The changing light illuminates the undulations of the Dakota badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Photo: Michele Falzone/Alamy.

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PATHFINDER PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED!

Scroll to meet your prospective expeditioners.

Exploration societies of old once funded grand expeditions, but discovery has changed. Now, it’s about understanding instead of conquering. The Pathfinder Prize is an annual award of $15,000 to fund a global expedition of the modern age. Our Allies decide the winner. You take us to the frontiers of exploration.

 

DATES TO REMEMBER

October 1: Pathfinder Finalists Announced

November 3 at 12 p.m. PT: Pathfinder Finalists Present Live

November 3-13: Allies Vote for Expedition Winner

December 6 at 6 p.m. PT: Virtual Ethos of Exploration Event and Prize Ceremony

Pathfinder Finalists

“In Tété’s Footseps” Expedition Cover Image: A Greenlandic Inuit musher being pulled on a dog sled.

In Tété’s Footsteps

An expedition inspired by Togo-born explorer Tété-Michel Kpomassie’s acclaimed book, An African in Greenland, to answer the questions: Who gets to tell the story of a place? Does cultural connection manifest differently in the images and stories collected by the expeditioners based on who they are? And how do cultures interact with expeditioners as storytellers of color?

Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Expedition Leader

Noo Saro-Wiwa

Visual Storyteller

Erik Jaråker

Videographer

Watch Pitch
“In Tété’s Footseps” Expedition Cover Image: A Greenlandic Inuit musher being pulled on a dog sled.
“In Tété’s Footseps” Expedition Cover Image: A Greenlandic Inuit musher being pulled on a dog sled.
About the Expedition

In Tété’s Footsteps

Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Expedition Leader

Noo Saro-Wiwa

Visual Storyteller

Erik Jaråker

Videographer

View the full proposal here.

The travel industry has been pushing for more local stories shared by residents of a place. Especially from marginalized communities who have been spoken on behalf of, by others not from their land.

So, what about alternative voices who call places their home even if they aren’t from there? Especially if they are Black or brown?

“Diverse stories — whether narratives shaped by immigrants or other forms of inclusive storytelling — paint the places we experience as deeply human with vulnerabilities. This is what builds true cultural connection.” — Lola Akinmade Åkerström

About the Expedition

As the first African to live in Greenland in the 1960s, Togo-born, France-based explorer Tété-Michel Kpomassie inspired a generation of traveling African storytellers. Recently turning 80 years old, he is planning to relocate to Greenland to spend the rest of his years.

Inspired by his internationally acclaimed book, An African in Greenland, our project aims to answer who gets to tell the story of a place, how the imagery and stories we bring back are shaped through our lived lenses, and how cultures choose to interact with us as storytellers of color.

About the Team

  • Lola Akinmade Åkerström, will contribute the expedition’s lead photography, cinematic art direction, and expedition leadership.
  • Noo Saro-Wiwa, will contribute travel writing, journalism, and photography.
  • Erik Jaråker, will contribute videography, behind-the-scenes stills, and drone piloting.

Each of our three team members bring complementary skills with a few overlaps to strengthen our messaging and visual storytelling. Both Lola Akinmade Åkerström and Erik Jaråker have worked on several videography projects together. Both Lola Akinmade Åkerström and Noo Saro-Wiwa have contributed to the acclaimed Best British Travel Writing anthology.

About the Expected Outcomes

Our goals are clear, direct, and achievable. They are also extremely relevant in our ever-changing landscape of travel and who gains access today. 

More diverse stories from Greenland

We plan to bring back more inclusive modern-day stories based on organic connections that don’t exotify places and experiences, but rather, lift up our shared connections and humanity. We will be rooting our stories in the present, while tracing some of Tété’s footsteps for comparison and historical reference.

Imagery showing Black African travelers in remote places

“You can’t be what you can’t see” is a common phrase we use to support representation. One of our main goals is to bring more imagery — through photography and videography — of Black Africans traveling in places as remote as Greenland.

Attend our live virtual pitch event on November 3, 2022 from 12-1 p.m. PT.
*A recording of the pitch will appear here after the event.

“Pharaoh’s Hot Springs” Expedition Cover Image: Ras Sedr, Egypt.

Pharaoh’s Hot Springs

A scientific and investigative expedition to Hammam Faraun (Pharaoh’s Bath), Egypt, to answer this question: In the face of conflicting pressures — for tourism, clean energy infrastructure, historical preservation, and the protection of unique ecological environments — what should Hammam Faraun, and other hot springs in the Sinai region, become?

Dr. Roxanne Fournier

Expedition Leader

Watch Pitch
“Pharaoh’s Hot Springs” Expedition Cover Image: Ras Sedr, Egypt.
“Pharaoh’s Hot Springs” Expedition Cover Image: Ras Sedr, Egypt.
About the Expedition

Pharaoh’s Hot Springs

Dr. Roxanne Fournier

Expedition Leader

Sadek Hefni Shorbagi

Researcher

Mathieu Bisnaire Poirier

Researcher

View the full proposal here.

Tucked away beneath unassuming villages on the northwestern coastline of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, there lies what many describe as ‘potential.’

In physics, we say that something has potential energy when its position, internal forces, or electric charge is favorable relative to its local environment. Others have different definitions of potential: economic, financial, scientific, medical, touristic … and while there are many examples in Egypt of projects that have exploited one potential at the expense of others, the case of the sacred Gebal Hammam Faraun (Pharaoh’s Bath Mountain) is one whose future is still unknown.

“Space exploration is my true passion. But since I’m not an astronaut (yet!), I imagine Earth as humanity’s sandbox for responsible and ethical exploration of outer space.” — Roxanne Fournier

About the Expedition

Hammam Faraun (Pharaoh’s Bath) is one of about fifteen hot springs generated by geothermal faults near the Gulf of Suez, in close proximity to the Red Sea. It has been suggested that these springs were used for bathing and healing practices dating as far back as the Third Pharaonic Dynasty.

The northwestern part of the Sinai Peninsula is full of historical sites, but the general lack of infrastructure has kept it minimally changed since those early days of Pharaonic rule. However, there has been pressure from the tourism industry to develop the region around the hot springs into luxury resorts to cater to the country’s growing demand for tourism.

What’s more, recent prospecting activities have revealed that the valuable geothermal energy, which is clean and renewable, could be tapped for much-needed clean power generation to meet Egypt’s plan to generate 42% of energy from renewable sources by 2035.

Hammam Faraun is also ecologically special because its springs intermingle with the sea, potentially hosting a unique ecosystem that may warrant preservation and protection.

This has led us to wonder: What should Hammam Faraun, and other hot springs of the Sinai region, become in the near and distant future in the face of pressures from tourism and energy industries? What is at stake if Hammam Faraun’s resources become exploited for industrial gains (touristic or otherwise)?

About the Team

Our core team already has a strong working relationship, having been colleagues at the University of Toronto from 2014-2017. We have traveled to Egypt together in 2022 and have also done a multi-day camping trip in remote Canada in 2020. Most importantly, we all value the importance of respecting the place in which we are visitors, and we are always mindful of each others’ safety and wellbeing.

About the Expected Outcomes

Our team has two main goals for the expedition:

Investigate the scientific potential of Hammam Faraun’s coastline and marine ecosystem — We describe the “scientific potential” as a quantifiable measurement of the uniqueness of the Hammam Faraun coast and marine ecosystem, which will include metrics such as unique species count and microbiome analysis of said species.

Formulate a diverse perspective on the issue of economic development vs. cultural and/or ecological preservation of Hammam Faraun — We will gather insights and opinions from various stakeholders through local travel by car or bus.

The end result of our expedition will be a photo essay full of original research. There has never been a holistic view of the interplay between clean energy demands, scientific potential, spiritual and cultural heritage, and tourism associated with the hot springs of the Sinai Peninsula. We wish to give a voice to those who are unheard in regard to this topic, while also showcasing a region that rarely gets any foreign attention.

Attend our virtual pitch event on November 3, 2022 from 12-1 p.m. PT.
*A recording of the team’s pitch will appear here following the event.

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As an Ally, you decide the winner — and follow them to the frontiers of exploration.

Meet the Selection Committee

Photograph of man outdoors in collared sweater
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Steve Brusatte

Paleontologist and Best-selling Author

Smiling woman with short blond hair and glasses against a colorful backdrop
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Jill Heinerth

Pioneering Underwater Cave Explorer and Conservationist

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Meghan Dhaliwal

Photojournalist and Explorer

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Sabine K. Bergmann

Co-founder / Co-CEO

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Sivani Babu

Co-founder / Co-CEO

Sivani Babu

Co-founder/Co-CEO

Sivani Babu is the co-founder, co-CEO, and creative director of Hidden Compass. She is an award-winning journalist and nature photographer who has contributed to BBC Travel, CNN, Backpacker, Outdoor Photographer, Iron Horse Literary Review,and numerous other publications. Her work has been recognized in the Best American Travel Writing series and has appeared in exhibits from San Diego to the Sorbonne. Sivani graduated from the University of Chicago with three majors — economics, public policy studies, and political science — and one Lazarused newspaper, the Chicago Weekly News. At the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she taught high schoolers about their constitutional rights. As a Teach for America corps member, she taught eighth graders about the tangency of math and literacy. After working on a Supreme Court case and occasionally using unicorn metaphors to explain the realities of sentencing to hundreds of indigent criminal defendants, Sivani left her career as a federal public defender to sail across the most brutal sea on earth. Since then, she has chased storms through Tornado Alley, searched for polar bears in the Arctic Circle, and survived a broken neck and a concussion while sailing through a lightning storm in the Bermuda Triangle. Sivani is working on her first book, Saving the Night: Shedding Light on the Importance of Darkness.

Buckaroo Portrait, Photo by: Kim F. Stone

Find your story.

Choose a Theme to Explore
Journey alongside characters in pursuit of elusive truths. Travel through extreme landscapes, to the far reaches of the planet, and into the unknown.
Get to know extraordinary characters from around the world — individuals, cultures, places, creatures, and even objects.
Investigate the relationship between humankind and the planet. Come face-to-face with Nature as an unpredictable danger, a wise teacher, and a precarious organism.
Delve into the dark and difficult aspects of a place, even when the darkness exists only in the narrator. Investigative pieces, historical exposés, and tales of narrators immersed in danger.
Inhabit the past, present, and future of a place. Unearth layers of ancient legends and traditions; probe the transient nature of the current moment; and venture out into prediction, peril, and possibility.

Photo: Dr. Gilad Fiskus

Photo: Sivani Babu

Photo: Kim F. Stone

Photo: Sivani Babu

Photo: Sugato Mukherjee

Photo: Geraint Rowland

Find your story.

Choose a Theme to Explore

Photo: Sivani Babu

01

Quest

Journey alongside characters in pursuit of elusive truths. Travel through extreme landscapes, to the far reaches of the planet, and into the unknown.

Photo: Sivani Babu

Buckaroo Portrait, Photo by: Kim F. Stone

Get to know extraordinary characters from around the world — individuals, cultures, places, creatures, and even objects.

Photo: Kim F. Stone

Investigate the relationship between humankind and the planet. Come face-to-face with Nature as an unpredictable danger, a wise teacher, and a precarious organism.

Photo: Sivani Babu

Delve into the dark and difficult aspects of a place, even when the darkness exists only in the narrator. Investigative pieces, historical exposés, and tales of narrators immersed in danger.

Photo: Sugato Mukherjee

Inhabit the past, present, and future of a place. Unearth layers of ancient legends and traditions; probe the transient nature of the current moment; and venture out into prediction, peril, and possibility.

Photo: Geraint Rowland