At 8,430 meters above sea level, members of the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition team celebrate after setting up the world's highest operating automatic weather station. Credit: Mark Fisher / National Geographic Society

A year after the team he led placed the world’s highest weather station at the top of Mount Everest, University of Maine glaciologist Paul Mayewski will be one of the subjects of a new documentary, “Expedition Everest,” set to air on the NatGeo channel on June 30.

Mayewski, who leads UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, headed to Everest in April 2019 alongside a team of Sherpas, biologists, glaciologists, geologists, meteorologists and geographers from all over the world, including five other UMaine scientists.

The goal of the expedition — funded by National Geographic and watch company Rolex and done in partnership with the government of Nepal and Tribhuvan University — was to create a snapshot of the climate and ecology of Everest and to install a network of automated weather stations for future remote research. In an article published in the July 2020 edition of National Geographic Magazine, which is a special Everest edition, Mayewski said the multi-disciplinary approach was the best way to get a full scientific picture of Everest.

“We believe the best way to do science on Everest isn’t just to do one kind of science, but do many kinds of science,” he said.

On Mayewski’s UMaine team were doctoral candidates Heather Clifford and Mariusz Potocki, the latter of whom collected the highest ice core on the planet, at 8,020 meters. On the team of Aaron Putnam, an assistant professor of earth and climate sciences at UMaine, were doctoral candidates Peter Strand and Laura Mattas.

“Expedition Everest” will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30 on NatGeo. Prior to that, another hour-long documentary, “Lost on Everest,” will detail the attempts by a team of climbers to locate the remains of English mountaineer Andrew Irvine, who died during the first attempt to summit Everest in 1924, alongside his partner, George Mallory. Mallory’s body was found, but Irvine’s has yet to be discovered.

In a December 2019 interview with the magazine Science, Mayewski said that 2019 was the most crowded he had ever seen Everest. When his team was preparing to install its weather station near the summit, he said there were about 200 people in line ahead of them.

“Everyone who is climbing Everest is in a world of their own. As long as you’re not directly in their way, they might not even notice you. But we noticed the crowds,” Mayewski said. “Even if each person in that line spent only one minute at the summit, it was going to take close to the equivalent of one oxygen tank to wait.”

In addition to his roles as director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute and a professor, Mayewski has led more than 55 expeditions to remote locations all over the world, including Antarctica, Greenland and the Andes Mountains. He has received multiple honors and awards within the scientific community, has written two popular books, and has been featured on programs including “60 Minutes” and “NOVA.”

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.