Interview with David Concannon

David Concannon, Vice President for Flag & Honors of The Explorers Club, visited the board of U-Boat Navigator in June 2015, with the group of technical divers from the US and Italy, in order to dive and explore the famous wreck of HMHS Britannic. The group of scientists consisting of Richie Kohler, Michael Barnette, Evan Kovacs, and Edoardo Pavia were already on board, researching “Britannic” for a future “big project” and discussing the potential collaboration with U-Boat.

Before all divers surface back, they still have to undergo more than 3 hours of decompression, only then we can meet with them on board. While we are waiting, we have asked David Concannon some questions.

:: What are your feelings about this dive?

David: I feel excited. We were not certain that we could even dive today, as weather and sea conditions were very challenging, as usual, especially for divers diving to “Britannic”… I don’t know yet, what they have found and what they have seen, but I surely know, they are safe now, as they are on the way back, and is the most important thing for me.

It’s a big and important thing for us, because the last time they made this dive, we lost our good friend (Carl Spencer, who was one of the world’s most accomplished deep wreck diver, he died in a diving accident during an underwater filming mission exploring the “Britannic” in May 2009).

Any exploration experience is a mystery, you never know, what are you going to find…. I hope, that Richie, and Evan, and Mike, and Edoardo, come up, full of new information, but I am just happy to see that they did the successful dive and that we have met great people, who had made it easy.

:: You are Vice President for Flag & Honors of The Explorers Club, what does it mean to you?

David: When I became a member of the Explorers Club with three thousand members around the world, and I was among the 10 youngest in the world, that was nearly 20 years ago, I could only dream about my heroes – Ernest Shackelton, Sir Edmund Hillary, Don Walsh, Neil Armstrong.
And now to be a leader, to be in charge of the process of overseas expeditions going in the field, deciding, which expedition is good, and what exploration should be done, it is not just an adventure – it is a great responsibility. I am proud to be in this position. I have good people in my team: Astronauts, mountain climbers… I had a woman on the team, with most summits to the Everest ever made; another member – an American astronaut spent most time in space, he also climbed the Everest, Don Walsh, and many others – we are international group, excellent group of real explorers.

:: Your job is to choose from various projects, which one to support?

David: That’s correct. The Explorers Club flag has a very long history, and it signifies a legitimate exploration. Explorers Club is worldwide, international, not purely American organization, and saying that, you have to keep in mind, that the flag has gone to the Moon, оn every Polar mission, to the deepest point on Earth and to both Poles of our planet.

We choose members who apply for the privilege of carrying the Flag, and the committee looks at each application and decides, which is worth and which is not. The standards are very high quality to enrich the strong, legitimate exploration. For instance, expedition to the North Pole in the MIRs was a Flag Expedition. Some are not so legitimate, as they are adventurous, some are just stunts. Because, when you are the first to do something, it does not mean, that it has to legitimate. This is the first purpose of the Flag & Honors Committee. The second is – we recommend explorers to be honored for their achievements by The Explorers Club.

Being Vice President for Flag & Honors, I see amazing things, amazing applications of the field science.

:: Does “Flag” mean some financial support, or advice to some other structures to provide financial support?

David: It means both. The Club does provide financial support for expeditions, and advice for explorers, advice for logistic, medicine, science, to other committees and advisory boards within the club, to make Flag Expedition available.

Technically we do not look into grants; financial applications go to another committee, which works in collaboration with us. We look at one piece of an application, the others – at another, we then discuss it together and make a final decision. After it has been made, a report to the Board of Directors is being filed – this is the general procedure.

::Say some words about this expedition.

David: This expedition is exciting, because it organised in cooperation with U-Boat group and Russian Geographical Society, the Greek government is also involved, making it an international expedition, we have all came together to assist each other in exploration of the “Britannic”, in filming unique shots and learning more about it. As one hundred year anniversary of its sinking is coming soon, and the public is fascinated about it, we are doing things, that very few people in the world have opportunities to do, but many millions of people are interested, so we can share that. That’s the purpose of the expedition. And we all have the same goal.

::Do you know the team of divers well? The one is in the diving bell now.

David: Yes! We are all friends. We have been friends for many years. From diving. I knew Richie Cohler; he is a very prominent diver in the United States, he is a subject of very known book “Shadow Divers”, so I knew him by reputation. I took him to the “Titanic” ten years ago, and we became friends. Good friends. We ride motorcycles together, travel together, and we talk. We share stories about being fathers and husbands, and challenges of our days.
Evan is a little brother to us. He is a genius, but he is our little brother. He has a baby boy, 1,5 years old. You know, we take care of each other.
And Mike, we have known him by the reputation for a long time. He is a scientist; he does extraordinary things. Edoardo from Italy, he also has a very extraordinary reputation, he is an admirable person, very reliable, with no ego, and that is very important. Right now, they are trusting the other persons their lives as if one person makes a mistake; everybody pays for it. Put together the team is very important, and I am very-very happy, that they are coming back safely.