Water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to life, yet science knows more about the moon than it does about the oceans.
To help the public understand the pressures put on this precious resource by climate change, population growth and pollution, TODAY will travel to the some of the most spectacular and fragile environments on Earth starting Monday, Nov. 17.
“TODAY Goes to the Ends of the Earth,” now in its second edition, is a project launched by TODAY last year to raise awareness of environmental issues that affect everyone on the planet. Last year’s historic journey marked the first ever live and simultaneous broadcast from the ends of the Earth — Greenland, the equator in Ecuador, and Antarctica.
This year, TODAY anchors Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry will travel to four spectacular and fragile locations at the water’s edge, from vast melting glaciers to dangerously dry expanses of land to wildlife on the verge of vanishing. This week, before the anchors leave for their expeditions, TODAY will reveal each of their destinations.
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Ann Curry to climb Kilimanjaro
She's interviewed numerous world leaders, jumped out of an airplane — twice, and bungeed off of a giant bridge, all on live television. And on Monday, the show revealed that Ann Curry will attempt to summit the world's largest freestanding mountain, Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, as part of the Ends of the Earth series.
Thousands of people travel to Africa each year to climb the magnificent snowcapped peaks of Kilimanjaro and to view its majestic glaciers. However, scientists predict the glaciers could disappear as early as 2020. Curry will examine the changing climate of Kilimanjaro to try to determine why its glaciers are rapidly melting and what impact it will have on the mountain, its surrounding communities, and the world.Video: Ann goes to the bottom of the sea
It will take Curry and her team eight days to hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is at 19,340 feet. She will broadcast live from the mountain, including from inside Kilimanjaro's highest volcano dome at 18,340 feet. The climb will be rigorous, and the biggest challenge will be Acute Mountain Sickness. Only one third of climbers who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro actually make it.
Last year, Curry was dispatched to Antarctica, on an epic journey that consumed three days just to get to McMurdo Station and several more to make her one of a tiny number of people who have ever been to the South Pole.
Meredith Vieira in the Land Down Under
Meredith, who held down the TODAY fort in New York during last year's series, will be heading to Australia this year. She will explore the vastly dry spans of land on the world's smallest, lowest and flattest continent.
As a wildly popular tourist destination, Australia offers amazing landscapes and diverse ecosystems. However, the entire continent has been facing climate issues that include rising sea levels on its coastal islands and a devastating 7-year drought. Vieira will travel to several locations in Australia to examine the country's changing climate and to learn why its lakes, rivers and reservoirs are drying up.
Vieira will visit Sydney Harbor National Park in Sydney, a city that enforces strict water restrictions for residents in response to the drought. She'll also take a look at The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef on Earth, which is suffering from coral bleaching. Some scientists predict the reef may disappear by the year 2050 due to climate change. Vieira will also explore Australia's diverse wildlife and travel to Philip Island, home of the largest "small penguin" colony in the world.
Al Roker in the Land of Fire and Ice
Iceland is known as The Land of Fire and Ice because of the volcanoes and glaciers that shape the landscape. Al will be heading to there to explore the country's diverse and extraordinary water sources. However, Iceland is currently undergoing a major transformation as its glaciers melt and weather patterns change dramatically. Roker will examine the changing climate of Iceland, and he'll also take a look at the dramatic efforts the country has made to use water as an alternative energy source.
In Iceland, water means power, literally. The country uses its waterfalls, geysers, hot springs and rivers to provide electricity and heat to the entire country through alternative hydroelectric and geothermal energies. The country boasts more than 200 volcanoes and more than 10,000 waterfalls. Roker will broadcast from Gullfoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland, and from the famous Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, the closest capital city to the Arctic Circle.
Roker reported live from the equator last year. This year, he said, “We’re going to head to fragile yet beautiful places for an up-close look at how the planet is changing, and what those changes mean for all of us.”
Matt Lauer goes to Belize
While Ann and Al shrug into their warmest coats next week, Matt will travel to Belize to explore its natural wildlife and natural wonders, including the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
Home to only 311,500 people, Belize is best known not only for what is on its land but also for what is under its water. Home to the famous Blue Hole, Belize boasts the Western Hemisphere's longest barrier reef, containing 600 species of fish, and more than 70 types of coral. But, with a changing climate, warming waters, pollution and urban development, this fragile reef system is under threat. Lauer will examine firsthand how climate change is affecting Belize's magnificent landscape and marine life.
National parks and nature preserves make up 42 percent of Belize. Lauer will broadcast from the Blue Hole, where he will also scuba dive along its reef and swim with some of the world's largest midnight parrot fish as well as stingrays, angelfish and barracudas. He will also broadcast from the Half Moon Caye, a crescent shaped island off Belize's coast, which is home to the endangered red-footed booby birds and 97 additional species of birds. The iguana, the Wish Willy, and the lizard are also permanent residents on the magnificent island.
Offsetting carbon footprint
TODAY’s “Ends of the Earth” project was launched last year as part of NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” initiative. The first installment took viewers to some of the planet’s most fragile environments: the Greenland ice sheet, the equatorial cloud forest, and the Antarctic, the coldest and driest place on Earth.
This year, TODAY continues its commitment to discover how the planet is changing and how those changes affect viewers at home.
For these extreme journeys, TODAY will offset its carbon footprint in mileage and fuel. The total mileage traveled includes any surveys done for the trips as well as the anchors’ actual trips, which could take several days.
Throughout the week, Lauer, Vieira, Roker and Curry will demonstrate new and easy ways to “Green Your Routine” to show how small changes in daily life can make a huge positive impact on the environment.
“Ends of the Earth” content will also extend online to TODAYshow.com, where users will find video from the program, slide shows, resources and original stories about water and global climate change.
“Green is Universal” will extend through a company-wide programming effort beginning Sunday, Nov. 16. Through its worldwide programming, specials and consumer-focused events, “Green Week” will focus all of NBC Universal’s resources and efforts toward educating viewers, Web users, and the company's employees on ecological issues and our impact on the environment.
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