Kenny Broad and Dr. Hurums daughter Ida. Photo: Rebecca Hale/National Geographic
“We search for fossils in the high Arctic, moving hundreds of tons of rock by hand in wet, freezing conditions. It’s fantastic.” Dr. Hurum explained to National Geographic
Dr. Hurum is the first Norwegian to except this award since the National Geographic started this program in 2004.
National Geographic's Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers—explorers who are already making a difference early in their careers. To help the Emerging Explorers realize their potential, National Geographic awards each of them U.S. $10,000 for research and exploration. Each year explorers are chosen from fields as diverse as anthropology, space exploration, mountaineering, and music.
Each August Dr. Hurum leads a team to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle. Through their excavations the paleontologists find the fossils of numerous (now extinct) terrifying marine reptiles -- many of them new species. It is as though the scientists are traveling back in time to the Jurassic Period. While conducting fieldwork, the expedition braves weather, polar bears, and isolation. Each trip yields incredible discoveries – but also raises difficult questions about the types of life found in the area.
Among those questions: why are there so few skeletons of certain kinds of fish on Svalbard? Was the Jurassic-era climate different from what has always been assumed?
National Geographic produced the film “Death of a Sea Monster” on Dr. Hurums work on Svalbard and tells the story of how the expedition, through less than three weeks of intense digging while the permafrost is soft enough, uncovered a complete ichthyosaur skeleton -- the first of its kind to be discovered -- and digs into other questions about life in the Arctic long ago. The film explores this remote burial ground via helicopter and boat.
During National Geographic’s “Expedition Week,” a life-sized model of the “sea monster” has decorated the front of the National Geographic Society’s Museum in Washington, D.C., illustrating the staggering size and scary appearance of this long-gone behemoth.