National Geographic : 1990 May
On Assignment 6 HE MAN HAS A PENCHANT for living on the edge," a life long friend says of photog rapher CHRIS JOHNS. He has climbed frozen waterfalls in British Columbia, been buried by an Alaska avalanche, and been narrowly missed by an Oklahoma tornado. He witnessed the erup tion at El Chich6n and the after math of Mount St. Helens. "I've had hot rocks bouncing off my head before, but nothing like this," says Chris of the pyrotech nics in Zaire during his East Afri can Rift coverage. "I could stand here only five minutes before the stench and heat got me." Chris had planned to become a veterinarian or teacher until a friend interested him in journal ism. After graduate work at the University of Minnesota, Chris free-lanced and is now on contract with the Society. For him Africa's Great Rift was the assignment of a lifetime; it also introduced him to Elizabeth Matthews, then a U. S. Foreign Service officer in Addis Ababa, whom he married. For photographer BILL CURTSINGER the warmth of tropi cal Africa-and the friendliness of Malawians-proved a welcome change. He is more accustomed to cold-water climes than to the tepid waters of Lake Malawi. He began his career with a Navy diving pho tographic unit, often going on secret missions in the 1960s. After six months in Antarctica, he pro posed the article that appeared in the November 1971 issue. He returned to report on the rich sea life under the ice of McMurdo Sound for April 1986. Bill is one of the few photographers to have also worked beneath Arctic ice. Twenty years in the business have not been without perils. Bill was scarred by a shark attack in the western Pacific, has swum with whales in three oceans, and came face to face with dangerous leopard seals under the ice in Antarctica. In Lake Malawi he had only to keep an eye out for hippos and crocodiles. On dry land "he's incredibly easygoing and friendly," says author Peter Reinthal, who was on his ninth diving expedition to Lake Malawi. "The local people really liked him. Once he dove down to 110 feet to untangle a fisherman's net; another time he transported a stranded man to join his crew on a sailing dhow. And for our going-away feast Bill purchased the goat that the Mala wians butchered and roasted." NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (ISSN 0027-9358) IS PUBLISHEDMONTHLY BY THENATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY,17THANDM STS. N.W ., WASHINGTON,D. C. 20036. $21.00 A YEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASSPOSTAGEPAID AT WASHINGTON,D. C., AND ELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER:SEND ADDRESSCHANGESTO NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O . BOX2174, WASHINGTON,D. C. 20013.