Detailed Calendar Page
January 14, 2010 - Pierre Odier - Devils Island and French Guiana
Devils Island, the threat of being sent to this place was enough to frighten some of the toughest of France's criminals. And for good reason: of the seventy-thousand prisoners sent to French Guiana to serve their sentences only one in ten survived. Rene Belbenoit, an Adventurer's Club member, survived the brutal treatment and escaped and fled to Los Angeles.
Made famous by books and film such as Papillion, the false stories of Devils Island where reinforced and became the false legends.
Devils Island did exist as a prison and does exist today as a tiny and uninhabited speck off of the coast of South America. It became confused with (though it is part of) the entire penal colony of French Guiana after Alfred Dryfus spent five years rotting on the island at the turn of the century.
Pierre will expose the true story about Devils Island and its relationship to the total penal colony French Guiana.
Pierre Odier is a member of our club (Member #988) and a past president also.
January 21, 2010 - Captain Alfred McLaren - Unknown Waters
Unknown Waters: A Firsthand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651)
During the summer of 1970, at the height of the Cold War, the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651), under the command of Commander Alfred S. McLaren USN, surfaced at the North Pole and completed the first hydrographic survey ever undertaken across the entire continental shelf off the Soviet Union’s Siberian coastline – a distance of some 3,100 nautical miles. The extremely hazardous survey began at the northwestern corner of the Laptev Sea, off the northernmost island of the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago; proceeded through the completely uncharted ice-covered shallow waters of the Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas, and ended just north of the Bering Strait. Queenfish, in addition and for global warming research purposes, continuously recorded ice thickness data along USS Nautilus’s 1958 transpolar track for comparison with that recorded by Nautilus 12 years earlier. The expedition was recognized by the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations with a Navy Unit Commendation to both submarine and crew and the Legion of Merit to her captain.
Captain McLaren, USN (Ret.), Ph.D. , in a beautifully illustrated PowerPoint talk, will describe this extremely interesting and hazardous expedition accomplished by Queenfish’s crew. The depth soundings obtained in sea-ice-covered shallow waters throughout the Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi Seas have recently been entered on Arctic Ocean charts published by the Office of Naval Research. He will also discuss the global climate change related findings that have laid the foundation for significant follow-on global climate change research.
Captain McLaren’s book on Queenfish’s historic voyage, Unknown Waters, was published by the University of Alabama Press and reached book stores world-wide in early February, 2008. It was reviewed in the Science Section of The New York Times on 18 March 2008, is now in its third printing, and is available on Amazon.com. It was judged a “Notable Naval Book of 2008” in May 2009 by the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland.
Captain Alfred S. McLaren is a lecturer, writer, and research scientist. He is additionally a director and partner of Sub Aviator Systems LLC and senior pilot of their revolutionary new deep-diving submersible the Super Aviator. He is also a Director of the Institute of Nautical Archeology at Texas A&M, a Director Emeritus of the Lindbergh Foundation, and President Emeritus of The Explorers Club, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1904 to promote scientific exploration and field research and where he also served as a Director, Vice President for Chapters, Vice President for Membership, and as publisher of The Explorers Journal.
January 28, 2010 - Bill Altafer - Siberia and the Yenisey River
Bill Altaffer has made 12 trips to Russia, starting in 1964 and now he shares with us his latest travel experiences in Russia, Siberia and the Yenisey River. During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Bill did not look forward to going to Soviet Russia. It was difficult traveling there. The hotels and restaurants were uncomfortable and inhospitable. Destinations were highly controlled. It was an ordeal rather than a pleasure. Today he can’t get enough of Russia.
Russia still has closed cities, 236 of them to be exact. It also has very open and engaging people, beautiful countryside, unique architecture in historical cities, excellent food and plenty of attractions to appeal to all tastes and interests. It is changing rapidly in many ways as it joins the modern world. Bill saw many differences between this visit and what he experienced just a year ago. For example, the women in their group noted that almost all the public toilets now carry toilet paper and have soap and running water. Even a mere year ago, very few of them did.
Everywhere, in all cities, there are monuments and fountains that work. Public places are always accented by large plantings of colorful flowers. The people have great pride in their country and their cities, and it shows. As for the people, they are as fashionable and trendy as anywhere else in the world.
Russia has such a long, sad, hard history. Its people have suffered through incredibly difficult times, yet they remain warm, welcoming and strong. We all feel a real kinship with the Russian people, a feeling that is only reinforced with each visit.
So, why would an American want to visit Russia? What seems to age us is our routine. We go to the same places, eat the same foods, think the same thoughts. We tend to become stuck in ruts, going to places that feel familiar and do not threaten us.
Russia is invigorating. It is rich in history and is now amplified by a free market. Things are happening there at a very fast pace. You can see it reflected in the people you meet. Now, Russians travel the world and are knowledgeable and informed about events outside of their borders. Cities and towns across the vast landscape host excellent hotels, restaurants and resorts, all with the most modern amenities. Only by going will you know the excitement of experiencing Russia today. You ask, “But is it safe?” Oh, please!
"Whether you are making your first visit to Russia and want a "normal" itinerary to the obligatory spots or want to explore some of the innumerable, rarely visited, remote areas of the country, I highly recommend MIR Corporation in Seattle. They know Russia. After traveling there many times, I am finally beginning to know it, too."