National Geographic Amazon ultramarathoner to speak at K-State Olathe, address water issues

Monday, April 8, 2013

by Kristi Northcutt

National Geographic-sponsored ultramarathoner West Hansen, who led the first expedition to paddle the length of the Amazon River from its newly discovered source, will discuss his journey, touching on the Amazon as a natural, cultural, and economic resource, from 4-5 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at Kansas State University Olathe, 22201 W. Innovation Drive.

His presentation, sponsored by the Urban Water Institute at K-State Olathe, is free and the public is invited.

During Hansen's 4,000-plus mile, 111 day expedition on the Amazon -- from the Mantaro River to the Atlantic Ocean -- his team collected data for the Pacific Biodiversity Project, logging details that included fauna, populations of people, animals, man-made obstacles and diversions along the river such as commerce, logging, trash and algae.

His team consisted of white-water professional kayakers for the initial 512 miles, which began at 14,000 feet above sea level in the Peruvian Andes. Five seasoned ultramarathon canoe racers were assembled for the next 3,800 miles of flat water, with three making it to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. Hansen was the only team member to complete the entire expedition.

Hansen competes annually in the Missouri River 340 ultramarathon canoe and kayak race from Kansas City to St. Louis, Mo., and is a repeat winner in men's solo, men's tandem, mixed tandem and team competition. He holds numerous speed records and paddling marathon titles. He will share photos, videos, stories and discoveries from the Amazon, which carries more water than any other river in the world and accounts for one-fifth of the fresh water that flows into the world's oceans. The Amazon also has the largest watershed, or area of land that flows into the river, and more tributaries -- 200-plus -- than any other river in the world.

"The Urban Water Institute is grateful to West for sharing his adventure and lessons learned about this vital global water resource with Kansas State University and the community we serve," said Stacy Hutchinson, interim director of the institute and associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering.

For more information, contact Joan Leavens, Urban Water Institute program coordinator, at 913-307-7311 or

Register to attend here.