— Water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to life, yet science knows more about the moon than it does about the oceans.
To help the public understand the pressures put on this precious resource by climate change, population growth and pollution, TODAY will travel to the some of the most spectacular and fragile environments on Earth starting Monday, Nov. 17.
“TODAY Goes to the Ends of the Earth,” now in its second edition, is a project launched by TODAY last year to raise awareness of environmental issues that affect everyone on the planet. Last year’s historic journey marked the first ever live and simultaneous broadcast from the ends of the Earth — Greenland, the equator in Ecuador, and Antarctica.
This year, TODAY anchors Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry will travel to four spectacular and fragile locations at the water’s edge, from vast melting glaciers to dangerously dry expanses of land to wildlife on the verge of vanishing. This week, before the anchors leave for their expeditions, TODAY will reveal each of their destinations.
Ann Curry to climb Kilimanjaro
She's interviewed numerous world leaders, jumped out of an airplane — twice, and bungeed off of a giant bridge, all on live television. And on Monday, the show revealed that Ann Curry will attempt to summit the world's largest freestanding mountain, Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, as part of the Ends of the Earth series.
Thousands of people travel to Africa each year to climb the magnificent snowcapped peaks of Kilimanjaro and to view its majestic glaciers. However, scientists predict the glaciers could disappear as early as 2020. Curry will examine the changing climate of Kilimanjaro to try to determine why its glaciers are rapidly melting and what impact it will have on the mountain, its surrounding communities, and the world.
It will take Curry and her team eight days to hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is at 19,340 feet. She will broadcast live from the mountain, including from inside Kilimanjaro's highest volcano dome at 18,340 feet. The climb will be rigorous, and the biggest challenge will be Acute Mountain Sickness. Only one third of climbers who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro actually make it.
Last year, Curry was dispatched to Antarctica, on an epic journey that consumed three days just to get to McMurdo Station and several more to make her one of a tiny number of people who have ever been to the South Pole.
Meredith Vieira in the Land Down Under
Meredith, who held down the TODAY fort in New York during last year's series, will be heading to Australia this year. She will explore the vastly dry spans of land on the world's smallest, lowest and flattest continent.
As a wildly popular tourist destination, Australia offers amazing landscapes and diverse ecosystems. However, the entire continent has been facing climate issues that include rising sea levels on its coastal islands and a devastating 7-year drought. Vieira will travel to several locations in Australia to examine the country's changing climate and to learn why its lakes, rivers and reservoirs are drying up.
Vieira will visit Sydney Harbor National Park in Sydney, a city that enforces strict water restrictions for residents in response to the drought. She'll also take a look at The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef on Earth, which is suffering from coral bleaching. Some scientists predict the reef may disappear by the year 2050 due to climate change. Vieira will also explore Australia's diverse wildlife and travel to Philip Island, home of the largest "small penguin" colony in the world.
The rest of the gang
Roker reported live from the equator last year. This year, he said, “We’re going to head to fragile yet beautiful places for an up-close look at how the planet is changing, and what those changes mean for all of us.”
Stay tuned to hear where Al and Matt are headed.
Offsetting carbon footprint
TODAY’s “Ends of the Earth” project was launched last year as part of NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” initiative. The first installment took viewers to some of the planet’s most fragile environments: the Greenland ice sheet, the equatorial cloud forest, and the Antarctic, the coldest and driest place on Earth.
This year, TODAY continues its commitment to discover how the planet is changing and how those changes affect viewers at home.
For these extreme journeys, TODAY will offset its carbon footprint in mileage and fuel. The total mileage traveled includes any surveys done for the trips as well as the anchors’ actual trips, which could take several days.
Throughout the week, Lauer, Vieira, Roker and Curry will demonstrate new and easy ways to “Green Your Routine” to show how small changes in daily life can make a huge positive impact on the environment.
“Ends of the Earth” content will also extend online to TODAYshow.com, where users will find video from the program, slide shows, resources and original stories about water and global climate change.
“Green is Universal” will extend through a company-wide programming effort beginning Sunday, Nov. 16. Through its worldwide programming, specials and consumer-focused events, “Green Week” will focus all of NBC Universal’s resources and efforts toward educating viewers, Web users, and the company's employees on ecological issues and our impact on the environment.