In January of this year I became a fellow of The Explorers Club, an international multidisciplinary professional society institution founded in 1904 and dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore. Happy? Huh…hells ya I was happy. Their website states…for more than a century, members have traversed the earth, the seas, the skies, and even the moon, on expeditions of exploration. First to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, first to the surface of the moon—all accomplished by members of this club. To be accepted into this group of people…wow…I can say nothing.
Saturday evening I attended my first ECAD, The Explorer’s Club Dinner. To stand in an elevator with John Glenn, look at him and say nice interview as his wife complimented my brother’s Bengali outfit was quite a surreal start to a grand evening. Ya…Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space, was someone I could say “See you at dinner” to. What?! Ya…
Off to the reception where I met the man being honored with the Explorer’s Medal, James Cameron. On March 26, 2012 (for my birthday maybe?), Cameron reached the deepest part of the ocean, the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible. He was the third person to do so and the first person to accomplish it solo. In 1960, aboard the Bathyscaphe Trieste, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh were the first men to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. And, yes, Don Walsh was in attendance as well!
What a night. I may not have eaten a thing (they had many odd delicacies available – I think my brother, Baron Ambrosia, especially enjoyed the tarantulas) or drank even a sip of the Shackleton whisky, but it was the best dinner I have ever attended. Each conversation I had truly inspired me. Oceanographers, archeologists, navy intelligence, polar explorers, marines, deep sea explorers, firsts in every field imaginable and researchers that are making strides all over the world. I just listened, usually in awe and fascination as I was inspired to do more.
During the awards portion of the evening, tears came to my eyes when Chhiring Dorje Sherpa was honored for his heroism with the Tenzing Norgay Quadrennial Award. As a multi-time Everest summiteer, he has helped many explore the vast Himalayan routes and peaks. On August 1, 2008, risking his own life, he saved a fellow climber from undeniable death. The 2008 K2 disaster was the worst single accident in the history of K2 mountaineering, eleven people died and two more were injured. During Chhiring’s acceptance speech he mentioned the book Buried in the Sky as a true representation of the lives of Sherpa climbers – check it out.
When James Cameron received his award, two things he said quickly brought a smile to my face and I am sure many others. While he has been nominated for six Academy Awards and won three for Titanic, he said this (the Explorer’s Medal) was better. He also said that while he is not known for his humility it is easy to be humble among the great explorers in attendance. I personally may not have the two highest-grossing films of all time, but I have to echo his feelings as I too felt humbled in the presence of the collective brainpower and enthusiasm to continually discover. I express my many thanks to those who have paved the way for scientific exploration, advances in technology and the many more firsts to come.