Felix Baumgartner Named Nat Geo People’s Choice Adventurer Of The Year

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been named the National Geographic People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year following an online poll, which saw more than 55,000 votes cast. Baumgartner edged out nine other Adventurer of the Year candidates that included men and women who have pushed the envelope in terms of exploration and outdoor adventure in the past year.

Baumgartner’s initial inclusion on this list follows his epic skydive from the edge of space last October. The world breathlessly watched on as the 43-year-old rode a specially designed helium balloon to the edge of space, then popped open the hatch and stepped off into nothingness. At that point he was more than 127,000 feet above the Earth’s surface and far higher than any other skydiver had gone before.

During his descent, Baumgartner managed to set several new world’s records, including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without the use of an aircraft. During his free fall, Felix reached speeds in excess of 844 miles per hour or Mach 1.25. He officially jumped from his balloon at an altitude of 24.2 miles, which is of course a record height as well. He even experienced 25 seconds of weightlessness on the way down, before pulling his ripcord and slowly completing his descent back to Earth.

While Baumgartner was clearly the most well known Adventurer of the Year candidate amongst the general public he still faced stiff competition from a number of outdoor personalities. For instance, ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker isn’t exactly a household name, but she is an absolute legend amongst endurance athletes. Hawker won her fifth Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc trail race, which is grueling 103-mile run through the Alps. Similarly, kayaker Steve Fisher is one of the best paddlers in the world and last year he managed to run the biggest rapids on the planet on the Congo River. Those feats didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention that Baumgartner’s did, but they are impressive nonetheless.

To read Felix’s thoughts on winning this honor, what role adventure has played in his life and much more, check out the Nat Geo interview with the man himself.

[Photo Credit: Red Bull Stratos/Red Bull Content Pool]

Nat Geo Announces 2012 Gear Of The Year

Travelers and outdoor enthusiasts looking for the best new gear for their summer adventurers will want to check out National Geographic’s Adventure Blog. Earlier this week the site announced its selections for Gear of the Year, with the best new tents, boots, gadgets and apparel earning a place on the list.

Some of the more interesting items to get the nod include a new sleeping bag from Sierra Designs that features waterproof down, a pair of sunglasses from Pivothead with an integrated video camera and a multi-function tool from Gerber that can also serve as a tripod for your camera. Campers will love the new Tulip Lantern from Snow Peak as well as the new Kilo tent from Easton, while shutterbugs will be eager to get their hands on the new Canon 5D Mark III.

Two items that we told you about here at Gadling made Nat Geo’s list as well. They were the Camelbak All Clear water purification system and the Osprey Atmos 50 backpack. We were impressed with both products in our reviews and it seems our colleagues at National Geographic were as well.

To take a look at all the other great gear on the list click here, and have your credit card at the ready.

Tour The ‘Untamed Americas’ With National Geographic This Spring

The National Geographic Channel has announced an ambitious new miniseries set to air later this spring that explores the wild spaces that stretch across North, Central, and South America. The four-hour long show, entitled “Untamed Americas,” was shot entirely in high-definition and will be narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Josh Brolin.

The project, which has been in production for nearly two years, promises to take viewers on an epic trip from the snow covered peaks of Alaska to the wind-swept extremes of Patagonia. Along the way, they’ll witness wildlife encounters unlike any that have been seen on television before and visit remote destinations well off the beaten path. While filming “Untamed Americas,” the production crew braved rocky Peruvian cliffs, dense Ecuadoran cloud forests, shark infested waters and more. They also endured temperatures that ranged from sub-zero arctic conditions to triple-digit heat – and even managed to survive a surprise hurricane.

The miniseries will debut globally on the National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo, although dates for when it will begin airing have yet to be revealed. Keep an eye on NatGeoTV.com for updates on the status of the show and in the meantime, check out the “Untamed Americas” preview clip below.

Nat Geo presents five cruise ship disasters that changed travel

Over the past week, the Costa Concordia story has been a prominent one amongst both the mainstream media and travel outlets alike. The sinking of a cruise ship is not a common occurrence and ranks amongst the worst travel nightmares imaginable. While questions about exactly what happened aboard that ship remain, it is clear that the accident will likely have far reaching consequences and bring change to the cruise industry.

With that in mind, our friends over at National Geographic have put together an interesting article, along with some very compelling images, of 5 cruise ship disasters that changed travel. Each of the entries on the list, and the Costa Concordia is not among them, left an indelible mark on how cruise ships operate today. For example, not surprisingly, the Titanic earns a place on Nat Geo’s roll call of infamy thanks to the fact that when it went down, there were only enough lifeboats for about half the passengers on board. As a result, 1500 people perished, and cruise ships were later mandated to begin carring enough lifeboats for everyone.

The four other entries on the list had a similar impact on the industry, although not all of them resulted in such a massive loss of life. It is an interesting study of how a disaster at sea can make a lasting change for the better, and end up making travel by ship a lot safer in the process.

National Geographic photo contest highlights

Everybody likes a good ol’ National Geographic photo contest. The magazine attracts the finest photographers and by the same token, the magazine attracts those with a taste for the finest photography. Thousands upon thousands of people enter National Geographic’s photo contests and, as you might suspect, there are plenty of great photo entries that don’t win the contest. Luckily for all of us photo-appreciators, National Geographic highlights some of their favorite shots as the contest goes on. And even more luckily for us, The Atlantic’s In Focus gathered 45 of their favorite entries thus far for our viewing pleasure. Featuring impressive photos in full size, you can check out the In Focus round-up from the contest here on The Atlantic’s website.