Update June 3, 2021: Romain launched his expedition article here for our French-speaking audience.
This is an update regarding our team’s planned expedition into the jungles of Panama to gather relevant missing information. We previously wrote about our expedition plans here (link). We are excited to announce that our team has made a lot of progress on raising funds and designing our jungle expedition.
The team has already overcome numerous obstacles in terms of designing our trip, creating safety plans (and contingency plans), as well as prioritizing gear and equipment requirements for our trip.
Our biggest hurdle is still Coronavirus.
Due to the ever-evolving Coronavirus restrictions and mandates by governments domestic and foreign, things remain on hold. Once governments and airlines lift all travel restrictions, we’ll choose our optimal travel date and start setting things in motion. Until then, we’ll be working to save money and eagerly waiting for things to clear.
When will we go? We still don’t know. Vaccines are still in the early stages of distribution in Central America, therefore they are limiting cross-border travel. Hopefully that will change this year.
So far our campaign has raised $1,223. We are thrilled to receive this much support and feedback from the public. Thank you to everyone that has donated money and provided words of encouragement. Your support gives us more inspiration and motivation.
For newcomers, here’s our campaign page: Mapping The Jungle Trails Of Panama
Romain also published a fundraising page in French too, for our European audience.
Many of our campaign contributors wish to remain anonymous and we 100% respect their privacy. We are so grateful to our contributors for putting their confidence in us. This trip is important to us and their support helps to reduce financial pressure. From our largest contributor ($500), to our smallest contributor ($10), we appreciate every dollar.
Filling In The Financial Gaps
We already know that we’re not going to be able to fundraise all of the money we will need. But that’s ok. We’re happy to have the opportunity to experience this journey with the support of so many interesting people. We’ve received emails from supporters and followers across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and many other places. It’s remarkable to see how much interest there is in our upcoming expedition. And we thank you all greatly for that.
Anyway, our team members will be covering the bulk of the financial requirements for this trip. Collectively, we’ve spent thousands of dollars and put in hundreds of hours planning the expedition.
Before diving into details our trip design, it’s important to briefly mention our approach. The disappearance case has three general theories: 1) the injured/lost theory, 2) the third-party theory, 3) the mixed theory.
Altogether, those three theories involve perhaps an infinite number of variables.
In order to ensure we stay focussed and utilize our time efficiently, we’ll only use case information that is 100% factual. Too much speculation about how they disappeared can derail our efforts and cause the team to lose focus. For example, if an animal attack took place or someone took Kris and Lisanne into captivity, we cannot speculate regarding those possibilities in our decision making process. Doing so could take us down a long “rabbit hole” and result in wasted time that we could otherwise use for other higher priority objectives.
In the end, we’ll be utilizing only factual information to determine our approach and decision making process.
Our trip design will be based on our objectives and our team strengths.
These are our main team strengths:
- Technology and expertise available to us.
- Our prior experience with hiking and trekking.
- Our experience living internationally and visiting Panama.
- Knowledge of security protocols and safety measures.
- Access to experienced professionals in multiple fields, like data analysis, imaging, security, tracking, medicine, psychology, etc.
- Utilizing existing case information to plan our routes and make decisions on the trail.
Team profile: Our team is now full. Everyone on our team is experienced with international travel (including in Panama), hiking in jungles and camping. We all have experience with the technology to a comfortable degree. Also, our team will be with a jungle survival expert that has experience with search and rescue missions.
Romain, Matt and I are coordinating the trip, with some additional team members that wish to remain anonymous. Matt will be coordinating our remote team to support those of us in Panama. Therefore, we’ll have boots on the ground in Panama and a remote team to ensure we have backup support as needed.
We are constantly reviewing the disappearance case information to ensure that our routes are planned properly. For example, we know that Kris and Lisanne’s items were discovered in the Serpent River downstream from multiple confluence points. Aside from speculation of how or why this happened, we know that our most likely chance for finding the location of the night-photos is by searching upstream in the shallow headwaters of intermittent tributaries that increase in water depth substantially with rainfall. Those factors, combined with other factors will be important during our profiling of the area.
Most data we gather will be recorded and mapped in real-time. That will limit the potential for loss of data. Some data will be dumped to remote servers as milestones are reached, for further evaluation later on. Our focus will be targeting our primary objectives and gathering the maximum amount of information possible. After our trip, we’ll have ample time to evaluate the data from the comfort of our homes.
As discussed in previous updates, our team is well aware that it’s unlikely for anyone to “solve” this case. However, there are many unanswered questions that are still entirely feasible to uncover in the mountains north of Boquete. Not including all the planning involved, it’s relatively low-risk for us to fill in some gaps of their timeline, identify trails, find areas prone to increase injury and mark existing landmarks in the GPS.
Thanks to the data recovered from the phones and the data recovered from the camera, the new information that we gather during our expedition can help us piece together unknown details about the area where they disappeared. Instead of relying on random photos found on the internet, we’ll be going there to gather all of the precise information that we need in order to form stronger conclusions about the disappearance.
Our expedition will have two primary objectives:
Objective 1: Map the GPS Coordinates of all trails (and rivers) north of the Mirador.
Photo #508 was the last captured moment that Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon were hiking normally, without any obvious concerns. Then, approximately two hours and forty minutes after Photo 508 was taken, they made their first distress calls on their cell phones. That means that somewhere within 2 hours and 45 minutes from Photo 508 something detrimental happened.
We plan to find out how far they could have travelled in 2 hours and 45 minutes. We plan to identify all trails and rivers they could have possibly taken during that span of time. Also, we will mark (in our GPS) all possible places where an injury could have occurred.
Objective 2: Find the exact GPS coordinates of the “night photo” location.
At this point, the location of the night photos is still unknown. Certainly, there are some photos taken by travelers and journalists that seem to somewhat resemble the area of the night photo, but nobody has ever duplicated the photos that specifically indicate the same positioning of the boulders. Those boulders probably still exist in the same formation, or at least a very similar formation.
Our team has painstakingly scanned maps of the region and conducted numerous late-night brainstorming meetings. We have a refined strategy planned for identifying the precise location of the night photos. Our specific plan is too involved to convey here, but here is a summary: Our strategy involves identifying regions in rivers/ravines that offer resemblances of key attributes found in the night photos. Those attributes, combined with other map indicators, essentially highlight the areas that we will be searching.
An additional benefit to our trip is this: After our expedition, future hikers that visit Boquete will have all the trails pre-mapped out. That will increase their safety and reduce the likelihood of hikers getting lost. However, we do not advise that anyone attempts to visit trails in Panama without being accompanied by an experienced and trusted tour guide. Our expedition will be dangerous. Our team will do professional training and will be prepared with emergency satellite communication. We’re taking every effort to reduce risk of injury and danger.
We also have contingency objectives that we’ll prioritize as we gather information during the expedition. For example, if we find the location of the night photos, we already have a list of pre-planned tasks to perform in that specific area, such as taking photos and drone footage of the immediate area.
It’s impossible for us to list all possible contingency objectives here because there are too many variables involved.
If we succeed with the primary objectives (and their associated contingent objectives), we’ll have other goals in place. Our secondary objectives will involve things like: floating a similar backpack in the river (similar to their blue backpack), logging river temperatures and velocity, and photographing the location where the backpack was found, etc.
During our expedition, being respectful to locals and the environment is of utmost importance. We do not plan to interview locals or disturb anyone that lives in Boquete. In fact, we hope to perform our tasks relatively quickly, in order to prevent any potential disturbances. We will not leave trash in the jungle and we will minimize our impact on the surrounding environment.
Jungle Gear & Expectations
Before stepping foot in Panama, we wanted to be sure that we arrive prepared. Although we still have a lot of gear to purchase, we’ve started the process of buying boots, backpacks and some electronics (all with rechargeable batteries).
Here are some examples of things we’re preparing for.
Jungle Boots: Jungle boots are not the same as normal boots. Waterproof boots retain water and can lead to trench foot and tropical ulcers (aka “jungle rot”). Boots that breath are key. Our boots must be designed to purge excess water, otherwise you’ll be sloshing around in a liter of water as you’ll hike. Any boot insulation will make hiking unbearably hot and can increase risk of fungal infection. Furthermore, jungle boots often have a specialized sole, called the “Panama Sole”, which is specifically designed to prevent mud from compacting on the bottom of your boots. Here’s a great read on jungle boots.
Sleeping in normal tents is too risky. Panama is loaded with venomous snakes and fugly spiders and scorpions. I already experienced being stung by a scorpion in El Salvador – not fun. So, how will we avoid getting stung when sleeping in a tent? By sleeping in hammock tents. Here’s a great example of a hammock tent.
The sun is unreliable to solar-charge our electronics. We may need to charge our batteries because most of our work involves electronic gadgets. Drones, mapping systems, GPS devices, power banks, etc. But the sun might not always be present in the high elevations of the continental divide. So our team has decided to purchase a portable water turbine to charge our electronics in a pinch. It’s not a perfect plan, but if we’re deep in the jungle and need a charge it’ll be handy.
Our biggest danger. You might think our biggest risk is snakes, pumas or spectacled caiman. In reality, our biggest danger is falling trees. Day and night, trees fall in the jungle, and any disturbances from hikers makes it more likely for a dead tree to fall in your path. Therefore, we must constantly be aware of falling trees and falling branches as we hike.
Those are a few examples. There’s a lot of considerations to balance.
So, that’s all we have for now. Thank you again for the support and words of encouragement. We’re still purchasing gear and working to save money. We’re looking forward to heading down to Panama and gathering all of this information after Coronavirus restrictions are more lax.
Feel free to post comments below, but please limit any questions to only non-intrusive questions that won’t potentially involve the security of our team (ie, no questions about when we’ll go, where we’ll go or who will be attending our trip). I apologize in advance for any slow response times – everyone on our team has normal jobs and life to tend to. We’ll do our best to respond when we have free time available.
Thank you again to everyone that supports our efforts. And thank you to all of our wonderful team members that have worked hard to plan and organize our expedition.
Helpful links to our past articles:
All Case Articles: Kris Kremers & Lisanne Froon Case Articles
Last Team Update: Research Team Update – Support Us (From Dec 9, 2020)
Matt’s Recent Article: Items Uncovered: Backpack & Contents Analysis
Full Case Story: Unsolved: Kris Kremers And Lisanne Froon In Panama