This is my 3rd year photographing explorers, adventurers and their benefactors at the glamorous Explorers Club Annual Dinner, held this year in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty inside the Immigration museum at Ellis Island.

The Corpse Squad

Filmmaker Trevor Wallace and archeologist Gino Caspari are currently producing Frozen Corpses Golden Treasure - a feature length documentary about Gino’s search for Scythian Tombs in the Altai mountains of Central Asia. In the fall of 2016 they travelled to far Western China with Gino locating over 100 graves in the border zones of Russia and Kazakhstan. They followed the trail of stolen grave goods, escaped military border guards and spent time in traditional Kazakh villages wrestling and riding horses. In the summer of 2017 they will excavate a royal Scythian grave in the Republic of Tuva, Russia, which is believed to be the oldest ever unearthed.

The Egyptologist

Vintage fashion aficionada Colleen Manassa Darnell (wearing a 1930s lace gown) teaches art history, translates Egyptian religious and literary texts, and collects vintage fashion.  She continues to map and record the remains of ancient explorers and caravaneers in the Egyptian Eastern Desert.  Her recent discoveries include probable desert outposts of the Blemmyes, desert-dwelling Nubians of the Late Roman era.

She is one of the highlights of my yearly portrait series.

The Polar Artist

Explorer and self-proclaimed ‘adventure artist’ Galya Morrell (wearing boots from Chukotka and a headband from Yakuti and dress with Polar Eskimo from Silk Ice by ColdArtist) is following the steps of her Northern ancestors, Komi reindeer herders and Pomor mammal hunters, living and and travelled in the Arctic for over 30 years. Under the stage name ColdArtist, Galya explores the limits of the body and the possibilities of the mind, working in a rare genre of visual synthetic performance on the drifting sea ice.

The Arctic Family

Taking this year’s ‘Cold Places’ theme to heart, Kinga & Ronin Garriott de Cayeux dressed as as inuit explorers along with their parents, Laetitia & Richard Garriott de Cayeux. Seen here dressed as the Spirits of the Antarctic & Arctic. Kinga & Ronin have been enrolled in the Explorers Club’ Young Explorers Program now planning its first ‘kids’ expedition to the North Pole next April. They will be following in the footsteps of their Explorers Club member parents, Richard who has explored the Antarctic and is a private astronaut & one of the founding fathers of the videogame industry and Laetitia, a technology entrepreneur.

The Martian

Atlee has dreamt of shooting off to Mars for half her life. At age 7 she says that the best part of her Explorers Club night was meeting the astronauts because ‘It’s kind of like meeting the future me!’

The Sorcerer

Gathered in a recent 1200 mile expedition through East Africa, Justin Fornal’s Bark Cloth outfit was inspired by his work with witches and sorcerers to encourage use of botanical alternatives to human body parts in their magic. Bark cloth is made from the inner bark of the mutube tree and has been the traditional clothing of the Baganda people of Uganda for centuries. It is worn over the face to function as a window to the land of the dead.

Around his neck are cowrie shells, amatembe beads and a tunguli (a gourd that mchawi witches in Tanzania fill with oils and powders to function as a sacred urn).

In addition to this experimentations with alternative textiles, is an explorer, film maker and freelance writer for National Geographic. In 2016 while helping to produce Rise Up: The Legacy of Nat Turner he personally tracked down the alleged skull of Nat Turner and repatriated it to the Turner descendants. The skull is currently undergoing DNA testing at the Smithsonian Institute. Fornal is also a long distance swimmer and will be doing a 100 mile swim around Islay, Scotland on July 22nd with fellow member Chad Anderson. They will be swimming from whisky distillery to whisky distillery with a 30 gallon oak barrel which will get filled along the way. Bottles from the cask will be auctioned for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

The Active Volcanologists

Jess & Carlos Phoenix founded Blueprint Earth which researches the Mojave Desert. Jess is a volcanologist, extreme explorer, and a professional field scientist as well as being a Fellow in the Explorers Club. She has been chased by narco-traffickers in Mexico, dodged armed thieves in remote Peru, raced horses across Mongolia, worked on the world’s largest and most active volcanoes in Hawaii, piloted the Jason 2 submersible to study an undersea volcano and worked in the mines of the Australian Outback.

Carlos is a Member in The Explorers Club, and the two of them recently lead an official Explorers Club Flag Expedition to the Mojave Desert.

Jess is considering a run for Congress representing Calfornia’s 25th through Political Action Committee 314 Action which aims to replace the most anti-science members of Congress with scientists.

The Food Expert

Internationally recognized exotic food expert Gene Rurka oversees the world-famous menu for the yearly gala. He’s pictured here with deep fried tarantulas and sautéed cockroaches. Gene’s work is an integral part of what makes the club’s annual event so special.

The Bosses

In addition to their day-to-day functions (which are stellar) Ariel Field, Katie Losey and Christine Dennison are this year’s Explorers Club Dinner Co-Chairs. Without them the monumental task of coordinating attendees, awardees, transport and all the other logistics of putting on an event on an Island would be impossible.

Ariel is an Associate Producer for a National Geographic film series on the US Military. For Women in the World, Ariel helped produce news and current events summits in India, London and Lincoln Center. Ariel has taught film and photography on National Geographic’s Mongolian Adventure Treks, and has received grants to work in Istanbul and in Bangladesh, where she directed a short thesis film on the Microfinance Industry.

Katie Losey is committed to the intersection between sustainable conservation, business and travel, and believes connecting others with the world’s wild places is the life force to help protect them. She is currently working on an elephant conservation stewardship map to support Africa’s elephants and the web of life dependent on them via The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. Her daughter Atlee is pictured above as ‘The Martian’.

Christine is co-founder and president of Mad Dog Expeditions an exploration and adventure consulting company. She is a polar underwater explorer and was the first woman to scuba dive in the arctic waters of the Northwest Passage and has been awarded the Brazilian Navy League’s Medal of Honor for her work in the discovery of the WWII submarine,  USS R-12 on which two Brazilian officers are entombed. She serves as director of non profit Ocean Outreach which promotes conservation, education and exploration of our oceans. She is a Fellow of both the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The Solar Impulse

This year’s recipient of the Explorers Club Medal, Bertrand Piccard is the initiator and visionary behind Solar Impulse, the very first airplane capable of flying perpetually without fuel. Taking turns at the controls with Andre Borschberg for the first flight around the world on solar power, his ambition is to leverage pioneering spirit for a useful contribution to the cause of renewablele energies. This is why he spent the last 15 years bring together the major partners providing technologies and funds for this adventure. Together with his wife Michele, he conceived the Solar Impulse project as a now widely recognized platform to raise public awareness and encourage political actions in favor of team technologies and energy efficiency.

Professor Green

George Elvin, wearing a Celtic Bolo Tie, is the Director of Architecture for Extreme Environments at Ball State University.

His research and teaching focuses on emerging design strategies and technologies for green building. His current emphasis is on the Architecture of Extreme Environments. This project takes students to some of the world’s most extreme environments to develop design strategies that can help us adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

The Norwegian Connection

Tina Aga & Janne Lillehagen – Members of the Norwegian Chapter of the Explorers Club, wearing handmade northwest Norwegian National Suits, parts of which are over 100 years old. They are involved in arctic exploration, arctic history and ski adventures, with the occasional jaunt to Iran and other regions, where, as Janne remarks ‘there is no culture for cross country skiing, instead we walked for 10 days, exploring crazy mountains with lots of wildlife and the occasional wolf encounter’.

Sir Fiennes

This year’s Keynote Speaker, Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. Serving the Sultan of Oman, he received that country’s Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic Regions.
In 1993, Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE). On the way to breaking records, he has also raised over £14 million for charity.
Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions, including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth. In 2003, he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2008 he become the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.
In his new book Fear, the world’s greatest explorer delves into his own experiences and those of others to try and explain what fear is and how we feel it.



Recipient of The Lowell Thomas Award (1986), Ian Koblick pioneered undersea living in the 1970s as an Aquanaut in the Tektite I undersea living project in the Virgin Islands. At the conclusion of Tektite, Ian pressed for a continuation of the program and succeeded in becoming a project manager of Tektite II, while serving as a special Assistant to the Governor of the VI. In that role he helped manage the science missions, including the first all-female crew in an undersea living project.

The Shell Seekers

Wearing headbands and necklaces made from tribal shells from the Trobriand Islands  of Papua New Guinea and wearing Missoni (obviously), oncologists Dajana Cesic and Noemi Rosa fully embraced the spirit of the evening.

The Coyote

Karlena Barbosa – archeologist and Explorers Club Member since 2011 specializes in ancient & modern alcohol. She did not mind when I snatched the Coyote off her head (with assurances that ‘Fred’ had been dead a very long time and was acquired after a fatal encounter with an Iowan mountain man protecting his farmland) and wore it to shoot while she stood in line for her turn to be photographed.

The next generation

Rebecca Moran is a chef at CIA and Emerson graphic designer at SVA. Their excitement and interest in exploration shines through.

The Rangers

Ian, Flor, Peter & Lori-Anne, part of Ellis Island’s legendary troop of Rangers.

The Master of Diversity

This year’s Master of Ceremonies, Wade Davis is Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and is currently a member of the NGS Explorers Council. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.”

The Voyager

Recipient of this year’s Explorers Club Medal, Nainoa Thompson is the President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a master int he traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigation. Inspired by his kupana (his teachers) he has dedicated his life to exploring the deep meaning of ‘voyaging’. Among many other important mentors, Yosio Kawano took him at an early age to tide pools to explore the mysteries of the inshore ocean; Herb Kane introduced him to the stars his ancestors sed to navigate great ocean distances; and pwo navigator Mau Piailug taught him to see the natural signs he would use to guide a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe.

The Badass Miracle Worker

Founder of the Himalayan Stove Project, George Basch is dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people living there. The project provides clean-burning, fuel-efficient cook stoves as replacements to traditional stoves or open-fire pits which cause unsafe levels of indoor air pollution and use excess fuel.


Backdrops: Violet Oliphant O’Neill

With thanks to Hunter Arthur, Alex Schaefer, Chaunna Michole, Agata Domanska, Carolina Antorim, Theodore Collatos, Christine Dennison, Ariel Field, Katie Losey, Bill & Sharyn Runyon, Eric Zember, Will Roseman, Mary-Anne Potts, William Haviland and everyone else at the club.

Explorers Club Annual Dinner 2016
Explorers Club Annual Dinner 2015