Sinai Sunrise

Meet the Expert: Susan Langley

Zegrahm Expeditions|September 15, 2020|Blog Post

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Susan Langley

Where are you from and where have you lived? 

I was born is Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and have lived in Red Bay Labrador; Calgary, Alberta; Thailand, and for the past 26 years, Annapolis, Maryland. I hold dual citizenship with Eire/Ireland. 

Tell us about yourself—what path led you to becoming a Zegrahm Leader? 

The people in my family have always been travelers and my parents instilled in me a love of history and archaeology. I enjoy sharing my passion for archaeology and history through stories, humor, photography and field studies. I have taught at universities and colleges, as well as making presentations and lectures throughout my professional career; sometimes through formal bodies such as speakers bureau but often for associations, societies, service organizations, and other public and private entities. I had heard a lot about Zegrahm from another staff member and when he told me he had conflicting trips, he suggested I apply to cover one of them. The position had been filled but Zegrahm kept my CV and I was subsequently offered a position. 

What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have? 

I am the State Underwater Archaeologist for Maryland, a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Instructor, an Emergency First Response Instructor, and an Adjunct Professor at five colleges and universities. I have a Masters in textile technology and was the Beekeeper for two Maryland Governors over four terms. 

What other fields are you passionate about? 

One of the courses I instruct involves the anthropology of piracy from the earliest evidence to current activities and many of my passions converge in this topic. These include cartography; geography; food history (production, markets and cuisine); and trade patterns (silk, cotton chintz, dyestuffs like indigo and cochineal, spices, ceramics and comparable commodities). I am perpetually curious and like to learn through experience and to that end have taken courses in shipbuilding, blacksmithing, woodturning, diverse methods of textile production (drop spindles, spinning wheels, felting, dyeing), and beekeeping, as a few examples. 

Do you have any awards, publications, appearances documentaries etc.? 

Of 53 publications, three are volumes I edited and the majority of the others relate to maritime archaeology; a handful relate to textiles and beekeeping. I wrote the text for 20 of Zegrahm’s expedition photo logs as well! 

On two occasions I was presented with U.S. flags in appreciation of service and assistance; one was over Fort McHenry and was presented by the General Society of the War of 1812, and other was flown over the USCGC-37 (ex.  Roger B.  Taney), the last vessel afloat from Pearl Harbor. 

I was asked to unveil a “Supergraphic” visible on U-Haul vans featuring a project I led and about which I am working on a book, called Operation Habbakuk; A WWII Effort to Construct Aircraft Carriers of Ice. 

My current position and some personal research involves considerable involvement with media; a selection includes—NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, Voice of America, Al-Jazeera, consult for National Geographic’s Drain the Ocean series, talk RADIO (UK), Times of London, The Washington Post, What on Earth (UK), Mysteries of the Abandoned, Baltimore Traditions (Curtis BayYouTube), Abandoned Engineering (UK), Weird Weapons of WWII (UK), The Sea Hunters (National Geographic Channel), and a number of regional and local radio stations. 

What organizations are you a part of? 

The Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology and its Governmental Affairs, UNESCO, and Heritage Resources at Risk (Climate Change) Committees, the Steering Committee for the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network, the Maryland State Beekeepers Association and the Anne Arundel Beekeepers Association, and am the last serving founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills. 

What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Zegrahm? 

The joy of working with Zegrahm is the combination of fabulous destinations with excellent itineraries that remain flexible to permit taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, with interesting and talented staff representing diverse fields, and engaged guests who want to be intellectually challenged and stimulated. 

What is your favorite Zegrahm memory? 

That’s really difficult, there are so many! Professionally, it has to be diving Chuuk Lagoon and Bikini Atoll. Personally, Istanbul and Cappadocia will always be near and dear to me, but two experiences really stand out. On the trip I reference in the next question, we had the chance to ride camels up Mt.  Sinai as far as possible then climb to the summit on foot under a full moon at midnight in order to watch the sun rise on St.  Catherine’s Monastery at the start of Greek Orthodox Holy Week. I am also besotted with Petra and on one Zegrahm trip we were at one of the first concerts held under the stars in front of the “treasury” sitting on mats and sipping warm apple tea. Walking in through the Siq under a full moon was incomparable. 

Can you tell us about a time that you were on an expedition that ended up taking an unexpected turn or made an unexpected discovery that took you off the planned trail? 

Our expedition had been scheduled to sail on Le Ponant, when it was seized by Somali pirates on its way to meet us in 2008. While it was a disappointment not to join our ship, Zegrahm’s capable staff recreated most of the itinerary as a land-based expedition, which created a lot of opportunities that we would not have had otherwise. For me the highlight was being able to spend the night at Mt. Sinai. One staff member had met a monk from St.  Catherine’s Monastery when he was in the U.S. fundraising to be able to digitize the Monastery’s phenomenal library. The Brother happened to be available and joined us for dinner and provided a spellbinding history of the area, the monastery, and the library. Later that night, a group of us set off, some hiking and some on camel to summit Mt. Sinai in the dark to watch the dawn break from its heights. While the monastery was more crowded than usual with guests there for Greek Orthodox Holy Week, we were invited to tour the famous library, which is not generally open to the public.

St. Catherine's Library   

What non-for-profits or causes do you support or feel strongly about? 

Greater Good’s Animal Rescue, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, St. Joseph’s Indian School, The Salvation Army, Parkinson’s Disease research and support groups (chaired the Parkinson’s Society of Southern Alberta), Girl Guides of Canada, and the Louie Fund at the Annapolis Cat Hospital (to cover costs of medical treatment for owners who cannot afford these). Work-related: Institute of Maritime History, the Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society, and the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group. With three other women from my office, I co-support a small group of feral cats living around an abandoned hospital. We have homed all but four at this time and we feed as well as medicate when necessary. 

What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?

This is difficult as there are few places I would not want to visit or re-visit.

The circum-Mediterranean countries (including Jordan), India and the circum-Andaman Sea, and the circum-Baltic/Arctic (including Iceland, Greenland and Canadian Arctic/sub-Arctic). 

What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there? 

Madagascar! I want to see endangered wildlife and landscapes unique on the planet, as well as the cultural evidence of the island’s role as a pirate lair in the 17th and 18th centuries.   

Peru, particularly Machu Pichu as it’s something of a pilgrimage for archaeologists, as well as having a vibrant food culture and textile/ceramic industries. 

The Seychelles have intrigued me since the 1970s and I would like to see them from both above and below the sea. 

Machu Picchu

What does being a part of the Zegrahm family mean to you?     

It really is that it is familial—staff (both office and field) stay in touch outside of expeditions as friends and share information they feel their colleagues would find useful. This is true of some guests as well. Zegrahm treats its staff like the experts they are and respects their opinions and suggestions, as well as letting them design their presentations as they see fit to use them to engage the guests in the best way possible. This is one of the chief reasons Zegrahm is head and shoulders above other companies. 

Who is the Zegrahm Explorer/Traveler?  

As I mentioned above, Zegrahm guests are intelligent and engaged. They have a great deal of life experience and are usually well travaled. They are adventurous and are game to try just about anything. They want to be stimulated and once they travel with Zegrahm they usually return because they love the flexibility exhibited on expeditions when the Expedition Leader and Cruise Director will listen to their suggestions and incorporate specific requests when possible, such as adding a museum or market or side tour, that the guest has researched or discovered.