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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

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Adventurers & Explorers

Feb 26, 2018

One of the Fathers of Modern Exploration, Folco Quilici, Passes at 87

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WRITTEN BY

Lorenzo Fornari

Entire generations around the world were inspired by his documentaries and photos, alas, early this Saturday morning Folco Quilici passed away in Umbria, Italy.

Explorer, documentarist, photographer, novelist, screenwriter, he was not only Oscar-nominated for one of his documentaries, but also named by Forbes as one of the most influential writers in the world for his environmental and scientific contributions. He was commonly referred to as the “Cousteau of Italy” (who also passed at 87).

From a very early start Folco Quilici, born in 1930 of Emma Buzzacchi, artist painter, and Nello Quilici, an influential Italian journalist, had a whirlwind childhood. His father was shot down by friendly-fire in 1940 along with the heir-apparent of Mussolini, Italo Balbo, whom he was accompanying to Italian-held Libya. For years Folco was torn by this sudden loss and by the subsequent decades of conspiracy theories that revolved around the incident.

The last 4 pages of his personal diary, recovered from the wreckage, that were torn out before it was returned to the family, kept him asking questions that would never be answered.

The journalist pedigree and the unrelenting energy to ask questions, given his father’s death in suspicious circumstances, gave way to Folco starting a lifetime dedicated to exploration and documentation. Almost from the start, at barely 22 years old, in 1952, he set out with world champion diver Raimondo Bucher, and his wife, to the Red Sea to document underwater life.

In doing so, he directed the world’s first color full-length nature-documentary film, Sesto Continente (The Sixth Continent) which was released in 1954. For reference, Cousteau’s award-winning documentary, Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World), was released shortly after, in 1956.

While he was best known for this debut accomplishment and often associated to the sea, his real passion was mountains and would travel and document every range, as well as every other possible location in the world, over the next sixty years. From documenting the last cannibal tribes in New Guinea to some of the remotest villages in the Amazon, he took more than a million pictures over the course of his lifetime.

The Last Cannibal. New Britain – 1971 Photo: Folco Quilici Photo: Copyright Folco Quilici-Fondazione Alinari

Like any world-renown explorer of his caliber, he was just as at home in a 4 Seasons hotel in NYC or on a haystack under the stars on a river in the middle of Zaire. During Folco’s “30,000 days” (more like 32,000 if we consider he was just a couple months shy of 88) on this planet and considering the lengths he’d go to in order to realise his documentaries and fulfil his assignments, even in the most remote and austere environments, he had numerous brushes with death.

Once in Turkey, he ran out of air while diving and was eventually rescued by an US Navy submarine. Again whilst diving, in the Maldives this time, he was swept away by an underwater current and was feared dead, only to be found days later on a deserted island on the brink of death from exposure.

Folco reading the article about the Volvo Ocean Race in The Outdoor Journal magazine – Photo: Kevin Pineda

I personally had the privilege of learning much of what I know today about scuba diving and underwater fauna thanks to a Summer aboard his ship in Greece when I was about twelve years old. Along with my father, I dived alongside him and his family, who are also explorers and conservationists, learning from one of the most generous and light-hearted people I’ve ever come across.

Between research dives and exploration, hopping from island to island in the Greek archipelago with his perpetually problematic boat, the Yavanos, we would document the local fauna, formations, and even wrecks. We would play with curious dolphins, catch and prepare octopus as well as bake giant groupers in salt crusts within makeshift stone ovens on the beach of whatever little bay we’d find ourselves in for the night. Under starlit skies I heard my first shooting star, so big and close, it literally ‘swooshed’ overhead.

One day while I was on anchor duty, I discovered a shipwreck a dozen meters below where we planned to set anchor. After further inspection we tried to recover some large brass fittings. Despite our best efforts, we didn’t manage to recover anything from the depths below but we did come away with a great “Indiana Jones” story. As recognition for my find I did, however, get to listen to the shared walkman for an extra ninety minutes the next day. Life is easier at 12.

Folco directed 22 films and wrote more than 25 books, won medals and awards from around the world, like the Silver Bear from the Berlin Film Festival, and directed dozens of nature and cultural full-length TV series. Most importantly, though, he inspired millions of people to travel, discover, and care for our planet.

Folco speaks with Lorenzo Fornari in an interview for The Outdoor Journal – Photo: Kevin Pineda

In a recent, and possibly last, interview (currently in production) with us at The Outdoor Journal, we asked if he had a favorite destination.

Folco: I have a special place in my heart for India, I spent a year documenting the country in the 60s, but right now I’d like to just visit some nice little Meditteranean village… if such a thing exists anymore.

Lorenzo: Where would you want to explore next? 

Folco: I find it fascinating, or paradoxical rather, that we’re sending probes to the farthest reaches of space, but we don’t know what’s right here beneath our own oceans.

Lorenzo: You’ve been in the center of modern nature documentary filmmaking, arguably one of the founders of it, what do you see and feel is the future of the environment and media?

Folco: People are informed about what’s happening to our environment, maybe even too much, but they take little or no action. I feel media does their job, but in the end, it is a cultural problem. Individuals don’t take responsibility for their behavior. I see it around me, people are becoming tired of hearing about environmental problems all the time. Nothing or little has been done in the end. Alas, we have to persist, even double our efforts, to keep informing everyone. It’s better than nothing.

This is only a part of the interview we had with Folco Quilici. When we left him a few months ago, he was working on a book about his travels and favorite places in Sicily. To the very end, he gave everything to his passion of travel and exploration.

A legend has indeed left us.

Folco Quilici Photo: Di Folco Quilici

Stay in touch with us to stay informed of when the full interview with Folco will be published and to stay informed on international adventure stories and news. Feel free to follow and like us on our Facebook and Instagram as well, we love to share only the best and highest quality content.

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Events

Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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