Josh Gates' Year in Review
2017 was a year of firsts (and "never again" lasts) for the Expedition Unknown host and seasoned traveler.
“Travel more” is generally a basic tenet of many resolutioners’ lists come New Year’s, but what if you’re someone like, say, Josh Gates, who is on the road more days out of the year than not? How do you top a seemingly untoppable year of travels, discoveries and connections?
It bears repeating: 2017 was a huge year for Josh and the Expedition Unknown crew. Season three produced incredible finds from India to Siberia, Josh jumped out of a plane to crack a bit of the infamous D.B. Cooper mystery and the crew even managed to talk their way into NASA for a rather tear-jerking, long-distance phone call. But while we were parked on the couch vicariously taking in his adventures, Josh was already knee-deep in investigating new expeditions for season four.
“My crew really worked their butts off this year to make what I hope is our best season yet,” Josh said. “The locations, the photography, the access to historic sites … it’s a really ambitious adventure.”
Throughout their travels in 2017 — some of their most intense ever — the Expedition Unknown caravan encountered everything from modern-day archaeological heroes and American treasure hunters to vengeful snakes (“SNAKES!”) and even a wicked bout of the stomach flu that sent half the crew to the hospital. Here, Josh reflects on his highs and lows from last year and offers up more than a few tastes of what to expect for Expedition Unknown season four — now in full swing, every Wednesday at 9|8c.
I have to say our biggest challenge was pulling off our upcoming two-part special in Egypt. We set out to film in nearly a dozen historic sites around the country from the iconic Sphynx in Giza to the towering ruins of Luxor to a sunken palace complex beneath the harbor of Alexandria. Oh, and to cap it all off, we wanted to perform a cutting-edge scan on a venerated mummy housed inside the Cairo Museum. It was a huge amount of planning, begging and good fortune to have encountered so many hospitable people along the way.
We traveled all over the planet, spoke to astronauts in space, excavated lost tombs and discovered buried treasures. But none of that compares to finding out that my wife and I are going to have our second child. The parenting adventure continues!
I always preach to people that they should keep a journal when they travel. Being able to read about what you felt during a trip is more impactful than any photograph. Most years I keep a Moleskin journal in my bag and make daily entries. This year, I dropped the ball. Sure, I have lots of iPhone pics, but I can already feel some of my memories from the road slipping away. Next year, I’ll do better!
Favorite Domestic Trip
I think my favorite show of the new season is our investigation into a curious and little-known book called The Secret (not the Oprah approved self-help book). In the 1980s, an author and puzzle-enthusiast buried 12 treasure boxes in parks all over America and then published a book with clues on how to find them. Only two boxes have ever been found, and we undertook an epic adventure from Chicago to Milwaukee to Cleveland to Roanoke to Florida to meet the modern-day treasure hunters trying to strike it rich. My favorite stop was in historic St. Augustine, Fla. The city was founded in 1565, making it the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Americas. Also, we arrived during a BBQ festival. So … history and ribs. Hard to beat that.
We’re doing an awesome episode on the mysteries of Stonehenge in England, where there have been sensational recent finds including the discovery of a so called “super-henge” nearby. For me, the craziest view I had all year was when we were given permission to step inside the towering arches of Stonehenge at sunrise, before anyone else was there. I felt transported through time and experienced what it must have been like to visit this enigmatic place a thousand years ago.
While interviewing an archaeologist on the steps of an ancient pyramid in the jungles of Guatemala, my cameraman Evan yelled out, “Snake!” We jumped up to the sight of a very angry pit viper slithering toward us. Considering we were a two-day hike from a hospital, I’d say I owe Evan a case of expensive Scotch this holiday season.
The food in Egypt. All of it. The hummus. The tehina. The falafel. The ful medames. We just gorged on incredible middle eastern food for weeks on end.
Most Questionable Eats
Oh, God. Please, don’t make me remember. Honorable mention goes to a spectacularly mediocre “Boston-themed” restaurant in Denmark (why? WHY?), but nothing compares to the hastily prepared warm tuna salad from a cave deep in the jungles of Ecuador. More on that a little later.
I have to say, there are some incredible finds [for season four] this year, but perhaps the biggest is in the jungles of Guatemala. We used state-of-the-art lasers to scan the foliage surrounding a massive, Maya ruin and found … well, you’ll see. Trust me, it’s awesome.
Most Memorable Encounter
The best part of my job is getting to meet and work alongside world-class archaeologists and explorers. On the banks of the Nile, we met up with husband-and-wife team John Ward and Maria Nilsson. They’re excavating one of ancient Egypt’s main quarries north of Aswan. Since the site is so remote, they live aboard a huge Dahabiya sailboat with their adorable daughter and their trusty dog, Carter (named after the famed archaeologist who found King Tut’s tomb). If that’s not badass enough, Maria was very pregnant with their second child. They were an absolute blast to work with and really showed me that you can have a family and live a life of high adventure at the same time.
One Goal Hit (or Missed)
Every year I swear I’m going to learn motorcycle repair and how to play guitar. Another year has passed. My bike is leaking oil, and the guitar is gathering dust. Here’s to 2018!
Catch new episodes from season four of Expedition Unknown Wednesdays at 9|8c.