The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

red divider

Stephen Dutton, MN-98, and Heidi Tiura

In the Path of Giants

Gray Whale tagging program in Monterey Bay

DINNER MEETING - Friday, April 24, 1998

Click for Calendar of future events

  • 6:00 PM, Business meeting
  • 6:30 PM, Cocktails
  • 7:30 PM, Dinner
  • 8:30 PM, Speaker
  • $40.00 each ($45 after April 17, and at the door)

    red divider

    Hauling kayak


    Stephen Dutton, MN-98, and his wife, Heidi Tiura, a master ship captain, will describe their five year project utilizing sea kayaks as the primary research vessels to study the life cycle and the annual 12,000 mile migration of the gray whales, from the lagoons of Baja California, where they give birth and breed, to their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Dutton's and Tiura's research is performed in the open ocean, rather than the quiet waters of Baja. They have developed a unique and fascinating presentation utilizing photos taken with a head-mounted camera, and a short video.
    2 Kayakers

    Two in 3-person Kayak

    This Month's Program

    Up to now the vast majority of gray whale research has been conducted in Baja, where the whales are easily approachable. The open ocean is another story. There the whales don't seem interested in human contact and are not easily approached [for tagging].

    Dutton and Tiura have developed a technique using three-person sea kayaks to approach whales in open water. Maneuvering the kayak close to the whales, they utilize the ability of an experienced cross-bow archer to shoot a time/depth recorder (cost $2500 apiece) harmlessly into the skin of the whale. Tiura monitors the process from a 26-foot research and documentation vessel, the Sea Dog, positioned a short distance away.

    Dutton, who lost a leg in 1978 while serving as a professional firefighter, has refused to let the disability dictate his life. He and Heidi met in 1994, while sea kayaking off Monterey, Calif., on a stormy winter day. Spellbound by the spectacle of the 70,000 pound giants swirling past them like waterborne freight trains, they planned then and there to combine their paddling interests and skills for research to help answer questions about gray whale navigation, the extent of their dives, and how mothers protect calves from predators.

    The Dutton/Tiura project is under the supervision of Jim Harvey, Ph.D., a gray whale expert and professor at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories of San Jose State University. Harvey represented the US during the rescue of three gray whales marooned by Arctic Ice near Barrow, Alaska, in 1988.

    The Speakers' project, named "In the Path of Giants," is covered by Harvey's proximity permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Their story is embellished with slides and a 12-minute video which was shot with a camera positioned atop Steph's head. Their effort eventually will be the subject of a full-length documentary, and presently interacts with schoolchildren through their Web site, Financial support is still needed for this long-term project. "This isn't a two month climb of Everest and then its done. We'll spend years on this project, and on talking about it to schools, the media, and over the Internet," says Dutton. (For more information, contact: Steph Dutton, (408) 644-8250, or )

    Kokatat and Gore are major sponsors of this work.

    Last Month's Program

    Tom Hall, FN-97, and Liz McLoughlin were the highlight speakers at the March meeting, recounting their experiences with three long-distance sailing expeditions. Tom explained that whereas most such talks center on issues of "how much," "how far," "how long," etc., their discussion would emphasize "how do or did I feel about this?" Tom began by saying he had "always" wanted to take a long-distance sail, while Liz had just completed ten years as a member of the Trauma Foundation at San Francisco General Hospital (with emphasis on psychic trauma), and was ready for a time away and a new adventure. The two had been introduced, liked each other, but were not sure how they would adjust to close proximity for the several months it would take to reach their destination, which was, ultimately, New Zealand.

    Tom and Liz briefly discussed their provisioning for a transpacific cruise. Because they would be stopping in Hawaii and Pago Pago at least, they were able to carry some fresh provisions. Kept in the coolest part of the hold, potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, and even eggs (if turned daily) will not spoil in the three to four weeks between landfalls. Liz soon learned that paper bags could not be stored aboard a boat, as cockroach eggs are carried in their folds. In the warm humid environment of the storage lockers of a boat in the Pacific, the eggs soon hatch, leading to a cockroach infestation. A solar generator was carried, but did not function, so the voyage was made without refrigeration. The boat was equipped with a mechanical auto-pilot, but one person remained on watch at all times during the night times. This paid off when, about 1000 miles offshore from Seattle, the night watch found another sailboat bearing down on them about 1 AM, with no-one awake aboard. After much hailing, and as they passed by closely, the crew of the Alter Ego, the Hall's boat, was finally able to arouse the crew of the other vessel. The first leg of the trip, to Hawaii, was made with a crew of four (another couple), the second leg, Hawaii to Pago Pago, was made with only two, and the last leg, to Bay of Islands, New Zealand, was made with a crew of six.

    At times when there was not much activity needed, the crew members traded tales of their previous lives, starting nearer the US with their childhood stories, and moving on, through the western Pacific to their teen years and on into adulthood. By the time of landfalls, each crew member was quite familiar with his or her crew mates. As for clothing to wear aboard a sailing vessel in the center of the Pacific, and in good weather, the answer was "none". The crew in such proximity soon overcame the false modesty of clothing.

    As to the most common health risk of a sailor at sea, it is known as "S.W.A." (ask someone who attended). Tom described the most common state of a sailor going overboard, which is with his fly open. Reason: sailor (male) goes to leeward rail to relieve himself, opens fly, forgets to hold on tightly to a sheet or rail, and a sudden pitch tosses him overboard. The crew of the Alter Ego often trailed a long line off the stern, particularly when winds were down, so that they could swim about the boat, and always catch the line at the stern if the boat drifted on.

    On arriving in New Zealand, Tom and Liz both found jobs and lived there for two years before returning to the US. They sold the boat in New Zealand. Three years after arriving back in the US Liz and Tom, perceiving that they finally knew each other well enough, married.

    The Hall's next trip was to go around Cape Horn on a chartered vessel three years ago. After flying to Ushuaia, at the tip of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), they set out through the Beagle Channel. There they met winds of up to 80 knots and seas of over 30 feet. It was apparent they would not be able to round the Horn, as many others had found before them. Without a forecast for abating weather they made the decision to return to shelter on the closest island. There they climbed a rise, from which they could easily view the Horn, 11 miles away. The land is extremely desolate, bare of trees, ground spongy underfoot. At that point they settled for their close look and returned to Ushuaia.

    Their last trip, made one year ago, was from Easter Island to Pitcairn Island and on to the Marquesas. Tom described Pitcairn as a remarkably small island, only two miles by one, with only two potential landing sites, and often impossible to land on. The highest point on the island is 1100 feet, and most of the shoreline is cliffs. The number of inhabitants has dwindled to only about 50 now, and the youngest child is 8 years old. Tom estimates that within 10 years, or at the most 20, the descendants of the original Bounty mutineers will have left the island. Trade has fallen off very sharply in recent years, since there is very little that the inhabitants can "trade" for their needed supplies. Ships now call at Pitcairn Island only rarely.

    This account of long-distance sailing was hailed as one of the most honest and interesting many have heard, as it was told by the two most practical, though obviously self-sufficient, people to have lived it.


    Heidi at the helm

    News From Members

    Mort Beebe, FN-78 , and Danielle announce that they have entered the 26-mile speed-walking "marathon," to take place in Anchorage, Alaska, on June 20, 1998, to raise money for the Leukemia Society of America. Mort and Danielle are busily getting in shape for this event, which requires that they raise $5.800 for the Leukemia Society as part of their participation. Mort reports that of every dollar donated, at least $0.75 will go toward leukemia research and care, particularly for bone marrow transplants which are so costly for patients. The Beebe's are now seeking support donations. By now Northern California Chapter members should have received mailings from Mort and Danielle with "sponsor" forms, and the Chapter will be interested to hear reports on the progress of their preparations at its next meetings.

    Mort Beebe introduced his guest at the March Chapter meeting, John Joss, well-known writer and publisher. John's claim to Explorers fame is that he was the first journalist to have flown in the U2 aircraft, in 1966.

    David Moorer reports for the Illa Tiki Expedition that plans are now being readied to leave from Ecuador in July, 1998, for Acapulco, thence to Hawaii, and on west.

    Steve Smith, FN-96, reports that his project to assess the health of the reefs of Kosrae is now set to start in April. He will report on the project's findings and his part in them after his return.

    Bill Kruse, MN-92, and Gail, were unable to be present because they were attending the Exotics Encounters of the ECAD at the very time our Northern California Chapter was meeting. On their return from New York they will have a first-hand report on the ECAD festivities. To the knowledge of the Northern California Chapter, they were the only ECAD attendees this year.

    The Northern California Chapter should be proud of its Newsletter: The latest (Jan.-March, 1998) issue of the Explorers Newsletter extracted over 850 words taken from the February issue of our own Chapter Newsletter, essentially one full page. This was by far the largest Chapter extract in that issue.



    Plans are moving forward rapidly for the Golden GateAway on October 16-17, 1998. The first mailing has gone out.

    Lesley Ewing, who has responsibility for the Silent Auction at the Exotics Event, Friday evening, asks that you begin looking around yourselves for any appropriate (and maybe not so appropriate) potential auction items. Here is her request:

    All proceeds from the Silent Auction at the Golden GateAway Exotics evening will go to the Dan Reid Memorial Scholarship Fund. The Golden GateAway is looking for auction items. No item is too big, none too small for the auction. A trip for two to Tonga? A shoelace from your first Everest ascent?---books, beverages, artifacts, photographs, equipment, curios (such as prehistoric Arctic ice, or moon dust), or even services (such as a free taxidermy lesson). For large items we will gladly set a minimum bid, return this minimum to you and keep any amount donated above that for the Scholarship Fund. All donations are tax deductible. Please contact Lesley Ewing at home, (510) 527-7899, or leave a message, with your auction ideas.

    Steph and Heidi


    From SF: Over GG Bridge, staying right, follow signs to I-580 and #24. Take 24 off from 580, toward Walnut Creek. Thru Caldecott tunnel, pass Orinda, take exit Pleasant Hill South. Left at 1st signal, and again left at next, on to Mt. Diablo Blvd. Continue west approximately 1/4 mile. to Hotel on left. Hotel is visible from #24 freeway before going off at Pleasant Hill Rd.

    From Concord and Walnut Creek: Take I-680 south to #24, west. Off at Pleasant Hill exit South, loop under Freeway, turn rt. on Mt. Diablo Blvd. Continue west. about 1/4 mile to Hotel on left.

    From SJ: I-680 North, past San Ramon, connect to #24 West, toward Oakland. Take Pleasant Hill exit South, loop under freeway, right onto Mt. Diablo Blvd. Continue west about one fourth mile to Hotel on left.


    May 29, 1998: Art Ford, Antarctic Adventures, Garden Court Hotel, Palo Alto. This is the Peninsula Event and starts off with yet another garden party at Dan and Rusty Liebowitz's house in Woodside

    June 27, 1998: Summer outing and party. at Angel Island

    Coupon for this month's Northern California meeting

    Please Return By April 14, 1998 To:

    Charlie Geraci
    The Explorers Club
    Northern California Chapter.
    600 Knoll Drive
    San Carlos, CA 94070
    Charlie's phone: (650) 593-3922 (h)

    Please reserve spaces for the Dutton/Tiura talk, at the Lafayette Park Hotel on Friday, April 24, 1998.

    $40/person... $45 if postmarked after April 17. Cocktails, 6:30 PM, Dinner, 7:30 PM, Speaker, 8:30 PM.

    Your Name: _______________________________________

    Your Address: _____________________________________


    Guests: ______________________________________

    Date created: 04/02/1998
    Last modified: 11/2/2004
    Content from Charlie (Chapter Secretary) and Louise Geraci. email to Charlie and Louise
    Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club. email to Mike

    Back to The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter Home Page