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UW’s Jenkins to Share Vietnamese Cave Adventures

February 10, 2015
opening of huge cave looking out, dwarfing people standing in water inside cave
Exploration of Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest cave ever discovered, is one of the topics to be discussed by adventurer and journalist Mark Jenkins in nine Wyoming communities during March.

Adventurer and journalist Mark Jenkins will share his experiences exploring Vietnam and the largest cave ever discovered during a series of public talks around Wyoming in March.

Jenkins, a field staff writer for National Geographic and a writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, will present “Vietnam Underground: The Viet Cong, Spelunkers and the Biggest Cave on Earth” in nine communities beginning March 3. The program is part of UW’s Global Studies Excellence Initiative and continues the “World to Wyoming” outreach series.

Hidden deep in the jungles of central Vietnam, near the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail, is a network of massive caves. Created by underground rivers cutting their way through limestone, these caves were used as shelters by the Vietnamese during American bombing campaigns in the 1960s. Over the past two decades, a team of British spelunkers has been penetrating deeper into the gigantic caverns. Jenkins joined them in descending into what turned out to be the largest cave ever discovered, Hang Son Doong -- so vast that a skyscraper could fit inside.

Exploring the cave was so treacherous and difficult, the team lived underground for days to complete the first descent.

In his public presentations, Jenkins will take audiences across Vietnam, culturally and geographically -- exploring its violent history, remarkable recovery and vibrant present -- in addition to descending into the acknowledged Mount Everest of caves.

Here’s the schedule for the presentations, which are free and open to the public:

Laramie -- Tuesday, March 3, 7 p.m., College of Education auditorium.

Gillette -- Tuesday, March 10, 7 p.m., Presentation Hall at Gillette College.

Sheridan -- Wednesday, March 11, 7 p.m., Sheridan Junior High School’s Early Auditorium.

Powell -- Thursday, March 12, 7 p.m., Northwest College’s Yellowstone Building conference area.

Cody -- Friday, March 13, 7 p.m., Buffalo Bill Center for the West’s Coe Auditorium.

Jackson -- Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m., Teton County Library.

Lander -- Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m., Lander Valley High School auditorium.

Rock Springs -- Thursday, March 19, 7 p.m., Western Wyoming Community College, Room 1302.

Casper -- Tuesday, March 24, 7 p.m., Casper College’s Wheeler Concert Hall.

A critically acclaimed author and internationally recognized journalist, Jenkins covers geopolitics and adventure. Among hundreds of stories, he has written about land mines in Cambodia, the war in Eastern Congo, the loss of koalas in Australia, ethnic cleansing in Burma, climbing Mount Everest in Nepal, and the vanishing ski culture of the Tuvan people in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia.

Jenkins has won numerous writing awards, including the Overseas Press Club Ross Award for “The Healing Fields” in 2013 and a National Magazine Award with colleague Brint Stirton for “Who Murdered the Mountain Gorillas” in 2009. Both of these projects provided the basis for statewide presentations at Wyoming’s community colleges as part of the “World to Wyoming” outreach series, which is now in its fifth year.

The public talks are sponsored by UW’s Center for Global Studies, UW’s Global and Area Studies Program, the Wyoming Humanities Council, the UW Outreach School and Wyoming’s community colleges, with additional support from the Ruth R. Ellbogen Foundation, the Homer and Mildred Scott Foundation and InterConnections21.

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