Archive for the 'Travel' Category

As you read this, I am attempting to summit Everest.

Via the North Face.

Without. Oxygen.

This is the second in a series posts dispatched from the slopes of Mt. Everest, leading to his planned ascent on or about May 19th.

April 28, 2010

Teammates,
We just returned to Everest Base Camp (BC) after a very challenging 7 days above 21,000’. We left BC last Wednesday morning and hiked 6 hours covering approximately 7 miles to Interim Camp at approximately 18,000’. We awoke early Thursday morning and hiked for another 6 hours covering the final 5 miles to Advanced Base Camp (ABC) to 21,000’ (See Photo “Hike to Everest ABC”).

I felt strong throughout the hike, but arrived at ABC (like everyone else) with a raging altitude headache. As I sat in my tent shortly after arriving, I thought about all of the climbing photos in Patagonia or North Face catalogs. Photos are always of good looking, men and women smiling and shaking hands on the summit of mountains. Much more accurate would be photos of unwashed, exhausted, cold men and women sitting, bent over in full down pants and jacket with their heads being cradled in their hands trying to lessen the pain in their heads from too little oxygen…

We spent the next 5 days at ABC trying to acclimatize and taking day hikes in the surrounding area. At that altitude, everything takes 3- 5 times longer than what it would at sea level. As an example, just to go to the bathroom at night requires you to get fully dressed in down pants, down jacket, hats, gloves and boots. Then, on the way to the bathroom area (a designated rock), you will probably stop at least once or twice trying to catch your breath and give your brain and muscles enough oxygen to function. Going back to your tent requires the same functions to be performed in the opposite order. Further, at high altitudes, your appetite becomes non existent and you must force yourself to eat whatever you can just to give your body the energy it requires to survive and perform as effectively as possibly.

One of my teammates, Barry (South African, Diamond Merchant) was having a very challenging time acclimatizing and due to severe altitude headaches was sleeping only a few hours a night. After 4 nights, he decided to descend to BC for a few days to recover before returning to ABC. Fernando (Mexican, Doctor) was also struggling with acclimatizing and was limited in his ability to take hikes to higher altitudes. Fernando decided to stay at ABC, but not to climb higher. After 5 days at ABC, it was decided that I would move up higher alone with one climbing sherpa (Kaji- 27 years old) to the North Col/ Camp 1. Kaji and I would carry personal and team gear and equipment to the camp, acclimatize for two nights, return to ABC for a night and then hike all the way back to BC for a full recovery.

Monday was not a good day. I have spoken to some of you previously about climbing and the dangers of high altitude mountaineering. If we have had that conversation, there is a good possibility that you have heard me say that “mountains don’t kill people, bad decisions do… and I don’t make bad decisions.” I can’t say that any longer. I made one on Monday: Kaji and I awoke early, finished our packing and headed to the North Col. The North Col face begins approximately one hour climb above ABC. When we arrived, I looked at the face and thought to myself that it did not look good/safe. The route we would have to take up the face would bring us directly beneath not one, but numerous hanging seracs (a build up of overhanging snow). Further, Monday was the nicest day we had had at ABC and with no clouds in the sky the sun was already warming the snow on the route. There were climbers already on the face and Kaji and I decided to climb despite my uneasy feeling/ thoughts (to see what the North Col face looked like moments before our ascent of it, see attached photo “Everest North Col”).

Kaji and I decided that we could move quickly enough to get up and across the face fast enough that we would be ok. We ascended the face as temperatures continued to climb making the snow more unstable. Approximately 50 minutes into our ascent up the face, we heard a loud cracking sound above us and then the tell tale loud and thunderous rumbling sound of an avalanche. Kaji and I slammed our ice axes into the icy face and waited for the snow to rip us off the mountain. Thankfully, unbeknownst to both of us, there was a large crevasse (a long, big hole in the ice), that the avalanche fell into losing most of its power and resulting in Kaji and I being covered in only a harmless layer of snow. Unfortunately for two climbers just ahead of us (names and nationality intentionally left blank- at this time, I am not sure if the families have been notified), they were caught between the avalanche and the crevasse. The avalanche slammed into both climbers, sending them down the mountain and into the crevasse. One climber was hit by the full power of the avalanche. His climbing partner was hit, but not as violently. This climber, although injured, was able to ascend out of the crevasse after a short time. His partner who was in the middle of the avalanche when it hit them has still not been found.

Kaji and I rappelled down the face in case of further avalanches and waited at the foot of the face to see what, if anything, we could do. Jamie, our lead guide was following an hour behind us and saw the avalanche rip down the face and hit the two climbers. After making link- up at the foot of the face, the three of us waited for the injured climber to rappel down. We provided what little aid we could for him (i.e. gave him my down jacket and something to drink etc) as Jamie used our communication equipment to attempt to contact his climbing partner (to no avail). After an hour at the face, Kaji and I returned to ABC.

That night, the injured climber came to find us and had dinner with us. I believe he did so just to be surrounded by others who cared. Fernando looked over all of his injuries and provided great care and comfort. Despite the circumstances, watching someone do what they are passionate about at 21,000’ was impressive and made me realize yet again how fortunate I was to have Fernando as my teammate. After a very long night and bad weather blowing in, Fernando and I descended 12 miles in 7 hours into a stiff wind and snow back to BC to recover and prepare for our next assault on Everest (see attached photo “Return Hike to Base Camp”).

I am not sure how long we will be at BC, but I hope we will be climbing again soon (which means a quicker return home). I hope everyone is doing well.

Regards,
Eric

“I don’t want my life to be fun… I want my life to be real.” – Quote from injured climber who survived an avalanche earlier in the day on 04/26/2010 that took the life of his climbing partner.

First Dispatch here



As you read this, I am attempting to summit Everest.

Via the North Face.

Without. Oxygen.

This is the first in a series posts dispatched from the slopes of Mt. Everest, leading to his planned ascent on or about May 19th.

April 19, 2010:

Teammates,

Sorry for the delay in getting the first dispatch out, but we just got our internet working. We arrived at Everest Base Camp (Northside) on Friday morning. It had been a long 8 day trip from Kathmandu across Tibet and we are glad to be here. To say that transportation, lodging and food had been “poor” while in Tibet would be a gross understatement. The physical/ natural beauty of Tibet is truly awe inspiring, but infrastructure is nonexistent. We mostly slept in our sleeping bags and had been eating steamed cabbage, mushrooms and some type of meat…(I haven’t seen a cat since entering the country, but that is just an observation, of course…).

We arrived in Kathmandu (elevation 4,429’) on Thursday, April 8th and spent three days getting all of our climbing paperwork, permits and China (Tibet) visas squared away. We also did a day of mountain biking in the Himalayan foothills which was challenging, to say the least. Kathmandu is a typical 3rd world city: overcrowded, too many cars, too much smog, trash, poverty etc, but it still manages to have enough 1st world services that make it truly enjoyable to spend a few days exploring.

We left Kathmandu on Sunday and took a bus along the Friendship Highway to Kodari, Nepal where we passed through Nepalese customs, walked across The Friendship Bridge into China (Tibet) and spent the night in Zhangmu, on the Nepal- Tibet border (elevation 7,874’). We woke up the following day and drove to Nyalam, Tibet (elevation 12,303’). Due to the severe changes in elevation, we were forced to spend 2 days in Nyalam hiking the surrounding hills and allowing our bodies to acclimatize.

We awoke early Wednesday morning and drove to Tingri, Tibet (elevation 14,108’) crossing the main Himalayan range and driving over the Lalung La (elevation 16,896’) where the views of Cho Oyu (6thtallest mountain the world), Shishapangma (14th tallest mountain the world) and the Tibetan plateau were spectacular. An hour outside of Tingri, we saw Everest for the first time. Even though it is situated amongst the tallest mountains in the world, Everest still towers above. Unlike after the winning goal of an athletic contest when the athletes and fans scream, yell and cheer, we could only stare in silence at Chomolungma (Tibetan name for Mt. Everest meaning “Goddess Mother of the Earth”) and the sheer immense size of it.

After 2 days in Tingri, more cabbage, more day hikes and more acclimatization, we arrived early Friday afternoon into Base Camp (BC; elevation 16’896’). We have spent the last few days acclimatizing on the hills that surround base camp as well as doing a day hike to the Rongbuk Monastery (approx 4 miles away from BC). We will continue to acclimatize and then begin our initial ascent of the mountain.

Our current plan is to depart BC on Wednesday and hike to Advanced Base Camp (ABC- a 12 mile climb to 20,997’) where we will spend three- four days acclimatizing. We will then depart ABC and climb to the North Col/ Camp 1 (elevation 23,031’) where we will stay for at least three nights prior to returning to ABC for 1-2 more nights and then all the way back to BC. We will then eat, sleep and physically and mentally recover and then prepare for the first 5- 7 day window of good (read “good enough”) weather to make our summit attempt (anytime between the 2nd and 4th week of May, we hope).

I have attached a few photos of the trip so far, in case you were interested. I will send my next dispatch as time, climbing schedule and internet availability permits. I hope everyone is doing (1) well… and (2) “One More!”

Regards,

Eric

“I will not spend my days in trying to prolong them… I will use my time.” – Jack London

Update:

Second Dispatach – The Avalanche

Third Dispatch – Nec Aspera Terrent

Fourth Dispatch – Toughness is a Relative Term

Fifth Dispatch – Preparing for the Final Assault

Sixth Dispatch – Reaching the Summit

 



swingshiftSavannah, GA is one of my favorite cities and so it was a real treat to e-interview Tony Cope about his book, On The Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah.

What inspired you to write On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah?

I am a native of Savannah and was a child during World War II. I never saw the shipyard, but remember hearing the various whistles during the day and seeing the lights from my second story bedroom windows at night. The yard closed just after the war and the site remained basically derelict for many years. As an adult I drove past the site twice a day on the way to work with no recollection of what took place there. In the late 1980s, I was asked to chair a local committee established to develop some interest in establishing a museum to commemorate the Mighty Eighth Air Force which was created in Savannah and then moved to Britain to fight the air war against Germany. To create this interest, I wanted to come up with a slide show to use for talks to civic clubs and other groups and asked a friend at the local paper to run a request in his column for wartime photographs of Savannah. I received a call from a woman who had a set of six photos of her mother christening one of the Libertys launched by the yard in Savannah. That got me thinking about the yard and wondering that if I had forgotten what happened there maybe most other Savannahians had as well. That assumption was correct…the only people who remembered it were the people who had worked there or sailed on the ships. I just thought that there was a great story there and those people ought to be remembered.

What were some of your more insightful sources for On the Swing Swift?

The most insightful sources were certainly the people involved…the 120 shipyard workers, merchant seamen, Navy and Coast Guard personnel that I was able to interview. All were so excited to talk about their experiences and that someone was taking an interest in what they had done. Some were people that I had known in other circumstances, but never knew anything about this part of their lives. All were fascinating, but one early interview stands out. A friend who worked at the Georgia Ports told me of a retired Merchant captain who had sunk a U-boat, but warned me that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. I had a great two hour interview with Capt. Clifford Thomas who was master of a number of Libertys after the war, but was Third Mate on the S. S. James Jackson when it did fire on a U-boat, but was not credited with its sinking. Captain Thomas not only related his own experiences, but also gave me many names of other merchant seamen who could help with my project. It was a really enlightening and enjoyable interview and contrary to my friend’s warning, we got along splendidly. Unfortunately, when I got home, I found that I had failed to punch the record button on my brand new tape recorder. It was with great fear and trepidation that I called Capt.Thomas and asked if he could do the interview over again. He understood perfectly and we did the two hours again the next night. After I moved to Ireland, we talked by phone a number of times and he wrote very detailed accounts of situations that I asked him about. Unfortunately, he died before the book was published.

Can you tell us a little bit about a day in the life of a shipyard worker?

From the various interviews that I conducted with workers, a typical day at Southeastern was exciting and often very dull. The assembly line method of building Libertys meant that much of the work was repetitious; doing the same job over and over. Many of these workers had never seen a ship before much less built one and had to be trained to be welders, shipwrights and the various other skills necessary to building a ship. It was hot…over 100 degrees in the summer made even hotter by working on and around so much steel. It was freezing in the winter with any bare skin sticking to frozen steel. Then there were the bugs, swarms of mosquitoes and deer flies that bred in the marshes close by the yard in the summer. It was dangerous work; banging, cutting, shaping steel, huge ship parts being carried overhead by gantries. It was exciting though…to see a completed hull slide down the ways or a fully loaded Liberty sail down the river past the yard on its way to a war zone, to know that they were part of the effort to defeat the Axis powers.

Savannah has such a proud history. Can you tell us a little bit more about the city’s contribution to the war effort?

Savannah’s contribution to the war effort was certainly great. Southeastern was one of three shipyards building ships during the war and many other industries produced ammunition, trailers, boxes and bags for military use and many other products vital to the war effort. Many of its sons and daughters went to war and many never returned. As school children we participated in scrap drives, war bond drives, collecting Bundles For Britain and tending Victory gardens. There are monuments dedicated to the dead of that war and The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is now a very successful reality in Savannah. There is no monument to commemorate the shipyard and those who worked there. There are displays in the Savannah History Museum and the Ships of the Sea museum. There was a monument to Merchant Marine seamen killed in that war and the other prior wars that our nation has been involved in, but it was taken down and replaced with a monument to commemorate the Viet Nam War dead. The bronze plaques from the Merchant Marine monument are in storage somewhere in Savannah and it is my hope that “On The Swing Shift” will help to develop interest in restoring that monument and recognizing the workers at Southeastern, some of whom died or were injured doing very dangerous work there.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The research for and the writing of this book was an amazing experience for me; meeting the people and hearing their stories, trying to find information from a variety of sources in an attempt to be as accurate as possible in telling the story of this shipyard. It was a bit like a detective trying to find pieces of evidence in different places and putting it all together to solve a case. For me, some of that evidence came from across the continent and across the Atlantic Ocean. I have been fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to do a lot of very interesting things during my lifetime. This ranks right up there.

If you need additional information, I have a website, http://ontheswingshift.wordpress.com which gives a description of the book, my bio and some reviews.



ssjohnwbrownshipart

Nice art work onboard the SS John W. Brown, an operational World War II Liberty Ship.

For information about tours and cruises of the John W. Brown, click here.



Posted by Jim Dolbow in Travel | No Comments

As part of summer training, midshipmen spend time out in the Fleet, my past two summers were spent in Pearl Harbor on a submarine and a destroyer; however, this summer I was assigned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force Public Communication Team (II MEF PCT).

Marine Corps Public Affairs, the community’s guiding publication, opens with the following quotation from Major General Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps:
“The future success of the Marine Corps depends on two factors: first, an efficient performance of all duties to which its officers and men may be assigned; second, promptly bringing the efficiency to the attention of the proper officials of the Government, and the American people.”

On our first day with the team, MAJ Gilmore, the team’s director, gave us more than an hour and a half of his time to talk about Marine Corps public communication, emphasizing the importance of training Marines to think of communication as a two-way process of information sharing. As no public affairs team can (or wants to) completely control who says what to whom, proper training allows Marines to express themselves more effectively to friends, families, or anyone with whom they communicate.

While public affairs offices are generally perceived as providing information and assistance to the media, the II MEF PCT prefers a different approach. Understanding that the media is another party in the public domain, the II MEF PCT focuses its attention on getting its message to its “key publics,” members of the community who share an interest in II MEF-related issues. For the II MEF PCT, this means Marines, their families, and the surrounding community. Thus, the main focus of the team is not trying to target or “handle” the media, but establishing dialogue with the key publics.

This dialogue with key publics is central to II MEF PCT. For instance, the PCT responds the same way to questions from MEF family members and friends as it does with civilian media representatives. Furthermore, by calling and informing the interested parties of the press releases, the team builds connections with the community.

Blogging is a trend with some units, such as the 10th Mountain Division. Due to limitations of current policy as well the time and manpower requirements, the II MEF PCT does not operate one. However, the team does engage readers in the discussion section of blogs belonging to other groups including civilian media organizations.

The Marine Corps public affairs community only includes around 150 officers. Capt. Patrick, the team’s deputy director, served as an enlisted infantryman before accepting a commission. Coming out of The Basic School with any MOS open to him, he chose public affairs much to his peers’ surprise. “I had been reading and studying about fourth-generation warfare,” he explained, “and it was apparent that communicating information was incredibly important…Besides just basic leading Marines, I’ve never had such a broad impact.”

The Internet and “new media,” such as blogs, enable readers to draw information from sources outside the traditional media filter. How can the military and public affairs teams better adapt to these developments?



I highly recommend a tour of the USS Hornet if you are in the neighborhood. AS a firm believer of the maxim “one cannot tour enough aircraft carriers,” I enjoyed my visit on the Hornet and think you will too. 

The USS Hornet CV-12, CVA-12, CVS-12 is one of the 24 legendary Essex-class aircraft carriers built during and after World War II. Decommissioned in 1970, the Hornet is a floating museum and available for tours. See www.uss-hornet.org

To view the rest of my photos, click here.

Photos (me)



Posted by Jim Dolbow in Travel | 1 Comment

The USS Midway Museum in San Diego, CA is a must-see in my book. It is by far one of the best preserved ships in our museum fleet. It also has more planes than many third world air forces. Here are a few of my pics:

To view the rest of my photos, click here. Have you toured the USS Midway? If so, what did you think?

Photos (me)



Posted by Jim Dolbow in Travel | 17 Comments
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