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Meet a real-life Indiana Jones in Lost Cities

Explorer and TV host Andrew Lin shows another side of the Asian American male. Photo from Nat Geo

Views from the Edge

From the suave Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas) to the dramatic accolades showered on Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) to the persistence of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, the centuries-old Asian male stereotype is starting to show signs of melting away.

Now comes the adventurer, explorer, man of action, the Asian American Indiana Jones: University of California San Diego technologist Albert Lin.

If you haven’t caught an episode of Lost Cities, you can still catch up on the National Geographic TV network which began broadcasting the six-part series in which Lin uses the latest technology to explore antiquities, from the Lost Kingdom of the Pacific in Micronesia to the Knights Templar in Israel.

The start of Lin’s journey to becoming an explorer began at the end of his Ph.D. program in engineering, when he realized that he was wrong about something.

“My assumption that the age of discovery was in the past is totally wrong,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “As engineers, we can use technology to look in completely new ways. We are—if we decide to [do that]—in the new age of discovery.” So Lin did what you’d expect: “I sold everything I had. I moved into my car. I gave myself a year to raise money to try to do the most audacious thing I could think of.”

That audacious thing was trying to find a nearly 800-year-old grave. “I decided to try to use satellites, drones, radar systems, crowdsource data analytics, all these other things to try to find the tomb of Genghis Khan in Mongolia. And I just said I was going to do it.”

He convinced National Geographic to fund his project. Though he never found the tomb, the adventure led to other projects like the latest, Lost Cities.

Andrew Lin scales a steep mountainside on his latest project, ‘Lost Cities.’

The documentary series, which has a special premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. ET before continuing Monday in its regular time slot, follows Lin as he works with archaeologists “to uncover and resolve mysteries of the past.”

Lin said that, unlike other adventure or discovery series where a host just parachutes in to talk about things that have already happened, “We actually make real discoveries on this series. There’s real things that have been found that were never seen before,” he said.

“There are genuine new cities that we found out in the most remote places that no archeologist has stepped foot on for thousands of years. They haven’t been looted.”

A lot of Lin’s work involves LIDAR, a “laser range finder” which he described with an example: “You can fly over a canopy of jungle and you can get a sense” of what’s beneath it, on the forest floor.

While only “about six percent of the laser hits the ground, he said, “digitally you can delete the trees and you’re left with this naked map of the forest floor. And it’s really cutting edge stuff for archeology.”

The result, Lin said, is “essentially a treasure map in our hands.” And that’s what the six episodes of Lost Cities (NatGeo, Mondays at 9) are essentially focused on.

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