Founded in 1904, The Explorer’s Club is a professional society dedicated to scientific explorations and field studies. The pinnacle of human achievements are represented among the long list of member accomplishments, places its flags have been planted – and they surely don’t let just anyone in. For David DeBerard, membership at a young age was like throwing rocket fuel onto an already adventurous lifestyle for which he’s extremely thankful. Bouncing full-throttle from one white-capped breaker to the next, we cover a lot of fun and interesting topics including why you’re never the coolest person at Explorer’s Club dinners; a dive that quickly commanded the US Navy’s fullest attention; discovering an iconic piece of American history that landed him into the Explorer’s Club; records won and lost; one of the most abundant sharks on earth that lives thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface and for which virtually nothing is known–until now; making your own luck; and why you absolutely never, ever, bring bananas onto a boat! Absolutely some of the coolest subjects I’ve ever discussed in a duck blind!
Pushing the Boundaries of Science and Human Exploration
…it’s a worldwide club started in 1904 with a group of guys that wanted to get together and kind of build on each other’s experiences to make scientific discoveries and go on fun trips with a good purpose.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I’m in South Africa. You know, I’ve always told you, I meet the dang most interesting people when I travel, I’ve been down here for, I don’t know, a little over a week and have heard more stories, more trivia, more cool and interesting stuff that I’ve never heard of while in the duck blind between the brief volleys, it’s just been amazing. Today’s guest, David DeBerard, hope I got that right, David. And we’ve had a great time down here. David, welcome to South Africa, I can’t believe this is your first trip to South Africa?
David DeBerard: First time on the dark continent, loving it.
Ramsey Russell: But not your last.
David DeBerard: Definitely not. Already planning next year’s trip.
Ramsey Russell: We were out shooting francolin the other day, I think we were and we stopped and somehow or another we got to talking in a van in between finding the flock of guineafowl is what we were hunting and you brought up a subject, you were telling me about an interesting project you had worked on which led to the Explorer’s Club and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the Explorer’s Club. What the heck is the Explorer’s Club?
David DeBerard: The Explorer’s Club is a club in New York City, it’s based in New York City, it’s a worldwide club started in 1904 with a group of guys that wanted to get together and kind of build on each other’s experiences to make scientific discoveries and go on fun trips with a good purpose. So to get into the club, you have to have done something to have further human knowledge for science’s sake. So past members include Teddy Roosevelt who in the section in the application where it wrote experience, he wrote, the president of the United States and of course his Amazon expedition and other adventures helped, but I always thought that was funny. Other members have been Doctor Sylvia Earle, Ernest Shackleton or sorry, not Ernest Shackleton, Tenzing Norgay, Jeff Bezos.
Ramsey Russell: We know what Jeff Bezos did. I mean, he did kind of change the way humanity shops, I mean, that’s pretty profound. What do some of these other people do?
David DeBerard: Let’s see. William Beebe was the first to go down to the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench. And you think about James Cameron’s expedition and what was that, 2006 and how wild and extreme that seemed. But the first expedition to the bottom of the ocean was in like the 50s or 60s, William Beebe went down in a bathysphere, roughly the size of a small bathtub and all he had was a porthole about 4 inches wide and he had a flashlight to stick and point out of it and they dropped him to the bottom of the ocean. So it’s like you think about these expeditions being new and then you hear that people have actually laid the groundwork way back in the day.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. Who are some of the other people that have been in the club? And I’m leading up to the question, something you said the other day just blew my mind, I never heard of it. Go ahead. Who are some of the other famous people that have been in the club? I’m trying to get my mind wrapped around of what the Explorer’s Club really is.
David DeBerard: Buzz Aldrin’s a member. Let’s see, Jane Goodall is a member. Really, anyone that you can think of that’s pushed the boundaries of science and human exploration was not only a part of the club, but the club was probably behind it. The discovery of the North Pole, the South Pole, the summiting of Mount Everest that original bathysphere trip to the Mariana Trench and the moon landing were all Explorer’s Club flagged expeditions.
Ramsey Russell: As a child, I can remember those three astronauts flying to the moon and slow motion, black and white, planting the American flag and then it’s even an MTV commercial, I mean, everybody knows about, the man on the moon. But there was another flag?
David DeBerard: There was. There was a very small special made Explorer’s Club flag that was in his pocket when he walked on the moon. So that flag is hanging in the upper east side of Manhattan in the clubhouse.
Ramsey Russell: Do you all have a newsletter or annual meetings or what?
David DeBerard: There’s an annual meeting, it’s a lot of fun, people come in from all over the world, it’s become quite the event. Who was it? James Cameron calls it the Oscars of Exploration. So people get awards for what they did in recent years. And then we have like a magazine and most everything from the Explorer’s Club is open to the public. So you’re all interested and you’re in New York City or in Hong Kong or Singapore or South Florida, there’s a chapter and they have events and you can go and watch some of the most incredible people give talks and lectures on what’s going on in the world.
Ramsey Russell: It ain’t no telling what kind of story do you hear.
David DeBerard: All kinds.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. When and how would I attend a meeting like that? Get to hear those presentations.
David DeBerard: Go on the website. And even if you can’t attend in person, they live stream most of them, so they make it very accessible. It is not the hidden dark room kind of club that most people would associate with those names, they make themselves very accessible.
Ramsey Russell: But it’s not an ego trip, is it?
David DeBerard: I don’t think so. I think it’s the opposite. I think once just even applying to the club is so nerve wracking because you’re trying to prove that you’re right up there with all of these people. So no one comes into the room chest beating and if they do, they are shut down very fast because it is truly the one place in the world where you are never the most interesting person in the room. No matter what you have done, there is somebody who has more stories, who’s been more places, who has done something else that will just blow your mind.
Ramsey Russell: That’s some very high cotton. Now, here’s what I’m getting to is, how old are you?
David DeBerard: 31.
Ramsey Russell: 31 years old and you’re in an elite intellectual Human Advancement club with the likes of Jeff Bezos, Teddy Roosevelt, the guy that went to the North Pole, the South pole, the bottom of the ocean, that’s amazing stuff, man. How did you even hear about this? Because I’ve never heard of the Explorer’s Club.
David DeBerard: I’d heard whispers in like high school and did more of a deep dive, but to me it was like the end all be all, like one day I would get into the club like years and years down the road. And I think I kind of didn’t really see it for what it is and it’s not the end. Getting into the club is just the beginning because then you get to network with these people and do more interesting things and go to more interesting places because of it, it’s a stepping stone really.
The Explorer’s Club Clubhouse
I don’t know the story behind those so much in the club is kind of word of mouth, I wish somebody would take it upon themselves and kind of write everything down, it’s a lot of history.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about the first time you walked into – Tell me, I want to hear about the clubhouse, The Explorer’s Club Clubhouse. I thought that was pretty interesting and your first time walking into it.
David DeBerard: The clubhouse is on the upper east side in between these big brownstone mansions in New York City. It was the Singer family estate, so the Singer family invented the Singer sewing machine and now that house belongs to the club, I believe it was the first ever elevator in New York City is in that one or private elevator or something. And no, it’s the oldest operational elevator in New York City, that’s it. And I walk in and this guy just walks up and he goes, you look new, I was like, yeah, oh, I am and he goes great, I’ll give you a personal tour. I was like, that’s great. And he’s walking me through and it just totally blew my mind.
Ramsey Russell: 28,000ft is as big as a shopping mall, I mean, so that must have been a heck of a tour. Walk me through, I walked through the front door, the guy says, man, you look new.
David DeBerard: So I walk through the front door and there’s a big globe, beautiful vintage looking globe and he says this globe was used to plan out the Kon Tiki expedition which proved that people could have immigrated from east to west, from Brazil to the Solomon Islands and those areas. And then you walk around to the bar and the bar is only open on Fridays and Saturdays and right when you look in, there’s two 140lbs elephant tusks.
Ramsey Russell: 140lbs.
David DeBerard: Yeah. True, like super tuskers right in front of the fireplace.
Ramsey Russell: Where did they come from?
David DeBerard: I don’t know, I don’t know the story behind those so much in the club is kind of word of mouth, I wish somebody would take it upon themselves and kind of write everything down, it’s a lot of history.
Ramsey Russell: Somebody needs to write a book about it.
David DeBerard: Yeah. And then you walk up and you walk up the stairs and you’re greeted by this full size, full taxidermy polar bear and then that’s kind of the social area. The first two levels are open to the public, everything beyond that is private for club members. And they have conference rooms and they have a map room, they have a radio room which has a very interesting story. And he’s walking me through and he said, yeah, this conference table is actually the same conference table that Teddy Roosevelt used to map out the Panama Canal as we’re sitting there, I’m like, it’s like walking through a private Smithsonian and everything has a story. There’s flags from all the expeditions from all over the world, I mentioned the radio room, it’s the top floor, you actually have to walk out and around to get to it. But when 9/11 happened, the first thing they did was turn the cell phones off because they didn’t know what was going and that’s like protocol. So you have all these people in total panic pandemonium in New York, they can’t leave and they can’t get word out that they’re okay. And there was a line around the block of people that knew about the radio room and they were using that radio to call out to ham radio, hobbyists all around the country. Hey, my name is so, and so this is my wife’s cell phone number please call her and tell her that I’m okay. So, it’s not just ancient history that’s there, it’s making history as it goes and I think that’s the coolest part is, you walk into a place where infinite optimism exists. In 1896 the director of Patents in the United States was quoted saying everything that’s been invented, that has possibly to be invented has already been invented.
Ramsey Russell: He couldn’t imagine the internet or computers.
David DeBerard: No. And we’re in a time where – sure my generation is too young to explore new planets and too old to explore new lands, but there’s a lot we don’t understand about the world and when you work together with these people, you can kind of just chip away at it.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about the taxidermy. You mentioned the tusks, but there’s some other cool taxidermy in there. Like, I saw a picture of you on your Instagram page, it’s just beautiful game room with Sables and –
David DeBerard: Beautiful. They all came from donations or from expeditions because a lot of people don’t realize that the only understanding we had until cameras were more common was people had to go to the expeditions and kill the animal and have a taxidermy and bring it back and amaze the world.
Ramsey Russell: Animals people never even heard of.
David DeBerard: Right. So you’d go on expedition, find something, no one had ever seen, you’d never read about, so you’d hunt it and then bring it back and show it off.
Ramsey Russell: Like Smithsonian stuff, Teddy Roosevelt did a lot of that stuff.
David DeBerard: Teddy Roosevelt did a lot and I’m sure a lot of the animals in the club are from Teddy. They have the only double tusked elephant skull I think known right now, they have a woolly mammoth tusk hanging above one of the fireplaces, Narwhal horns everywhere, Jaguars, Leopards, everything, it’s really fun.
Ramsey Russell: Now, it’s all that good stuff on the first two floors where I could go take a look at it?
David DeBerard: Oh yeah, there’s some great stuff.
Ramsey Russell: You say it’s one of the few places you’re not the most interesting person and you articulated that differently at lunch the other day, we did a little bry out in the field somebody did something to somebody else, give me an example of that.
David DeBerard: Oh, it’s just you overhear conversations and common question in the club is, oh, what did you do to get into the club? And somebody will be like, oh, well, I disproved the common belief that the monarch butterfly moves from Canada to Mexico twice a year and then the other person will be like, oh, that’s cool, I spent 80 days on the International Space Station and then pin drop.
Ramsey Russell: Well, speaking of butterflies, not everybody goes international, not everybody has to go to the bottom of the ocean or the top of the mountain, somebody got in because of some research they did right there in Central Park, they never left New York.
David DeBerard: They don’t want it to be the – whoever went the farthest, the fastest, it’s whoever can change our thinking and our understanding of the world. There was a member who had, I think she had never left like New York State and she did all of her research on butterflies in Central Park and earned a membership into the club because of it.
Ramsey Russell: What did she prove or study?
David DeBerard: It’s something about migratory patterns of one type of butterfly that was up and down the east coast.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about the potluck dinner.
David DeBerard: The annual dinner used to be, everyone would come together and bring these recipes and foods from all over the world.
Ramsey Russell: So wherever they travel, they just collected a recipe or a way of cooking, I’m in the deep Amazon, I’m in South Africa.
David DeBerard: Yeah. And everybody gets together and that’s when they would tell stories and kind of plan the next big event and now it’s an award ceremony and it’s fully catered and this past year, I think there were 1000 people that attended and the catering now is all invasive species. So, it’s boa constrictor, iguana, monkfish, jellyfish salad, crickets, roaches every creepy crawly, you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll have some cricket croutons, please. You said something back in the past when they were bringing animals, somebody brought something really cool one time.
David DeBerard: So that was an old story in the club, was these people went on expedition somewhere in the Arctic and found a perfectly preserved woolly mammoth and they chopped off the leg and brought us to the club and ate it for dinner. First people –
Ramsey Russell: Thousands of years old.
David DeBerard: In 1300 years to eat woolly mammoth, that was always like the famous story and you can google it about the perfect example of how wild some of these expeditions are and how far out you have to go.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. How old were you when you got in? How long have you been in? How old were you when you got into the Explorer’s club?
Getting a Start in the Explorer’s Club
So, Explorer’s Club, they want you to be very intentional.
David DeBerard: I was 25 when I got in.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, that’s a kid. Tell me about getting in because this is good, start with the plane.
David DeBerard: 2011 growing up in South Florida, there’s a lot of wreckage from World War II that people don’t realize how close World War II got to our soil. There are sunken German U boats, there are sunken American boats, there are all kinds of stuff right off our coast. And we got a tip of an sonar anomaly that he didn’t think anybody had dove, so we jumped in and we get down there and there’s a plane upside down and I was like, man, that’s really cool, we were hoping it was a German U boat, so I was like, yeah, whatever and it was also covered in monofilament, so I just assumed, people knew it was there, people fished it. Then we get up and this guy is just screaming, he thinks we found one of the flight 19 planes which would have put us in the cover of Time magazine.
Ramsey Russell: What is flight 19?
David DeBerard: Flight 19 is one of the examples most people use for the disappearance of the Bermuda triangles. It was a squadron of five planes that disappeared on a Bluebird Day, no May Day, nothing, just poof gone. So people have been looking for that for a while. We took some videos, some photos and we did some research and it was an virgin wreck, nobody had ever seen it before. So we send our findings to the Navy and US Maritime Museum and they write us back, hey, thanks so much for finding this plane, if anything’s changed from when you send us a video to when we dive it next summer, you’ll be charged with trespassing on the grave of an officer and high treason. Because anything that is owned by the US military, no matter where it is in the world is still owned by the US military. So that was exciting.
Ramsey Russell: What the penalty for high treason these days?
David DeBerard: Hanging. It is still a hangable offense. And that was fun, that really got my foot in the door of, you don’t have to go that far. We were two miles out the inland in an area that’s heavily trafficked by boats and divers and we found it, we were the first.
Ramsey Russell: If it wasn’t flight 19, what was the ordinance of that plane that wrecked?
David DeBerard: So, when the Navy dove it and when I say the Navy dove it, they parked a destroyer over it and they used hard hat divers and dove it for, I think two weeks and they could not find any kind of serial number or anything. So, it remained a mystery until like a year or later, the captain of the boat I was on, he got a letter from a guy that said, his late brother told the story that he crashed on a training flight just east of Lake Okeechobee because there was no GPS back then. And as he was going down, a fisherman saw him, so he made a water landing, walked out onto the edge of the wing and got right on the boat and said, never got its feet wet. So we think that was probably it.
Ramsey Russell: So if that didn’t get you into the Explorer’s Club, what did?
David DeBerard: So, Explorer’s Club, they want you to be very intentional. If you’re out on holiday and discover a new species, it’s like, hey, that’s awesome, he didn’t really like, go out, set out to do that. So, that wasn’t quite enough to make me a shoe in for the club. So, took a few years trying to get into the right circles and I was part of an expedition down in Grand Cayman to map an area of the reef that had never been mapped before. But of the 10 day trip, I think we only got to dive like 2 days, it was really rough. So, from there, I was in the airport and a buddy called me and said, hey, how quickly can you get to Nassau, Bahamas? I said pretty quick, I’m in an airport and he’s like, yeah, but you need your dive stuff. And I was like, I happen to have all my dive stuff, I can be there in a couple of hours. So flew there and he told me that he was working with a team from University of Texas and they think they had discovered the Pinta.
Ramsey Russell: The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria.
David DeBerard: Yes, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. And there’s no unequivocal way to prove that that is the Pinta, but in those circles, by all intensive purposes that was the Pinta.
Ramsey Russell: How did it end up down there? That was Christopher Columbus, right?
David DeBerard: That was Christopher Columbus. That was the one ship that they lost. And there were some ideas of where it was but there it is and about 15ft of water.
Ramsey Russell: 15ft of water.
David DeBerard: That’s where most of these wrecks happened. They weren’t on the high seas taking on water, these boats were built to cross the ocean and they were not the kinds of ships that you imagine and see in Pirates of the Caribbean, these boats were small.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, they were tiny.
David DeBerard: I think like 57ft. So you think about a 40 person crew on a boat like that crossing the ocean that is a true adventure.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me what it was like diving down and seeing it, it wasn’t like you see on TV, was it? I mean, like a ship just sitting there.
David DeBerard: No, there are still wrecks that look like that, the Titanic looks very good.
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever seen the Titanic?
David DeBerard: I’ve not, that’s on my list. I know a couple of people that have been, they just finished up expedition two weeks ago to it, which is, I think the 8th time it’s ever been seen since it sank. And, yeah, once you’re there it’s cool, it’s not the ghost ship you would expect but you’re at a site of history. It’s like when you go to a battlefield and you look out and it’s just grass, but you know something happened there. And that was the worst night of those men’s lives and it happened right there and you can see the Balaton and certain pieces of wood were encrusted enough in the coral, so it’s not nearly that big haunting ship that you see. But there still are some like that. Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance was just discovered this year on an Explorer’s Club flagged expedition and the footage that they put out just about broke the internet, it was so cool.
Ramsey Russell: I have no idea what the Endurance was.
David DeBerard: The Endurance was the ship that Shackleton tried to go to the South Pole. And there’s a great book called The Endurance. And that ship was caught in between the ice crushed and sank and because of the water that – because the salinity and the oxygen content and how cold it is, it is perfectly preserved. So they have this ROV footage of them swinging around this old beautiful wooden ship and then on the back clears, if it was written yesterday, it says Endurance just carved into the woods too cool.
Ramsey Russell: You’ll go see it one day.
David DeBerard: I hope to.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You were telling me how this whole thing about the Explorer’s Club started is recently you and Philip here went way down to the bottom of the ocean yourselves for a personal research project. Tell me about this because this is fascinating.
David DeBerard: Yeah. I got linked up with a couple of guys in the club and came up with the idea of tagging 6 gill sharks from –
Ramsey Russell: What kind of shark?
David DeBerard: 6 gills, most sharks have 5 gills, these have 6, hence the name and these sharks are thought to be the most prolific shark in the ocean, meaning there are more of those than any other shark, but we know almost nothing about them because they live truly on the bottom of the ocean. Most of these sharks will never see the light of day in their whole life, they spend their entire life in darkness and –
Ramsey Russell: How deep down?
David DeBerard: Anywhere from 3500 to 1500. And up until then that trip, the way people studied them was they caught them on reel, drug them up, tagged them and let them go. And it was always the thought that extreme environmental change would have altered the sharks behavioral pattern enough that data set probably wasn’t correct. And we didn’t really have a way to prove that, there’s a billionaire out of New York who’s attempted it, I think 4 times and he put a tag in the shark, but it didn’t stick, so he came out in the news and he was the first and look at us and it was a pretty good video of them tagging a shark, but you can see it, they didn’t get any data back. So really all they did was bother a shark. So we went down chartered a submarine, handmade submarine and Roatan, Honduras.
Ramsey Russell: Handmade submarine, tell me about this. I mean, going 1500ft below the ocean in a handmade submarine, it sounded like an adventure in and of itself.
David DeBerard: This guy, Carl Stanley, his submarine, I think he started working on his first submarine when he was 13 and moved down to Roatan because of the extreme depth change where he can just motor out from his dock and go down very deep. But this guy has probably more time in a Submersible than anybody else. Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, Hugh Hefner went down with him. The president of Honduras went down with him. So I had a little bit of confidence in him and still definitely scary. You’re talking about strapping a spear gun on the front of a submarine and chasing sharks 2000ft deep, which to me was everything I ever wanted to do in life. If you would have told me at 13 years old that I would be doing that when I was 30, I wouldn’t have believed me.
Ramsey Russell: But it was a tiny submarine.
David DeBerard: It is small, I was wearing it. I’m not a small guy, but even a small guy would be pretty uncomfortable in it.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, you and Philip were basically sitting shoulder to shoulder, huddled up.
David DeBerard: We went down the 1st dive and it was a 6 hour dive and I was just crushing him and leaning on him and Stanley Carl’s in the back, driving looking around for these sharks and we’re in the front looking through the porthole and it is tight and it’s really impressive when you – people love to throw out these big numbers of depth and the average depth of a US nuclear submarine is like 200ft, their max operating depth is like 500 maybe they don’t need to go that deep. So these submersibles that are going at 500ft, 1000ft 1500ft, it’s extreme environment.
Ramsey Russell: Could you feel the pressure?
David DeBerard: You can’t, you feel just like you do, you don’t even feel the pressure like you do on an airplane, you just sit. What really threw me that nobody kind of warned me about is because you’re in a big bubble, it moves around a lot. It’s not like you’re in a car, it’s yin and yawn and rocking and rolling. And so, me leaning forward and back I was able to steer the spear gun up and down, he could do the left and right to get that perfect shot. And on the last day, we did end up putting a tag in a shark, which was the first time that had ever been done and the first data set that ever came back from an expedition like that. So that was a huge win, really exciting for all of us. But the fact that the team itself, everyone there was under 35 and we’re going to go up against this absolute behemoth of a guy with a nearly unlimited budget is the perfect proof of you don’t have to be this billionaire, you don’t have to go to space, you can work it out where you can do something amazing and it’s not just left to the mega rich.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you were telling me the budget of this project you all did and I’m like, that’s half the price of a Silverado.
David DeBerard: Yeah, I mean, what I assume a family of 5 would spend on a ski trip, like 7 or 8 of us were able to go and have this grand adventure down in Roatan and do something that nobody had ever done before.
Ramsey Russell: How big are these sharks and tell me about actually darting it, what’s going to come of it?
David DeBerard: So, the sharks are big. I think some of the bigger ones we saw were 23ft long, face and jaws about 2ft wide, 2.5ft wide. And I mentioned that the submarine moves around a lot, so we put some bait on the bottom of the ocean, we have some tuna rigged up on the front of the sub and we turn all the lights off and we’re waiting and I’m like, what are we waiting for? He’s like, yeah, you’ll feel them when they come by, he was not kidding, the shark pushes us over and –
Ramsey Russell: Did he bump you or just his thrust the current?
David DeBerard: Oh, he bumped us. These are apex predators that have nothing above them on the food chain, it’s theirs. So they were a little standoffish at first, but once they start eating on that fish, they were fearless and they were pushing the sub around moving it like they had no fear and they were pushing us and it was something because you know at that depth, if anything goes wrong, we’re at a pressure where if it was to fail, it would actually fail faster than the speed of sound. So we wouldn’t even have known that there was an issue, we would have just been right there at Pearl Gates. And you have a shark pushing the bait right up against the glass and it’s something. The sharks were almost twice as long as the submarine and these animals are just so powerful and so graceful. And another mystery that we don’t know is 80% of these sharks that have been seen are female and the females are much larger. And the first tag we were able to get in the shark was a male, which was a huge win. So we’d set the data for a month and we got it back these new tags are incredible, we didn’t even have to recover it, it just pings the data to a satellite –
Ramsey Russell: It comes loose or something or?
David DeBerard: It comes loose. So it’s electronic, it’s basically a computer. And at the set date and time that we want it just releases and then we get the data back which is salinity, speed, pressure, light, even the angle of descent. And of course, the location where we put it in versus the location where it came out because these sharks have been found on in every ocean on earth and we know almost nothing about them. These sharks are 200 million years old and for reference, the tyrannosaurus rex is 65 million years old. They are truly dinosaurs and when we can understand more about those, we can understand more about our earth and how we can better take care of it.
Ramsey Russell: So you all labor to dart two of them?
David DeBerard: Two, yes. We got a male and a big female and –
Ramsey Russell: Will you follow up on – will you do more dives and tag more?
David DeBerard: I’d like to, I’m a bit short on attention span. So like, well, I’ve done that so I want to do something else now. But yeah, the first tag we got back, we got the data and it went to Florida State University in Florida, they’re like for one professor is the leading, he’s the guy on 6 skill shark research and then the next tag should be popping up any day now. It was a year ago just about to date from today, so that tag should be popping up soon.
Ramsey Russell: That’s amazing, good gosh, tagging dinosaurs. And you were telling me about the blue hole, what was the blue hole research about?
David DeBerard: I did some work with Mote Marine over in Sarasota. Mote is a non for profit, they study the oceans and this project was a very big project for them. And they had roped in, I think the University of Georgia Harbor Branch, PBS was there doing a documentary and they created this, they called it the Lander, it looks like a lunar lander and it was 1500lbs and it took up a whole research vessel. So the idea was to drop it in a blue hole, the top of the blue hole started at 150ft the bottom of the blue hole they thought was about 500. So the idea was to steer it, to dive down and steer it into this blue hole, drop it to the bottom and let it sit for 24 hours collecting data and then bring it back to the top. So I got roped in because of a certain skill set, there’s not a lot of people that are diving past 130ft, that’s what they consider like the recreational limits of scuba diving. So I knew almost everybody on the boat that day and we went down and dropped it and they really want to study the effects of these blue holes and if they’re at all correlated with the red tide, which would be huge because the red tide as we know, it is a natural phenomenon that’s been going on for a long time. It’s not because of humans, it was going to happen regardless whether we’re here or not, but it doesn’t mean it’s not terrible for the environment just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s not bad for you. Water’s natural but if I spend too much time under it, I’m not going to live. So, if we can fix that, that’s millions upon millions of fish that would be killed by a red tide that could be avoided.
Ramsey Russell: You grew up on the water, born and raised out there on the Atlantic side of Florida, right?
David DeBerard: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: And I mean, the ocean is your backyard. So a lot of people I know in Florida grow up on the water diving, swimming, surfing, sailing, the whole ball of wax and you grew up doing all this kind of stuff, it came to you naturally like a fish to water. Have you got any world championships? Have you ever done any world championship? You got any record titles from some of your diving, spear fishing?
David DeBerard: Yeah, I got really into spear fishing like most guys in Southeast Florida and was able to break a couple records for the size of fish speared had one record that was the largest black grouper ever speared, which immediately was eclipsed by the next record. I think the new record is twice the size of the one that I speared. But still and it gives you certain optimism that growing up there and having that access, we all had access to it, everyone was right there, we all could go out and go spear fishing, go fishing. But the mindset shift of – I can go out and I can kill a world record today, I can go out and I can catch a world record today. My neighbors had multiple world records because they went out intentionally, it wasn’t some accident, they went out loaded for bear. They were prepared to run into that giant fish, they didn’t just happen upon it. So I think that early on helped with the understanding that it is all there for us, we just got to reach out and grab it.
Ramsey Russell: Do you eat bananas on a boat?
David DeBerard: Never bananas on a boat. And I’m not superstitious –
Ramsey Russell: Because I’ve heard that you all supposed to have bananas on a boat, but I just assume you wouldn’t slip on the peel and fall over, tell me about this.
David DeBerard: I’m not a superstitious man, but maybe I’m a little-stitious. So there’s a superstition that you don’t bring bananas on a boat and this dates back to sailing ships, I think it had something to do with fire ants, but it is common knowledge and you are never to bring banana on a boat, it’s bad luck. So that first day and Grand Cayman and we show up and the boat owner and captain, he takes out his lunch and puts it up in the T-top and I can see he’s got a banana. I was like, hey, you can’t have a banana on our boat and he jumped all over me. I was like, half making a joke and he’s like, man, you Americans, you believe that these bananas are bad luck, there’s nothing wrong with the banana. I’m like, okay. All right. Whatever. So we go out that first day and it’s rough like beyond rough, beyond the capability of the boat we were on. So I keep looking back at him and he’s like, yeah, whenever you can – gives me that face like whatever you want to call it. So I call it, give the thumb, we’re done, we’re turning around and just as we are broadside and then it’s 12 to 15ft seas easily some of the roughest I’ve ever been in. As soon as we’re broadside of the waves turn around the most vulnerable you could ever be on a boat both engines click shut off. So now we’re powerless with no way to navigate and move, I look back and he’s scrambling behind the controls and everybody’s screaming, we took one broadside that just nearly ruined us. He gets both engines back on and we rip back and everyone is white knuckled and we get back and I was like, man, what happened? He’s like, you wouldn’t believe it, you’re right. As soon as we went broadside that banana fell out of the top of the T-top and landed on the kill switch and killed both engines at the same time. That banana was quite nearly the reason, there was 6 of us on that boat, 6 souls were lost that day and he said you’re right, no more bananas, never again.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you prove something there.
David DeBerard: Yeah. So, like you said the other day, I don’t believe in it, but I don’t not believe in it now after that.
Shooting for a Living
And then the next day went out and then they just really wouldn’t even talk to me and I ended up winning it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I’m fortunate enough to hunt with a lot of people and mileage varies when it comes to shooting and – go get you a drink of water? Mileage varies when it comes to shooting. And so, man, I was very pleased to see you’re a hell of a shot.
David DeBerard: I appreciate that.
Ramsey Russell: No, you really are. And I don’t know what choke you shoot, I’m going to guess a full but I was impressed, I was impressed with your shooting. Tell me about, you accidently just said, well, your family didn’t play golf, which seems out of character for that part of Florida, but you all shot for a living.
David DeBerard: Yeah, that was our family get away on the weekends. I love shotguns, I fell in love with shotguns and kind of pushed the rest of my family into it. My late father loved pistols and rifles and kind of the more scientific side of it rather than the art of shotguns. And they built a shotgun club just outside of town and this club was very well put together. They had some awesome clays and they were going to host the World Championship and I was like, man, that is so cool. Like, the World Championship of Shotgun shooting is coming to Martin County, Florida and the president was like, you’re shooting it, right? And I was like, what? No, I’m not shooting at the World Championship, I’ve never even competitively shot, ever. He’s like, no, it’ll be fine, everyone’s super nice and helpful and even if you don’t do well, it’s a fun experience. I was like, all right. So I signed up and there’s different classes, I’m not out there beating Olympians or anything, but for my class and I show up and everyone was very helpful, super nice, for the first couple of hours of the day. I was getting pointers and like, man, it’s so cool, you’re so young doing this and then by the end of the day they were real quiet and I was like, what is going on? And I found out I was winning.
Ramsey Russell: With a borrowed shot gun.
David DeBerard: Yeah, with a borrowed shotgun. And then the next day went out and then they just really wouldn’t even talk to me and I ended up winning it. So that was my kind of intro to competitive shooting and obviously I had to retire right then and there, I can’t –
Ramsey Russell: No, you don’t want to mess up a good –
David DeBerard: No, one World Championship fluke and it was fun. It was a great time and obviously that translated into hunting and my family didn’t hunt growing up and I was the guy that was lucky enough to have a friend that pushed me into it in high school and went out, traveled around and first time I went duck hunting, I absolutely despised it, it was not that fun. I went out and I was like, man, I shot this gun like four times, I don’t even know what these ducks look like and I was like, man, let’s go shoot clays, like I want to go shoot 150 times and then he’s like, no, you’ll get it. And after a few more times learning how the ducks fly, is that a duck? No. And then recognizing, oh, that’s a duck, that’s not a duck, that’s a mallard, that’s a mallard drake. And then learning about decoy theory and paying attention to the weather and then paying attention to the moon and all of the nuance that goes into it and then I fell in love with it. And my favorite thing about it is the places that it takes me even in the US into areas that I would have never ever been that I show my friends photos and I’m like, where is that? I’m like, that’s an hour away from your house and no one would know unless they were out chasing birds.
Chasing Florida Duck Hunting
Ramsey Russell: What is the duck hunting like in Florida?
David DeBerard: I’m going to get a lot of flak for this. But duck hunting in Florida is some of the best kept secrets in duck hunting, I think our, when it’s good, it is great. We have so many species, so much variety, of course, you earn it most of our hunting is public land walk in, no motor and that seems like, okay, that’s no big deal. But then you factor in the water moccasin, black widows, brown recluse, alligators and now Python is the hot ticket everybody wants to talk about. But our duck hunting is spectacular. We get the blue winged teals first and foremost and early season and then late season we get blue bills and I think right now we’re allowed two blue bills but going out and seeing a flock of 500, 600 coming into the decoys when there’s a raft of 2000 just over the way, it’s cool and it’s definitely a different hunting culture, it’s not these people that grew up hunting their private land, it is only public land, I’ve heard of very few private land hunting in Florida. So it’s free for all. Everybody knows the spots, everybody just has to do a little bit better than the next guy.
Ramsey Russell: And you got the fulvous whistlers dialed in.
David DeBerard: Fulvous whistlers, like nothing, they don’t migrate, so we know where they are and occasionally, you’ll hear about a bohemian pintail getting killed. You always remember those ducks you miss. Last year, first light my watch, it just dinged, it was 10 seconds in the shooting light and here comes the weirdest looking duck, like, what is that? And as it’s going by, it was a snow goose in Florida. I talked to the biologist, he said, oh, yeah, a couple snow geese come in every year. So we have true variety. And it’s a lot of fun. Definitely highly recommend anybody that’s at all into duck hunting, doing a trip to Florida and hunting the STAs, hunting like Okeechobee and getting down there.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve had a heck of an Africa trip. I had been here a couple of days when you all showed up, we were having a little bri, there that morning, you all showed up, we went and hunted something, I think ducks that afternoon, it seemed like a month ago, it’s been just a week, but you had already had a hell of an African trip when you showed up you all. You and Greg have been big game hunting and had a heck of a big game hunt.
David DeBerard: Oh, yeah. Like, I think most Africa trips and Argentina trips, it started with getting a little excited at a charity auction, bought a safari for two, tried to talk all my friends into it and everyone said, oh no, it’s too far, it’s too much and finally got a buddy to say yes. And we came over here and scheduled it out so we could do a week of big game hunting and then a week of duck hunting and got here and just about every idea I had ever had about what a safari is like, was just immediately blown out of the water. The scale of these operations, the passion that these people have to the animals, it is unparalleled. And I’ve just been beyond impressed by the topography of the land, the amount of animals you see and the variety of animals you see. We go out and go for a ride in the morning and I’ll see 12, 13, 14, 15 different antelope species, to me it’s like, going spear fishing on the reef, you’re not chasing one white tail, you’re not chasing one elk, when you’re elk hunting, maybe you’ll see a mule deer. Here, you’re chasing a Springbok and you’ll see, Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Gemsbok, Blesbok all these different bucks and there’s no antlers here, they are all horns, all two pointers, they are really impressive. You see them on the TV and once you get here and you look out it is something else.
Ramsey Russell: You spend a week here, bird hunting. We shot everything, upland, geese, ducks, what was your favorite thing we did? I mean, what’s the most memorable thing for the last week shooting birds?
Best Waterfowl to Hunt
David DeBerard: So, I’ve hunted a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of different types of hunting and almost every hunt we’ve had so far has been different. The way they hunted the Guineas, driven guinea hunts, walking guinea hunts, then the upland birds, the francolin, swans and the common quail, we would see them ride around the truck, see them jump off, walk through the tall grass and pass shooting, no decoys and then decoying birds. We even did what I can only describe as like a driven duck hunt, we’re all in a line and they can see the ducks coming from a large feed into the roost and we were right in between and just about every duck was 15ft off the deck coming straight in, very unique types of hunts, which to me is what it’s all about. I mean, the variety of species, every single duck here is a new species to me. The only ducks we have in the US that they have here are the Egyptian geese, which were introduced, Ferrell. So every single shot is, what is that? What’s it going to be? And it’s nice being here with people that are, again, so passionate that clearly put so much time in scouting and they can tell you what a bird is way out where you could not see the color and they can tell by the wing beat. And then just the noises these animals make, it’s totally different than Florida, it totally different than the US. This is not hunting rice fields in Stuttgart or corn impoundments in Illinois, you are in the bush and these animals are hardy. It’s not like shooting blue wing teal or you get them with a 6 and they just fall over. They have the largest and smallest goose species in the world here and the size of the ducks are incredible. So, for me, the best has been the variety and the variety of hunts and just being in a completely different place and continent and being around people that have a shared interest and truly love the ducks.
Ramsey Russell: David, have you ever been called lucky? For those listening –
David DeBerard: I’ve been called lucky more than a few times.
Ramsey Russell: I recognize the first day whenever David gets off of the truck to go get on a post or whenever we form a line to be next to David, all the birds in the world, don’t matter, he gets the last pick that’s where every bird is going to go. Point in case, we went and shot those spur wing geese that one afternoon, that was a fun hunt and I knew that the pond down the hill had a bunch of knob bill ducks on it. So when Hank said, we’re going to split up into two groups and go duck hunting, I said, well, I’ll go over there where those knob bills are and every freaking knob bill went instead to your pond, they’ve been there for months and every one of them came into you all and former guinea fowl drive and I see a whole herd of guinea fowl running through the bushes like they do before they fly, trying to figure out a hole to fly through, they’re not running to me, they running to you. Every time, the cape shelduck comes right in to David, the black duck, never been seen on the pond, had there been a black duck slaying on the pond right there, boom, flies right into David, you’re lucky.
David DeBerard: The only shelduck we shot and the only black duck we shot. My mom called it Parking Karma. You live a good life, you walk with God and he does reward you and you got to ask for it, you pray every morning before the hunt and while you’re hunting and after the hunt. But I always thought the parking car was so funny because if you go into the parking lot and you take the first spot available way out and in the sun, there’s no shade, you got to walk rather than just driving straight up to the front because maybe there’s a spot, you never know. And I just continuously getting into situations where it works out and we have great hunts and great fun and it was nice hunting with Ramsey who’s seen every kind of duck imaginable, who’s created an entire industry of people that want to go around the world and duck hunt. And he’s like, man, you’re a great shot and I was like, oh, thanks, I don’t think so, I missed a lot and then by the end of the trip, he’s like, I’m sharing a blind with you, I’m going to stand next to you today. I was like, oh, maybe there’s something to it.
Ramsey Russell: It’s that parking karma, man. And yesterday afternoon, just single duck coming in, we see him out there in the bottom and I pull out my phone and kind of zoom in on him when he’s still behind that levee because the way they were just popping over that levee and I mean and they were right in their face size of this room, it was better aim small, miss small, feet down. And I thought to myself, it could just be a shadow but that looks like a black duck, it’s too dark to be – and sure enough it was, of course you three and I had the proof of who killed him on video, it was highly disputed on who killed a black duck. But Ramsey had video evidence and the shelduck and by the time I really convinced myself it might be a black duck, it was too late, I couldn’t put down my phone and grab a gun, couldn’t shoot. It’s the second ever wild harvested genetic sample that you shot. So, I may just add that to your list of accomplishments, from a scientific purpose, it really is important, a lot of the work that rescue is doing and I appreciate you letting me take a tissue sample. What next for David? What next? The blue hole, the 6 gill sharks, the Explorer’s Club, the World Championship with a borrowed shotgun, now, Africa. Where have you not been? What are you wanting to do? Where are you wanting to go? There’s a lot of world and you’re a young man.
Hunting Prospects for a Pro
And it’s something we have to be thankful for that we get to do this and we get to go to these places and we get to enjoy these animals that so few people do.
Ramsey Russell: Andean geese, yeah, what a beauty.
David DeBerard: Well, I would like to see those. But what I’m really excited about is project I’m still working on getting off the ground is tagging orca whales in the Bahamas. Now, when people think of orca whales, killer whales, Shamu, they think of Washington State and Alaska. And since they’ve been recording orca whale sightings in the Bahamas, there have been 87 sightings, which is enough to think, now they think that there’s a resident pod of orcas that live only in the Bahamas. So I think it would just be the coolest to get a tag in one of those and follow it around and see if it does leave, see if they do migrate, maybe they go up to Nova Scotia in the summer and come back down to the Bahamas in the winter. But what I’m really excited about in Facebook and Instagram, if you’re listening is using an algorithm that when someone posts a photo of an orca whale in the Bahamas that I can get pinged and it’ll tell me where it was and what time and then dispatch a team of scientists and go chase those orcas down and put a tag in them because otherwise, it’s called mowing the lawn. You’re just flying quadrants looking for these animals with helicopters and planes and it’s a lot of gas. But instead if you could put it out into every smartphone in every pocket, I think that would be a new cool way of studying animals and doing conservation.
Ramsey Russell: When we’re talking about lucky, you mentioned your faith and you spent a lot of time in hunting camp and stuff like that and Hank on the 2nd day, we were all together, he just mentioned, he said, man, these are very interesting people and he said, but you know what impressed me? I go, what? He goes, they pray, they’re thankful, it’s not every hunting camp you go to that, traveling like this internationally that people want to pray and be thankful for the day, thankful for the food, thankful for their life at every meal. And it stands out when somebody is thankful like that, David.
David DeBerard: Yeah, it’s hard not to be thankful. When you’re over here and you see how some people live and the ability that we have to just move easily internationally and the access that we have as Americans that we owe it to ourselves and others to be thankful because there’s just too much good in the world to focus on the bad. And it is so easy to get kind of bogged down reading the news and you just got to take a step back and think like, hey, maybe it rained on today’s hunt but that one joke that I hadn’t heard before, that was fun. And it’s definitely not as common, especially in scientific circles, but I think there’s plenty of room between faith and science and I think a huge aspect of hunting is faith. You don’t know if that big white tail is going to be out there, you just got to go, you got to try, there’s no life boats in hunting. You go out and you burn the fuel, you take the time to scout and you can try and best your chances, but best thing about duck hunting is, there’s never two hunts that are the same and that’s a big leap of faith just for the hunt. And it’s something we have to be thankful for that we get to do this and we get to go to these places and we get to enjoy these animals that so few people do.
Ramsey Russell: David, last question, who made you who you are? Where did David come from? To who do you give credit for who you are and what you’ve accomplished in the life course that you’re on.
David DeBerard: Well, I learned a lot about faith from my mom and I was in high school, I was kiteboarding professionally and traveling around the world and doing that and I was able to spend a lot of time with older people when I was younger and kind of learn just a little bit from each one. And I go way out of my way to surround myself with mentors and everyone has a niche. Everyone has that one thing that they’re really good at. And there’s no shame in calling somebody for, well, I want to ask them about Elk hunting in Montana and then calling somebody else and ask him about Elk hunting in New Mexico, everyone has that niche and it’s so nice to be able to – now, especially with social media, I mean, I wanted to hunt Africa, but I called Ramsey and I said, I only want to hunt in Africa with you, I want to go on a trip with you, I want to hunt with you. And I’ve learned so much about duck hunting, ducks, Africa in the past week just an absolute wealth of knowledge, encyclopaedia of duck hunting sitting next to you in the blind and I would probably credit that kind of thirst for life and hunger for more just from meeting people like you.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Thank you. Thank you for coming to Africa with us, David. Thank you for sharing all these stories during the past week, I have surely enjoyed it. I have really enjoyed hunting with you, I’ve enjoyed hunting with you all, it’s been a very fun group, a very educational group, you’ve opened up my horizons, leaps and bounds. And I know you ain’t done with Africa yet, man. You all are fixing to jump on a plane and go somewhere else in Africa. Well, tell me about this and then we’ll wrap up.
David DeBerard: Yeah, coming over here is tough as far as time wise. I looked at this trip, I was trying to get into 2 weeks and it was 8 full days of travel time, like full travel days. I was like, man, I can’t go over there for 2 weeks and only enjoy it for 4 days, 5 days. So, heading over to Cape Town, actually a friend of mine in the Explorer’s Club is picking us up, she got her PhD studying coelacanth, the fish that they thought were extinct up until about, I think 20 years ago. So she used to live in Cape Town, she’s going to show us around and we’re going to go do wine country and hike Table Mountain, go see what Cape Town’s like and definitely planning another trip back to Africa.
Ramsey Russell: Well, we got to do a deeper dive into some of these birds, there’s a lot more bird hunting, but you picked up what? You told me last night, you counted up how many species did you all pick up?
David DeBerard: 14 species in 7 days. Even the upland hunting. I’ve never been on an upland hunt when there weren’t more than two options. And if we’re looking at Grey-winged francolin, orange river francolin, Swans and there’s three different types of quail here. And it’s interesting you hear about some of these species that don’t migrate, some of them do and some of them are omnivorous, which you would not expect. And the ability to come here in every single shot is a new species is just the coolest thing, especially chasing that North American Grand Slam and getting all the species. And I’ve closed out all the puddle ducks and I’m working on the rest, but to come over here and shoot 14 new species that I have never shot before in 7 days is just wild.
Ramsey Russell: And there’s a world full of them just in waterfowl, let alone upland birds and big game and everything else. And anyway, David, thank you very much and folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.