Start to finish - adventure sports on the Web
BOSTON — Growing up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, rock climber Mark Synnot did not have to go too far for inspiration. He and his father would simply drive to nearby Cathedral Ridge and watch the brave climbers scaling the area's most famous cliff. Peering through his binoculars, Mr. Synnot caught a glimpse of his own destiny.
The next generation of adventurers does not even have to leave the living room. They simply log on to the Internet, and in seconds they are connected to any one of a growing number of adventure Web sites.
For Synnot, the idea that someone might be inspired by the e-mails and pictures he will send live from his June expedition to the 6,000-foot face of Pakistan's Great Trango Tower is overwhelming.
The Web sites that portray the feats of professional climbers, balloonists, and sailors are not simply ego trips. They are a commercial necessity. According to Jeffrey Blumenfeld, editor of Expedition News, the sponsors of such trips expect more than great expeditions. They also want great communication. "An explorer has a responsibility today to come up with a great idea that will stimulate the imagination of everyone," explains Mr. Blumenfeld. "Do the project safely, and then tell the rest of us who didn't get to go what it was like!"
Synnot's Web-site producer, Jonathan Chester of Quokka Sports, says the Internet brings the often far-flung audiences for adventure sports together in a way that traditional media can only dream of. And the long-term nature of most events allows programmers to tailor coverage to whomever is logging on.
"Because these events go over two or three months at a time," says Mr. Chester, "We can look at the audience and see what interests them - what they're going to - and actually refocus our efforts to try and meet that interest on the fly."
San Francisco-based Quokka (www.quokka.com) is the emerging leader in Internet adventure sports, recently covering events such as the Around Alone circumnavigation and the Marathon des Sables, a 136-mile foot race through the Moroccan Sahara.
It is all a far cry from Admiral Peary's 1909 trek to the North Pole, during which it took months just to send out a telegram of success. But explorers are hoping their efforts will prove just as inspirational.