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Last week the Exploration Institute organized its first Exploration Summit. Set on the Caltech campus in Pasadena, California, the event drew a group of 40 invited participants with diverse professional backgrounds but a common passion for exploration. I had the honor of attending and came home with three thoughts:

The Next Great Age of Exploration

Many members of the media and general public seem to question the need for ongoing exploration efforts, so I often hear the question, “Haven’t we already explored everywhere on Earth?” Then a plane goes missing somewhere over an ocean, and those same people wonder why we cannot find it. Perhaps it is because our planet is a phenomenally huge place, and humans have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to exploring the entirety of its ecosystem?

Fortunately, there also seems to be no shortage of explorers, who are prepared and eager to continue pushing the limits of humanity’s knowledge of our home world. Leveraging modern technologies and funded by the greatest accumulation of global capital we have ever seen, these courageous visionaries are ushering in what many of us consider to be The Next Great Age of Exploration.

During last week’s Exploration Summit, I was humbled to be among so many passionate individuals working hard to bring their exploration projects to life. I am excited to see what eye-opening discoveries the next few years will bring!

Explorers and Storytellers

I have always believed that one of the most important roles exploration plays in the realm of human activities is its vast potential for inspiration and education. Each expedition can be a tremendous storytelling platform with the ability to reach great numbers of people around the world. This is the fundamental vision behind Blue Marble Exploration.

Leveraging the Summit’s strategic location near Los Angeles, founder Armin Ellis and the wonderful staff at the Exploration Institute were able to bring together explorers AND storytellers. It was such a pleasure engaging in so many riveting discussions with artists, photographers, writers, and filmmakers!

While explorers can organize expeditions and scientists can provide the subject matter expertise, it is these talented and creative storytellers who add all the value and make the expeditions worthwhile endeavors. They are true heroes.

From Extreme Environments To Hyperlocal Exploration

We founded Blue Marble Exploration with a specific focus on human exploration of extreme environments. As such, our expeditions tend to be large complex projects that span the globe. However, we know so little about our planet that even a single person can make a big difference by exploring their own backyard … sometimes quite literally. Over the past few years, we have seen a growing movement toward “hyperlocal” exploration, and that phenomenon was on full display last week.

Several participants arrived at the Summit with ideas for large-scale global expeditions, including a trek along the Pan-American Highway on an eco-friendly flying motorcycle, a trip to study the indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and a public-private partnership with NOAA to explore a 6,000-meter-deep South Pacific marine protected area the size of California. However, there were also many ideas for much smaller projects, including a platform to enable community-based exploration, a 3D visualization app to study butterflies, and a “thumbsat” (extremely small satellite) to allow individuals access to space.

Humans have really just started to explore this planet, so every little bit helps … a lot. We need more than just a few “intrepid explorers” embarking on occasional ambitious expeditions. We need 7 billion explorers using their curiosity to make new discoveries in their own backyards every day.

These are just a few thoughts that I took away from last week’s Exploration Summit, but there were so many more ideas that came through the intense two-day event. I look forward to future interesting projects from our friends at the Exploration Institute!

Contributed by

Guillermo A. Söhnlein
Co-Founder & CEO
Blue Marble Exploration
Atlanta, GA, USA