A giant brass bell tolled in a dark mahogany stairway as explorers young and old chanted “Earle – Earle – Earle – Earle,” their candles flickering. Dr. Sylvia Earle led guests to their seats in front of a roaring “Great Fire of Exploration” and took her seat at the front of the room. This ritualistic procession is not an everyday occurrence at the Explorers Club – New York’s legendary gathering place for researchers of land, sea, air, and space. Friday night’s tribute ceremony marked a very special opportunity for the club to honor Dr. Earle as one of its most beloved and accomplished members – and the first woman to receive this distinction, paving the way for female explorers in the Explorers Club and beyond.
Once seated with candles extinguished, the crowd grew silent as Faanya Rose – the club’s first female president – opened the tribute ceremony with a humorous and touching speech that compared Dr. Earle’s career to a tootsie pop because “it goes on and on.” Then, one by one, each member gave a heartfelt toast to Sylvia Earle and dashed their cognac snifter into the flames. The packed house included the President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, numerous Mission Blue board members, Ocean Elders founder Gigi Brisson, underwater photographer David Doubilet, and Dr. Earle’s daughter Gale Mead. Earle acknowledged this stream of reverent tributes with an inspiring speech about how every person can make a difference for the ocean if they keep their minds open and never stop asking questions – never stop exploring. The evening concluded with a screening of the Mission Blue film and a Q&A with Dr. Earle.