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Experience the darkness beyond the void.

 

On Saturday, March 9, The Explorers Club is once again hosting storytellers back from the abyss—join us for Tales From Dark Places, proudly supported by the National Speleological Foundation as well as the National Speleological Society.

 

From the race to the bottom of the world’s deepest cave, to a story of a dramatic subterranean rescue, this year’s Tales from Dark Places will explore what the depths can tell us about our past and our future – told by experts on the forefront of their fields.

 

 

Image Credit: Courtesy of Chris Nicola, NSS/TEC Liaison Officer and Event Co-Organizer

Header Image:  Courtesy Jean Krejca, Ph.D.

schedule
9:30 AM Welcome Coffee & Tea
9:45 AM Opening Remarks from MC John Scheltens, Former President of the National Speleological Society and Fellow Member of The Explorers Club (FN'91)
9:50 AM "Darkness Beyond the Void"
10:10 AM Bill Steele: "Exploring, Mapping, and Studying the Deepest Cave in the Americas"
10:50 AM Mark Dickey & Jessica Van Ord: "Morca Cave Rescue: Emergency Response 1000m under the Earth"
11:50 AM Lunch
12:40 PM Captain Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.), Ph.D: "Exploration of Extreme Underwater Environments"
1:20 PM Jean Krejca: "Cave Biology (And All the Trouble it Got Me Into)"
2:00 PM Luis Espinasa: "Discovery of an Ice Age Megafaunal Fossil Assemblage in an Underwater Cave of Mexico"
2:40 PM Break
2:55 PM Vickie Siegel: "When Cave Explorers Build Robots"
3:35 PM Oleg Klimchuk: "Krubera-Voronja - Pioneers, Stories, and the Underground Race in the World's Deepest Cave"
4:15 PM Closing Reception
Speakers

C. William “Bill” Steele FE’79

Widely known for his 30 plus years of exploration in Mexico’s Huautla Cave System, the Deepest Cave in the Americas, C. William “Bill” Steele FE’79 is active with the Texas Chapter of The Explorers Club. He retired in 2014 after a 34 year career with the Boy Scouts of America, at the conclusion of which he was the national director of Alumni Relations and the National Eagle Scout Association.
Steele started exploring caves as a Boy Scout when he was a teenager in the mid-1960s. He’s continued avidly ever since. He’s explored caves through the USA, in China, Cuba, and in many parts of Mexico. He’s been on 22 TEC flag expeditions, 13 of which were to the Huautla caves, with him organizing and leading most of them. He is author of two caving books, “Yochib: The River Cave” and “Huautla: Thirty Years in One of the World’s Deepest Caves”. He spends much of his time exploring caves in Texas, organizing Huautla expeditions, travelling the world as a speaker on cruise ships, and spending time with his domestic partner Dr. Diana Tomchick, his two adult children, and his seven grandkids.

Capt. Alfred S. McLaren, USN (Ret.), Ph.D.

Captain Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.), Ph.D. is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (B.S. in Engineering) and the U.S. Navy’s Submarine School, Advanced Nuclear Power School, Naval War College, and Major Shore Command School. He holds graduate degrees from George Washington (M.S.), Cambridge (M.Phil.), and Colorado-Boulder (Ph.D.) Universities. He is also President Emeritus of The Explorers Club and the American Polar Society. Honors include The Explorers Club’s Lowell Thomas Medal for Ocean Exploration in 2000 and its highest honor, “The Explorers Club Medal” in 2012 for “His extraordinary contributions to Arctic exploration and deep-sea research, including the first survey of the entire Siberian Continental Shelf.” He has also received The Sociéte de Geographic Paris’ Medal, La Medaille de La Ville De Paris, and the Joseph Bernier Medal for Arctic Ocean exploration and research from the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. 

As a career nuclear attack submarine officer, he made three submarine Arctic expeditions: the first submerged transit of the Northwest Passage by USS Seadragon (SSN-584) in 1960; a 1967 Baffin Bay expedition, and, as Commander of USS Queenfish (SSN-651, a 1970 North Pole expedition that completed the first hydrographic and oceanographic survey, in shallow water and under thick sea ice, of the entire uncharted Siberian Continental Shelf. Awards as a Cold War Submarine Commander include The Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and four Navy Unit Commendations. Prior to retiring from the U.S. Navy in 1981, he was Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Underwater Systems Center, headquartered at Newport, R.I, which was a major Department of Defense scientific laboratory complex of six laboratories, 3200 scientists and engineers, with a billion-dollar budget. Upon achievement of his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1986, he remained as a teaching and research professor until 1991, when he became Publisher of Science News in Washington, D.C. and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. 

As a deep-sea explorer and research scientist in Arctic oceanography, he has published more than 50 articles in refereed journals. He has completed dives to: RMS Titanic (1999 and 2003), Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vents (1999), and two of the first manned-dives to the German battleship KM Bismarck (2001 and 2002) using Russian deep-diving MIR submersibles. He was a Director of Submarine Aviator Systems LLC and Senior Pilot of its Super Aviator submersible from 2004 to 2014. He has written three books: Unknown Waters: A First-Hand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651) (University of Alabama Press, 2008), which was judged a “Notable Naval Book of 2008” by the U.S. Naval Institute, Silent and Unseen: On Patrol in Three Cold War Attack Submarines (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2015) and Emergency Deep: Cold War Missions of a Submarine Commander (University of Alabama Press, 2021). 

Dr. Luis Espinasa

Dr. Espinasa is a renowned cave biologist; he has close to a hundred publications and 40 new species of organisms described. But his most important accomplishment is as a scholar of teaching students how to become scientists and explorers. His most relevant pedagogical activity is the inclusion of publishable, novel research as an integral part of undergraduate courses. Dr. Espinasa is an explorer that leads young minds to uncover the unknown. But he is also an explorer in the traditional sense. He participated in the exploration of Sótano del Berro, then the deepest cave explored by Mexicans (-850m). He was also a member of the first expeditions to walk the entire Cooper Canyon. He has many first descents doing white water river kayaking, canyoneering, and caving. His explorations have taken him far and broad, from Thailand to South America. His current passion is in cave paleontology, having recently discovered one of the largest Mexican ice age megafauna assemblages in a cave, which includes mammoths, giant sloths, and large felids.  One of the challenges in this cave is that most of the fossils are in underwater passages, inaccessible to humans. As an integral part of the project and in collaboration with Mike Sandone and Michael Girard, we are using underwater drones (ROV) to find and retrieve specimens.

Oleg Klimchouk

Widely known for his part in having Krubera Cave noted by the Guiness Book of World Records as the “Deepest Cave in the World” when he, along with his father, the legendary speleologist  Dr. Alexander Klimchouk, explored it to a depth of -7215 feet, Oleg Klimchouk was born in 1976 in Kyiv. Has been exploring caves since early childhood. Thanks to his parents, outstanding Ukrainian speleologists, he spent a lot of time on expeditions of the Kyiv Cave Club to the caves of the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In the nineties, after contacts with American and European cavers, he became an instructor and pioneer of SRT(single rope technique) in the post-soviet union space. Together with his teacher Valery Rogozhnikov, he organized training seminars on the SRT technique, rescue work, and cave climbing. Since then, Oleg has been involved in numerous dives, world records, and rescues.

Vickie Siegel

Vickie Siegel works at the intersection of autonomous robotics, polar research, planetary science, and cave exploration. She leverages her interdisciplinary interests to lead expeditions with ambitious technology goals in challenging environments found all around the globe. For over 17 years Vickie has worked with one of the world’s leading field robotics teams in research projects which use cold, icy environments on Earth as simulation environments for robots that will someday explore the ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Jean "Creature" Krejca, PhD

Dubbed “Creature” on her first wild caving trip to Mystery Cave in southeast Missouri, Jean remembers sliding down through a wet, twisting tunnel of rock by the warm glow of a carbide lamp. She was 18 years old, and the cavers in that group would become her closest friends. Soon thereafter her companion who bestowed the nickname on her was tragically lost to an accident, and this underscored the beautiful and fleeting nature of life and the importance of people to share it with.
Since entering that otherworldly place, she has spent a lifetime seeking out interesting cave species, working on the front lines of conservation as an environmental consultant, and filling her weekends and vacations with cave exploration and survey. Currently she lives in Utah and finds herself caving in the western United States, but her tales will include adventures from other great caving destinations including Texas and Mexico, central and South America, southeast Asia, and China. She dreams of giving back to the natural world through conservation and science in a way that reflects how important that world is to her soul.

Jessica Van Ord & Mark Dickey

Mark and Jessica share their first-hand accounts of the incredible record-breaking rescue from 1000m deep inside Morca Cave in Türkiye. As cave rescue instructors and medical professionals themselves, their unique perspectives offer insight into the ins and out of cave rescue, and the treatment of what may be considered the most inconvenient case of internal bleeding of all time.

March 9,2024
March 9, 2024
9:30 AM
9:30 AM
The Explorers Club
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Mar. 04
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6:00 PM
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Mar. 21
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Mar. 25
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The Explorers Club Headquarters will be closed for Good Friday in the United States. We will resume regular operating hours…

Apr. 04
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Mar. 05
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