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Expedition Team

Ismael Sonou, Khairoon Abbas, Shaunna Burke, Ben Webster and Mike Swarbrick

The Expedition Africa Team is a small yet fluid team. While all team members have designated titles to describe their primary responsibilities, they all have a skill set of handling different roles. From writing, handling equipment, photographing to video recording, they all have a little bit of everything! After all, redundancy is the key to success!

Ben Webster - Expedition Leader

Ben Webster, the expedition leader for Expedition Africa, is one of the worlds most accomplished expedition leaders. In a career spanning over 25 years of high adventure, he has led over 30 major adventure expeditions on six continents. He is also an acclaimed television producer, documentary filmmaker and photojournalist. Over the years, Ben has built an enviable reputation for himself. He couples superior leadership abilities with elite technical outdoor skills. He is able to create, execute and manifest an idea into reality.

Ben WebsterAmong his notable undertakings, Ben has led 5 successful and major multimedia expeditions on Mount Everest where he has not only reached the summit but also produced the first live broadband television broadcast from the mountain back to North American networks including ABC, RDS, and CTV. In 2003 and 2004, he mounted the Discovery Channel Expedition to Mount Everest with the purpose of producing the most ambitious documentary ever shot in the Himalaya. This critically acclaimed and award winning six-part mini-series is titled “Everest: Ultimate Survival.” In the spring of 2005, Ben returned to Everest to produce video transmissions for an interactive educational initiative involving Algonquin College, where Ben is a professor at large, and Canadian school children. Once again, his expertise was used for media coverage in print, radio, and television.

Ben has also spent four years as an adventure consultant for the Indian government. During that time, he led many first descents down Himalayan Rivers and a variety of outdoor adventures including diving expeditions, mountain climbs and safaris. As a kayak instructor and river guide, Ben has traveled down rivers throughout Canada, the United States, Nepal, Africa, Europe, Fiji and New Zealand. From the barren tundra of the Artic Circle to the steamy jungles of Borneo and all points in between Ben has literally ‘been there and done that.’

Through Expedition Africa, Ben will open your eyes to Africa and what it has to offer. He is one of the most highly-motivated people you could ever meet and a role-model to many.

SHAUNNA BURKE – Curriculum Correspondent / Writer
Shaunna Burke

Shaunna's passion for the mountains has led her to become the second Canadian woman in history to summit Mount Everest. This success on May 30th 2005 was the culmination of a very distinguished climbing and academic career. Some of her climbing highlights include a successful ascent of Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest peak, and the difficult traverse of Mount Blanc from Italy to France. In the fall of 2003, Shaunna climbed Everest to 26,000 feet as part of her research related to what motivates Everest climbers. In 2004, she was a main character in The Discovery Channel documentary mini-series that was filmed on Mount Everest titled “Ultimate Survival: Everest” and continued to make history by conducting her research while on the upper reaches of the mountain. This body of work that was continued during her successful bid in 2005 has become widely known as “Sport Psychology: Science in the Death Zone.” What separates Shaunna from other academics and/or climbers was her ability to be “in Situ” or “in the moment” collecting her data while she and the other athletes were participating. This is cutting edge science and further opens the window into a greater understanding of the psyche of sport.
Shaunna is currently completing her PhD on the sport psychology of Everest climbers at the University of Ottawa. She has presented her work at numerous conferences around the world and teaches Leadership at Algonquin College. In 2007 she will be pursuing a post doctorate at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom where she will be expanding her academic career. She completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University in the Faculty of Psychology, where she was both a member of the rugby and ski teams. She is a former member of the Quebec Alpine Ski Team and represented Canada at the World University Games. She was also an Academic All American for three consecutive years while attending Sierra Nevada College in the United States on a skiing scholarship.

KHAIROON ABBAS – Curriculum Correspondent / Writer

Khairoon AbbasOriginally from Tanzania, Khairoon Abbas, 22, has been in Ottawa since 2002. She just graduated from college and is now in Africa as part of the Expedition Africa Team. She wants the world to know the positive stories about Africa and its challenges and she feels extremely privileged to be part of the team that will do exactly that. Once the expedition is done, she hopes to work in the media field as she loves telling African stories and spreading optimism about her beautiful continent.

To read more about Khairoon, click here.

MIKE SWARBRICK – Media Specialist

MIKE SWARBRICK"Mike Swarbrick is the owner and operator of Mainstream Media Solutions Inc., based in Ottawa, Canada. Mike has combined a history of being a professional adventure guide and river guide trainer with a long-standing background in the multimedia industry. Mike’s catalogue of achievements include design/build services for audio and video suites, computer technician, video, audio & graphics editor, accomplished photographer, cameraman, carpenter, firefighter, first aid instructor and published song and story writer. Mike is also familiar with several satellite transmission technologies and it is this rare combination that allows Mike to mix his technical expertise with a driving creative spirit."... Ben Webster, Canadian Adventure Productions Inc.

Mike can be reached at or ""or by phone at (613) 832-0300.

ISMAEL SONOU – Field Technician
ISMAEL SONOUIsmael Sonou is a 22-year-old Algonquin College graduate, from Ghana, West Africa. He is one of the Expedition Africa team members, who will travel to eight different African countries, from October to January. From north to south; he will visit Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa. As the Field Technician of the Expedition Africa team, he will update everyone on the teamís progress and share different kinds of collected material.