UT Reader Promotes IYA in “Canoe Africa”

Article written: 9 Sep , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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If you haven’t heard of UT reader, Brian Sheen, you will over the next few months. Brian is not only a reader here, but he’s also a member of the Roseland Observatory in Cornwall and he’s about to embark on an adventure that most of us only dream about. Four men, one canoe, one river, 2,500 miles, in six months…

Brian Sheen

Brian Sheen

Canoe Africa is a unique project ready to launch by the UK astronomer just as soon as the proverbial waters reach safe levels. Brian and a small team of scout leaders will begin their journey on foot in the mountains of Guinea, at the source of one of the longest rivers in the world – the Niger. Then it’s into a dugout canoe to travel almost 2,500 miles passing through the countries of Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin and Nigeria, with their epic journey stopping about 100 miles away from wilds of the Niger Delta. Along the way they will meet with local scout troops for support and company in their journey, but there’s much more to the story than just a deliverance.

Brian is no stranger to long distance canoeing, nor is this his first time in West Africa. Forty years ago he was there providing relief with the Red Cross during the Niger Crisis, and returned again in 1981 to canoe 150 miles through the Delta from Onitsha to Port Harcourt. While the team will be promoting the UK Scouting Movement, astronomer Sheen also sees this as a unique opportunity to promote the International Year of Astronomy. “The vision of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) is to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. All humans should realize the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.”

How does Universe Today tie into this? Thanks to being a constant reader, Brian discovered the Celestron Sky Scout and the Coronado PST. When he wrote me telling me what he was going to do and asking for help locating a French version of the Celestron SkyScout, not only did I find him the correct update, but I found more support for his project as well. Thanks to Michelle Meskill from Celestron International, Celestron Life: IYA has donated speakers for the journey as well! Now, not only will the Celestron SkyScout speak in French when needed – but is now able to reach large groups of people at once!

Map Provided by BBC

Map Provided by BBC


Brian will soon be on his way down the River Niger with binoculars, solar scope, Celestron SkyScout and more. We wish him the best of luck on his IYA Journey and look forward to bringing you further updates on our fearless UT reader and his African Astronomy Adventures during the coming months. Brille sur…


6 Responses

  1. alphonso says

    That’s cool.
    Some may not think it’s ‘spacey’ enough, but it IS getting the interest of the copsmos out their to others.

    There may be other projects, humanitarian stuuf that’s equally pressing, but full marks for brain actually getting out there.

  2. Bob Ebua says

    Brian and his Team should plan for security seriously before attempting to penetrate the Niger Delta. MEND hostage takers will be happy to do business with Brian’s Team.

  3. Member

    that may be why they plan on stopping 100 km before entering the delta area.

    i seriously applaud anyone willing to make such a grand effort towards astronomy outreach, and while it isn’t “spacey” it is a UT reader and what one man has done with some of the knowledge that he’s gotten from hanging around in here with the rest of us.

    go, brian!!

  4. Hi Bob,

    Clearly we are well aware of MEND. We have a contact on leave from providing security in the Delta. He is advising as to the best place to stop the paddle down river.

    The canoe in the article is being used for training we will use a local boat for the trip. In essence we will be using the same techniques in Africa as in UK and have established school and university contacts.
    Brian
    Royal Astronomical Society Education Focus Group.

  5. Chris Webb says

    Sorry to hear the expedition was brought to a close so quickly (Brian reports on the 4th December that the canoe was sunk by a Hippo), but glad to hear everyone is OK!

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