Born to Explore - Explore! Born to Explore - Explore!

Born to Explore

by Richard Wiese, a Book Review . . .

Cover of the book Born to ExploreRichard Wiese has explored all around the world. He:

  • skied to the North Pole
  • climbed Kilimanjaro several times (and discovered 29 new life forms there)
  • climbed the Oldonyo Lengai volcano during an eruption
  • completed two expeditions to Antarctica
  • explored the Colca Canyon in Peru (the world’s deepest)
  • participated in an archaeological dig in a search for the birth temple of the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar
  • wrestled crocodiles
  • put tracking collars on jaguars in the Yucatan jungle
  • was a team member of the largest medical expedition ever conducted on Mt. Everest, and
  • was the youngest president of The Explorers Club (an exclusive club of 3,200 world explorers)

just to mention a few of his adventures. Academically he graduated in 1982 from Brown University with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Biology, studied Applied Physiology at Columbia University, and completed the USDA Graduate Program in Meteorology.  He has appeared on many TV shows and  had his own television series, Exploration with Richard Wiese from 2005 – 2007.


Coke Bottle Fishing

Coke Bottle Fishing

When he wrote this book, he intended to draw teenagers away from their Gameboys.  One might expect that he would describe his many adventures in an attempt to fire passion among his target audience. Instead, he subtitles the book “How to be a Backyard Adventurer” and describes a wide array of activities that can be conducted essentially in the backyard. By the choice of his topics he reveals the primary characteristic of any explorer – insatiable curiosity. Not just curiosity about what’s over the mountain or around the next bend in the river, but also curiosity about how things work and why.  The book presents many experiments and activities that will rekindle your curiosity and maybe even the curiosity of your favorite video game player.  Once that curiosity is burning, further exploration is inevitable.

The book’s 45 chapters are split into eight sections:

  1. Explorer Tool Box
  2. Safety
  3. Navigation
  4. Shelter
  5. Food
  6. Weather
  7. Exploring
  8. Giving Back

The chapters are an eclectic mix of topics.  Some chapters provide great lore for a budding adventurer and  others address things and ideas that most explorers will never need.  For example a chapter on building a foxhole AM radio receiver (the materials won’t be available if you are lost in the woods) and a chapter on starting a fire without matches (a critical skill for wilderness survival) are both in section one.  Most of the chapters offer projects that any suitably inclined person could complete with little or no expense.

Wiese’s background in meteorology is well displayed in section six.  Besides explaining how to read the weather and even develop your own short-term forecast (again, critical for wilderness survival), he offers several projects that will help build a scientific background (but probably won’t be too practical in the wilderness).  You’ll learn how to build a barometer. a hygrometer and a thermometer and you’ll learn the science behind each of these devices.

I particularly enjoyed the section entitled Exploring.  Several of the chapters offer ways to explore, along the lines of our Ways to Explore section (see the Table of Contents to the right).  For example, finding fossils, finding wildlife, panning for gold, star trail and moon photography.  All of these ideas will get you exploring, often without leaving your backyard.

Overall, this book brought back memories from around age ten or twelve when I made bread-on-a-stick, built an iglo0, learned to use a compass, played with electric fences,  made lightening in my mouth, searched for fossils, determined the height of  trees, tracked animals and tried various activities that Wiese doesn’t mention.  If I had had this book at that age,  I would also would have been likely to try coke bottle fishing, building a bat house, creating a ninja hood, cooking in a paper bag and more.  Of course, when I was that age there were no computers or video games to provide me with canned entertainment and distract me from learning useful things.

I don’t know if this book will draw the kids in your life into experimenting and exploring, but it’s worth a try.  If it fails at that,  you can use it to help relive your younger days.  Either way,  I highly recommend it.


This review was written by Jerry Haugen, Pathfinder and  ©2011, Global Creations LLC, all rights reserved.  The illustrations are from the book.

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