The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

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Peter Duignan

Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution


David Tett

President of Bushtracks African Expeditions, Inc.



DINNER MEETING - Friday, February 27, 1998, Fort Mason Officer's Club, San Francisco, California

(see map)

Click for Calendar of future events

  • 6:00 PM, Business meeting
  • 6:30 PM, Cocktails
  • 7:30 PM, Dinner
  • 8:30 PM, Speaker
  • $40.00 each ($45 after Feb. 20, and at the door)

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    rift map


    Dr. Peter Duignan will cover the early history of this part of Africa as well as the origins of man, but will also discuss the origins of the states along the Rift Valley from the medieval empires and kingdoms through independence in the 1960's, to the present. David Tett will provide an overview of the flora, fauna, and natural history of the great game parks of this region. Duignan's and Tett's talk will explain the basis for the development of hominids here and what made this area the most fertile source for biodiversity on earth, and also the political geography of the region as the background for the development of the civilizations and the empires of central Africa.
    Zebra photo



    Duignan photo

    Peter Duignan

    Dr. Peter Duignan, Senior Fellow and Lillick Curator (emeritus) at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is a renowned scholar of African History from the origins of man to the present, with over 35 books to his credit. He has written and lectured extensively on the geography, climate and vegetation of the Rift Valley, and on the peoples of Africa..

    Since the advent of man the trench of the Great Rift Valley has acted as a huge geological museum, first collecting, then preserving and, finally, displaying the fossil records of the plants and animals which evolved millions of years ago. This museum reveals a fascinating fossil record which includes such famous hominid sites as Sterkfontein Caves, where Dr. Robert Broom found the first fossilized skull of Australopithecus africanus, Mary and Louis Leakey's famous finds in Olduvai Gorge, and the exciting discovery by Don Johanson and his team, of Lucy, the three million year old skeleton found in Ethiopia's Afar Triangle.

    The Great Rift Valley also includes wonderful natural features, such as the green oasis of the Okavango Delta, the mile-wide Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi River, the deep blue waters of Lake Malawi, the green floor of Ngorongoro Crater with its numerous soda lakes covered in pink flamingoes, and the snow-capped volcano, Kilimanjaro.

    Africa has been very aptly named the cradle of mankind. At this program Dr. Duignan will take us back four million years to the time when early hominids roamed the African plains. We will visit the stone age San Bushmen, the iron age and its Bantu migrations, and finally the powerful Axumite Kingdom of Ethiopia - the center of an empire which stretched from the Nile River across the Red Sea to Yemen. We will see all this, and the best big game parks of all Africa. Though some of them are endangered, the fascinating plants, birds and animals of Africa have not yet been wiped out. Animals still roam this area by the millions.

    Tett photo

    David Tett (right) and Peter Duignan

    David Tett is an expert on the flora, fauna and natural history of the Rift region and the great game parks nestled within it. He will describe the natural historical basis for the geopolitical developments which have occurred over the past 40 years. Tett is President of Bushtracks African Expeditions, Inc. A native of Zimbabwe, David has lived and traveled in Southern Africa all his life. He formed Bushtracks African Expeditions, Inc., with the help of his wife, Carolyn, as a result of being asked to plan safaris for friends and acquaintances who wanted to know the best guides, accommodations and wildlife destinations in Southern Africa. From the beginning David and Carolyn shared strong feelings on how a safari should be designed and operated. Since founding Bushtracks, David has been successfully leading educational safaris in Africa and, while on safari, interpreting the surroundings, the history, the cultures, the ecosystems and the wildlife of the region.
     Giraffe photo



    January's speaker, Dr. Pamela Logan, FN-97, was introduced by Dana Isherwood, who had recently accompanied her on a Tibetan trek. Also on that trip had been guest Mike Dotson. Dr. Logan is now the President of the Kham Aid Foundation and Director of Research for the China Exploration and Research Society. She has had an extensive experience in China and Tibet over the past seven years, which has made her one of the most knowledgeable of all Westerners about this little known area in western China. Though she began her professional career as an aerospace scientist she soon found her true calling and by now has learned basic mandarin Chinese and Tibetan languages, so that she is able to travel in this remote area with relative ease. One of her findings in eastern Tibet is that the old religious culture, though not as persecuted by the Chinese as it once was, is gradually falling into disuse, just as are the Tibetan monasteries.

    In 1993 she was dismayed to find some of the ancient frescoes and murals in remote monasteries falling into sad disrepair, and in imminent danger of being lost completely. She returned the next year, leading a conservation team made up of European experts and Tibetan support personnel to two badly deteriorated sites which are not accessible by road. There they undertook, not only to remove and preserve the revered murals, but also to teach the young Tibetans the art of mural preservation and restoration.

    At this meeting she described and displayed in photos the art of mural restoration. Basically this involves gluing a cloth or paper layer over the painting, then gently tapping at the covered mural with special hammers until the plaster beneath pulverizes, and finally peeling the covering off the wall with the painting still glued to it. Later, at the site or on the surface on which the painting is to be placed, the glued covering is carefully laid over the new surface, wet down thoroughly, carefully peeled off the surface, and -voila!- the mural has been transferred to a new surface.

    She also described her interactions with the Kham people of western Tibet, who are consummate horsemen, were true warriors, and now tend their flocks over great expanses of treeless mountains above the timberline. These people live in "yurts" of tanned skins, and move from place to place when the grazing areas become depleted. Of interest were Logan's photos of these eastern Tibetans, some of whom have almost western features, a few with brown hair, demonstrating the influence of westerners who are assumed to have migrated into this remote area in prehistoric times. This evidence of an eastern migration from the European continent is similar to that in the areas east of the Gobi desert. Here, also, many of the people have Eurasian features, and some also have light hair, indicating the likelihood that there was a widespread migration of western man into the Orient in centuries past.

    Dr. Logan's talk provoked many questions and much discussion. All copies of her first book, Among Warriors: A Martial Artist in Tibet, which she had brought were sold in a flurry of interest after her talk. Dr. Logan's travels and involvement with Tibet will continue, making her a valuable resource for further information on this last frontier region of our earth.
     Wild-dog photo

    Wild Dog


    At the March meeting, Tom Hall, FN-97, and Liz McLoughlin will present Exploring Seas and Selves by Sail. They started life together in 1984 on a four-month sail across 7,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean from Seattle to New Zealand via Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. In 1996, they sailed "around Cape Horn" and in 1997, Tom sailed from Easter Island to Pitcairn to the Marquesas. Adventures at sea offer the opportunity to explore inner and inter-personal space as well as sea states. Through slides of these trips, they will share what they learned about all three.
     jeep photo

    In the field


    For those of you who did not see the article by Leon Jaroff, in the January 19, 1998, issue of Time magazine, concerning the late Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, geologist and expert in lunar science, here it is, with great thanks to Mr. Jaroff: "Before he died last summer in an auto accident while studying impact craters in Australia, geologist Eugene Shoemaker recalled that the biggest disappointment of his life had been "not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer." Shoemaker had dreamed of becoming the first geologist to accompany Apollo astronauts to the moon, but, because of health problems, he had to settle for training the astronauts in geology and analyzing the lunar rocks they brought back. Now, Shoemaker will finally get his dearest wish. When NASA's Lunar Prospector blasted off toward the moon last week, it carried a small capsule containing an ounce of Gene Shoemaker's ashes. On brass foil surrounding the capsule is an image of Arizona's Meteor Crater, where Shoemaker trained NASA's astronauts. After reaching the moon this week, the spacecraft will ease into a 63-mile-high orbit, peer down and begin its search for minerals, gases, and any evidence of water. Then, some 18 months from now, Prospector will crash onto the lunar surface, carrying Gene Shoemaker's ashes to their final resting place.
     Leopard photo


    The first woman to climb Mt. McKinley was Barbara Washburn, wife of honorary Explorers Club Director Bradford, then director of Boston's Museum of Science as well as a climber. The feat, accomplished in June, 1947, was conceived as a show-biz gimmick. RKO Pictures, filming a mountaineering movie, wanted some background footage of a group climbing Mt. McKinley. After Brad agreed to do it, the movie moguls told him the shots would be much more interesting with a girl in them. Barbara was at hand, agreed to go with the climbers, and summited, not realizing that she had become McKinley's First Woman. Barbara Washburn is now 83.
     Lion photo



    March 27, 1998: Tom Hall, FN-97, and Liz McLoughlin, Exploring Seas and Selves by Sail - Around Cape Horn to Pitcairn Island and on to New Zealand, The University Club, San Francisco

    April 24, 1998: Stephen Dutton and Heidi Tiura, "In the Paths of the Giants", Gray Whale tagging program in Monterey Bay, Site to be announced.

    May 29, 1998: Art Ford, Antarctic Adventures, Site to be announced. This is the Peninsula Event.

    June 28, 1998: Summer outing and party. To be announced (likely at Angel Island again)
     Lion photo



    The Second Golden Gate-A-way is scheduled for the weekend of October 16-17. Chairman Bob Schmieder says plans are on schedule, and the festivities promise to be even more gala and exotic than those of the first Gate-A-Way, in October, 1996. Confirmed hosts for the event so far are Hugh Downs and Norman Vaughn. Can you give a little of your time for this project? If so, Bob is ready and waiting for your offer.
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    Victoria Falls from DC-4


    Northern California Chapter Webmaster tapped for Web Oversight Committee
    The Northern California Chapter has just learned that our own Webmaster, Michael F. Diggles, FN-92, has been selected to be a member of a small formal website oversight committee, which will be headed by Explorers Club legal expert and Washington member, David Concannon. The committee's agenda will be to tackle the issues of what Explorers Club's policies and procedures should be regarding websites, and how they should be implemented.

    The group will be recommending to headquarters concerning extending passworded accounts to chapters which may want websites and need hosts. In addition, this committee will consider and recommend concerning issues around the new Federal law which the President signed in December. This law makes it a felony to copy or distribute copyrighted material over the Internet without the owner's express permission. Therefore, the Club must now take extra care to assure that all sites have appropriate copyright releases for material posted on the Web, and to provide guidelines to existing and future Webmasters.. This law could have an impact on the content of future issues of this Newsletter, as articles may have to be limited to those of strictly local origin.
     Elephant photo


    Other members of this not-yet-officially-named committee, so far, are Karen Brush, Club secretary Jonathan Conrad and Bob Soberman of Philadelphia. Don Morley of the Texas Chapter also will be asked to serve. As information on new Internet issues becomes available, it will be passed on to you through this column.


    At the January meeting at the University Club Betsy Crowder's daughter, Wendy, lost her umbrella. She had placed it atop the coat rack with several others. Someone mistook it for theirs, and the one that was left was not Wendy's. Betsy sends the following message: "Someone took our black folding umbrella by mistake on Jan. 23. We will gladly exchange it for the one that you left as Betsy's has sentimental value to her. Ours has a white dot on the end of the handle, and is cloth, not plastic. Please contact Betsy Crowder at (650) 851-0410, or bring it to the next meeting. Many thanks!"  DC-4 photo

    Douglass DC-4 Skymaster

    Bob Schmieder's guest at the January meeting was Ellen Purcell, a previous Dan Reid Memorial grant awardee. As a wildlife biologist, her field of interest is the little known wildlife of remote northwestern Tasmania. Many have at least heard of the fierce Tasmanian Devil, but how many have ever seen that other fierce, little-known and rarely-encountered animal in the northern wilds of the island, the Tasmanian Tiger?

    Chairman Schmieder also introduced guest William Steinmetz, who is a descendent of Charles P. Steinmetz, the electrical engineer who, in the late 1800's, worked out the electrical basis for, and the theory of, alternating current. Dr. Steinmetz was the guiding force of the infant General Electric Company. He is credited with having made the electrification of the U.S. possible in the early years of this century, which in great part made the U.S. the world power that it became during and after World War I.
     bee-eater photo

    Carmine bee-eaters

    A most welcome attendee at the January meeting was Alta "Gerry" Elkus, widow of the late founder of the Northern California Chapter (Chairman from 1973 to 1978), Charles Elkus.

    Three days after the January meeting Dana Isherwood left for South Georgia and Antarctica, on a boat journey titled "In the Footsteps of the Explorers." Immediately following this, she joins a group of climbers from Expedition Inspiration in New Zealand for an ascent of Mt. Aspiring. This group of breast-cancer survivors continues to raise money for cancer research. The group is still searching for an underwriter for its planned assault on the Vinson Massif in Antarctica, hopefully by 1999. Bill Isherwood, FN-70, in the meantime, will be spending time in Fairbanks continuing to promote alternative energy systems for remote villages
     Lechwe photo

    Red Lechwe on the Okavango Delta

    A belated welcome to Dr. William Heydorn, MN-97, thoracic surgeon from Tiburon who practices primarily in the Richmond area, and was admitted to membership in the Club in 1997. Dr. Heydorn is looking forward to attending an early meeting and meeting some of the local members. Thanks for this information goes to Oscar Lopp, MN-92, of the M.M.I.


     Cub photo

    Lion cub

    MARCH 28, 1998
    5:30 Cocktails, 7:00 Dinner
     Masai photo

    Masai on the Mara

    Coupon for this month's Northern California meeting

    Please Return To:

    Folger Athearn
    The Explorers Club
    Northern California Chapter.
    7037 Chabot Road
    Oakland, CA 94618
    Folger's phone: (510) 653-2572 (h), or (510) 465-9121 (w)

    Please reserve spaces for the Peter Duignan talk, at the Fort Mason Center Officers Club on Friday, February 27, 1998.

    $40/person... $45 if postmarked after February 20. Cocktails, 6:30 PM, Dinner, 7:30 PM, Speaker, 8:30 PM.

    Your Name: _______________________________________

    Your Address: _____________________________________


    Guests: ______________________________________

     Rhino photo


    Date created: 01/15/1998
    Last modified: 19/21/2015
    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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