Erin Pettit is a glaciologist. Indeed, that means she studies glaciers.
But she’s not on an ice sheet in Antarctica or a glacier in Alaska. Instead, she’s inside the National Building Museum enjoying a glass of wine, which she says is “excellent.” Pettit is one of the many National Geographic “explorers” who was honored at the Explorer’s Symposium and Gala Thursday night, which coincided with the organization’s 125-year anniversary.
Special awards were presented to James Cameron, Alex Trebek, BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner, philanthropist Howard Buffet and oceanographer Sylvia Earle.
Pettit said the event was “pretty amazing” because all the other explorers there had crazy ideas that they pursued, like herself. After designing hybrid cars for three years, Pettit moved on to study glaciers and has recently began researching a method that uses acoustics.
“I’m one of those people who has crazy ideas in my head all the time,” Pettit said.
Baumgartner is another one of those people with crazy ideas. In October of last year, he set the world record for skydiving when he jumped from 24 miles above the Earth and was the first human to break the sound barrier in free fall.
At the event’s reception Thursday night, however, Baumgartner had both feet on the ground, wearing a tuxedo instead of the Red Bull plastered flight suit he wore when he jumped to fame as he sipped on some type of blue drink.
“It’s cool, it’s very refreshing,” Baumgartner said of the beverage.
The rest of the crowd was also in tuxes and elegant gowns.
The organization even served its own wine, “Ocean Reserve,” and had a model of the submarine that Cameron used when diving to the deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, along with plenty of drinks and a massive bar.