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To All Explorers Around The World,
I have the sad duty to announce the passing of Explorers Club Medalist Captain Don Walsh MED’61, who alongside Jacques Piccard was the first human to the bottom of the deepest point in the ocean, the 10,916 meter Challenger Deep.
The Challenger Deep expedition is part of the foundational bedrock of the story of The Explorers Club.
One of our five Famous Firsts – Don quite literally set the standard by which we measure ourselves as explorers.
First to the Poles, First to Everest, First to the Moon — when we walk on Mars, that accomplishment will be in no small part due to the runway laid by Don, and an indomitable generation of trailblazers like him who have made this Club what it is today.
For this incredible feat and a life committed to field science and engineering, Don was recognized with The Explorers Club Medal in 2001, the highest honor the Club can bestow. Don was also the recipient of our Lowell Thomas Award, served as one of our Honorary Members, and for several years as our Honorary President.
In March 2012, Don served as a key advisor to the Deepsea Challenger Expedition, and spoke to James Cameron MED’03 on the seafloor after he became the third person to the Challenger Deep.
In 2020, with Don aboard the support ship, his son Kelly joined Victor Vescovo MED’18 to the bottom of the trench aboard Limiting Factor — making them the first father + son duo to the bottom of the deepest point.
Walsh’s contributions extended beyond his groundbreaking dives. He played a pivotal role in the development of the International Maritime Incidents and Reporting System, emphasizing the importance of safety in underwater exploration.
Presidents Carter and Reagan appointed Don to the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, he served as a member of the Law of the Sea Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of State, and also as a member of the Marine Board of the U.S. National Research Council.
Don’s legacy casts an indelible shadow across the history of field science and exploration, but it is his lifelong commitment to education and his propensity to mentor the next generation of explorers which truly sets him apart.
His commitment to excellence, both as a Naval Officer and as a friend to his peers, are in keeping with the highest traditions of The Explorers Club — and his memory will live on in his work, and in the hearts of explorers around the World.
President, The Explorers Club