LAUREL, MD — When Captain John Smith set out from Jamestown some 400 years ago on his voyage to map the Chesapeake Bay, he had little more than the stars to guide him. Imagine what he could have done with talking buoys and ruggedized cellphones.
On May 12, a group of modern day explorers embarked from Jamestown on a voyage to recreate Capt. John Smith's 121-day trip in a faithful replica of his original 28-foot open vessel, The Shallop. The Shallop's "Epic Chesapeake Adventure," includes a crew of 12 explorers, naturalists and educators who are retracing Capt. Smith's travels to virtually every Chesapeake Bay tributary, including three stops in the Washington area. The Shallop will visit Mount Vernon on Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24; then, the boat will be hauled from the Potomac River and transported to the National Mall to take part in the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival from Wednesday, June 27 Sunday, July 1; the final stop is a visit to the Alexandria Seaport on Monday, July 2.
The journey officially inaugurates the nation's newest national park and only one located solely on water the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail, which follows more than 1,500 miles of Smith's voyages. Although they will live and travel much as Smith did, because of Verizon Wireless technology, Capt. Ian Bystrom and his crew will have a few advantages that might make historians cringe and scientists and teachers rejoice.
The crew is benefiting from "talking" buoys, which gather environmental data and relay it to the Web via the Verizon Wireless data network. The talking buoy system was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office, and will help scientists, educators and park visitors learn more about the Bay and the importance of preserving it as a vital natural resource. The buoys talk to callers via a Verizon Business voice response system that converts the latest data to voice messages. The Shallop carries a flow-through water-quality monitoring system to relay data to the Web via the Verizon Wireless network about the bay and the Shallop's position.
Verizon Wireless ruggedized G'zOne phones, built to withstand the harshest of weather conditions and even immersion in water, will help the crew maintain contact and capture pictures and videos for the Web to share their expedition as it happens. With built-in GPS chips, the phones can also serve as back-up navigational aides by displaying position, heading and rate of speed as well as directions to the nearest hot shower and cold beverage whenever the crew makes landfall. A ruggedized computer on board will connect the crew with e-mail and Internet to the 21st century via a Verizon Wireless USB720 modem and BroadbandAccess service.
"We wish The Shallop a safe and successful voyage," said Verizon Wireless regional president Tami Erwin. "We all owe a debt of thanks to the many champions whose work has made this voyage and the John Smith Water Trail a reality. I feel very proud that we can play a small role in helping future generations learn about the history and importance of Jamestown and the Bay."
Patrick F. Noonan, chairman emeritus of The Conservation Fund, said, "Verizon Wireless' contribution to the trail has been immeasurable. The partnership between Verizon Wireless and NOAA resulted in a new tool for modern adventurers that Captain Smith, an innovative man himself, would heartily approve. The wireless connection to the smart buoys helps people connect with the Chesapeake Bay and amplifies the opportunities for heritage tourism."
Information on current conditions collected by the buoy network along with historical observations are available to the public toll-free at 1-877-BUOYBAY or www.buoybay.org. Keep track of The Shallop's progress and schedule, and view photos, videos and crew journals at www.johnsmith400.org/map.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation's most reliable wireless voice and data network, serving 60.7 million customers. The largest US wireless company and largest wireless data provider, based on revenues, Verizon Wireless is headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 66,000 employees nationwide. The company is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.