The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

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The Northern California Chapter of The Explorers Club presents:

Mort Beebe, FN-78


Where is Cascadia

Morton Beebe

Photographer Morton Beebe, picture © by Danielle Chavanon, Vancouver, B.C.

DINNER MEETING - Friday, March 28, 1997, St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco

(see map)

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  • 6:00 PM, Business meeting
  • 6:30 PM, Cocktails
  • 7:30 PM, Dinner
  • 8:30 PM, Speaker
  • $35.00 each
    The following images are provided to be viewed by anyone, but Morton Beebe retains © copyright 1996-97 on all digital graphic images.


    This month's speaker is Morton Beebe, FN-78, recent past-Treasurer of the Northern California Chapter. Mort is a professional photographer, who conceived the idea of a photographic essay on the subject of Cascadia and brought it to publication in 1996. He now will tell the Chapter members, through a multi-image presentation, about the origins of his idea, the problems of bringing it to fruition, and, particularly, what the Cascadia of yesterday was as it relates to the Cascadia of today and tomorrow. Turn the page to learn more about Mort's description of that part of the world known as Cascadia.

    Skytrain and Eaton Center, Vancouver, B.C.

    Mort Beebe, long-time Chapter member, has at last been influenced to report to the Chapter members concerning his latest creation, a photograph-cum-essay book, Cascadia: A Tale of Two Cities. The book on which this talk is based consists of many of Mort's photographs, punctuated by nine essays by the region's best writers. Mort's talk will be accompanied by a multi-image presentation, which was produced by David Inocencio and Minette Siegel, with Paula Paulin directing.

    Family at 4th of July Parade on San Juan Island

    Mort tells of visiting British Columbia in 1972 on a cross-country skiing photographic assignment. At that time the special place he found was called Whistler, and consisted of a rather small resort, open only on weekends between October and May, and which reveled in its comforting isolation. He was so impressed with its tranquil beauty that he promptly bought a small cabin on nearby Alta Lake.

    Friday Harbor
    Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

    The changes wrought in that community transformed it into a world-class ski resort known as Whistler-Blackcomb, which now rivals Aspen and Sun Valley in every way. This change stimulated Mort to look at the area as a microcosm of the entire Northwest. Here, the border between the U.S. and Canada is blurred. Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, are cooperating in many cross-national enterprises, and the very term, Northwest, has come to mean that northwestern portion of the U.S. as well as southern British Columbia. The ability of the two major cities not only to compete with each other, but also to cooperate in many ways, is being studied by other nations and communities around the Pacific rim. What Mort has learned is that the center of industrial and cultural power in the west is shifting to this northwestern community.

    Peace Arch
    The Peace Arch at the U.S.-Canadian boarder, Vancouver, B.C.

    The changes wrought in that community transformed it into a world-class ski resort known as Whistler-Blackcomb, which now rivals Aspen and Sun Valley in every way. This change stimulated Mort to look at the area as a microcosm of the entire Northwest. Here, the border between the U.S. and Canada is blurred. Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, are cooperating in many cross-national enterprises, and the very term, Northwest, has come to mean that northwestern portion of the U.S. as well as southern British Columbia. The ability of the two major cities not only to compete with each other, but also to cooperate in many ways, is being studied by other nations and communities around the Pacific rim. What Mort has learned is that the center of industrial and cultural power in the west is shifting to this northwestern community.

    Sunset over Seattle

    Over a three year period, Mort wandered the Pacific Northwest, photographing areas that he had photographed initially 20 years before. What resulted was a journal of the remarkable transformation of the Northwest from a backwater area to a thriving, bustling, energetic "community" which has not yet reached its maturity in either growth, cultural sophistication or industrial strength.

    Echo Bay
    Echo Bay, British Columbia

    Duck Race
    Duck Race, Lake Union

    Port Ludlow, David Boxley, Totem-Pole Carver, carving in the Alaskan Tsimshian-style

    View from Queen Ann Hill, Seattle

    Belltown Pub, Seattle

    Dancers, Seattle

    Tulips, Skagit Valley bulb farm

    San Juan Islands family

    Alki Point
    Alki Point, Seattle


    It is with a deep sense of loss that the Chapter mourns the death of Gordon H. Fountain, FN-76, of cardiac disease, in early February. For over 20 years Gordon, and his wife Marjorie, have been faithful members of the Chapter, attending most meetings when they were in the area. Gordon's interests were eclectic, encompassing aviation, exploration of both Polar areas, and sailing. He was a member of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's third trip to Antarctica in 1933. Gordon was a teenager at that time, and was personally selected by Admiral Byrd because of his already famous abilities as a seaman, a cook, and a dog handler. During the '30's, the presence of-and the ability to handle-dogs on an Antarctic trip often made the difference between life and death of the trekkers. Gordon also returned to Antarctica on Byrd's 1935 Antarctica expedition.

    Last year Gordon and Marjorie recapitulated a sailing trip they had taken through the Society and the Cook Islands just 40 years before. They noted great changes which had taken place in the name of progress since their first trip, particularly in the Society Islands.

    Gordon and Marjorie attended their last Chapter meeting together on January 24, 1997, despite Gordon's recent hospitalization and treatment for a cardiac condition. We will all miss Gordon's faithful presence at our meetings, and Marjorie can be assured of our deepest sympathy, and also of a continuing place among friends at our Chapter meetings.


    Tom Larson, E-52, writes that he deeply regrets not being able to attend the many fascinating meetings of the Northern California Chapter because he now lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Lately he has spent much of his time writing about his adventurous life. He presently has two books in publication which he would like Chapter members to know about.

    The first, Bora Bora History: GIs in Paradise, in print and photographs, recounts the experience of the U.S. forces coming from the "Hell" of the other South Pacific islands to this "Heaven" in the middle of the southern seas. Larson relies on his own experience, in part, to tell this story of the GI presence on this idyllic island, then unspoiled. He feels many of our members would like this book, since many have visited Bora Bora, albeit probably in more recent times. It has been printed in both English and French. Interested parties may write to: Pacific Promotions, S. A. 625, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia; contact Tom Larson, 10101 Wildwood Lane, Klamath Falls, OR 97603.

    Hambukushu Tales from the Okavango, another of Larson's books, is an adventure tale of two African boys in about 1950, who navigate the Okavango river in a dugout canoe, and experience many great adventures during the course of their trip. The reader is taken back to the unspoiled Africa before the age of tourism. This book is based on Larson's extensive travels in Africa over a four year period at about the time depicted in this novel. Hambukushu Tales from the Okavango is presently being published by the Scientific Society of Windhoek, Namibia.

    Larson hopes to be able to come to the Garden Party this June to visit with old friends. Erna Baldwin once again has invited all Chapter members to attend the June Garden Party at her home in Larkspur. As always, this promises to be a pleasant occasion at which little actual "work" is done, and good times are had by all. Held on a Saturday afternoon, it is a most pleasant way to relax with friends, and perhaps make some new friends. Plan to attend and enjoy the pleasant early summer weather at this last meeting until fall.

    Les DeWitt, FN-96, one of our newest members, brought his brother, Norm DeWitt, as his guest to the February meeting. Norm is a restorer of aircraft, and an aerobatic pilot. He is presently involved with Stan Hiller in the development of the Hiller Museum at the San Carlos Airport. Les also introduced his second guest, Daniel Roitman, who recently summited Aconcagua in the Andes. However, Norm then pointed out to the members that Les had also been present at the top of Aconcagua with Roitman.

    Win Burleson reports that he is presently working on the design and development of a personal-size airship, which will allow for greater ease of movement at slow speeds through air, similar to those personal aquatic submersibles becoming available now.

    Charlie Brush, MED-50, was extolled, at the February meeting as the principal person involved in bringing about the membership of women in the Explorers Club. He accomplished this during his tenure as President, from 1978 to 1981.

    Steve Smith, FN-96, who accompanied Chairman Bob Schmieder on his Easter Island expedition, most recently has been exploring the Micronesian island of Kosrae. His project is to place a string of buoys around the reef of Kosrae as a form of "fence" to discourage fishermen and transient scuba divers. This atoll is one of the very rare places in the world where the coral formations are still pristine, and have not been over-dived or over-fished.


    By the time the March meeting is held, those of the Northern California Chapter who went to the annual ECAD dinner and weekend in New York will be back in California. To be held this year on March 22, and surrounded by events occurring Friday evening March 21, and during the day Saturday March 22 as well, this event promises to at least match, if not surpass, previous annual meetings.


    Heard Island

    At the February 28 meeting, Chairman Bob Schmieder, FN-86, treated the membership to a vicarious trip to Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean, the closest land mass to Antarctica. Called Dxpedition 97, the adventure was conceived as an adventure for ham radio operators who have a particular interest in long range radio contacts, since it would be the furthest distance they could be from home in the western United States. Schmieder's group had planned to visit the island in 1995, but plans did not gel, and the trip was postponed to the "summer" of 1997.

    Their trip began here in the Bay Area and was routed through Reunion Island, where all 34 tons of supplies were loaded on a ship which would be passing Heard Island. On arrival, all of the supplies were then picked up and landed on the island by a 37 year old heavy duty helicopter. Making one flight from the ship to the shore every two to three minutes, the helicopter took 51 flights to load all the group's gear.

    A computerized radio beacon was set up immediately upon arrival to announce to the radio world the group's presence, location, and call letters. It continued in operation during the group's entire stay. This beacon was designed and built by Jack Troster, MN-96, and Bob Fabry, MN-90, who was also a participant in DXpedition 97.

    The 20 team members, from 9 different countries, utilized six plasticized double-walled shelters, 56 radio antennas, electric generators, clothing, food, high-technology electronic gear and radios, and one elegant self-contained outhouse. All communications within the team and with the outside world were electronic, by e-mail and by radio. VKOIR-Heard Island Dxpedition 97 was able to communicate with the rest of the world through the Internet, and Schmieder's reports were made concurrently and on-line, obviating the need for a later paper report. Over 80,000 contacts with ham operators worldwide were made during the three week stay, the largest number ever logged.

    Most of the terrain of Heard Island is corrugated, with a central large volcanic cone known as Big Ben, but a relatively level place to camp was found toward the center of the island. Dxpedition 97 learned that the volcano had recently reactivated. Its activity, however, was shown only by steam emanating from one vent on its shoulder, which continued off and on while the party was there. The island is usually covered with cloud, and the winds up to 60 mph blow nearly every day. The only vegetation appears to be many tufts of moss-like grass growing wherever it can get a foothold on the more-or-less flat areas. The remainder of the island is composed mostly of lava, with sheets of glacier ice flowing off the mountain into the sea.

    Heard Island is populated mostly by penguins, a few pelagic birds, fur seals and southern elephant seals. The most spectacular penguins present, sometimes seen very close to camp, were the King penguins, standing about four feet tall, and marked similarly to their closest kin, the Emperor penguins of Antarctica. The Macaroni penguins, more numerous but much smaller, were characterized by thick white whiskers, simulating small sticks of macaroni, extending from their cheeks on both sides. Fur seals and elephant seals, though not abundant, were more numerous than had previously been reported. It appears that they are gradually increasing in numbers since their populations were almost eradicated by the sealing trade in the 1940's and 50's.

    Heard Island had its last visitors in 1983. Prior to that the Australians had a "permanent" small settlement there during World War II. The evidence which still remains of that settlement shows much weathering effect, and in a few hundred years will probably be gone.

    At the end of their stay the helicopter they had used on arrival made 47 trips back to the waiting ship to return all the equipment (minus fuel and food). The party removed every evidence of their stay except one coffee mug with an EC logo and a small bronze plaque affixed to a rock. But the most rewarding feat of all, Schmieder declared, was the camaraderie which the multinational team developed. No distention, grumbling or dissatisfaction was expressed by any of the individuals on the trip. They really enjoyed each other, which was an unexpected achievement of this expedition, and one of which Schmieder is most proud..


    Fred McLaren, FR-71, President of the Explorers Club, and Jonathan Conrad, MR-87, Club Secretary, both were present at the February 28th meeting. Fred commented that though there are EC members all over the country banded together into regional Chapters, such as ours, we must all consider ourselves members of the same national and international Club. To this end, he is attempting to visit most, if not all, of the Chapters during his tenure as President.

    Upon questioning, McLaren acknowledged that dues for the EC have risen, as for all organizations, and that it is true that the Members subsidize the other categories of membership. Fellows, in particular, who have led expeditions or published on expeditions of exploration, by Club policy are supported in their efforts, in part through the dues mechanism. For that reason there is a disparity between the dues for Member and Fellow categories. Any member who feels that his or her activities may entitle that person to the Fellow category, with its attendant lower dues rate, is urged to contact the Club in New York for this consideration.

    McLaren humorously described his recent attempts to catalogue the inventory of the Club, which is an ongoing project. During the process so far, not one, not two, but seven expedition flags which had been unaccounted for have been found. Worse, cookies from a meeting in the '70's were found, as well as one sandwich archeologically dated to be at least 15 years old. The membership was appreciative of McLaren's frank and friendly discussion of the state of the Club at this time.


    The April 25 meeting will feature Vice-Chairman Bill Isherwood, FN-70, whose subject will be "The Changing Arctic: Exploring North Baffinland." Some of Bill's travels in this enigmatic and little-known area have been up close and personal, by kayak. This promises to be only the latest in a long series of remarkably interesting presentations by members of our local Chapter.

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    Reservations: MAIL BY Saturday, March 15, 1997

    Please Return To:

    William F. Isherwood
    The Explorers Club
    Northern California Chapter.
    37 La Encinal
    Orinda, CA 94563
    Bill's Phone: (510) 254-0739

    Please reserve spaces for the Mort Beebe talk, at St. Francis Yacht Club on Friday, March 28, 1997.

    $35/person... $40 if postmarked after Feb. 18. Business, 6:00 PM, Cocktails, 6:30 PM, Dinner, 7:30 PM, Speaker, 8:30 PM.

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    Date created: 03/26/1997
    Last modified: 06/21/2015
    Content from Charlie (Chapter Secretary) and Louise Geraci. email to Charlie and Louise
    Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club. email Mike

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