Month: November 2014

ECWG members, guests at gala assured of exploration’s future

ECWG members, guests at gala assured of exploration’s future

Terry D. Garcia, MN 13, of the National  Geographic Society assured those at the Explorers Club Washington Group’s annual black tie dinner on Dec. 6, 2014 that that the world still offers much to explore.

ECWG members and guests at the annual black-tie dinner, Dec. 6, 2014. Photo by Jim Blair, FN 09

“There are still mysteries to be solved and discoveries to be made.  We have the scientific means to find them and the explorers to pursue them,” Garcia, who is Chief Science and Exploration Officer for the National Geographic Society, told approximately 100 attendees.

Scientific advances, such as the ability to extract and study DNA from long-dead plants and animals, including humans, are opening new doors to the past, he said.

He said these new discoveries are pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and endurance.

Terry Garcia

Garcia discussed the new frontiers beckoning explorers … from traditional archaeology, to deep ocean exploration, to the science of genetics and microbiology, to space.

Garcia’s dream expedition would be to find and explore the wreckage of Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, which has lain on the bottom of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica since it sank on Nov. 21, 1915 after being stuck in pack ice on Jan. 18, 1915 after being slowly crushed by the ice. Historians credit Shackleton’s leadership with ensuring that all 28 men on the expedition survived.

Finding and exploring the Endurance will be harder than the exploration of the Titanic becuse a heavy-duty icebreaker will be needed to reach the site.

Only Russia has such icebreakers and the current international situation works against being able to use a Russian icebreaker, he said.

ECWG members: Thomas F. “Tom” Kirsch, MN 06

ECWG members: Thomas F. “Tom” Kirsch, MN 06

Thomas F. “Tom” Kirsch, MN 06 is an emergency physician and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

His work focuses on disaster and humanitarian response, and also wilderness medicine.  He has published 65 peer review scientific articles in major journals, including in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr.Kirsch has conducted post-disaster field studies or responded to major events such as 9/11 in NYC (2001), Hurricane Katrina (2005), California wildfires (2007), Haitian earthquake and Pakistan floods (2010), Chile and New Zealand earthquakes (2011), hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York (2012), the Philippines typhoon (2013).

In 2014 he worked on Ebola epidemic in Liberia.

He has received a number of awards, including in 2013 the inaugural Disaster Scientist Award from the American College of Emergency Physicians. In 2014 the Clara Barton National Volunteer Leadership Award from the American Red Cross and in October 2014 he was invited to the White House to meet with President Obama and leading figures from the Administration in a ceremony and discussion to honor the, ‘Heroes in Healthcare Fighting Ebola’.

Lee Talbot’s long association with Laos

Lee Talbot’s long association with Laos

Lee Talbot, Med 57, has had a long association with Laos, one of the 134 countries which he has visited for environmental issues. His first Laotian visit was in 1955 on an The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conservation survey.

In the 1960s he visited Laos several times in connection with environmental assessments of proposed dams. Then, in 1966 he was appointed by the World Bank and the Lao Government to a three-man International Panel of Environmental and Social Experts (POE) for the proposed Nam Theun II (NT2) development project. POEs, which Lee has served on elsewhere in Asia and Africa, are created by the World Bank to provide independent advice and guidance on the environmental and social dimensions of major projects.

The NT2 project area extends from the Vietnam border on the crest of the Annamite Mountains with peaks over 8,000 feet elevation, down to under 600 feet elevation at the Mekong River on the border with Thailand.  The project includes a dam on the Nam Theun river creating a large shallow reservoir on the Nakai plateau at about 1,700 feet on the western foot of the Annamites; a hydro-power plant that empties the water from the turbines into a different river; the resettlement of about 5,000 villagers from the reservoir area; and multipurpose development for around 150,000 villagers down to the Mekong, involving such things as agriculture, fisheries, education, health, electricity, and banking.

On his first POE visit early in 1997 Lee found that the watershed for the proposed reservoir was virtually unknown.  Westerners had only visited a small part of the nearly Delaware-sized area.  Extending from the Nakai plateau up to the Annamites crest, the watershed was a densely forested roadless area so rugged that the Ho Chi Minh trails (carrying men and equipment from North Vietnam to the south during the Vietnam war) went around it rather than through it.  Driven in part by the need to gather information to conserve the area, and in part by the chance to explore a truly unknown area, Lee set out to explore it river basin by river basin.  Since 1997 at least one of his twice yearly visits to Laos has involved exploring part of the watershed, usually being dropped by helicopter at the top and walking and rafting down, or walking up river basins or escarpments that are too rugged for a helicopter drop.

Marty Talbot, FN 04 and 2013 Lowell Thomas Awardee, has visited Laos on several occasions, and joined Lee on rugged Flag expeditions to totally unexplored and unoccupied areas in 2007 and 2011.

The area is of globally important biological and cultural diversity with well over 400 species of birds, many animals including 5 species of larger mammals new to science within the past 20 years, abundant and little catalogued trees and other plants, including a new type of forest found by the Talbots, and some 5,000 scattered people representing over 10 ethnic groups, three of which are new to science.

Each visit Lee reports to the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Ministers with recommendations on the project as a whole, including conservation of the watershed.  The watershed now has protected status and a new government authority to conserve it.

Nov. 22, 2014 talk described recovery from Typhoon Haiyan

Nov. 22, 2014 talk described recovery from Typhoon Haiyan

Dr. Joyce Johnson, FN 03, discussed the July 2014 Flag Expedition to Tacloban, Philippines by her and her son, James A. Calderwood, Jr. , at the ECWG’s Cosmos Club dinner on Nov. 22. The talk, was a joint event with the Circumnavigators Club.

Johnson and Calderwood with the Explorers Club expedition flag

Tacloban was the area worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. This typhoon was one of the strongest ever recorded. Its winds and storm surge killed more than 6,000 people.

A strong theme throughout her talk was the amazing resilience of the Philippine people.

Her primary focus was the Camotes Islands, though she also described what she and Calderwood saw in Tacloban. From these activities she gained an understanding of the impact the typhoon had on these The Flag Expedition documented the progress made since the typhoon hit.