On Sept. 20, 1999, Michael Fay and 12 Bambendjelle Pygmy porters departed from Bomassa,Congo, and headed west toward the Atlantic Ocean. Fifteen months later, they arrived. Ecologist Fay, who had lived and worked in the Congo for more than 10 years, simply wanted to raise awareness of the region's vulnerability and it's inevitable loss to human encroachment.

Funded by the National Geographic Society, Fay and his crew walked 2000 miles, from northern Congo through Gabon to the Atlantic. Besides the elements themselves, Fay's most diligent opponents consisted of ants, flies, mosquitos, parasites, leeches, ticks, and chiggers. In the evenings, Fay used tweezers to pick fly larvae from the burrows they made into the skin of his feet. He faced trails with defensive, territorial gorillas. Fay appears to be a mild-mannered biologist, but early on, he raided a camp of armed poachers and bluffed them into handing over their guns. He then proceeded to burn their camp.

His self proclaimed mission was to observe and record everything he saw, including the presence or absence of animals and the evidence left behind by poachers. When data compilation is complete, it will be published on an as yet unnamed web site. If successful, portions of the rain forest that he has penetrated will be designated as national parks or preserves. Three months after returning to society, Fay remains "shell-shocked" and longs for the "damp wild womb" of nature. Fay optimistically predicts another african expedition that would last four or five years.