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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine October 2013

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
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picture this

Readers of National Geographic’s first issue can be forgiven for not being thoroughly captivated. The magazine that debuted in 1888 was a drab scientific publication of 98 pages wrapped in a plain brown cover. Several meteorological maps broke up the drone of black-and-white print. Articles included “The Classification of Geographic Forms by Genesis” and “The Survey of the Coast.” And that’s how it pretty much remained for 16 years, until 1904, when the magazine’s printer told Editor Gilbert H. Grosvenor that he had 11 pages to fill. Grosvenor grabbed a package from the Imperial Russian Geographical Society containing some of the first photographs of Lhasa, Tibet, which was then considered one of the world’s most exotic places. He selected 11 and sent them to the printer, certain he would be fired…


Emperor of the Image He didn’t speak, he growled in a low-level rumble like the sound of distant thunder or the scrape of boots over gravel. For many, his was the voice of God, a stature reinforced by the needlepoint panel that hung above his office door. “Wipe your knees before entering,” it said. Despite the kneeling bench beside his desk (a photographer’s not entirely facetious gift), Robert Emanuel Gilka, who died on June 25 at the age of 96, was anything but lordly. He was modest, with a single-minded focus on the craft of photojournalism. Over the course of a 27-year career at National Geographic—22 of them as director of photography—he set the standard for the magazine’s visual excellence. He was adored and feared by his photographers. The fear was of disappointing…


How to Fix Everest “The mountain is so high and so indifferent it calls upon every climber, at one time or another, to rise to his or her better self,” reads your article. I might believe Everest climbers had a better self if, with their iron wills and monetary advantages, they also figured out how to remove their detritus and the bodies of their fallen comrades. Where is there a better self in evidence when people reach a self-interested goal but take no care of the environment they are traversing? JOANNE PAYLING Livermore, California I often fantasized about climbing Mount Everest and reaching the highest point on Earth. After reading your article, I will take that dream off my bucket list. A two-hour wait at the Hillary Step, 234 people reaching the summit…

photo finish

In 2011 we were in Mexico shooting a 360-degree composite photo in the Hoyo Negro cenote, a deep sinkhole that has filled with groundwater. There were human remains inside—more than 9,000 years old, among the oldest in the Americas. It was a forbidding dive; the government had put up a sign outside the caves that said, If you go past this point, you will likely die. We had tested our camera system in a scuba pool, but that was ten feet of water. Now we were diving up to 200 feet deep. It was dark down there, so we took a SunSphere, a beach ball–size glass sphere full of batteries and LEDs. The plan was to tether the SunSphere and let it float above to light the whole cave. When we turned…

photo journal

Dog Days In 2011 I set out to do a photo project, traveling to every state in America to tell the stories of everyday folks, every single day for a year. Before I left, I realized I needed a dog for my adventures. I knew I wanted a coonhound, and found Maddie in an Atlanta, Georgia, shelter, but I still wasn’t sure. As I walked her back to her kennel, though, she pressed her body against me the whole time. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I can’t put you back in the cage. So $40 later, I’d rescued this dog I’d just met. Since then Maddie’s been with me 24/7, next to me in the front seat of my truck, getting noseprints on the windows. It was during that year on…

baby pictures

“The number one thing parents want to see is if babies have ten fingers and ten toes,” says engineer Karl-Heinz Lumpi. His team developed software that shows the digits in full-color 3-D. Beyond allaying parents’ curiosity, the more exact image of what’s going on in the womb may play a role in diagnostics. Doctors who were formerly resigned to a blurred heartbeat can now see inside that organ’s chambers. It’s all in the lighting. The image starts out like a traditional 3-D ultrasound’s. Then a computer program adds virtual illumination, mimicking how light plays across human skin—reflecting, casting shadows, and giving shape. As in regular photography, the light source is movable. Plus the image is rotatable, so wriggling fingers, or a floating umbilical cord like this eight-month fetus’s, likely won’t hinder…