June 7, 2011

Michael Palin giving award to Dr. Earle
Photo by Lis Parham

The rain cleared away, the skies brightened and nearly 300 guests arrived heralding a magical evening at the awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Sylvia, a long-time Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, was there to be honoured with the highest award that can be bestowed. It was back in April of this year that Sylvia was made aware that Her Majesty The Queen had approved the award to her of the Patron’s Medal of the Society for the encouragement, development and promotion of ocean science and exploration.

Dr. Earle with Patron’s medal
Photo by Lis Parham

This is one of the Society’s two Gold Medals which are the most prestigious medals awarded and one of the world’s highest accolades in geography. Previous recipients include Captain Sir James Clarke Ross (as in ‘The Ross Sea’), Henry Morton Stanley (as in ‘Dr Livingstone I presume’), Edward Whymper, Commander Robert Scott (Scott of the Antarctic), Captain Roald Amundsen, HSH The Prince of Monaco, and more recently Sir Edmund Hillary and Professor Lord Nicholas Stern.

The medal was presented by the President of the RGS, Michael Palin, and afterwards Sylvia gave a truly inspirational speech about the ocean. This focussed on how much had changed in so few years but the undeniable fact that now is the time for a new era in ocean exploration, to increase the known from less than 5% to much more of the blue heart of the planet. Sylvia then joined guests afterwards for a reception.

From left to right: Dan Laffoley, Sylvia Earle, Michael Palin, Craig Thompson
Photo by Dan Laffoley

Sylvia was accompanied by Craig Thompson, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority, and by Dan Laffoley, Board Member of Sylvia’s Foundation and also Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, and Senior Advisor, Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN.

-Account by Dan Laffoley 

More Background: The RGS promotes geographical research and education in England and beyond. They offer resources, expeditions, affect policy, and hold one of the leading collections that covers over 500 years of geographical science. The tradition of granting awards originated in 1831 with King William IV. Now, the Society gives fifteen awards annually—though the gold medals, the Patron’s medal (which Sylvia Earle now holds) and the Founder’s medal, are the two highest accolades. Learn more about the 2011 awards here.

Behind the scenes: learning about RGS history
Photo by Dan Laffoley

See the Official Royal Geographical Society Press Release

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