By John Seaton Callahan
ASC Microplastics Adventurer
Papua Province on the island of New Guinea is a wild and remote area. Poor infrastructure and the simmering conflict between native Papuan and the Indonesian government have restricted development.
While exploring the coastline, our surfEXPLORE team met a cross-section of local residents, including tribal people with little involvement or concern for the 21st century, betel-nut chewing indigenous Papuan people who have lived in this area continuously for roughly 30,000 years, quite a few trans-migrasi ethnic Malay Asian Indonesians who’ve received government assistance to leave crowded areas like Java and Bali and resettle in Papua.
What we did not see was a single Caucasian foreigner.
SurfEXPLORE is a multi-national group who travel to some of the world's more remote and exotic locations seeking undiscovered surfing waves. Our core team is French surfer Erwan Simon, British longboard champion Sam Bleakley, Italian surfer Emiliano Cataldi, and me, Hawaiian photographer John Seaton Callahan. This was our fifth project in Pacific Indonesia, and it remains one of our favorite places to travel, explore and surf.
When we contacted the Tourism Official in Sarmi, a large town on the coast known as "Kota Ombak," or “City of Waves” in Bahasa, the woman there said they recorded 24 foreign visitors in all of 2014.
We had researched the coastline for several months prior, and we found that some of our marked areas did have good waves, some did not, and we found several waves in unexpected places!
Before the rest of the surfEXPLORE team arrived, Erwan spent a week trekking in the Baliem Valley, near the town of Wamena. After hiking in for two days into the Papuan highlands, he met and stayed with members of the Dani tribe. “The people are really friendly, and in the most remote places they are curious but happy to see foreigners,” he said. The Dani subside on agriculture, hunting and fishing, and the older men still wear the Koteka gourd. (Photo by Erwan Simon)
Erwan washes some of the dust off after a long drive at a beach break near Sarmi. “Not a very good surfing location, but we had just arrived and the wind was a favorable offshore direction at this river mouth, so it was a good opportunity to get wet,” John says. “This wave broke close to the beach, so our Indonesian cameraman Joko could also film some action material.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
The team hangs with the local kids at a river mouth near the large village of Sarmi. “Although the waves were not very good, it was a great opportunity to film and have some fun with the kids,” John says. “It is unlikely these kids have had any contact with surfers, but they’re in the water every day and already riding waves on pieces of wood, so the transition to modern surfboards is easy for them.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
“This local outrigger was our standard boat and method of access to many waves that were not drivable due to bad roads, damaged bridges or no road at all,” John said. “With a single 40-horsepower outboard motor and an accommodating captain, we could range quite far up and down the coast.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
No one is sure if wolverines or Canada lynx live in the Uinta Mountains. In summer 2015, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation aims to find out.
This rugged, wild range northeast of Salt Lake City runs nearly 60 miles east to west. Although unglaciated, this is the highest alpine area in the Intermountain West, with more than 1,000 lakes. Wildlife including bighorn sheep, black bear and mountain lion live in the High Uintas Wilderness, and Utah’s highest point, 13,528-foot King’s Peak, is the range’s crown jewel.
Historically, the range was home to limited numbers of both wolverines and lynx, but fur trapping and predator poisoning programs in the 18th and 19th centuries devastated them in the lower 48.
There have been only 10 lynx sightings reported here in the past 100 years, and although Forest Service biologists caught a wolverine on a camera trap last year, they're unsure if it was a resident animal or just passing through. Prior to that, the last confirmed wolverine sighting was a dead animal found in 1979.
The ASC Uinta Carnivore Survey will recruit, manage and train a skilled, dedicated corps of outdoorspeople to maintain 30 baited, motion-activated cameras on the range’s north slope. The project is a partnership with the Uinta-Cache-Wasatch National Forest.
With wolverine populations now rebounding in the Northern Rockies and numerous lynx sightings in Wyoming, Uinta National Forest biologists are already using five cameras in an effort to search for wolverines on the range’s north slope.
A few weeks ago, ASC's Executive Director Gregg Treinish was honored by receiving a letter and a blue marble from Jacob Almengor, a fifth grader from Munsey Elementary School in Bakersfield, California.
"I wish I could be out there with you really doing things," Jacob wrote. "I'm trying to do my part to help by learning about plastics, the power of recycling, the effects of trash in the oceans, and how to conserve water in my own home, with my own family. I know I'm just one person, but I can make a difference."
"The blue marble is a way to say 'thank you' for what you are doing... Maybe if we all work together our world will be a better place."
Jacob's words strengthen our belief in the ASC value of optimism, and our belief that people are inherently good. Click "Read More to see the full letter."
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
Forming the base of nearly all aquatic food chains, diatoms are essential to the health of the planet. These single-celled photosynthetic plants account for around 40% of carbon fixation and oxygen production worldwide, according Dr. Loren Bahls, curator of the Montana Diatom Collection.
“Diatoms appeared sometime during the Cretaceous, about the same time as flowering plants and when dinosaurs ruled the land,” explains Dr. Bahls, who has been an ASC partner since 2012. “When you slip on the rocks in a mountain stream, you are slipping on a thin layer of diatoms and the mucilage they produce.”
Read the Landmark Notes blog: