National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Michael Fay trudges through a swamp near the Goualougo River on his "megatransect" of the "last pristine forest in Central Africa."

Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

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  • On September 20, 1999, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay began his “Megatransect” of the Congo River Basin between the Republic of Congo and Gabon. A transect is a survey along a straight line. Fay’s Megatransect covered a distance of about 3,220 kilometers (2,000 miles) and took 456 days to walk. Fay used a GPS unit to record his team's location every 20 seconds. The Megatransect team finished their journey on December 18, 2000.

    The purpose of the Megatransect was to document sightings of plants and animals, evidence of human and animal activity, and vegetation patterns across a very remote area. The Congo Basin includes stretches of tropical rain forest, with species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The Megatransect helped to assess the wilderness in order to determine which areas are most important to protect.

    As a result of Fay’s Megatransect, President El Hadj Omar Bongo of Gabon created a national park system of more than 25,900 square kilometers (10,000 square miles).

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assess Verb

    to evaluate or determine the amount of.

    determine Verb

    to decide.

    document Verb

    to keep track of.

    evidence Noun

    data that can be measured, observed, examined, and analyzed to support a conclusion.

    Explorer-in-Residence Noun

    pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

    Global Positioning System (GPS) Noun

    system of satellites and receiving devices used to determine the location of something on Earth.

    national park Noun

    geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

    rain forest Noun

    area of tall, mostly evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rain forest
    remote Adjective

    distant or far away.

    survey Noun

    a study or analysis of characteristics of an area or a population.

    transect Noun

    area used as a sample of a larger region.

    tropical Adjective

    existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

    vegetation Noun

    all the plant life of a specific place.

    wilderness Noun

    environment that has remained essentially undisturbed by human activity.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wilderness