UAE to host one of the world's five National Geographic ideas unit

Five centres around the world are due to open by 2015 and the UAE will host one of them.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, fourth left, Sheikh Rashid bin Saud Al Mu'alla Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain, left, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, second left, Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, fifth left, and others applaud a Ramadan lecture by Terry Garcia, head of core mission programmes for the National Geographic Society, not shown. The lecture at Al Bateen palace was titled "The New Age of Exploration". Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
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ABU DHABI // National Geographic's Terry Garcia said the UAE would host one of five centres around the world where explorers and researchers could lodge proposals seeking the society's support and management.

Mr Garcia, head of core mission programmes at National Geographic, gave an hour-long lecture at the majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on the society's mission and work.

He hoped the five centres would be open by 2015.

Mr Garcia said the society had witnessed more than 10,000 expeditions exploring land, sea and outer space to date.

"The 21st century is the greatest exploration age," Mr Garcia said. "Technology opened doors closed in the past."

He said explorers were trying to retrieve a shipwreck in Iraq documenting ancient Assyrian Empire artefacts and priceless statues.

"Shipwrecks are time capsules of human history," he said.

Mr Garcia expected there would be more treasures in the sea than in all of the museums put together.

In Mongolia, expedition crews came up with cutting-edge technology which later helped in law enforcement when made available to the Egyptian government, which also used it to discover 100 pyramids beneath the sand.

The society is also working to discover remote regions on Earth, untouched and uninhabited, and to work with governments to ensure they are protected.

So far they have helped to protect 400,000 square kilometres, with a goal of 1 million by the end of the year.

Scientists are seeking cures for illness, and trying to resurrect extinct animals using DNA of frozen species.

"By showing people what is out there we can inspire them," he said.

The society supports and manages more than 400 scientific field research, conservation and exploration projects.

While many think National Geographic is just a media company, Mr Garcia said it was there to explore "beyond human knowledge".

"In my job at National Geographic, I meet hundreds of explorers," he said. "Ideas come through the door every day and individuals, truly extraordinary."

He estimated there were 1,000 to 2,000 explorers a year, but predicts the number to grow.

He told the story of Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer who planned to travel many kilometres across the frozen wasteland.

Shackleton placed an unappealing advertisement seeking companions, and was surprised that 5,000 people applied. Twenty seven were chosen.

Despite going through harsh and dangerous conditions, and completely failing in their intended task, he managed to bring all of the men home alive.

"It was a spectacular failure leading 27 men on an extraordinary journey," Mr Garcia said.

He said National Geographic worked on supporting such determined and focused people, men and women, who wanted to reach poles, the deepest points of the planet, or leave the planet entirely.

"All are addicted to adventure," he said. "The need to explore is in our genes. In the National Geographic, exploration is part of who we are, part of our DNA."

In 1888, the non-profit society was born after 33 explorers created it to increase geographic knowledge.

Whether through a journal or unprecedented support to scientists, they were not sure how they would proceed.

Today, the society supports scientists, offers programmes, issues a monthly magazine and runs a television channel "providing generations a window into the world".

Mr Garcia took a moment in his speech to thank the Royal family and Abu Dhabi Media Company for broadcasting National Geographic to an Arabic audience.