Fredrick Gary Hareland is an experienced merchant mariner and a recreational mariner who currently works for the Navy and writes the ON marine electronics newsletter. Hareland had the opportunity to attend the West Coast branch of the Explorer's Club April dinner meeting at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif. The dinner commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking and honored a long time National Geographic photographer and explorer. The group also heard from film director and explorer James Cameron about his recent trip exploring the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the world's oceans. Here is Gary's account of the evening.
"Sunday evening April 15, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, my wife Thelma, youngest daughter Amber and I had the privilege of attending the third annual Explorers Club West Coast Dinner.
"This was a black-tie affair, and I was forced to rent and wear a tux for the third time in my life! The event was held at the Bowers Museum in downtown Santa Ana and was really an awards
ceremony to bestow on Emory Kristof the third annual Ralph B White Memorial Award for Oceanographic Exploration and Conservation of the Seas. Kristoff is a pioneer of the innovative, high-tech underwater photography using robot cameras and remotely operated vehicles that enabled Robert Ballard to discover the Titanic wreck site in 1985.
"It was Kristof’s iconic photos of Titanic that were featured in the pages of the National Geographic, for which he worked from 1963 until 2001 when he was named a contributing photographer-in-residence.
"In keeping with Titanic’s special anniversary, the dinner theme was “A Night To Remember” and our dinner menu was right off of the ship’s First-Class menu. I will not bore you by going into the delicious details of our two-course meal that night, but it was a meal my palate will remember.
"After dinner we gathered in the museum’s Norma Kershaw Auditorium where Explorers Club President Alan Nichols and former recipient Dr. Don Walsh presented Kristof with his well-earned award. Kristof then gave an excellent acceptance speech illustrated with some of his more famous underwater photographs.
"Pointing to a photo that shows where a wall now no longer exists, Kristof said it reminds us that even now Titanic is rusting away and being absorbed by the ocean. She will not always be there for us to observe and study.
"For me the climax of the evening came when famed “Titanic” director James Cameron related intimate details of his recent history-making dive down to the Challenger Deep at 36,000 feet. Accompanying him in the cramped pressure sphere of the deep diving research vehicle, Deepsea Challenger, was Explorers Club Flag #161, which had previously been carried to the top of Mount Everest and which now has been to the deepest spot on earth.
"The Explorers Club decided to retire the flag to be displayed at the club’s New York headquarters, along with other flags commemorating members’ remarkable adventures.
"Cameron said he had been surprised by how many people asked him why he decided to go to the deepest spot on earth; that night he was glad to be with a group of people who already know the answer.
"Aside from the scientific aspects of his foray into the abyss, he has a real explorer’s mindset and feels compelled to explore where he has never gone before. So deepseated is his explorers curiosity that in the near future he will take a trip to the moon onboard a Russian-modified Soyuz spacecraft — but that’s another story.
"The fitting culmination to this centennial memorial celebration was the tolling of a ship’s bell by Cameron, his wife actress Suzy Amis Cameron and underwater cinematographer Ralph B. White’s granddaughter Kaia Few. The bell was tolled 10 times — once for every decade since the disaster — in memory of the 1,500 souls lost on the Titanic.
"Cameron tolled the bell twice more for two of his filming friends, Mike de Gruy and Andrew Wight, who were recently killed in a helicopter crash in Australia. Suzy Amis Cameron tolled the bell once for fellow actress, the late Gloria Stuart who played the old Rose Dawson in the movie Titanic.
After the tolling of the bell for the recently deceased White by his granddaughter, the evening was capped off by a poignant rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” by Flautist Linda White. Truly it was a night to remember!
Originally published in the Ridgecrest, Calif. News Review.