Month: November 2009

YEP Selection Camp – Day 3

1st of December 2009 – Day 3 – Blog written by Dominic and Florencia

With as early a start as ever, we were up at 6am and off straight to the local gym for an introduction to some of the fitness training to come. We played some basketball and some other team-building activities. After that we returned to the hotel and had breakfast and a meeting in the conference room where two driving instructors from Mercedes were waiting. Our day was centered around eco driving, where we learnt about everything from car safety, design and efficiency, to ways of drastically decreasing fuel consumption. But perhaps what produced the most excitement among the group so far, was seeing what happens when the traction control, or ESP (Electrical Stability Program) is switched off, where the guys from Mercedes took us for an adrenaline fueled trip around a deserted car park and down the road from where we are staying, made that bit more spectacular by the stunning scenery blanketed in fresh snow.

As I write this now, I have just come from a dinner finished off superbly by the chance to sample some of the foods, well actually mainly sweets and chocolate, brought to Switzerland from all corners of the planet by the other YEPers. After which we had the chance to sit down with Mike and have a real in-depth conversation where we could all voice ideas of future projects that we might together focus on after the India expedition, something he clearly feels particularly strongly about, making it clear that it is not intended that we just go home after a this and forget about it but rather that we become active parts of the PANGAEA community as a whole.

Tomorrow promises to be a cold day but one which i am personally looking forward to particularly, which is sailing on Lac Leman. So that will be land and sea transport sorted. Next I'll have to persuade Mike to sort out some flying lessons!

First day of activities for the YEP

Monday 30th of NovemberDay 2 of the Selection Camp

Blog from Connor and Florence

Independence is a strong theme we're happy to agree with in this camp. After waking up on our own accord at 6:00, we prepared for our first venture to the groupe E hydro-electric powerplant (built 1921). Upon reaching our destination we watched a short film on the history and purpose of the eco-friendly plant.After we toured the plant and learned about the plants ways of operation. It's nice to see such a power plant that has very little effect on the environment. It somewhat calms you down, makes you happy. After a very good lunch Dimitry and Benedict gave us some tips how to use a camera and how to take good pictures. It was really interesting and we learned a lot about
it. Later we went outside to do a "photoshooting" and the photos were beautiful with the snow. Now we just had a very interesting presentation about Nespresso where we learned more about how coffee is made and about the aluminium used in it's production. The atmosphere here in the camp is great and everything is just amazing. It is just the second day and everybody gets on well with the others. Outside it's still snowing so tomorrow the morning
exercices will be very funny in the snow! =)

4th YEP Selection Camp begins

On Sunday the 29th, 16 young adults from all corners of the world began to arrive one-by-one at Geneva Airport in Switzerland. Mike Horn also arrived in Geneva yesterday and had the opportunity to meet the young explorers in the evening. While his sailboat 'Pangaea' awaits in Kuala Lumpur for his return, Mike Horn is looking forward to getting to know the youths as he participates in the camp inbetween his other obligations throughout Europe.

The youths were informed in October of their great chance to be accepted amongst almost 300 applications to travel to Switzerland and attend the 10 day Selection Camp. The camp, as its name suggests, selects outstanding youngsters to join Mike Horn during his current 4 year environmental expedition, named the Pangaea Expedition. Throughout the 10 days the youths will engage in intensive courses learning about state-of-the-art technology, sustainability and the environment, fitness and health and communication skills which will prepare them to meet the challenges of the Pangaea Expedition and form them as ambassadors to communicate their experiences to their families and peers around the world.

A busy time lies ahead for the youths. The frst day starts off with a visit to a local electrical plant where they will learn about renewable energies, followed with group discussions and film and photography skills.

Updates and photos will be posted daily as we follow closely the youths and begin assessments to see who will be chosen for the next leg of the Pangaea Expedition in India.

Mike rings from Port Klang

Mike rings from the Port of Klang situated a little north of Kuala Lumpur. He has been very busy doing renovations on Pangaea. "We are removing a structure from the front deck of the boat. It will give us a lot of extra space", he says."People here are very interested about Pangaea and I have been asked to talk to two local schools here. " As Mike raises interest about the Pangaea Expedition in Malaysia, the team in Switzerland are getting ready for the next group of Young Explorers to meet with them in Switzerland.

Day 17 YEP in Borneo

With those inspiring words Mike said goodbye to Pangaea’s newest Young Explorers as a successful Borneo programme came to a close in Miri, Sarawak. The YEPs have now returned to their homes around the world, where they’ll hopefully spread Pangaea’s important message by starting their own environmental projects.

There were plenty of hugs and a tear or two as the YEPs said goodbye to each other, as well Mike, Cathy, Martin and the ship’s crew, who have all bonded into a kind of Earth-saving family aboard the beautiful Pangaea over the past three weeks.

“It’s not the end of the adventure,” said Eugénie Guillaume, 18, of France. “It’s the start of a whole new one.” And it’s been an incredible adventure: releasing baby turtles and building a reef on Lankayan Island, diving some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, including Sipadan Island, falling in love with baby orang-utans at Sepilok, cleaning up a variety of beaches and remote paradise islands, and overcoming fears in the tight passages of the Mulu Caves.

It’s now over to the YEPs to use this range of experiences to fulfil Pangaea’s aim – to become ambassadors of the world and unite the continents in the fight for nature. Saying goodbye to the other YEPs, Michelle Nay, 19, of Switzerland commented: “I really hope we meet again, and get together to do projects all over the world. That would be a dream for me. We don’t live in one country, we live in the world.”

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Carrying Pangaea’s message across the globe is one of the most important roles the YEPs can play. Said Mike: “Don’t ever lose your passion to conserve Mother Earth, who takes care of all of us. Today is today; life is now, so think about doing things now – tomorrow is already too late.”

With the Borneo YEPs now at home and hopefully planning their own projects, Mike and Pangaea are sailing towards new horizons – the Sultanate of Brunei and soon on to India, in preparation for the next Young Explorers Programme early next year.

Here’s wishing safe seas and fair winds for Pangaea, support and bright ideas for the YEPs and their projects, and good luck for the new YEPs attending the training camp in November. – There’s exciting stuff ahead !

Day 13 – 15 YEP in Borneo

Friday was largely swallowed by bureaucracy – even though we’re still in Malaysia, we’ve crossed into Sarawak, requiring immigration and passport checks, which took a lot of taxi rides and waiting around, trying to get it all sorted – plus a journey in a large truck that drove us into town. But eventually (albeit 10 hours later!) we finally started our journey up the Tutoh River on the ‘express boat’ which roared off into the gathering dark, dodging floating logs and treating us to a gorgeous sunset with lush jungle racing past on both sides. Marudi is about three hours up the river, where we stopped for the night in the local hotel – which is definitely not on the Michelin list. We slept three to a room – and that’s not counting the cockroaches…

Sunrise saw us back on the boat for another six hours, before swapping to narrow motorised pirogues for another two as the river shallows and narrows. So it’s a long journey, although you can fly in just half an hour – but then you’d miss the half the adventure, and a glimpse of life along the river. Gunung Mulu, as the park is known in Malaysia, was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 2005 and it boasts the largest cave passage in the world, and the largest chamber – the Sarawak Chamber is 600 by 800 metres, and 100 metres high. Deer Cave was our first stop after arriving at Mulu in the afternoon: a 40-minute walk through the jungle brought us to a huge cave opening, which is famous for the three million bats that live inside it. At about 6 pm they’re supposed to swarm out to go out eating for the night – but that night they seemed to be afraid of the rain (they don’t call it a rainforest for nothing). We walked back in the dark, listening to a jungle orchestra of frogs, birds, bats and other nightlife tuning up for the evening chorus. But the best part of this adventure came the next morning. We set off after 8 am for the 3.8 km walk to Clearwater Cave – with 425 steep steps on extremely damp and slippery boardwalks. At the entrance we donned Petzl helmets and headlamps so that we could disappear into the darkness – it was a lovely feeling to walk beyond the railings where the average tourists must stop and turn back.

We spent the next five hours slipping, slithering, squeezing and scrambling through this immense cave system – 150 km of majestic chambers and galleries of stalactites and stalagmites, connected at times by extraordinarily narrow passages, so skinny we couldn’t bend a knee; you had to inch through head or feet first like a snake. At other tricky parts we relied on ropes to help us across. We covered almost five kilometres of the system. “But in terms of physical effort, five kilometres underground is like 30 kilometres above ground,” said Phillippe Bence, our cave guide. We were constantly drenched and muddy – it felt like a real journey into the centre of the Earth, complete with bats, spiders, swiftlets and even snakes. At one point we slid through a crack in the rock that was the width of a forearm, from wrist to elbow. “I was feeling a bit claustrophobic at the first narrow passage, sliding between two slabs of rock. But it was ok, everyone was helping each other, and Phillippe was there for us, giving good advice, and that was important,” said Eugénie, Guillaume, 18, of France.

“It was a little bit scary,” added Rodrigo Steinman, 16, of Brazil. “It was a challenge, you had to work it through in your mind.” Eventually we came to a clear, strong-flowing river in a chamber hung with huge stalactite chandeliers. We followed it for the last 1.5 km to the end of the trail. “We were so hot, the cool water was like Christmas for your body,” said Eugénie. The river led us out of the cave system and back out into the daylight, grubby from head to toe and quite tired, but exhilarated by an incredible experience none of us had had before. “We wanted to give the Young Explorers a chance to explore something new, a brilliant opportunity in one of the world’s most amazing caves,” said Mike. “They handled it well – they kept moving and all helped each other. I think the group has bonded even closer.” Another long boat journey, overnight at a guesthouse at Long Terawan, brought us very happily back to ‘Hotel Pangaea’ – home of showers, dry clothes and Cathy’s excellent cooking. There is such as thing as too much nasi goring.

Day 13 YEP in Borneo

However, sharing the space with the nine Young Explorers are several crew members needed to sail such a ship (skipper, engineer and sailors), as well as the Mike Horn team, which includes several logistics managers, a doctor, dive master, videographer, photographer and journalist. But while space is at a premium, everyone’s considerate about keeping general spaces tidy – although it gets pretty crowded in the galley at mealtimes!

The Young Explorers have bonded into a tight unit, and they’re amazingly caring of each other. They’re working hard – they’re busy with activities (such as reef dives, beach clean-ups and sailing duties) almost non-stop, plus there are journals to write, video clips to edit and lessons to learn from Mike, Christian, the onboard dive master, and Dr Roswitha Stolz, a physical geographer from the University of Munich. They’ve all perfected Mike’s concept of ‘stealing sleep’ – grabbing a quick nap on a sail bag or in the main saloon area! But they’re definitely remarkable youngsters – each one is extremely aware of the opportunity they’ve been given, and they’re making the most of every minute. So how are they getting on with the expedition? “We are in love with each other!” said Eugénie of France.

Michelle Nay, 19, Switzerland
‘We’re doing very well together. Yesterday we had a tough swim, and we had to look after each other in the waves.’

Dongkyun Seo, 20, South Korea
‘I’m getting to know the names of things on the boat. Night watch was interesting, to see the navigation and the map. With responsibility, we learn to take care of our boat.’

Eugénie Guillaume, 18, France
‘When we’re diving, everyone asks each other all the time if you’re ok, do you have enough air. People don’t do that in life, sometimes they don’t even look at each other. We’re looking after each other. It’s humanity.’

Daniel Kotze, 20, South Africa
‘We’re one team – like different parts of a body, each with an important role to play. If you don’t play your part, the body doesn’t function well.’

Rodrigo Steinman, 16, Brazil
‘We’re getting quite close. We’re realising we need each other to make it work.’

Simon Havas, 16, Czech Republic
‘It’s important that we communicate and motivate each other – like when we’re on night watch, when someone might be sleepy or tired.’

Garrett Celestin, 15, United States
‘Everything we do is about team work. As a team we’re great, alone we can’t do as much.’

Daniel Vivier, 19, South Africa
‘We’ve learnt that we need to be vigilant and observe, as every dive is different and conditions change all the time. If I act foolishly or over-confidently, I could put myself and my dive buddy in danger.’

Kerstin Dörner, 18, Germany
‘Space on board isn’t a problem. We all like each other, and we talk openly if there are any conflicts.’

Day 12 YEP in Borneo

There were anxious phone calls yesterday from the organisers of the event, wanting to make sure we would arrive on time. Yesterday was a sailing day as we journeyed towards the capital – but naturally there was time for some diving and a walk along the beach of Mantanini Island – which of course turned into a beach clean-up! We anchored fairly close to KK, as the capital is known, for the night, feeling quite sad that the sailing and diving part of this expedition have largely come to an end.

But there’s no stopping Mike. Late last night he issued a challenge to the YEPs who were still up for an adventure: “Who wants to dive over two days?” A few of the YEPs were brave enough to load up their scuba gear and slide into the dark water just before midnight on the 4, to emerge more than half an hour later on the 5 of November!. Kota Kinabalu is quite different to what we’ve seen so far – high-rise buildings line the seafront and the gleaming marble-floored yacht club with sweeping wooden staircases was very impressive. Welcoming us this morning was Malaysia’s deputy minister of tourism, Sulaiman A. Rahman Taib, who we’d met before in Sipadan, as well as YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, minister of tourism, culture and environment for Sabah.

The minister outlined some of the steps Sabah has taken to safeguard nature, including cancelling logging contracts worth billions of ringits (the Malaysian currency), and ensuring that 55% of Sabah remains as protected forest. “The biggest problem is managing human greed,” he said. “To supply the greed of a few people, we’re paying the price in needless exploitation of the forest. We need to take only what we need, and leave the rest for future generations. In fact we need to add value for future generations. There’s a place for everyone in this world if we know what to take and what to conserve. ”Speaking directly to the Young Explorers, he said: “Mike has given you a legacy to do all you can for nature, and you are going to leave a legacy. If nine people follow you and nine more follow each of them, the multiple effort will be loud enough for the world to hear.”

Mike then shared his experiences from some of his earlier adventures and what they’d taught him, and then showed a video of the Borneo adventure so far. Then the journalists had time to interview the YEPs, who seemed to enjoy being media personalities. The days are running out on our adventure, but it’s not quite over yet. We waved goodbye to our friendly hosts and are now racing, rocking and rolling (this is being written while swaying from side to side at what feels like 45 degrees), towards Miri in Sarawak, from where we start our inland and upriver journey to see a whole new side to Borneo, the second largest island in the world.

Day 10 & 11 YEP in Borneo

It was a rough swim from for the youngsters, battling the waves as they swam from rock to rock around the headland, but it was an excellent way to celebrate their journey around this northern part of Malaysian Borneo.

And of course there was an ACT project involved. There was a huge amount of rubbish on the beach where they set off – polystyrene, shoes, and an abundance of plastic bottles. The YEPs gathered up as many as could fit into several black rubbish bags, and returned to the boat, tired and happy, as a gorgeous orange sun sank into the sea. The pile of rubbish stacked in Pangaea’s stern is growing alarmingly, as this was the third beach clean-up of the trip. After we sailed away from Lankayan and the turtles, Mike found the perfect little island in the Sulu Sea, about 100 metres long, for an evening barbeque on the beach. With white sand, large lime and sandstone rocks and plenty of greenery, it really was a tiny paradise, except for the rubbish that had been washed up.

So after a fabulous evening on the island, with meat and potatoes cooked over the open fire, the YEPs returned to the island the next morning where they filled eight large bags and collected 216 recyclable plastic bottles. They’ve now been compressed on board Pangaea into a manageable block, stacked with the others. After the last two days of fairly solid sailing, the YEPs are becoming very efficient sailors, jumping to the sheets and halyards as Mike shouts instructions from the helm, or guides a young helmsman or woman on sailing and the wind. We’ve now crossed into the South China Sea and are anchored at Mantanani Island for some diving tomorrow, before heading for Kota Kinabalu on Thursday.

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Mike is in a constant state of travel and adventure , so keep up to date on all his expeditions !