Tag: ECWG

The 2015 ECWG Board of Directors

The 2015 ECWG Board of Directors

The photo below shows members of the Explorers Club Washington Group Board of Directors who attended the January 21 Board meeting in the National Geographic Society building in Washington.

The ECWG Web site Our Organization page lists the 2015 officers that the Board elected at this meeting. This page also lists all of the current members of the Board.

At desk, from left: Bruce Blanchard, treasurer, Jack Williams, chair, Bill Runyon, secretary, Lee Talbot; sanding from left; Cindy Steuart, Mike Manyak, Arnella Trent, Carole Baker, Lonnie Schorer, Tony Meunier, Betsy Steuart, Michael Wyrick, Polly Penhale, Jay Kaplan, 2011-2013 chair. Photo by Board Member Don Gerson
News briefs 4th Quarter 2014

News briefs 4th Quarter 2014

This page includes brief looks at activities of Explorers Club Washington Group members during the fourth quarter of 2014  or reported during this quarter. ECWG members want to know what you’re up to, including awards, honors, publications, or news stories about you, email the information to joewittewx@yahoo.com

Jocelyn Kelly, FN 12,  returned from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic in February 2014 where she looked at human rights issues in conflict-affected areas. Her recent work has involved studying mineral extraction in unstable political environments. She has recently published two articles in the peer-reviewed literature:

  • Kelly, J., King-Close,A. & Perks, R. (2014). Resources and Resourcefulness: Roles, opportunities and risks for women working at artisanal mines in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Futures. Vol 62 (Part A), pages 95-105.
  • Kelly, J. T. (2014). “This mine has become our farmland”: Critical perspectives on the co-evolution of artisanal mining and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy. Vol 40, pages 100-108

In January and February, 2014, Lee Talbot, MED 57, worked in Laos following up his earlier explorations and environmental work there.  Among the tasks accomplished were finding illegal logging and fishing.  As usual, prior to leaving, he presented conservation recommendations directly to the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos.

In July and August Lee and his wife, Marty Talbot, Med 04, spent almost a month climbing and hiking in the High Sierras of California. Lee also races in vintage sports car events. In spite of car problems during the 2014 season, out of 8 races he finished his  final score was six first places, one second and one third .

In January 2014  Lee Talbot was presented with a certificate on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for his outstanding contributions in establishing the World Heritage Convention. Full story .

Background: Lee Talbot’s long association with Laos

Thomas F. “Tom” Kirsch, MN 06 was among the health care workers invited to the

Dr. Kent Brantly delivers remarks during an event with American health care workers fighting Ebola. Kirsch is in back row 2nd from right with the grey goatee. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.

White House on Oct. 29, 2014 to meet President Obama and leading figures from the Administration in a ceremony and discussion to honor the ‘Heroes in Healthcare Fighting Ebola.” Kirsch had just returned from working on the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. More: White House report on the meeting.

ECWG members: Tom Kirsch

Tom King, FN 02, is finalizing plans to take a group of 65 visitors to Nikumarono Atoll in Kiribati  in June 2015 to explore where The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) hypothesizes Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed and died after their 1937 disappearance.

The group will visit the Seven Site, where archaeological and historical evidence suggests that Earhart may have died, and will carry out archaeological work along the eroding shoreline where aircraft parts have been found in the past.  The visit will be coordinated with a TIGHAR expedition performing more detailed archaeological survey and robotic submarine survey along the atoll’s northwestern reef.

Dr. Michael Manyak, MED 92 presented his experiences with expedition medicine in a special plenary session presentation for the Brazilian Society of Urology in Rio de Janeiro in November.

Robert Hyman, LF 93, was one of the researchers who for the first time ever affixed Argos (Doppler) transmitters to one of Central America’s most endangered bird species,

Researchers hold a three-wattled-bellbird

the Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus). This enigmatic bird is characterized by unique vocalizations, including squeaks, bonks, and thunderous bell-like sounds that register among the loudest bird calls on the planet. In late September, a field research team led by Dr. Robin Bjork traveled deep into the cloud forests of the Sierra de Agalta National Park in eastern Honduras, captured four of the rare bellbirds, and affixed state-of the-art, solar powered Argos units to the birds before releasing them back into the wild.

The transmitters have already enabled the researchers to begin studying the complex migratory movements of the bellbirds. The ultimate goal of the project is to better understand the behavioral ecology of the bellbirds in an effort to promote conservation of the species and the preservation of its tropical cloud forest habitat.

The Fall 2014 issue of the  Journal of Space Philosophy published an article by  Carolyn J., “Lonnie,“ Schorer,  MN 98, entitled “Education for Tomorrow’s Space Travelers and Developers.” In it she argues that while “risk and exploration have been symbolic ofthe American Way…

Lonnie Schorer employs kite aerial photography on Nikumaroro Island, photo by Mark Smit

“Standardization in the U.S. education system and collective homogenization of effort are leading students to be risk averse.” She urges reevaluating “our no-child-left-behind, lowest-common-denominator approach” and “support those who are intellectually predisposed to risk.”

She says, “a step in this direction would be to synthesize liberal arts and technical preparation in a single liberal arts-tech degree – a synthesis that would allow our pioneers to understand the mechanics as well as the context of their commitment.” The full text of her article.

To learn more about Schorer’s life and explorations, click on her Alumna Profile in the   Fall 2013 issue of The Virginia Tech Magazine.

The governing Council of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) elected Jack Williams, FN 03, as one of 28 new AMS Fellows at its fall 2014 meeting. The Society says members elected as fellows “shall have made outstanding contributions to the atmospheric

Jack Williams at U.S. Antarctic Program “Happy Campers” survival school on the Ross Ice Shelf in January 1999.

or related oceanic or hydrologic sciences or their aplications substantial period of years.” The Council selects no more than two-tenths of one percent of all AMS Members as fellows each year. The Society has approximately 14,000 members.

Williams was the founding editor of the USA TODAY Weather Page when the paper began publication in 1982 and assumed added duties of USATODAY.com weather editor in 1995 when the paper launched its Web site.

Williams reported on weather and climate research from Antarctica, Greenland (four times), a research icebreaker sailing on the Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska, airplanes flying into four hurricanes and one tropical storm, and with researchers chasing Great Plains tornadoes (three times). He’s the author or co-author of seven books with all but two focused on meteorology.

Curt J. Westergaard, MN 09, reports that his the National Capitol Planning Commission  has selected his firm, Digital Design & Imaging Service, Inc., in Falls Church, Va., to conduct an aerial survey of Washington, D.C. with special focus on the original layout of avenues. This supports the Planning Commission’s look at the evolution of the 1791 L’enfant Plan and the 1903 Macmillian Plan.

The project is based on the aerostat-based imaging project the firm conducted for the DC Office of Planning’s Height Study in 2012.

This aerostat based imaging project  grew from their work for DC Office of Planning’s  Height Study in 2012.

The company’s Web site has links to these stories about it’s activities:

The company notes that the tethered aerostat balloons, like the ones it deploys, are the only FAA authorized, safe, legal, aerial platform currently allowed in highly restricted U.S. flight zones.

Blanchard to receive EC Sweeney Medal

Blanchard to receive EC Sweeney Medal

The Explorers Club will present one of its highest honors, the Edward C. Sweeney Medal, to Bruce Blanchard, MN ’78, at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner, on March 21, 2015 at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City

Bruce Blanchard, photo by Don Gerson

Michael Manyak, MED 92, one of those who nominated Blanchard for the award, said: I am very happy for Bruce who really does deserve this honor.

“The reason we championed this for him was that he was a great example of someone who had done so much for a chapter (in this case, the largest outside NY HQ) and that those folks should also be in consideration for recognition.  We are very pleased that Bruce will be the first with that important background.  He has also contributed and represented us at a national level so it is not completely regional.”

Blanchard was elected to the ECWG Board of Directors in 1995 and was elected Treasurer in 1997, a position that he has been reelected to every year for the last 18 years.

After learning of the award Blanchard sent an email to the ECWG officers and Board members to  “…thank all of you (and your predecessors) for your support over the years. Without that support, my job as Treasurer wouldn’t have been possible. All of you contributed to my receiving this award.  Most recently, individual support from Mike Manyak, Jay Kaplan, Lee Talbot, and especially Alex Wallace was instrumental in this regard. Your obedient servant ! Bruce.”

The Medal is awarded annually to a Club member in recognition of distinguished service, scientific work and exploration. The nominee must have exhibited by word and action a profound interest in the welfare and principles of The Explorers Club.

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.

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.