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Maya Quest

 

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Overview
What if you had the chance to go on a three-month trip to Central America to explore la ruta Maya? What if you planned to cover over 2,000 miles but had only your bike for transportation? What if you brought the maps you needed, but wouldn't know exactly where to go until students from over 40,000 schools sent you e-mail to vote on your route? What if you had to go on this trip with your brother? Explorers (and brothers) Dan and Steve Buettner did all this and more on their MayaQuest expedition. But this wasn't their first bike trip. They rode 15,536 miles from Alaska to Argentina, covered 12,888 miles in the former Soviet Union, and biked 12,107 miles from Tunisia to South Africa. During the MayaQuest trek, each team member rode over 1,200 miles. Dan, team leader, and Steve, team journalist and videographer, were joined by Julie Acuff, who served as the epigrapher, and photographer Doug Mason. To prepare for the trek, they consulted with Maya researchers, including archaeologists and ethnobotanists. They studied Maya history for clues to the collapse of this advanced civilization during the ninth century. The team limited the supplies they brought - clothing, passports, money, bicycle repair supplies, maps, medical supplies, sleeping bags, tents, pots and pans, food, and toiletries. Water bottle purifiers allowed them to drink whatever water they could find. A unique aspect of the trek was the technology that encouraged anyone with access to the Internet to interact with the team. Using a laptop computer powered by solar panels, team members recorded daily journal entries, calculated distances, and communicated via e-mail with students and others who followed the trek. With a portable satellite telephone, the team sent faxes, photos, and data and voice transmissions. Using two 8mm video cameras, they recorded sights and discoveries and transmitted the images via satellite. Team members entered information onto a computer, connected to a suitcase-sized satellite transmitter. The information was sent as a radio signal to a satellite orbiting 22,400 miles above the equator. The satellite relayed the signal to a station in Southbury, Connecticut, which transmitted it over 800 miles of phone lines to Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. There the message was placed on the Maya-Quest home page on the Internet. In just three months, it received over 1.1 million visits.

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