My favourite place on Earth
5 explorers tell us how apps helped them reach amazing destinations.
What’s your favourite place on Earth?
We put this question to some of the planet’s pre-eminent adventurers, naturalists and film-makers, asking them to tell us about the apps they have used along the way.
Here are their far-flung responses.
Colin O’Brady, the first explorer to cross Antarctica solo and unaided
“The South Pole’s Polar Plateau is endlessly blank – just this stark and empty white. There’s something about being a speck in the middle of it, standing in Antarctica with 24-hour sunlight and looking out on the endless white and ice and snow. That cold, harsh reality is magical.”
His essential app: Every day of his journey, O’Brady used Earthmate – the companion app to the inReach satellite communicator. It was key for staying in touch. “I was able to send short texts to my family and friends, and it would update my location every 10 minutes,” he says. “Every night, I’d get inside my tent, boil my snow into water, and text my wife that I was safe and sound.”
Text and Navigate with inReach
Amy Marquis, co-director of National Park Experience, a series of 10 short films
“Right after graduating from journalism school, I got a grant to participate in the Sea Turtle Research Unit’s volunteer programme, which took me to Redang Island in Malaysia and a beach called Chagar Hutang. There’s no development on that part of the island, and it’s probably a 300-metre shoreline. We’d sleep on this white-sand beach at night and take shifts as the turtles would come up to lay eggs.”
Her essential app: As a film-maker, Marquis thinks a lot about lighting – and uses Sun Seeker to help. “We’ll find the spot where we want to shoot,” she says, “then pull up Sun Seeker to see what direction the light will be hitting the landscape, how the natural light will fall in a room, or when the best light will happen. It’s a great way to start composing the shot before we ever lift the camera.”
Sun Seeker - Tracker & Compass
Sunrise Sunset Path Surveyor
Teresa Baker, founder of the African American Nature and Parks Experience and the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, an initiative to advance representation for people of colour in the outdoors industry
“A few years back, I heard talk about a stretch of highway called Avenue of the Giants lined with huge redwoods. After a four-hour drive, I pulled off the road just around Weott, California, and stood among redwoods that seemed to touch the clouds. A sense of serenity took over – nothing but me, the trees and time. The Rockefeller Grove, in particular, has become my refuge from all the noise that comes from city living. I now refer to this place as my think tank.”
Her essential app: Throughout her travels, she uses The Outbound, which helps travellers find adventures and lodging, and US Public Lands, which maps all federally owned land in the country.
Randy Bresnik, crew commander of the International Space Station and astronaut who has spent 150 days in space
“If you do a search for #OneWorldManyViews, you’ll see a project I did while I was commander of the International Space Station. It’s 80 photographs of my favourite places on Earth that I found and photographed from space. “Take a peek at those 80 places and you’ll see why it’s hard to pick just one. But Bora Bora is very, very special to me due to its intrinsic beauty. The simplicity of it, the beauty of it – on the ground, underwater and from space.”
His essential app: When looking to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft he once called home, Bresnik turns to ISS Spotter. “It tells you what direction to point – and what the inclination is – to watch the International Space Station go overhead at 17,500 miles per hour.”
Dana Romanoff, director of Noah and other documentaries on culture and the environment
“My favourite place on Earth brings me back home to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, in the town of Indian Lake. At a very young age, I had a backpack on and would go horseback riding, or on canoe trips, or on these weeklong backpacks to the 46 peaks – in which there are 46 mountains above 4,000 feet. You wake and go to bed with the sun, the rivers become your water source, your backpack becomes a home you live out of. I always loved feeling like I was almost lost in the woods.”
Her essential app: “If I’m going backcountry, I use Powder Project, a map that lists routes and tells you the elevation and avalanche risk.” But Romanoff’s iPhone is loaded with apps for all seasons: “I was just surfing in Costa Rica and I used Surfline, which tells you about ocean conditions and high tides.”