Homeward Bound

Stephen Quinn
December 12, 2010 share

Dec 10th  - Homeward Bound - Jeff and I are sitting here in the airport in Amsterdam waiting for our flight. We are spent and can’t wait to get home to see our families and sleep for the weekend.

The whole expedition feels like it was a dream. I feel so humbled to have had the opportunity to go where I have, seen what I’ve seen, and experienced all that we have over the last three weeks.

I hope you all know that my greatest fear was that I couldn't locate the diorama site. I felt fairly sure we could find Akeley’s grave but finding the diorama site in that vast forest that might have changed in the 85 years since Leigh did his original sketch was a concern. After all the commitments, planning, and resources devoted to this AFC Expedition I just COULD NOT come home without finding it.

I must say that Jeff Whiting is the most supportive and committed expedition companion I have ever traveled with. As the search on Mount Mikeno went on into multiple days and nights (it was only supposed to be one overnight on the mountain) Jeff totally supported my realization that we must stay to succeed and shared fully in the commitment to do so. I am indebted to him and to all the Artists for Conservation Foundation staff – Yasaman Whiting, Bill Whiting, Diane Whiting, Ken Whiting and our videographer extraordinaire, Will Richardson -  thank you all sincerely.

For Emanuel deMerode, Innocent Mburanumwe, Sekibibi Bareke Desire, Sebehame Nzarubara, Harerimana Sengabo, all the ICCN staff and all the Rwandan and Congolese patrols that helped us in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reach our goal.

To all the folks at the Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Foundation – Mike Cranfield, Jan Ramer, Jaques Iyanya, Jean Felix Kinani, Jean -Paul, Eddie. Mike I hope your mission in Uganda with the ensnared young gorilla is successful and safe. When you can please send us a note regarding it's well being as we are all waiting to hear.

A VERY special and sincere thank you to Molly Feltner and Julie Ghrist who jumped in last minute and served us as cameramen and videographers. We could not have accomplished what we did without you. Julie, I hope your blistered heels are healing.

To Kat Combes, Guy Combes, and Murray Combes – for sharing Soysambu with us and showing us a Kenya that is part of your family heritage and pride. Much success with Soysambu.

To Lord and Lady Delemere for your hospitality to us and for your dedication to wildlife conservation on Soysambu and in Africa.

To Collin Church for your hospitality and in appreciation for your dedicated work with Rhino Ark.

For all our supporters at the American Museum especially Lewis Bernard, David Harvey, Melissa Posen, and Mike Novacek, and Tom Slade.

For the support of the Explorer’s Club. It has been an honor, as a new member to carry the Explorer’s Club Flag and honor Carl Akeley at his grave as a past president.

For the support of the Houston Zoo.

For the support of the “One Health” program of the University of California at Davis.

And more than anyone thanks to my bride Linda and my two kids Tom and Claire. I know, in her heart, Linda was not excited about my going camping in a region of Congo where only months ago there was active rebel activity, but she knew how much it meant to me and knew I had to go. More than anyone, she earns my dearest thanks, love and respect.

 I’m sorry, at this point in the trek if I’ve forgotten anyone. When I get home I will correct and update, but I hope you understand I just had to send out a thank you while I’m still high from the adventure.

And finally, this trip is not over. Jeff and I will now take this unique application of art in the service of science and conservation to a larger audience. No longer can visitors view the grand dioramas at the American Museum believing that the scenes these exhibits depict are untouched Edens. The paintings and sketches we are bringing back demonstrate the environmental changes that have occurred at these locations in the 85 years since Akeley's last visit.  Due to Akeley and the dedicated diorama artists of the American Museum over the years, these works of art can now serve as environmental litmus tests and tell us a story that we must learn before it’s too late. Will these exhibits serve only as a record of a world before we as a species destroy it?? Or will we heed Akeley and his artist teams message and treasure the splendor, beauty and deeper meaning of the biological diversity and value that they so wonderfully portray?

We will also do all we can to tell the stories of all of the wonderful wildlife conservation organizations and individuals who, so generously, took the time to help us. You are the dedicated individuals who sacrifice so much on the front line of this critical effort against, sometimes, overwhelming odds, with little resources. Bottom line is that this story should assist you in your efforts or our expedition was meaningless.

 Thank you, AFC, for this wonderful expedition and journey. I pray, for us all, that you succeed in your mission and may all your individual members embrace it and make it theirs as well.

Sincerely,

Steve Quinn

Mission completed – to be continued.

 

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