24 March 2009

Circus in a Tux, Big Apple, NY -- Explorers Club Annual Dinner Weekend

Image: These are two of Brian Staples' rescued animals. These guys had been working the crowds all evening at ECAD and all day at the Explorers Club HQ. These two are tuckered out. Peter, the spider monkey (Brachyteles sp.), his quite attached to Chewy, the kinkajou (Potos flavus), and will not let him out of his sight. Both animals are common to the tropical dry and tropical forests from southern Mexico south into South America. In the wild, these two would not be friends; but in captivity they appear to be best of friends. Personally, I believe Chewy just tolerates him.

Image: It is customary at ECAD to have exotic appetizers. Here is a smattering of what was offered. Among the appetizers that I ate include marinated duck tongue, scorpions, crickets, and beetle larvae.

Granted I admit this tenuously fits under the typical content appearing in my blog. However, the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (aka ECAD) is always an adventure. You never know who you are going to meet, what you're going to see or what contacts you're going to make at this very festive event.

Image: Roasted American alligator at the Waldorf. I've had this twice now. I got there a bit late this year, and there was virtually nothing left. Does it taste like chicken? Well...almost.

Image: Hanging out with Peter and Chewy on Sunday at Explorers Club HQ. Credit: Brian Staples.

For example, when I attended ECAD in 2007 I met both Dan Aykroyd and Buzz Aldrin. It was a rather surreal night. I was speaking with Dan regarding how to attract bats to his farm. Later that night, Dr. Aldrin and I were discussing the potential for caves on Mars. Although this last trip was not quite as star-studded, I did make some new friends, and I had the honor of sharing the stage at the Waldorf=Astoria ballroom with preeminent ecologist Dr. E.O. Wilson, and Apollo VII commander Bill Anders. I was given the very distinct honor of returning an Explorers Club flag at the ECAD. In so doing, I was given the opportunity to speak to over 1000 people regarding the fragility and importance of cave biodiversity and ecosystems.

Image: Dr. Lynn Hicks and I at ECAD, Waldorf=Astoria, NYC. Lynn has been a part of my family for over 30 years, and has recently joined my family of expedition scientists. He served as our expedition doctor in the Atacama Desert last year, and will be joining us again this June for another expedition in the Atacama.

I also met and became good friends with Brian and David Staples. Brian and his son run Staples Safari. Brian is an accomplished wildlife ecologist, and he operates two exotic animal rescue facilities. His work is vitally important to conveying the importance of wildlife and wildlife conservation to the world. He is rather gifted in his ability to do this. Brian (and perhaps David) will likely be joining me on the Rapa Nui cave biodiversity expedition in June and July 2009.

Image: Wildlife conservationist and TV personality, Jim Fowler, discussing the importance of biodiveristy at ECAD. As an example, he is discussing the diversity of owls. Globally, there are 134 known species of this night hunter.

Jim has been coordinating the wildlife component of ECAD for decades. He is most effective at communicating the importance of our natural world to the general public. We are most fortunate to have him in the Club; but more importantly, the world is most fortunate for having him as an ambassador for the wild kingdom of animals.

I also have the privilege of giving a talk at Headquarters on Sunday. I spoke about the cave biodiversity of North Rim Grand Canyon and Rapa Nui. The talk was well-received. It was quite an honor to speak in that room. The room where I spoke holds over 100 years of history and tales of some of the most famous explorers who have ever lived. It was quite humbling to speak in that room.

Image: Bill Runyon and I posing with Explorers Club Flag #139. I returned this flag at ECAD. This flag was on expedition with Kyle Voyles and I last week. We were inventorying cave biodiversity on North Rim Grand Canyon. Bill is a good friend. He sponsored my application to be admitted into the Explorers Club.

In addition to a weekend of festivities and meeting a lot of great folks, I still found time to work. Gaelin Rosenwaks of Global Ocean Exploration and I are preparing an expedition to study marine animals in sea caves. We met at Explorers Club HQ to push our preparations forward. We will launch this expedition in June of 2010.

Image: Working in the commons, Explorers Club HQ, NYC. Credit: Gaelin Rosenwaks.

No comments: