• High-flying tricks at the bike demonstration area. (Photo: Mark Holleran)

Tales from television personalities, scientific discoveries and fun in the water and air. Last weekend’s Outdoor and Travel Adventure Show in Ottawa had it all.

Over 80 exhibitors had booths at the show, with adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts perusing different tourism and outdoor experiences from camping to sailboating, zip lining to rock climbing. There were also kayaking demonstrations in an over 12-metre-long pool, a jungle gym and climbing wall for kids and bike demonstrations filled with cart-wheeling tricks.

George Kourounis is animated as he discusses his adventures. (Photo: Mark Holleran)

But the highlight of the show was the adventure stage where presenters talked about their travel adventures, including celebrities like storm chaser and Royal Canadian Geographical Society fellow George Kourounis.

As the host of Outdoor Life Network's Angry Planet, Kourounis travelled to 35 countries in seven continents. He thrilled the Ottawa crowd with tales of chasing tornadoes, climbing inside volcanoes and following the destructive path of hurricanes while filming the show.

“Everybody has a weather story and being Canadians, we tend to be really proud at how good we are at persevering through bad weather,” he says. “I have weather stories as well. Mine just happen to be a little more extreme.”

He even gave the audience a sneak peek of new television series Die Trying, which will air on the National Geographic Channel this August. Working with National Geographic, Kourounis travelled to Turkmenistan to explore a flaming crater that was leaking natural gas.

“I wanted to go there and see if there was anything living inside. If we could find any type of bacteria or microbial life forms living at the bottom of this flaming methane-rich pit, that could give us clues to life on other planets outside of our solar system that might have a similar environment.”

To explore the crater, Kourounis donned layers of fire-resistant clothes and a special heat-resistant aluminium suit. Attached to a Kevlar harness, he hung from fire-resistant ropes and rappelled down to the bottom of the pit that glowed orange from the flames.

“More people have been on the surface of the moon,” he says, adding that he was the first person to set foot on the bottom of the fiery crater.

But the adventure paid off, with soil samples collected during Kourounis’ pit walk revealing an important scientific discovery.

“I just got the DNA analysis back,” he says. “We actually did find there are some bacteria living at the bottom of this crater that are thriving in this hot, methane-rich environment.”

In addition to Die Trying, Kourounis will appear in the show Unearthed next month on The Weather Network. He’s also pitching other television show ideas, including one about looking for life in a Mexican cave that has sulphuric acid dripping from the ceiling.

“There’s all kinds of interesting environments where life manages to cling on.”


Hal Johnson (right) speaks to the crowd, as Joanne McLeod looks on. (Photo: Mark Holleran)

Also wowing the crowd were Amazing Race Canada alumni Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod. Best known for their BodyBreak television spots, Johnson and McLeod shared stories of their adventures on television and gave advice to wannabe contestants of the next Amazing Race Canada season.

Although their stint on the Amazing Race Canada is now over, Johnson and McLeod are continuing on their own “race." Last month, they were trekking in the sand in the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert and just last week, they were zip lining in St. Kitts.

They also continue to travel across Canada, encouraging Canadians to explore and push themselves. “Get out there,” says McLeod. “Be active, be healthy and just feel good about yourself so that you can achieve things that you want to achieve.”