Meet the Expert: Terence Christian

December 2, 2020|Blog Post

Terence Christian

Where are you from and where have you lived?

I am originally from Maryland on the US East Coast but for most of my adult life I lived in Glasgow, Scotland. I moved back to the United States a few years ago to serve as the US National Park Service’s military historian and archaeologist for battlefield preservation. I now live in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and teach at Temple University.

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

I was teaching archaeology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland when another Zegrahm Leader (Colleen Batey) asked if I was interested in joining an expedition to the Central and South-East Pacific as a staff archaeologist and historian. Prior to working in archaeology full time, I worked as a land expedition guide in the US so the expedition industry seemed like a fantastic merger of my passion for history and for the natural world. On one voyage my Expedition Leader was Zegrahm co-founder Mike Messick. At the end of the trip, he invited me to join Zegrahm Expeditions for their upcoming Best of Micronesia voyage. I’ve been working with the best team in the industry ever since!

What other fields are you passionate about?

I am curious about pretty much every topic I come across. It’s one of the reasons I love expedition travel – the staff and guests are so knowledgeable, engaged, and enthusiastic that you can’t help becoming absorbed in subjects you never considered! One of my passions, which I fully fault Zegrahm’s amazing ornithologists and naturalists for causing, is the history of ornithology and the observation of endemic species (all varieties, not just birds). Due to its societal origins, ornithology involves some of the most intrepid expeditions with some of the oddest people. A personal favorite are the English brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton. The Kearton brothers were the first to photograph a bird’s nest with eggs (April 1892) and used all manner of early camouflage replicas to take candid photos of animals in their natural habitat—including a hollow cow they could climb inside! If you want a quick jaunt through their incredible story, I highly recommend John Bevis’ 2016 book, The Keartons: Inventing nature photography.

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

I love the enthusiasm guests and field staff bring to each trip! History and archaeology are both about people and their relationship with a place. Exploring and guiding in incredible locations with equally passionate and curious people is as good as it gets!

Cave in Peleliu

What is your favorite Zegrahm memory?

That’s a tough one to pin down – there are so many! Certainly, one of them is our trip to at the end of a Micronesia itinerary. After surviving the always back pounding journey from Koror, we spent the day exploring the WWII battlefields. Since we were such a small group, we were allowed into some recently cleared Japanese cave networks so long as we didn’t stray past the ominous red string guides showing the cleared area (there’s still unexploded ordnance in many of these networks). The cave had all the Japanese equipment inside and was basically undisturbed except for the unexploded ordnance disposal team’s dirt spoil heaps where they had removed explosives. I’ve worked with human remains a lot but feeling the weight of the dark, cramped, humid conditions while looking out into the blinding daylight surrounded by equipment, personal effects, and what were likely Japanese soldiers’ remains was a feeling I’ll never forget.

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?

One of my favorite unexpected discoveries came when I was leading an impromptu guided coast walk in the Isles of Scilly talking about medieval habitation, land division and use, and oyster farming. We were looking at the intertidal zone artifact scatter when I saw an atypical rock at my feet. Closer examination showed it was a Neolithic blade fragment; a little later on, I found a Neolithic scraper. I knew we were between two known Neolithic habitation sites largely characterized by the stone tool assemblages recovered in the early to mid-20th century. However, no lithics had been found in the medial ground between the two known sites. Finding lithic material between the known sites led us to discuss whether the two discrete sites were actually one elongated coastal habitation site—a hypothesis I am still researching in my academic role as an archaeologist and historian at Temple University. We would not have been on that patch of beach if not for the spontaneous guided historical walk. Expedition cruising can lead to new and important discoveries!

Zodiac in Greenland

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

That’s a really tough question—there are too many incredible places to see! If I had to choose just three, it would be Greenland, Central Pacific, and Antarctica. Greenland is a wonderful combination of indigenous culture/history, Norse archaeology, and remote natural beauty. I’ve traveled in the Central Pacific so much that it feels like a second home. Going to remote atolls where you reconnect with friends made on past expeditions is always such a special experience. Antarctica is, well, Antarctica. It was and still is every explorers’ dream destination.

What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list? Why there?

So many places! Other than the obvious choice of going to space, I would love to retrace the steps of Magellan. Something about experiencing his voyage firsthand, stopping at each landfall, would be an incredible linkage to the past. I also really want to go to Egypt. Almost every archaeologist falls in love with the discipline because of Egypt; to travel down the Nile and see the ancient sites with my own eyes would be to complete archaeology’s pilgrimage.

Ballinskelligs, Ireland

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

Zegrahm is more than a company. Zegrahm really is a family of like-minded educators and experienced travelers passionate about the world and everything in it. When I travel with Zegrahm, I’m traveling with friends—guests, and field staff. We may see each other every few months or sometimes only once a year/once every two years but I really cherish the time with them. The knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm brought on each trip is second to none. Being part of the Zegrahm family is to be part of the best expedition team worldwide. No exaggeration.

Who is the Zegrahm Explorer/Traveler?

The Zegrahm traveler is a naturally inquisitive individual with inexhaustible curiosity about our world. Today, professional specialization tends to consign the label “polymath” to history. However, I think it is a very apt description of Zegrahm travelers: the early morning might be locating endemic species; midday, it’s maybe an examination of geologic structures along an exposed coast; a parallel interest in boat building covers the afternoon, and in the evening reveals an enthusiasm for local cuisine. Guiding such travelers is a privilege and a pleasure!