Changing Planet

10 Hidden Gems From a Year in Exploration

With more than 350 field updates from explorers posted this year, many stories get overlooked and become lost treasures in their own right, like these weathering faces of gods and men high atop Mount Nemrut in Turkey. (Photo by Andrew Howley)

Every year, the National Geographic Society supports hundreds of explorers as they seek to increase our understanding of the world and all that’s in it.

They hack through jungles, get up close with wild animals, dive the depths of the sea, experience little-known cultures, unearth the remains of life from the ancient past, and they share it as it happens, revealing what it’s like to live the life of an explorer, here on the Explorers Journal blog.

While many stories make their way to front page headlines and record-breaking social posts, many more become lost treasures in their own right.

Here are 10 hidden gems from among the hundreds of stories and reflections shared by National Geographic explorers this year. Dive in and see what they had to say.

In Praise of Silence

Sunlight helps warm the trail. Photo: Sean Gerrity
A quiet morning hike made more peaceful in Big Sky country. (Photo by Sean Gerrity)

Slovenia’s Winter Carnivale Draws a Woolly, Colorful Crowd

Kurents Gather in Kongresni Trg
Kurents Gather in Kongresni Trg. (Photo by Riley A. Arthur)

2,100 Feet and Holding: Inside the Mind of a Submarine Pilot

The narrow conning tower hatch of Idabel is the only way in or out. Time to get cozy.
The narrow conning tower hatch of Idabel is the only way in or out. Time to get cozy. (Photo by Stanley Submarines)

Hōkūle‘a: The Art of Wayfinding (Interview With a Master Navigator)

Master navigator, Lorenzo Sartilug, patiently observes the sky to determine the weather for the upcoming day.  Just like with any trip, looking at weather forecasts is a critical part of knowing when it is safe to sail.
Pwo navigator, Lorenzo Sartilug, patiently observes the sky to determine the weather for the upcoming day. Just like with any trip, looking at weather forecasts is a critical part of knowing when it is safe to sail. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Mozambique Expedition: Africa’s Submerged Savannas

A sea pen pops up in an eelgrass meadow at Matamba estuary. Sea pens are not plants, but colonies of polyps where one individual grows large and serves as a stalk from which others reach out to capture food in their tentacles. (Photo by Kike Ballesteros)

A Brush With Ebola: The Ongoing Fight Against Deadly Diseases in West Africa

Kristian Andersen, a Harvard scientist deployed during the Ebola outbreak, donning full protective gear in the KGH high containment laboratory. Photo by Stephen Gire
Kristian Andersen, a Harvard scientist deployed during the Ebola outbreak, donning full protective gear in the KGH high containment laboratory. (Photo by Stephen Gire)

Mega-Ichthyosaur Discovery on Svalbard

The ichthyosaur tail. Photo courtesy of Øyvind Enger
An ichthyosaur tail emergest from the cold rock of Svalbard. (Photo by Øyvind Enger)

The Ese’Eja: From a Cotton Thread in the Sky to Protectors of the Amazon

Ese’Eja elder Matteo Viaeja wears his traditional cloth made out of the bark of the yanchama tree. (Photo by Jon Cox)

#Okavango14: Listen to the Sound of a Golden Okavango Morning

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The sun rises over one of the wildest regions of Africa. (Photo by Neil Gelinas)

The Skeletons of Olmos: Uncovering a Mystery of Ancient Peru

The first skeleton we encountered was that of this man,  today known only as Huaca Juliana Sector 1 Burial 25.
The first skeleton we encountered was that of this man, today known only as Huaca Juliana Sector 1 Burial 25. It was a poignant moment. (Photo by Haagen Klaus)

Still want more? Explore the full Explorers Journal Archive starting from 2011.

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • Jason Blankenship

    I wish I was an explorer that’s been a dream of mine for a long time. I love history, I can stare at an old building for hours imagining it’s existence and the the people who lived or used it. Someday I hope to see the world

  • Olimpia Magro

    National Geographic my favorite magazine.
    Now I enjoy every article online.
    Thank you,
    Friendly.
    Olimpia

  • Ramachandra Dasari

    Wonderful to watch; Compliments to National Geography

  • louis

    just wish nat geo shows more of humen living sometimes you show senseless contents….thank you.

  • Brent the gravity man

    I too wanted to explore the world as a young man I had dreams like everyone. My bike shop full of used bikes kept me too busy to make that dream of biking cross country with my best 10 speed rebuild. It was never finished. Years gone now and my excitement never left me as I became an adult. I patiently took on a very big project. I said to myself if a bird can fly and that process happens in front of us then that process can be understood somehow. I did find it and it also lead to the discovery of gravity and how it works. I’d love to share my journey and research documentation of this adventure.

  • tksunil

    Very fine

  • Ellie Jones

    When I was young I dreamed of doing so many things. Only a few have been accomplished. I wanted to study archaeology and went to Egypt twice. I joined a Archaeology Society. From there I got into fossils, etc. I love reading all the articles in NatGeo whether its history, sciences, space or animals. I’ve traveled across the US and eventually went to Europe. Wish I could be on the go all the time. Your interesting articles provide the places and things I always wanted to see.

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