We’ve landed on the moon, we’ve explored Mars, we hold a plethora of knowledge about our solar system, the stars and planets, and yet, on our own planet Earth, the one on which we live, which is made up of about 70% water, we have very little intelligence about the oceans.Â As one friend put it to me, “Well, it’s easier to look up than to look down.”
National Geographic, which will be celebrating 125 years with a gala on June 13th, 2013, feels that no task is too daunting to accomplish and relishes the world of exploration, be it high or low or just around the circumference of the globe.Â They educate, inspire, reward and incentive people to blow past their own expectations and to push themselves beyond a comprehensible limit, all in the name of making the world a better place. Explore, so we can make this planet better. Explore, so we can understand and sustain cultures, water, animals, air, earth.
And so, last night, a few hundred invited guests attended the “Evening of Exploration” at the National Geographic Headquarters to witness the Hubbard Medal Presentation (their oldest award) given posthumously to Jacques Piccard by Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron (yes, THE OSCAR-WINNING LEGENDARY FILMMAKER James Cameron) and Don Walsh, the 2010 Hubbard Medal Recipient.Â Walsh was with Piccard during the January 1960 9-hour dive to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench in the bathyscaphe Trieste. They were the first ever to reach the trench’s lowest point, 35,800 feet below the ocean surface aka Challenger Deep.
The Piccard family accepted the medal on Jacques’ behalf and in a moving speech, his son Bertrand Piccard, winner of the 1999 Hubble Medal, talked of the importance of exploring (he and Brian Jones completed the first nonstop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon in 1999).Â The other award, which is the newest one from National Geographic is the Explorer of the Year Award. This is the second of this type to be given.Â Presenting to Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, was Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic Society, Terry Garcia, EVP for Mission Programs for the Society and the 2011 winner, Kenny Broad, who is an Environmental Anthropologist and as some have noted, a part-time comedian.Â No seriously, he was really funny.
Kaltenbrunner, beautiful, soft-spoken, humble and STRONG, dressed in a simple sleeveless cocktail sheath, is an Austrian Mountaineer, and was the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000 meter peaks without any supplementary oxygen.Â But her main focus is about the educational and humanitarian works she and her husband are doing around the world in order to teach children to be inspired to care about the planet.
National Geographic Chairman and CEO John Fahey both opened and closed the program then the guests filed into an elaborately decorated, ocean-themed “dining hall/cafeteria” which had been transformed into a world of white, blue and bubbles.Â May I say, the uplighting was brilliant. Also, in keeping with the evening’s focus of exploration, each dish served had a reference to an Explorer-in-Residence.Â These men and women sat, stood and talked to anyone who came up to them, graciously. Even Jim Cameron popped a squat at table near the entrance and chatted kindly with attendees.
We had the opportunity to sit and talk with Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, which only one of a long line of deep sea exploration accomplishments.Â He told us his next adventure will take him to the Mediterranean but he was more excited to talk about his daughter’s middle school graduation that he just attended.Â You know, just a regular dad, family man guy, who happened to discover the Titanic and who goes all over the world exploring.Â I told him I was dear friends with Philippe Cousteau, and he said he knew the family well, had known Philippe Sr.Â We also talked with Spencer Wells, the population geneticist who heads the Genographic Project, which is piecing together the human family tree.Â Because of the work the project has done, it is possible with your own DNA, to find and follow your lineage.
We had a chance to say hello to another Explorer-in-Residence, anthropologist Wade Davis, who was really friendly. We had just attended an event where he was on the host committee last weekend to benefit Peaceful Uprising, at the home of Washington Life magazine’s Nancy Bagley and Soroush Shehabi.
Among the group were also the Fellows and 2012 Emerging Explorers, who had been giving presentations for the past two days.Â Confession: It was awesome and intimidating to be in the room with such brilliant minds who believe learning + action = extraordinary and actually LIVE it. Â There is no fear, there are no limits.
It was an exceptional night, sponsored by Rolex whose diving watch the Deep Sea Special, dubbed “The Old Lady” is still ticking after being sent down with the 1960 Trieste and was on display with the next generation of its kind, which too, is still ticking after being traveling with Jim Cameron in his descent to Challenger Deep on March 26th 2012.Â Guests walked out with no, not a new Rolex, but a box of something else made by the Swiss: oyster shaped chocolates with Rolex marked prominently on each.Â And yes, I already ate two of them.
Visit the Museum, attend the Programs and explore your world.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.