Photos by @renan_ozturk / words by @m_synnott , from #TheLostWorldExpedition story. I’m pretty sure that I was the one who first started calling it mud world. It seemed an apt description, considering that within hours of first entering the jungle, our lives became a war of attrition against the oozing muck, from which there seemed to be no escape. It was supposed to be the dry season, but it rained every single day.
The key to survival was a wet-dry system. By day, we did our best to embrace the filth and wetness. But at night, we found respite, if only briefly, by changing into dry clothes and slipping into our sleeping bags and hammocks beneath elaborate post- and-beam tarp structures, constructed by our Akawaio guides.
My first night in the jungle, I sat in my hammock, legs dangling, wondering what to do with my mud-caked boots. I thought I was being clever when I stuffed them into a waterproof duffel, not realizing there was food in it—and I had failed to completely zip it shut. When I slipped back into my boots in the morning, giant red ants attacked so viciously they actually chewed through my sock.
We crossed countless rivers and small creeks that braid the floodplain, which lies east of the Pakaraima Mountains. Most of these crossings were facilitated with log bridges. Some were natural, others were expertly dropped by the Akawaios, who could fell a tree with their cutlasses in a matter of seconds. On the bigger rivers, they often built elaborate railings, which they lashed in place with vines and strips of bark. But in other places, there would be nothing but a thin, moss-covered log, high above the water.
And there was carnage. Renan caught his foot on a vine and face planted in the mud. @taylorfreesolo slipped and straddled a log. And I jammed my bare foot between two slimy rocks in the Krapung River, shaving all the skin off the bone on the inside of my ankle—an injury that would eventually land me in the hospital.
Photo by Matthieu Paley @paleyphoto / Ulaanbaatar’s Dari Ekh neighborhood is crowded with migrants from the countryside, nomadic herders who come to Mongolia’s capital seeking education and jobs. Living in simple houses or round tents called gers, with inadequate or no electricity, they burn coal to keep warm through the harsh winters. One study found that children in the capital had 40 percent lower lung function than rural kids—a red flag for long-term health problems.This is the opening image of a global story titled “The Deadly cost of Dirty Air” that appears in the April edition of National Geographic magazine. For more insights into our world, follow @paleyphoto #airpollution #mongoliairpollution #coal #Ulaanbaatar #urbanmigration
Check out Nat Geo's link in bio for more on this story.
Photos by Michael Yamashita @yamashitaphoto / Springtime in tulou land: Perfectly groomed rows of tea plants surround a traditional circular tulou—which means earthen building—a communal dwelling of the Hakka people in Fujian, China. The highest grade tea leaves are picked in early spring starting now. #tulou #hakka #teaharvest #tea #teatime
Photos by @babaktafreshi and @nasa / Mars on Earth. It's incredible how some landscapes on Earth resemble the surface of our neighboring planet. I made this panorama of Chile’s Atacama Desert as the rising moon gently shone on this extremely dry environment. Swipe to compare this with a recent 360 panorama from the red planet, as seen by @nasa rover Perseverance, which landed in February. This site was once an ancient lake 3.5 billion years ago, when Mars had a thicker atmosphere and was perhaps habitable. For more astronomy and space stories follow me @babaktafreshi .
#twanight #mars #earth #perserverance #atacama
Photo by @BrianSkerry / Secrets of the Whales / An orca feeds on a stingray off coastal New Zealand. Orca here have figured out how to navigate shallow water to predate on the rays. A preference for certain prey and creating feeding strategies to target them is an example of the whales' unique culture.
Disney+ original series Secrets of the Whales, from @NatGeo , is streaming this Earth Day, April 22, on @DisneyPlus . In addition, my book of the same name is on sale now wherever books are sold. My work on whales is also featured in the May issue of National Geographic magazine, the Ocean Issue, available online now. Learn more about all three at Nat Geo's Planet Possible hub, our newest initiative, which aims to inform, inspire and enable consumers to live more lightly on the planet: natgeo.com/planet (link in bio).
Follow me at @BrianSkerry to keep up with all things #SecretsOfTheWhales #NatGeoEarthDay #DisneyPlus
The Walt Disney Company is majority owner of National Geographic Partners.
Photos by Pete McBride @pedromcbride / On day 11 of a 15-day boat trip down the Colorado River a few years ago, we hit Lava Falls—an experience our boatman described as “getting tossed down a flight of stairs while someone fires a river hose at you.” I can confirm that was an accurate description—and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. For more from the Grand Canyon, follow @pedromcbride . #whitewater #rapids #grandcanyon #rafting
Photos by @renan_ozturk / words by @m_synnott / Science and the search for new species was the raison d’etre of the @natgeo Lost World Expedition in Guyana. But the beating heart of our team was the native Akawaios who served as guides, porters, citizen scientists, and friends. Some of roughly 70 Akawaois who accompanied us live in this village, which is called Wayalayeng, home to about 50 families and accessible only by foot or boat.
Over the years that I've been exploring our planet, I've secretly dreamed that one day I might find a real Shangri-La. The term was coined by British author in 1933 and is defined as “a remote, beautiful, imaginary place where life approaches perfection; utopia.” It's tempting to project this vision onto Wayalayeng, and I’ll admit that I have. But the truth is that life in this village is hard. Wayalayeng lacks basic amenities that many of us take for granted in our daily lives—electricity, running water, cellular communications, and medical care.
Wayalayeng sits on the edge of a plateau, and the land is ideally suited to the creation of a landing strip. I spoke with Akawaios both for and against the idea, but the consensus seems to be for maintaining the status quo. An airstrip would bring miners. (Apparently, outsiders currently hold over 100 mining claims in the area.) So far, the Akawaois have held them off. For hundreds of years, they have lived communally, subsisting on crops of cassava and hunting fish, deer, tapirs, and agoutis. Their vision of sustainability for this remote corner of the world has been passed down from one generation to the next—and it doesn't include mining. No one knows better than the Akawaios that the real treasures of El Dorado are not gold and diamonds, but the plants, animals, and people who call this magical place home. With @taylorfreesolo #TheLostWorldExpedition #Akawaios
Photo by @enricsala / Southern Line Islands: The ocean is like a bank account, where for generations we have been withdrawing resources faster than they can regenerate. No-take marine reserves can bring back ocean life. They replenish fisheries, boost the local economy, and safeguard biodiversity. @macfound #100andChange
For more about the benefits of ocean protection, follow @EnricSala and the National Geographic Society’s @natgeopristineseas project.
Photos by @renan_ozturk / words by @m_synnott / The goal of the 2021 @natgeo Lost World Expedition was an "elevational transect" of the Upper Paikwa River Basin, near Guyana’s northwestern frontier with Brazil and Venezuela, to look for new species of amphibians and reptiles in one of the world’s richest and least explored hotspots of biodiversity. The final section of our transect led us through a pristine, untouched cloud forest and culminated with a first ascent of a 7,000-foot tepui called Weiassipu.
The expedition was led by @dr_bruce_means , an intrepid 80-year-old ecologist and evolutionary biologist whose life’s work has been to catalog and document the unique flora and fauna of South America’s tepui region. Tepuis, which rise high above the rainforest like tabletop mesas, are made from some of the oldest rock on Earth, iron-hard, orange quartzite that is 1.6 to 1.8 billion years old. These “lost worlds” represent the last vestiges of an ancient plateau called the Guiana Shield, and their summits have been called “islands in the sky” for the endemic species that often occur only on a single mountaintop.
For more about why biodiversity matter and details on the new species of frogs discovered on this expedition (not pictured), stay tuned for a feature article in the magazine as well as a @natgeotv episode directed by @taylorfreesolo with myself.
For now, we’d like to thank the incredible team that worked tirelessly to document this story, including Alex Honnold, Federico Pisana, Matt Irving, Ryan Valasek, Rudy Lehfeldt Ehlinger, Brian Irwin, and most important, the team of Indigenous Akawaios who we’ll be telling you more about in our next post. #TheLostWorldExpedition #BiodiversityMatters
Photo by @stephenwilkes : Buddhist monks on Alms Rounds in Luang Prabang, Laos.
During this ritual, monks walk in silence, collecting donations of food--usually nothing more than sticky rice. They travel barefoot, in a single file line, with the most senior monk in the lead. The Alms Rounds are meant to demonstrate humility, and detachment from the material world.
Stay tuned as I share more photographs from my trip to Laos, where I traveled on assignment for #NatGeo, and be sure to find the story in the August issue of #NationalGeographicMagazine.
#Laos #AlmsRounds #motionblur #travel #photography
Photo by @nataliekeyssar / Throughout history, people have turned to faith and ritual during times of crisis, often becoming more observant when confronted with loss and uncertainty. To explore this idea, I spent the past few weeks traveling across Alabama, one of the most religious U.S. states, according to the Pew Research Center, to look at how faith has intersected with one of the most difficult years anyone can remember.
The Flatline Church at Chisholm in Montgomery, led by Pastor Dewayne Rembert, opened up two years ago with a mission to help the community and focus on outreach to the poor. When the pandemic hit, they moved to drive-in services to protect their congregation while still connecting with them and offering support. On March 28, as storms rolled into the area, Pastor Rembert decided to hold their first indoor services in a year, citing increased levels of vaccination and lower virus levels. They carefully blocked off seating for social distancing, required masks, opened doors for ventilation, and sat separated by family group. Associate Pastor Keelan Adams gave a passionate service to a small but emotional group of attendees, moved by their first time being together following such a hard year. After the service, church volunteers served food to anyone in the area who was hungry, as part of the church’s mission to serve—despite the obstacles in its path.
It's been a joy and an honor to spend time during these pivotal days with spiritual leaders and communities over these past few weeks. Thank you so much to everyone who let me join them for these beautiful, hopeful moments. And huge thanks @insidenatgeo for the generous support for this project, publishing in full soon on @natgeo . Follow me @Nataliekeyssar for more stories of resilience during crisis.
Follow @natgeointhefield for real-time coverage of this developing story.
Time-lapse video by Pete McBride @pedromcbride / Lightning crackles across the sky over the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Though Arizona typically sees less than 10 inches of annual rainfall, during the state's monsoon season—generally mid-June to mid-September—thunderstorms can generate two or three inches in less than a day's time, which then leads to flash floods and water accumulation in low-lying areas. For more from this open-air cathedral, follow @pedromcbride . #grandcanyon #lightning #timelapse #nature
Photo by @enricsala / At @natgeopristineseas , we partner with local communities, governments, and other nonprofits to protect vital places in the ocean for the benefit of nature and humanity, such as Kingman Reef, seen here. We’re honored to have been included in an inspiring group of finalists for the @macfound #100andChange competition and are looking forward to continuing our work to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. @insidenatgeo
Photo by Tomas van Houtryve @tomasvh / Seen through a hole in the roof where the spire used to be, workers build scaffolding inside the choir of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Two years after a fire destroyed the roof and spire, efforts to stabilize, clean, and restore the cathedral continue at a steady pace.
Follow @tomasvh and the public institution in charge of reconstruction, @rebatirnotredamedeparis , for more on Notre Dame. #notredamedeparis
Nat Geo photographer @BrianSkerry swims among orca whales as they eat herring around fishing nets off the coast of Norway. Stunning whale footage taken by Steve De Neef.
The Disney+ original series, "Secrets of the Whales," from @NatGeo , is streaming this Earth Day, April 22, on @DisneyPlus . A book of the same name is on sale now wherever books are sold, and whales are also featured as the cover story for the May issue of the magazine, available online now. Learn more about all three at Nat Geo's Planet Possible hub, our newest initiative, which aims to inform, inspire, and enable consumers to live more lightly on the planet: natgeo.com/planet.
Follow me at @BrianSkerry to keep up with all things #SecretsOfTheWhales. #NatGeoEarthDay #DisneyPlus
The Walt Disney Company is majority owner of National Geographic Partners.
Photo by Charlie Hamilton James @chamiltonjames / The Fast Five is a coalition of male cheetahs that live on the plains of Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve. Cheetahs are the world's fastest land animal, and a coalition of five is a deadly force—able to take down prey larger than a single cheetah. As a result, they favor antelopes such as topi and wildebeest. During tourism's high season these famous cheetahs can be surrounded by 70 or 80 cars at a time. Over the last year those numbers have been reduced due to COVID-19, giving the cheetahs a bit of breathing space.
Photo by Matthieu Paley @paleyphoto / Worldwide, air pollution kills millions every year, like a pandemic in slow motion. Here, coal smoke puffs from the chimneys of houses and gers in the early morning in Ulaanbaatar. The capital of Mongolia has grown rapidly and in an unplanned way in recent years, as nomadic herders have left the countryside and settled on the city's outskirts. Experts say insulating gers and providing better power connections would reduce home coal-burning and improve air quality. This is an unpublished image, part of a global story titled “The Deadly cost of Dirty Air” that appears in the April edition of National Geographic magazine. For more insights into our world, follow @paleyphoto #airpollution #mongoliairpollution #coal #Ulaanbaatar
Check out Nat Geo's link in bio for more on this story.
Photo by @kiliiiyuyan / Larry Lucas Kaleak listens to the sounds of passing whales and bearded seals through a skinboat paddle in the waters off Utqiagvik, Alaska. The sounds of bearded seals and bowhead whales are unique and distinctive, and Iñupiaq subsistence hunters will sometimes listen to them on calm days through the vibrations of the wooden paddle.
You can hear the sounds of these seals and other amazing stories from my time with the Iñupiat by listening to National Geographic’s "Overheard" podcast. From polar bears to collapsing sea ice, I spoke about the dangers of working in the Arctic and the joys of being with its Indigenous communities.
Follow me, @kiliiiyuyan , for more of the human relationship to the wild world. #alaska #inupiaq #inuit
Photo by Aaron Huey @argonautphoto / Students in a Taliban madrassa in Chaman, Pakistan, on the Afghan border, 1999. Taken on slide film with my first camera the year I graduated from college. With the pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan just announced, I am looking back at my earliest encounters with the Taliban, before 9/11, and my work in Afghanistan in the years after, when I lived in Kabul. To hear the full stories from inside these Taliban schools follow @argonautphoto ’s IGTV.
Photo by @mattiasklumofficial / I love the red pouch on this great frigate bird in the Galápagos. Charles Darwin called them the condor of the oceans because of their exceptionally large wingspan—in fact, the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird. This remarkable maneuverability allows them to glide on thermals for days at a time.
The male has a throat pouch, which is regularly inflated during the breeding season. The females are slightly larger and have white breasts as well as beautiful blue rings around their eyes.. #oceanconservation #protectbiodiversity #galapagosconservancy #nature