National Geographic : 1989 Apr
On Assignment BEING EXPOSED to risk is nothing new for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photogra phers. But for free lance KAREN KASMAUSKI, the invisible threat of radiation- encountered dur ing fieldwork for her story in this issue-took some getting used to. Karen underwent tests for contamination at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland (above), after her first brush with the unseen ad versary. It came in Goiania, Brazil, where radioactive mate rial from a medical clinic had turned up in a junkyard after being handled haphazardly. "I hadn't worn any protec tive clothing, and there was a lot of dust flying around-that sort of thing," she recalls. "At the time it was pretty scary." Fortunately, the examination at NIH showed no artificial radioactive substances in her body. In fact, during six months of coverage for this article (her fourth for the GEOGRAPHIC), the only time she showed increased radioactivity was after nine days in Lapland, where she ate rein deer meat that might have been contaminated with radioactive cesium from Chernobyl. "It was a chance I chose to take," she said. "Months of covering radiation had made me less afraid of it." "IT WAS a full day's work," says GALEN ROWELL, who with three other mountaineers as cended a previously unclimbed 1,400-foot face of Seven Gables, a 13,075-foot peak in Califor nia's Sierra Nevada. Along that range runs the 212-mile trail named for naturalist John Muir. Once a popular pilgrimage for backpackers, the trail, Galen found, "can be crowded near trailheads, but its heart is wilder than much of the Himalaya" whose peaks he knows well. Growing up in the San Fran cisco area, Galen's life took a vertical turn at age ten, when he began joining his wilderness loving parents on Sierra Club outings. He has scaled the heights of Tibet, Pakistan, and Nepal, as well as Alaska, Cana da, the American West, and the Andes, making more than a hundred first ascents. Veteran of eight GEOGRAPHIC assign ments, he has also produced seven books and took the photo graphs for a new edition this fall of Muir's classic The Yosemite.