Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Airlie Beach

We landed from the barren Outback to lush, beautiful Airlie Beach. After a spending so much time in the Outback gathering material (photos, footage, and information), Airlie has given us a chance to get to work turning it all into our final projects.

The Photography On Assignment group presented their final projects last night. It was a great collection of work, where each student experimented with one theme: The Story Behind Three First Nations People, Alternative Perspectives of Australia, and the Structures of Australia, to name a few. Filmmaking and Wildlife and Conservation students are wrapping up their projects and will share them with the group soon.

When we haven't been working, we've found plenty of time to play: swimming, getting some sun, and taking more photos and footage. We even had our own Australian style barbie, and yesterday we were all given a lesson on how to play a didgeridoo. We did pretty well (and we even learned the basic trick to circular breathing!), and all of us playing together made quite the raucous!

We're loading up for our sailing adventure right now. The weather is beautiful and we're all excited to get in the water. We'll keep you updated on the last part of our adventure!

Bye for now,
Britt, Charles, Patrick and the whole crew

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Outback

Hello all!

The group was happy to arrive in sunny Alice Springs-- what a change from our time in Sydney! We traded the opera house and aquarium for the blue skies and amazing red sands of the Outback. It was like entering a new world, and as we slowed down to this new reality our students seemed to be happy to see a new place and prepare for our next adventure.

Alice Springs is a quaint, small town, with some great shops and cafes where we spent mornings eating breakfast and sipping juice and coffee. The Desert Park in Alice was amazing, displaying the variety of environments in the Outback and showing off some amazing animals-- the nocturnal section of the park showed us some creatures which we might not have seen otherwise. Wildlife and Conservation students watched a raptor feeding display, the Photography group caught stunning images of the landscape, while the Filmmaking crew interviewed our presenter to discover more about Aboriginal life and culture. On our last night in town, we were lucky to experience a town carnival with fireworks to end our night in true 4th of July fashion.

Early the next morning, we met our guide Steve who would lead us on our expedition to Uluru and the 'real' Outback. Originally from New Zealand, Steve has traveled around the Outback for more than 25 years; he provided our group with an amazing array of information and unique perspective . When we arrived at Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), we spent a few hours on a silent hike around this massive natural wonder, a powerful event for us all. That evening we took photos of Uluru as the sun set in the distance, a perfect end to the day.

King’s Canyon was our next destination, with a challenging hike to an extraordinary vista below. While Steve pointed out fossils and explained the area’s geologic history, our Photography students took advantage of the unique rock formations and perfect lighting to capture some amazing photos. Our days in the Outback were packed with hiking, exploring, and even the occasional camel ride! We spent each evening around the campfire reflecting on the day. Nights in the Outback are quite cold, especially when compared to the warm, sunny days here, but this did not prevent many of us from sleeping under the stars around the campfire! Our group returned from our time in the Outback as a tight group of friends who will remember each other and our adventures here for a lifetime.

We are currently en route (via plane) to Townsville, trading the red desert sands for a lush, tropical environment and days full of snorkeling in the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It will surely be another great adventure!

More soon.
-Patrick, Britt, and Charles

Monday, July 6, 2009

From Sydney to Alice Springs

NGSE Australia is in Alice Springs, getting ready for an early morning departure for Uluru. Our days in Sydney were full, soaking in everything we could in our short time there. From our hotel, situated between Chinatown and Darling Harbour, we began our first full day in Australia with some excellent food, a scavenger hunt through Sydney's streets, and then a meeting with acclaimed anthropologist Kirk Huffman. Krik gave us a behind the scenes tour with the curators of two museums at the University of Sydney. In one of them, we were able to sit and handle an incredible collection of artifacts from around the world. That evening we went to a wonderful restaurant in Darling Harbour overlooking the water, followed by a presentation by National Geographic Expert Ulla Lohmann on her work from the volcanos of Vanuatu to the mummies of Papua New Guinea.

The following day we split into our On-Assignment teams and explored the Sydney Aquarium, the Taronga Zoo, and various neighborhoods, waterways and eateries around town. In the evening we attended a wonderful performance of Shakespeare's Pericles (set to taiko-drumming!) in the drama theater at the Sydney Opera House. We rounded out the day with some excellent hot chocolate very much enjoyed in the cool, wintry evening beside Sydney Harbor.

Our early morning flight to Alice Springs went well, and everyone appreciated the warmer weather and sunny blue skies of "Alice." Ulla gave us another wonderful presentation that evening, about her filmmaking adventures in Papua New Guinea.

The next day at the Desert Park, we took in the amazing raptor show, and visited with Lionel Barracot, an indigenous biologist specializing in local flora. In the evening we enjoyed the Alice Springs Show--a State Fair-type extravaganza of carnival rides, horse/car relays, and a massive fireworks show--perfect for our 4th or July far from home.

Today we settled deeper into our On-Assignment work, with Ulla visiting with each team and offering her amazing experience and insight into each of our projects. With a wild wallaby looking down at us from the ridge above, we headed off on a nice sunset hike to a site of many local "dreaming" stories.

Bye for now!
Charles, Britt, and Patrick

Ellen on Sydney Harbor

The Wildlife and Conservation team near Sydney Opera House

raptor flying


Alice Springs & MacDonald Range

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

G'day from Sydney!

Our National Geographic Student Expeditions group arrived yesterday morning in Sydney, and was immediately joined by National Geographic expert, Ulla Lohmann. A little bleary eyed from the long flight, but excited, we dove straight into our first day in the country. We started off with brunch on the back patio of a cafe deep in the historical Rocks District and walked across Circular Quay, stopping for a little lesson on Aboriginal culture and music from a didgeridoo player. Our walk brought us to the steps of Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge in the backdrop, where we sat down to hold our orientation.

We have a full and fabulous schedule ahead of us in Sydney which includes 'behind the scene' tours of two museums with Kirk Huffman, a renowned expert of indigenous and aboriginal culture, our first encounters with Australian wildlife, and work with our On Assignment teams.

We'll keep you posted as the adventure unfolds!

From Down Under,
Britt, Charles, and Pat

Monday, June 29, 2009

The group has arrived

We've received word from the expedition leaders that the group has arrived in Sydney. They were headed to breakfast with National Geographic Expert Ulla Lohmann.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Meet the Expedition Leaders

2009 Australia Expedition Leaders, left to right: Charles Dye, Britt Basel, Patrick McLaughlin

Wildlife & Conservation

Patrick McLaughlin. St. Lawrence University, B.S.; Drexel University, Ph.D. candidate. Patrick majored in Biology and Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence, where he developed a passion for field research and travel. He was awarded a University Fellowship and The Crowell Summer Award in Field Biology, allowing him to pursue research in the Bahamas where he studied juvenile fish populations. As a senior Patrick studied at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, focusing on conservation and development in East Africa. In 2006 he participated in the Mongol Rally, a charity car rally across the 10,000 mile expanse from England to Mongolia to raise money for impoverished communities in Africa and Asia. He worked as a fisheries technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in Vermont, a snow-coach guide and naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, and as director of the environmental education program for the Grand Teton Lodge Company. In January of 2009 Patrick served as a research assistant for the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program in Equatorial Guinea (West Africa), studying the endemic and endangered primates of Bioko Island’s volcanic calderas. While on the island, he was part of a small team that collected frogs hoping to document a completely new species. Patrick is pursuing his PhD in Environmental Science at Drexel, with a focus on biodiversity conservation.


Charles Dye. University of Arizona, B.A.; Montana State University, M.F.A. Charles is an independent filmmaker and photographer based in Bozeman, Montana. He spent six years racing cyclo-cross and mountain bikes professionally for the Cannondale-New Balance racing team in Europe, Japan, and North America. After earning a certificate in Documentary Video Production from the University of Washington, Charles made a short film, Saving the Snow Leopards of Mongolia, which appeared in National Geographic Wild Chronicles in 2002. Last of the Gum Men, about the chicle harvesters in the jungles of Guatemala, was seen nationwide on PBS in 2003. A Cat Called Elvis (2007), about his search—with his wife and son—for snow leopards in the western highlands of Mongolia, is currently the #1 downloaded show on the 2007 Webby-award winning Terra podcast (www.lifeonterra.com). Charles teaches film at the Berks Community Television's FilmCamp in Reading, Pennsylvania, and helped establish the Montana Outdoor Science School's new Natural History Filmmaking Workshops. Still a devoted cyclist, he recently earned his Master in Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University. Charles co-led the National Geographic Student Expedition to Iceland in 2008.


Britt Basel. University of Colorado, B.A. A freelance and fine art photographer, Britt has traveled and photographed extensively around the world. As a teenager she went to Ecuador on a youth photography scholarship. She studied photography and art history at the Aegean Center for Fine Arts in Greece, and went on to study with the School for International Training in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Britt graduated with honors in Anthropology from the University of Colorado, where she focused on indigenous culture and Mesoamerican archaeology. She worked as a scuba instructor and translator in Costa Rica, conducted fieldwork with and photographed the GuaranĂ­ people of Paraguay, and led Putney Student Travel’s Global Awareness in Action program in El Salvador. Britt worked as the translator and still photographer for a surfing documentary in El Salvador, and led a university semester abroad to Peru and Ecuador with Carpe Diem International Education. She is a PADI-certified scuba instructor, an Emergency First Response Instructor, a Wilderness First Responder, and an avid snowboarder and sailor. Britt is the Director of International Programming for the Body Form Photo Workshop. She spent the last several months studying sustainable development, permaculture, and whole-systems design in New South Wales, Australia. She co-led National Geographic Student Expeditions to Spain and Belize in 2008. Some of her work is available for viewing on-line at www.brittbaselphoto.com.


Welcome family and friends of National Geographic Student Expeditions participants!

We have created this blog in order to keep you updated on the progress of your child’s National Geographic Student Expedition this summer. We hope that occasional updates throughout the expedition will help keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program.

The expedition leaders will post entries approximately once per week during the program. The leaders’ first priority is the students and the program. If updates are infrequent, it is likely due to the group’s very busy schedule and inconsistent internet access. Please know that any important issues that arise during the program will be discussed and resolved with leaders and parents by phone, not through the blog.

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Best wishes from us all at National Geographic Student Expeditions