National Geographic Explorers

This is Mary Tillotson. And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we tell about new activities of the National Geographic Society.

The largest non-profit scientific and educational organization in the world has taught millions of people. It has taught them about the world they live in, outer space and the deep oceans. Now it is trying to educate people about what is being lost in their world.

The National Geographic Society began in eighteen-eighty-eight. Thirty-three men gathered at a social club in Washington. The group included scientists, explorers, military officers and teachers. Most of them had traveled widely. They were excited about new discoveries. And they believed in the importance of geography -- the study of the Earth.

The men believed travel helps people understand their world and other cultures. So they formed the National Geographic Society. Anyone interested in gaining knowledge about the world could pay to become a member.

Nine months later the first effort to communicate this information was published and sent to members. It was the official record of the society. The record is now a popular magazine called "National Geographic." It is published in nineteen languages. Each month, forty-million people around the world read the magazine.

The Society also reaches people through four other magazines, and through books, videos, the Internet and television. The National Geographic Channel is seen on televisions in more than one-hundred-forty million homes in one-hundred-forty-one countries.

The main goal of the National Geographic Society still is to increase knowledge about geography and spread that knowledge around the world. Yet it has also become concerned about saving what has been discovered during its years of explorations. John Fahey is president of the Society. He says, "These days as we explore, the places and treasures we find are too often threatened with destruction. Today's explorer must also be a conservationist."

Rebecca Martin is executive director of the Expeditions Council. She says people have become very concerned about what is disappearing from the Earth. So the Society is expanding its job and tries to educate people about how to prevent this destruction.

One of the ways it is doing this is through the new Explorers-in-Residence program. The National Geographic already was supporting the work of many of these explorers. But it decided to expand the relationship. Through the Society's communications network, these explorers spread their expert knowledge. They inform people around the world about the animals, plants, people and environments that are in danger of disappearing.

For more than one-hundred years, the National Geographic Society has supported explorers seeking to increase knowledge about our world. From the beginning, the Society provided grant money through its committee for research and exploration. These grants go to scientists at universities or other institutions. The Society has supported more than seven-thousand research projects chosen for their scientific value.

In nineteen-ninety-eight, the Expeditions Council began awarding grants. It supports explorations into the unrecorded or little known areas of the world from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains. It looks for projects that may not be scientific but that add to understanding about the world we live in.

Rebecca Martin says the Expeditions Council supports the work of citizen scientists. These people present the information they gain in an exciting way.

About eighteen months ago, the National Geographic Conservation Trust was established. Environmentalist Thomas Lovejoy heads the group. It provides grant money to support conservation projects that help save the Earth's biological and cultural resources.

Among its earliest projects is an effort to save the endangered orangutans in Indonesia's Gunung Palung National Park. This project includes an education program designed to increase local interest in protecting the park.

In April, two-thousand, the National Geographic announced the appointment of seven Explorers-in-Residence. The eighth was announced in July. They all are continuing their special explorations and research, but are adding new projects. They share what they learn about the world through National Geographic magazines, books, speeches and television programs. The eight Explorers-in-Residence are Stephen Ambrose, Robert Ballard, Wade Davis, Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall, Johan Reinhard, Paul Sereno and Zahi Hawass.

Stephen Ambrose is a historian and teacher. He has written many popular books about the history of World War Two and the explorers Lewis and Clark. He says he thinks of himself as sitting down at the end of an interesting day telling stories that he hopes will have readers wanting to know what happens next.

Robert Ballard is an underwater explorer. He is best known for his discovery of the sunken passenger ship Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck. He is the creator of the JASON project. It lets schoolchildren travel with him by satellite and computer as he explores the underwater world.

Wade Davis is an anthropologist and plant expert. He lived among fifteen native groups in eight Latin American countries. He collected more than six-thousand plants from those areas. He has written seven books. His latest, "Light at the Edge of the World," was published by the National Geographic Society.

Sylvia Earle is an ocean explorer and expert on ocean plant life. She has spent more than six-thousand hours exploring the underwater world. Mizz Earle is director of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions. It is a five-year joint project of the National Geographic Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its goal is to explore and take pictures of the deep waters of twelve national underwater parks and the creatures that live in them.

Jane Goodall is world famous for her study of chimpanzees. She began her study of wild chimpanzees forty-two years ago when she established the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania. Through the years her research has shown how similar chimpanzees are to humans.

Johan Reinhard is an archeologist who studies past human life and activities in mountain areas of the world. He has discovered frozen bodies of Inca Indians in the high Andes mountains of Peru and Argentina.

Paul Sereno is a paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago. He studies and photographs dinosaur remains in China, Mongolia, Argentina and Africa. He discovered new kinds of dinosaurs on several continents.

The latest addition to the Explorers-in-Residence is Zahi Hawass. He is an archeologist and director of Egypt's Giza Pyramids. Mr. Hawass has made major discoveries that have added to knowledge about how the pyramids were built.

The Explorers-in-Residence have made some exciting discoveries. For example, last year the National Geographic announced that Paul Sereno's team found the remains of a huge ancient crocodile in Niger. The creature grew as long as twelve meters. The finding led to a television program on this "SuperCroc," a story in the National Geographic magazine and an exhibit in the National Geographic museum, Explorer's Hall.

Last month, Robert Ballard announced that his team had found the remains of John F. Kennedy's World War Two boat in the Solomon Islands. The man who later became president of the United States swam to safety after the boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer.

Through its new programs, the National Geographic has created an environment where explorers can meet. People who are experts in very different subjects and areas of the world can make new connections that will lead to new projects. The National Geographic Society will continue to educate people around the world about these discoveries and about natural and cultural resources that are in danger of disappearing.

This Special English program was written by Marilyn Christiano and produced by George Grow. This is Steve Ember. And this is Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English

Source: EXPLORATIONS - August 21, 2002: National Geographic Explorers
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