scientific fields.

Cameron has partnered with National Geographic and Rolex for this expedition, which he calls “DeepSea Challenge.” The filmmaker plans to shoot the entire experience with 3D HD cameras for use in a future documentary on the voyage, which will be made in a submersible that has been specifically built to withstand the incredible pressures that exist inside the trench. That vehicle was built by Cameron and his team and has already been tested to a depth of five miles.The bottom of the Mariana Trench has only been visited by humans on one previous occasion. In January of 1960 ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made their way to those incredible depths where they were surprised to find a number of lifeforms thriving.

There is no specific date set for Cameron’s dive, but he is currently in Guam making last minute preparations. Follow the entire adventure on the DeepSea Challenge website.

[Photo courtesy National Geographic]


Video of the Day: Guam, where America’s day begins

Each year, more than a million people visit the Pacific island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States located in Micronesia. This video shows why: breathtaking sunsets, beautiful beaches, fantastic diving, a vibrant tourist district, tropical flora and fauna, and a unique culture influenced by Spanish colonization, Japanese occupation, and now American control.

I’m also biased; as a native Chamorro who was raised in Guam, I am well familiar with everything my home island has to offer.

Despite the fact that tourism is Guam’s largest industry, not too many people outside of the main tourist markets of Japan and East Asia are familiar with the island. In the United States, most people I encounter know that Guam is home to major American military bases, but not much else. This video, combined with the photo gallery below, provide a brief introduction.

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