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National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins returns to Western March 19 to discuss gargantuan cave

March 05, 2015

This is the entrance
This is the entrance to Vietnam's Hang Son Doong cave.

ROCK SPRINGS – Mark Jenkins, field staff writer for National Geographic and writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, will return to Western Wyoming Community College’s Rock Springs campus Thursday, March 19, at 7 p.m. for another fascinating look at his latest overseas adventure.

In “Vietnam Underground: The Viet Cong, Spelunkers, and the Biggest Cave on Earth,” Jenkins will recap his experiences exploring that Southeast Asian nation, where he descended into what has been acknowledged as the “Mount Everest of caves.” The program is part of UW’s Global Studies Excellence Initiative and continues the “World to Wyoming” outreach series. This presentation is free and open to the public and will be held in Room 1302.

Hidden deep in the jungles of central Vietnam, near the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail, lies a network of massive caves that were created by underground rivers cutting their way through limestone. These caves were used as shelters by the Vietnamese during American bombing campaigns in the 1960s. Over the past two decades, a team of British spelunkers has penetrated deeper into the gigantic caverns.

Jenkins joined them during their descent into what proved to be the largest cave ever discovered: Hang Son Doong – a cavern so vast that a skyscraper could fit inside of it. Exploring the cave was so treacherously difficult that the team lived underground for days to complete the first descent.

In his public presentation, Jenkins will take audiences across Vietnam both culturally and geographically, exploring its violent history, its remarkable recovery and its vibrant present, and will recount his descent into the largest known cave on Earth.      

Jenkins’s past appearances at Western, when he has discussed his ascent of Mount Everest, his investigations into the world’s oldest known ski tribe, and other adventures, have been very popular. Early arrival is recommended to guarantee seating.

Mark Jenkins is a critically acclaimed author and internationally recognized journalist who covers geopolitics and adventure. Among hundreds of stories, he has written about landmines in Cambodia, the war in Eastern Congo, the loss of koalas in Australia, global warming in Greenland, ethnic cleansing in Burma, and climbing Mt. Everest in Nepal.

His writing has won numerous awards, including the Overseas Press Club Ross Award for “The Healing Fields” in 2013 and a National Magazine Award with colleague Brint Stirton for “Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas?” in 2009. Both projects provided the basis for state-wide presentations at Wyoming’s community colleges as part of the Global and Area Studies Program’s (formerly International Studies Program) state-wide international speaker series.

This public talk is one of a series of presentations Jenkins is making at Wyoming’s community colleges this spring. They are sponsored by UW’s Center for Global Studies, UW’s Global and Area Studies Program, the Wyoming Humanities Council, the UW Outreach School, and Wyoming’s community colleges, with additional support from the Ruth R. Ellbogen Foundation, the Homer and Mildred Scott Foundation, and InterConnections21.


For more information, contact Audrey Harton at (307) 382-1661 or
(307) 382-1600 or toll free (800) 226-1181