The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

Dana Isherwood

"In Search of the Magnetic North Pole"

photo of Dana and a sled dog
Copper and Dana on the way to the Magnetic North Pole

( is a link to Dana's Web site on her trip to the magnetic north pole.)

I arrived home from a journey to the Magnetic North Pole on May 14, 2000. It started April 21 when I flew north to Resolute, a small Inuit village in the high Canadian Arctic, to ski to the Magnetic North Pole. The team was made up of 15 people; 4 women and 11 men. We had with us 18 dogs and 4 sleds to haul our gear (tents, stoves, sleeping bags, etc.). Paul Schurke, who has been to the Geographic North Pole five times, was our leader.

The 230-mile trip was divided into two phases. In the first phase, 12 of us flew in a small plane to Goodsir Inlet on the east coast of Bathurst Island. From there, on foot, skis, or the back of a dogsled, we climbed to Polar Bear Pass (a musk ox and polar bear sanctuary) and then headed north along the Goodsir River to May Inlet, where we traveled on the sea ice. At the northern tip of Bathurst Island, a resupply plane came in and took out three of our group to be replaced by three others. The resupply plane also took out two of us who needed to repair injured bodies. I was one of those. The day before the plane arrived, I fell from the back of a dogsled as I tried to keep it from tipping over on a block of ice and tore a calf muscle in my right leg. I returned to Resolute and with drugs, a lot of rest, and the right kind of exercise, I flew back to join the expedition team five days later.

photo of group

The second phase took us from King Christian Island to the northern tip of Ellef Ringnes Island and then a short distance north to the permanent pack ice. The position of the Magnetic North Pole moves north about 15 km per year and has a wobble. When we reached 79.4 degrees N and 105.5 degrees W, we agreed that we were in the most likely area of that wobble according to the latest scientific information available and declared victory.

We were not planning a Shackleton type of adventure, but it was about the hardest thing I've ever tried. Temperatures ranged from plus 10 to minus 30 degrees F in the 24 hour daylight. We slept in tents and our sleeping bags kept us warm, but every hour of the day was needed to care for the dogs, set up camp, cook, take down camp and ski or hike as many as 20 miles each day. Our laughter at our silly mistakes and the antics of the dogs kept us going.

I believe that all journeys worth making are pilgrimages in that they have a purpose and add perspective to our lives. This trip to the high Arctic could be called a pilgrimage of self-awareness. Each day was a combination of the joy of being in a beautiful place, the frustration of not always being up to the challenge, the physical tiredness of trying too hard to do too much, the friendship of those who cared, the inner peace of knowing that you were where you wanted to be and, most of all, the freedom to be yourself. When I injured my leg, I was determined to go back and I did five days later. Reaching our goal confirmed the value of staying focused-something I have always known but not always practiced. Thank you Paul Schurke for being up front every day leading the way. The search for wisdom is like a journey through the wilderness and I am grateful for being part of this journey.

DATE: Friday December 1, 2000
PLACE: St. Francis Yacht Club, The Marina, San Francisco
TIME: 6:30 PM Cocktails, 7:30 PM Dinner, 8:30 PM Lecture
COST: $39 ($44 if postmarked after Nov 20)

Please call Lesley at (510) 527-7899 if postmarked after Nov. 20, 2000 for correct dinner count.

photo of sled, dogs, and driver

photo of ice scene

photo of lone skier

photo of dogs pulling sled toward photographer

Click for Calendar of future events

Extra Added Attraction

In addition, Jerry G. Hughes will provide a brief presentation on a Tibetan classroom, on sources for new Explorers Club members, and on Explorers Club Travel. We have invited the Society of Women Geographers and the American Polar Society to our meeting.

Who Is Dana Isherwood?

Dana met Bill Isherwood, FN-70, in 1969, when he had just returned from the Antarctic. She was teaching high school chemistry at the time and had recently become a serious climber. After a spring and summer of skiing and climbing together, Bill took an assignment in Thailand. By the next spring, however, Bill came to his senses and bribed her with an around-the-world plane ticket to come marry him in Thailand, and continue on to Nepal and Switzerland before returning to California.

Upon returning to California, Dana immediately prepared for participation in the first all-women ascent of Mt. McKinley, with the "Denali Damsels". In the fall, she and Bill moved to Boulder, Colorado, where they both proceeded to earn their doctorates in Geological Sciences, Dana's from work in Baffin Island.

Job opportunities brought the Isherwoods back to California in 1976, where Dana started working for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). For nearly nine years, she worked on the geologic aspects of nuclear waste disposal. But as the issues became more political, Dana applied for, and received, a Congressional Science Fellowship. For one year she worked as science advisor to Senator Al Gore.

After the year, however, she was ready to return to California and LLNL. But now she had new skills and knowledge about the workings of Congress, which LLNL was eager to exploit. Hence, Dana finished her career at LLNL as head of the Lab's Congressional Affairs, commuting about twice monthly to Washington. As she says, it was largely a job of explaining science issues to Congress and legislative issues to scientists.

Since retirement in 1996, Dana has kept incredibly busy traveling, raising money for breast cancer research (being a survivor herself), and working on the Boards of Directors of both the National Women's Political Caucus, and more recently, the Kham Aid Foundation. Travels have taken her to every continent, for work, climbing, sea kayaking, and cultural exploring. Her recent ski/dogsledding trip to the Magnetic North Pole was her 10th trip into the Polar regions (not counting sub-polar trips to Alaska).

Betsy Crowder, FN-94, June 21, 1926 to September 29, 2000

Betsy near Ostrander Hut in the Sierra Nevada about 1994. Photographer unknown; photo provided by Rowland Tabor

With Betsy's death in a fatal automobile crash on her way home from an Explorer's Club meeting, all of us lost a good and stalwart friend, and the world lost an intrepid fighter for the environment. She was forthcoming in her opinions as a director of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District, "there was no waffling, you always knew where she stood," said her long-time friend, Nonette Hanko, who also serves on the MPROSD board. Betsy never hesitated in the face of opposition and never hesitated to stop and help. Integrity, helpfulness, presence of mind, improvisation, grit, especially grit are some of the qualities she will be remembered for by her large family and her many friends who crowded the Portola Valley Presbyterian Church on Sunday October 8 to pay their last respects.

Betsy grew up during the depression days, the oldest of four sisters in Boston. Summers were spent in the family log cabin on an island in New Brunswick, Canada where she learned to make do without running water and electricity. There she also learned to love the outdoors among rabbits, birds, fish, seals and occasional moose and wildcat. She became self reliant and enduring as she walked every evening a mile through the woods to a farm to buy milk and fresh vegetables. During her college days at Radcliffe, she became an active member of the Outing Club and later, of the Alpine Club at Stanford while studying for an M.A. in anthropology. Her future husband, Dwight Crowder, a geology student after whom a mountain in the North Cascades would be named, was also a member. Mount Crowder (7,082') is in the Mount Challenger 7.5' quadrangle in Whatcom County, Washington. Betsy writes they were married in 1950, "I have led an adventurous life ever since. Dwight and I spent every summer in 'the field' in the North Cascades Mountains of Washington where he did field work. Our daughters (Wendy and Anne) grew up with that life, learning to walk on steep slopes and playing with marmots in holes near our camp"

The family moved to Oslo, Norway where Dwight received his Ph.D. in 1958. They returned to build a home in Portola Valley with their own hands and the help of a roofer and an occasional carpenter. Both became active and dedicated environmentalists, campaigning for the 1964 Wilderness Act and for the establishment of the North Cascades National Park as well as for local issues. In 1970 Dwight was killed in an automobile accident on the same stretch of Portola Road as did Betsy - thirty years later.

After Dwight's death, Betsy returned to Stanford, received a second M.A., this time in civil engineering/urban planning. She worked as an environmental planner for Palo Alto. In 1980 she was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District; she served twice as President. A true explorer, Betsy was always learning, whether clearing the local trails in the Foothills, or on safari in Africa, or trekking in South and Central Asia, or hiking the Pamirs. Her last report to the Explorer's Club on the evening of her fatal accident described what she had seen recently in Tibet: monasteries plundered; the town of Lhasa overshadowed by a newly constructed, high-rise Chinese city; no trees; in the over grazed valley meadows not a blade of grass left; the Tibetan population outnumbered by imported Chinese settlers - an ecological and human tragedy. That evening she struck one last hammer blow for the cause she had devoted her life to - conservation.

Betsy is a coauthor on Peninsula Trails: Outdoor Adventures on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Her aim had been, in her own words: "to support land protection and restoration." But she went far beyond that. Betsy, ever-ready to lend a hand to all creatures, grasses, trees, rabbits, people, died as she had lived: helping a crashed motorist who had driven into a telephone pole in the dark of the night. A third car ran over the downed-pole cable and Betsy was struck herself as the cable whipped around her.

The Explorers Club has lost a good friend and wishes to extend our deep sympathy to Betsy's family; to Wendy and Anne, her daughters.

Memorial donations may be made to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), 3000 Sand Hill Rd. 4-135, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

--Eva Maria Spitz-Blum, Ph.D., MN-84

Betsy in Norway in the mid 1980's. Photographer unknown; photo provided by Rowland Tabor

Cover of Peninsula Trails

Willard Bascom, Oceans Explorer, Dies at 83

Willard Bascom

Willard Bascom, MED-63, an engineer and scientist fascinated by the sea, who supervised pioneering deep-sea exploration in the 1960's, died on Sept. 20 at home in San Diego, after being injured in a car accident.

Bascom directed the MoHole Project from 1960 to 1962. When the world record depth of water for drilling was about 400 feet, he drilled in 12,000 and collected the first samples of the earth's second layer. I've been fascinated by his account in "Waves and Beaches: The Dynamics of the Ocean Surface" of researching the dynamics of winter storm surf along the northern California coast in 1945. A Duckw is a six-wheeled amphibious vehicle, 32 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10 high, with a screw propeller. The surf research team drove the Duckw straight toward the beach through the surf, with Bascom heaving the lead line and reporting the depth as they surfed along.

Joe Rychetnik, E-67, reminds us that Willard Bascom was a member of the Northern California Chapter, had many good friends here, and also that he received the Explorers Medal.

We're Looking for a Few Good Men and Women

Bill Isherwood, FN-70, our Chairman, is ready to turn over the leadership of the chapter to new hands. Lesley Ewing, FN-93, our indefatigable Vice Chair, is ready to coach someone else or maybe a committee!) to take over scheduling our meetings. Sue Estey, FN-92, Newsletter Editor, intends to bow out after the January newsletter, so we are looking for a new editor.

Tom Hall, FN-97, is staying on as Treasurer, and Jerry Hughes, AE-98, will continue to maintain our membership database. Mike Diggles, FN-92, is happy to continue as webmaster. Bob Schmieder, FN-86, and Ron Reuther, FN-74, constitute the nominating committee for new officers. If you are ready to volunteer, or if you have ideas about who would be a good candidate for any of these positions, please let them know, or contact any of the current officers.

Bob Schmieder: 925.934.3735 or
Ron Reuther: 800.707.5003 x3445 or

Summer News

Ron Reuther, FN-74, reminds us that a number of our members have been in the news over the summer.

Congratulations to Dan Cheatham, LN-89 on being honored recently with an Excellence in Service Award from the California Alumni Association for your service to the Cal Band.

Patrick Scannon, FN-96, was featured in the Sunday Supplement of the Chronicle. The article covered his ongoing search for lost WWII aircraft in Palau and what it means to the families of the lost crews.

Don Bessey, MN-82, was written up in the Oakland Tribune as the incoming President of the Kiwanis Club in Hayward.

The Chronicle carried a long article about Bernie Krause, FN-93

Gene Savoy, MN-69, has had several lengthy articles in the national press about his exploration in South America.

On November 5-10, 2000, Mike Diggles, FN-92, helped teach a sixth-grade class when they went to Yosemite National Park. This trip was conducted through the Yosemite Institute. They stayed at Camp Curry in Yosemite Valley from Sunday through Thursday, then moved to Camp Wawona for Thursday and Friday. This site ( [updated to include all yearly trips; look in 2000] contains an "album" that consists of 144 photographs in both a Web (HTML) format and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format.

Mike and his "kids"

Tag and Track Great White Sharks: Or, "What Webmasters do in their spare time"

Rex Passion, Webmaster of the New England Chapter, and Mike Diggles, FN-92, your Webmaster, had some less-Internet-related fieldwork in mid November: We worked with John Kelly a graduate student at the U.C. Davis' Bodega Marine Laboratory (AKA "UnderFundedSharkGuy") to attempt to attach tracking devices on Great White Sharks in Drakes Bay. We also took a biopsy harpoon to try to sample fat tissue and look at petroleum-product pollution in the sharks' bodies.

Photo, seal cutout made of plywood
Seal decoy; painted circle is 1/3 meter in diameter and is used as a reference in photographs with sharks. --Photographs by Mike Diggles

We drifted offshore of the beach off of Point Reyes where the Northern Elephant Seals are beginning to haul up. The rest of our crew consisted of Rex's research companion David Larsen and John's venerable cockswain, Toby. We set up our lure consisting of a plywood silhouette of a seal to which we attached a large hunk of dead seal. The water was calm at first but it didn't take long for the swells and wind-driven waves to start putting water into the boat. As the trip back around the point was expected to be worse, we had to abandon our shark hunt before noon.

Photo, Rex Passion
Rex Passion, FN-98

Photo, David Larsen
David Larsen, MN-01

We expect that in March, when the young weaned seal pups ("weaners") go back out to sea, that the sharks might be easier to find as they are munching on easy meals. We'll try again then or sooner.

Photo, Biopsy sampler
Biopsy sampler; I kept my fingers off the tip since we we hoped to test for hydrocarbons such as those I may have had on my skin

Photo, Pinger harpoon
Pinger harpoon

Photo, John Kelly
John Kelly loading the underside of the decoy with a piece of dead seal

Photo, Seal decoy
Seal decoy deployed in the water

Photo, Toby
Toby, the cockswain, GPS-reader, and note-taker

For more information, visit Rex's Great White Shark page.

Reservations and driving directions for the December meeting

St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco

Reservation form

Lesley Ewing
The Explorers Club
Northern California Chapter
1679 Tacoma Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707-1826

Please reserve ____ spaces for December 1, 2000 at the St. Francis Yacht Club


Address (if changed): _________________________________________________________


Guests: ______________________________________________________________________

Please make your checks out to The Explorers Club and mail with this form to:

Lesley Ewing
1679 Tacoma Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94707

$39 per person if postmarked by November 20, 2000.
$44.00 per person if postmarked after November 20, 2000.

If reserving late, please call Lesley Ewing at (510) 527-7899.
ONLY for changes or reservations on the day of the event, use (415) 904-5291.

Directions to the St. Francis Yacht Club

The club is on the waterfront in northern San Francisco. From downtown or the east bay, find your way to Marina Blvd and follow it west past Fort Mason. Turn right just past the yacht harbor.

From the Peninsula or Marin County, take Doyle Drive east to Marina Blvd. You cannot turn left into the road to the club, so take a tight turn just before Marina Blvd and come back under the freeway, or go a few blocks past and come back along the marina green.

"You're an explorer. You can't expect to change your clothes every three weeks."
- Col. Norman D. Vaughan, 93, last survivor of Admiral Byrd's 1928 Antarctic expedition.

Date created: 10/25/2000
Last modified: 3/1/2004

Content from Bill Isherwood, Sue Estey, Lesley Ewing, and Mike Diggles, Northern California Chapter of The Explorers Club; email to Sue (
Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster. email to Mike (
c/o U.S. Geological Survey, MS-951, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 329-5404

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