Mayewski, Potocki to talk about Everest expedition in Belfast

World-renowned climate scientist and explorer Paul Mayewski and glaciochemist Mariusz Potocki will give a free, public talk titled “The National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Extreme Mt. Everest Expedition,” 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, March 6 in the auditorium at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast.

The goal of the two-month multinational, multidisciplinary National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Extreme Mt. Everest Expedition was to document people’s impacts on one of the planet’s most severe environments.

Mayewski, director of the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, was the expedition leader and lead scientist for the international project that involved 55 science partners, National Geographic staff, journalists, Sherpas and porters.

From Base Camp at an altitude of 17,514 feet, he directed the biological, geological, glaciological, meteorological, mapping and multimedia enterprise which took place all over the mountain, both at lower elevations and nearly to the 29,029-foot summit.

Potocki, a Ph.D candidate at UMaine, collected the highest ice core on the planet — at 8,020 meters — during the expedition. The “buried weather station” will allow researchers to go back in time — tens, hundreds and perhaps thousands of years to learn about the atmosphere above 8,000 meters, including human-made pollutants, past temperatures, precipitation and snowfall amounts. Researchers also will learn where air masses over and around Everest hail from — which will be key to understanding the region’s monsoon cycle.

Water flowing from Himalayan glaciers is a resource for energy, food and consumption for about 20% of the world’s population. One billion people living in the watershed will be stressed due to the shrinking of the glaciers, Mayewski says. Initially from flooding and landslides, and later due to drought.

This marked Mayewski’s fourth scientific expedition on Everest, which Tibetans call Chomolungma and Nepalis call Sagarmatha for “mother of the sky.” Mayewski has led nearly 60 research expeditions around the globe, many in Antarctica, where he was the first person to explore large tracts of the continent. “Mayewski Peak,” a summit in Antarctica’s Saint Johns Range, is named in his honor.

A video, a summit suit, a drill used to secure the highest ice core in the world, and other items from the expedition will be displayed. For additional information, read the National Geographic and UMaine Today stories.