Josh Gates's Top 10 Don't-Try-This-at-Home Moments
Expedition Unknown unites the world's mysteries with a few host-related certainties: Josh Gates wears the same shirt for days. He'll eat the sketchiest food he can find. And he will scare the $%@# out of his audience at least once an hour.
Photo By: Josh Gates
An Earthquake Strikes Papua New Guinea ("Amelia Earhart")
Josh is winding up his tête-à-tête with a helpful tribal elder in a Papua New Guinean village when the ground itself performs a welcome dance for him and his crew: Earthquake! Children shriek, livestock gallop around the jungle clearing in crazy eights, and the island rattles beneath them all like a prospector’s pan. “It happens a lot here,” Josh’s translator says. Josh rolls with the rolling: “Massive earthquake during an interview: check.” (Watch the full episode here.)
Spear-Waving Tribesmen Meet Josh's Helicopter ("Amelia Earhart")
When the crew’s helicopter touches down in a remote jungle clearing near the remains of a plane crash, they learn that welcomes vary quite a bit from tribe to tribe. The cameraman leaps out to film Josh’s exit, and leaps right back in: “The natives over there are S#@&!%@ angry looking, bro!” Josh tumbles out with the rest of the team anyway, the chopper rises back into the sky without them, and the clearing bristles with well-armed locals. What happened to the happy mud dancers and the welcome-to-the-tribe paint? Happily, the war party is a welcome party, and its two fierce-looking spokesmen introduce themselves as Bill and Clement. Spear-waving is just their way of saying hello.
Josh Eats a Guinea Pig ("City of Gold")
Josh arrives in Lima, Peru’s gargantuan capital, with an appetite for exploration of all sorts. He’s heading to Cusco to join Greg Deyermenjian’s expedition and hunt for the Incas’ lost treasure, but he’s not about to do it on an empty stomach. He meets a street vendor and reaches for a delicacy locals have favored for more than five thousand years—known to them as cuy and in the States as guinea pig. “I really can’t look at it,” he says, “but it’s very good."
A Drive Along Peruvian Cliffs of Death ("City of Gold")
If automotive safety innovations like asphalt and guard rails cramp your style, the stomach-churning route between the Peruvian city of Cusco and Lake Pumacocha is for you. In many remote villages, the locals perform their own roadwork by hand. Dramatic high-altitude storms, in turn, shroud the mountain paths in fog and pock them with massive mud puddles. The Paititi expedition’s 4x4s seem like a solid choice for the first portion of Josh and his companions’ trip, but let’s be honest: sure-footed llamas ruled the road at the height of Incan civilization for a reason.
A Swarm of Hornets Attacks Josh ("City of Gold")
The Incas’ legendary stronghold of unimaginable wealth is thought by some to exist in the unexplored territory north of the former capital city of Cusco. Hornets’ nests, in turn, are known by some to exist in the unexplored territory north of the former capital city of Cusco. A member of Josh’s expedition group steps on one as they lurch through the brush at the edge of the Urubamba River. The Schmidt Pain Index describes the pain of various hornets’ stings as “rich, hearty, slightly crunchy...[s]imilar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door,” and “like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.” We can’t know for sure what Josh’s particular stings felt like in the moment, due to a few well-placed bleeps.
Josh is Chased Out of a Cemetery ("Hunting Vampires")
In Marotinu de Sus, a far-flung village in southwest Romania, superstitious locals dig up a recently deceased man, burn his heart, and mix its ashes with water as a quaff to heal the sick. To Josh, that can only mean one thing: It’s time for a road trip. He visits the scene of the desecration to investigate strigoi, or vampire-like beings that prey on the living. Then the living—who are not interested in attention from outsiders—show up to chase him out of the cemetery. (Watch the full episode here.)
Josh Has a Close Call With a Land Mine ("Temple of Doom")
Josh’s trip to Cambodia to explore the rediscovered city of the 9th-century God King Jayavarman II and search for a sandstone artifact with supernatural powers sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster—in fact, one of the experts he meets served as a local consultant on Tomb Raider—but the aftermath of the country’s brutal civil war is all too real. When he meets with Aki Ra, a demining expert who takes him into an area outside Phnom Kulen that’s still littered with land mines, he walks within feet of a live explosive. UN-approved protective gear or no, the experience is a sobering one.
Josh Crosses the World's Worst Bridge ("Temple of Doom")
After demonstrating that he’s more than half crazy by wrangling a bird-sized black scorpion with his bare hands, an archaeological assistant named Pich offers to lead Josh up a haunted mountain, through a lightning storm and down a “very bad” road to a secret excavation site. Could this be the place where the Angkorian king Jayavarman II performed the Hindu ritual that enabled him to turn his enemies to ash? The good news is that Josh and Pich eventually find a yoni, or artifact that symbolizes the goddess Shakti, that has been perfectly preserved for 1,200 years. The bad news is that the ridiculous stick-bridge they take to get there looks like it won’t last the night. “I’ve seen a lot of bad bridges before,” Josh says. “This may be the worst one ever.”
Josh is Nearly Buried Alive in a Mine ("World's 8th Wonder")
Josh follows a WWII-era paper trail to Deutschneudorf, Germany, where a 17th-century silver mine could conceal The Amber Chamber, a priceless masterpiece once stolen by the Nazis. The mine itself is something of a masterpiece, but its serpentine tunnels haven’t been reinforced in half a century. When Josh and Deutschneudorf’s mayor push to the edge of the explorers’ underground territory, a monstrous rumble makes it clear that they could end up buried for 50 years.
Josh Decides It's Time to Rappel (Seasons 1-?)
Prominent Josh Gates scholars speculate that his Explorers Club initiation included a solemn, secret vow that he will never make use of stairs or a ladder when he has the opportunity to rappel. The theory has yet to find its way into textbooks, but supporting evidence is plentiful (and vicariously dizzying). Triple-check those knots, man.