There are some careers that job counselors don’t seem to encourage – cowboys, shepherds and, especially, explorers.
“By middle school and high school,” Albert Lin said, “we’re told that everything has been discovered …. We’ve been to the moon; we’ve been to the bottom of every ocean.”
What’s left? Re-discovery, using modern tools. Lin (shown here “has completely re-invented how we explore, using cutting-edge technology,” said Courteney Monroe, head of the National Geographic Channel.
So now her channel has “Lost Cities with Albert Lin,” a six-week series that crosses the globe.
“I started out in Israel,” Lin said. “Then I was high up on these coastal mountain ranges in Colombia, where we were actually finding real discoveries.”
Next, he was “right in the center of the Pacific Ocean, this beautiful cluster of islands. (And) I was in Jordan, hanging out of a Blackhawk helicopter,”
Is this sort of like being Indiana Jones? Sort of, Lin said. “That storybook sort of image of an explorer” links with “what truly exists today.”
The difference is that the modern Indy has drones and radar and computer imaging and more.
All of that suits Lin, 37, who has a doctorate in materials science from the University of California – San Diego, where he’s now a professor. He even jokingly refers to himself as “partly bionic”: After an off-road accident three years ago, he now has a prosthetic leg below the knee.
It’s easy to think of him as all-tech. But at the core, Lin says, “I was a curious human first.”
Growing up with an astrophysicist father and a mother who had been an actress in Hong Kong, he had a sense of adventure. When he should have been focusing on finishing his doctorate, he instead went to Mongolia in search of Genghis Khan’s tomb.Spread over four years, the project didn’t find the tomb, but did make other discoveries; it also established Lin’s blend of humanity and technology.
“It’s a privilege to use the technology,” he said. In a way, “engineers are the explorers of our time.”
And it comes back to that human side. That’s true when he’s riding horseback in Mongolia, meeting a tribal chief in Micronesia or seeing “messages of Bedouin nomads from thousands of years ago.”
And then there’s his own human adventure: Lin’s accident was in September of 2016. On the anniversary, he decided to celebrate his recovery by surfing.
On the beach that day, someone suddenly recognized Lin. This fellow surfer was the paramedic who had treated him at the accident scene, exactly a year earlier.
That day, Lin said, “I had the best surfing session of my life.”
— “Lost Cities With Albert Lin”
— 9 p.m. ET Mondays, National Geographic; but one episode – the Knights Templar in Israel – is 10 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 20 (after a two-hour Amelia Earhart special), repeating at 1 a.m.
— Oct. 21 has Micronesia at 9 and 11 p.m. ET, rerunning Knights Templar at 10 and midnight
— Oct. 28 has a search for El Dorado, in Colombia, at 9 and 11 p.m.; Micronesia reruns at 7 p.m., Knights Templar at 8 and midnight