Friday, June 15, 2012

Explore. Dream. Discover.

The Piccard family
by senior contributor Brendan Kownacki

Mark Twain encouraged folks to "explore, dream, discover" and the team from the National Geographic Society would likely agree. Thursday night they hosted their annual "Evening of Exploration" awards ceremony to honor the best of the best who have sought out new territory and tackled the toughest boundaries. 

The first of the two major awards presented by the society was The Hubbard Medal, first awarded in 1906 and named for Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the first President of the National Geographic Society. The medal has been presented to explorers of all types in the past; polar pioneers, aviators, astronauts and this year, posthumously to Jacques Piccard for his achievement in reaching the depths of the Mariana Trench in 1960.........the first to ever descend to the deepest areas of the ocean floor.

James Cameron, Capt. Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard

The award was presented by film maker and NatGeo Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron, known for many of his films including the epic Titanic. Before and after the film, Cameron spent dozens of hours beneath the waves diving in the wreck of the great ship and exploring his passion for the sea, helping to gain him explorer residency with NatGeo. 

Recently, he became the only person to repeat the depth of Piccard's dive since 1960. Also on hand was Capt. Don Walsh who was aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste with Piccard when they achieved their record setting dive.  

Accepting the prize for the late Jacques Piccard was his family, including his son Bertrand who also won The Hubbard Medal in 1999 after becoming the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a non-stop balloon flight. Piccard embodies the explorer spirit, saying that he chose a balloon over a plane or other vehicle because "nobody had done it before." He argued though that it wasn't simply just a stride to break new ground, but he wanted to make his flight knowing that "people said it was impossible." 

Terry Garcia and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

Also being honored was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner who was named Explorer of the year. The Austrian mountaineer is the first woman to ever summit all 14 of the world's tallest peaks without using supplementary oxygen including reaching the top of K2, the second tallest mountain on Earth. 

"When people say something is impossible, the people you work with are creative.......if they know it can be done, people are lazy," noted Bertrand Piccard about the lessons he gained along the way and would offer to future explorers.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

The Awards: