Local explorers comb world’s oceans, deserts, mountains

Posted: 08/30/2011 in all marine news

Mike Lee –

Even in utero, marine researcher Brent Stewart was on the move — and he hasn’t stopped since.

Conceived in Florida, Stewart was born 56 years ago in Alaska, then raised as an Air Force brat in Morocco and France before graduating from high school in Spain.

Today, he keeps a desk at the nonprofit Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute that overlooks Mission Bay, but he’s much more likely to be in the Channel Islands. Or Greenland. Or West Papua. Or Antarctica.

His globe-trotting has a goal. Stewart tracks various marine creatures in hopes of documenting their travels and ultimately conserving the species by protecting vital habitats. He and two other researchers from San Diego will be honored in October by the Explorers Club with an award shared over the years by some of the most famous names in exploration, including Carl Sagan, Sir Edmund Hillary and Wally Schirra.

Based in New York, the Explorers Club counts about 70 in San Diego County among its 3,100 members worldwide. It was founded in 1904 to give adventurers a place to share their triumphs and trials with peers, a function it retains even though the concept might seem outdated in the 21st Century.

Members must contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, either with a discovery or adding knowledge about a discovery. A few of them, including Stewart, pack one or more of the club’s 202 numbered flags on their journeys as they stake new claims for science.

San Diego boasts one of the most active chapters in the world, in part because of the oceanographic trendsetters at UCSD who figure prominently into the history of exploration.

“When the club was initially founded, it was to define the map,” said international club President Lorie Karnath, who splits her time between New York, Berlin and Normandy, France, when she’s not on an expedition. “Today I feel the stakes are much higher because we are working to balance and preserve and sustain our planet. … You still have all the excitement and thrill of exploration, but you also have a very important purpose.

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