Wildebeest migration one of the natural wonders of the world

Every year during this season, millions of wildebeest migrate northwards from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. It’s part of their annual cycle of looking for green pastures and plentiful waters. Zebras, antelopes, and other animals come along too, with predators like lions and cheetahs hanging on the edges of the herds hoping to catch the slow or the weak.

The Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park are the two most popular places to see the migration, and the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reports hotels are already full, with even the Kenyan tourism minister saying he couldn’t find a room.

The annual migration is like a dream safari intensified, with the plains blackened by the herds. This National Geographic video shows just how big this mass movement of animals is. So if you want to see what ABC News has dubbed one of the new wonders of the world, you better book early for next year so you don’t get caught out. Sadly, there’s another reason to act soon. Observer Science Editor Robin McKie includes the migration in his list of ten natural wonders we can no longer take for granted due to global warming. McKie points out that if current trends continue, the plains will dry up and there won’t be enough pasture for the herds.

Image courtesy user Haplochromis via Wikimedia Commons.

British woman completes solo row across the Pacific Ocean

British ocean rower Roz Savage arrived in Madang, Papua New Guinea yesterday, completing the third, and final, stage of her solo row across the Pacific Ocean. Her arrival marked an end to an adventure that she has dedicated more than five years of her life to finishing.

Roz first came up with the idea of rowing across the Pacific after she completed a solo row across the Atlantic back in 2005. That journey took 103 days to complete and covered 2935 miles of open water. In 2007 she launched her first attempt on the Pacific but was forced to return to land a few days after getting underway. Undaunted, she returned to the water in 2008, and completed the first stage of her journey, rowing the 2324 miles from San Francisco to Hawaii in just under 100 days. In 2009, stage two took her from Hawaii to Tuvalu in the South Pacific, covering an additional 3158 miles over 104 days.

For her third, and final stage, Roz planned to row from Tuvalu to Australia, but strong ocean currents, persistent winds, and other conditions prevented her from traveling that far south. Instead, she drifted towards Papua New Guinea, where she finally stepped back onto dry land after covering an additional 2248 miles in just 45 days.

By completing this final leg, Roz has now become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific, a voyage that took a total of 249 days to complete and covered 7730 miles in total. A former management consultant for a major bank in the U.K., Roz quit her job back in 2001 to pursue a life of adventure. Since then, she has become a tireless environmental activist who has worked hard to raise awareness of the plight of the world’s oceans and is likely to continue pursuing that cause in the future. To that end, she recently launched a new website called Eco Heroes that has become a social network for the environmentally conscious set to connect.

Swimmer completes Himalayan swim

A few days back we told you about Lewis Gordon Pugh, a British long distance swimmer and environmentalist, who had traveled to the Himalaya to attempt the highest altitude, long distance swim ever. At the time, he was in Gorak Shep, a small village near Everest Base Camp, acclimatizing and preparing to take his record breaking dip. Since then, he has completed the 1km swim in ice cold glacial waters, but not without a few scary moments first.

Pugh is considered one of the world’s top cold water swimmers, and has traveled the globe making similar swims in an effort to raise awareness of global warming and the effect it is having on the Earth’s environment. In this case, he went to the Himalaya to shine a spotlight on the disappearing glaciers there.

He might have asked himself what he was thinking the first time he took the plunge into Pumori Lake, at 17,700 feet. In his blog, Pugh called his test swim the most frightening day of his swimming career after he almost “went under” twice in 300 meters. The altitude played havoc with his body, making it impossible to breathe and zapping his endurance. Worse yet, he suffered from a bit of altitude sickness as well.

But the next day, Pugh regrouped, found his pacing, and completed his1km swim through waters that were just 36ºF in temperature. In his customary style, he also wore just his Speedo, swim cap, and goggles, which gives me the shivers just thinking about it. It took him 22 minutes, 51 seconds to cover the distance, and the exhausted swimmer was happy to be out of the water when he was done.

Having just been in the same area as Pugh a month or so back, I can tell you that it is difficult to walk and breathe there, let alone swim. I can’t even imagine how hard this must have been for him.

Swimmer to attempt high altitude swim in the Himalaya

British long distance swimmer Lewis Pugh has traveled to Nepal, where he is preparing to make the highest altitude swim ever, as he works to raise awareness of global climate change and the effects it is having on glaciers in the Himalaya. The long time environmental activist will make his historic swim, which has been called the hardest ever by some, in an icy glacial lake in the shadow of Mt. Everest.

Widely considered to be the finest cold water swimmer in the world, Pugh has gone for long distance swims in icy conditions before. In 2007 he became the first person to swim across the North Pole and back in 2005 he went for a 1km dip off of the Antarctic Peninsula. He also swam across the English Channel, as well around the North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe, and Cape Horn at the tip of South America. Pugh is the only person to have taken a long distance swim, meaning 1km or more, in all five of the Earth’s oceans, and he does it just wearing a Speedo, goggles, and swim cap, even in the cold water swims.

Pugh is currently in Gorak Shep, a high mountain village located at 17,000 feet, that is the last stop before Everest Base Camp. He is spending his time acclimatizing and taking a few practice swims in the nearby Lake Pumori, which sits at 17,700 feet, where he’ll attempt the official swim too. That swim will be at least 1km in length as well.

In the most recent updates to his blog, Lewis has commented on his first test swim, calling it the most frightening day of his career. He went for a 300 meter swim, and discovered that he was having a tough time breathing and that his stamina was lacking at such a high altitude. Even on that short swim, he feared for his own life on more than one occasion. For a man who is use to feeling ultra fit, it was a scary situation.

The plan was to make the swim yesterday, but another update indicated that Lewis is suffering from altitude sickness, and has delayed the attempt for now. Forecasts indicate that the weather in the region will take a turn for the worse in a few days time as well, ushering in the monsoon season, and effectively shutting the door on these kinds of activities. Stay tuned to see if Lewis can complete his swim before that happens.

Explorer claims second of “three poles”

We’ve mentioned Eric Larsen and his Save The Poles Expedition on more than one occasion here at Gadling. He’s the explorer who has set out to become the first person to visit the “three poles” in one calendar year, with the three poles being the North and South Geographic Poles and the summit of Mt. Everest.

Last week Larsen took another major step in his quest by reaching 90ºN, otherwise known as the North Pole. He, along with teammates Antony Jinman and Darcy St. Laurent, spent 51 days out on the ice, battling high winds, sub-zero temperatures, massive rubble fields, and ice flowing away from the Pole that made it seem like they were on a treadmill at times. But in the end, they reached the top of the world, putting Larsen two-thirds of the way toward his goal. Eric, and two different teammates reached the South Pole back on January 2nd.

The main objective of the project is to raise awareness of global warming and its impact on the Earth’s Poles, while promoting the use of new, clean energy sources and carbon offsets. In that light, it seems all the more fitting that the team arrived at the North Pole on Earth Day.

With the North and South Pole under his belt, Larsen will now turn his attention on Everest. It is too late to make the climb during the spring season, so he’ll be planning a fall ascent. If all goes as planned, he’ll be making history later this year.