Don Walsh

Don Walsh

Honorary President, The Explorers Club & President, International Maritime

Don Walsh is head of the Oregon based consulting company, International Maritime Inc., a business he founded in 1976.  He was born in Berkeley California and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Joining the US Navy at Naval Air Station Oakland in 1948 he became an aircrewman in torpedo bombers before entering the Naval Academy in 1950.  After graduation, he served two years in the Amphibious Forces before entering submarine school in 1956.  Then Don served in the San Diego based submarines Rasher (SSR-269), Sea Fox (SS-402), and Bugara (SS-331) before commanding Bashaw (AGSS-241).

From 1959-1962 Lieutenant Walsh was the first Officer-in-Charge of the Bathyscaph Trieste at the Navy Electronics Laboratory in San Diego.  Designated USN Deep Submersible Pilot #1 he was also the first submersible pilot in the US.  In January 1960, he and Jacques Piccard dove Trieste to the deepest place in the World Ocean: 35,840 feet.  For this achievement, Lieutenant Walsh received a medal from President Eisenhower at ceremonies in the White House.  No one has ever repeated this exploration.

From 1970-75, Commander Walsh was on duty in Washington DC serving as Special Assistant (Submarines) to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development (ASNR&D) and later as Deputy Director of Navy Laboratories.  During his 24-year naval career he served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. 

In 1975 he retired as a captain to accept a professorship of ocean engineering at the University of Southern California (USC).  There he became founding Director of the Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies (IMCS) with rank of dean.  He left USC after 8 years to form IMI, his present consulting practice.  Since its founding, IMI has completed nearly 100 projects in 20 countries.

Don Walsh was educated at Annapolis (BS in engineering), Texas A&M University (MS and PhD in oceanography), and San Diego State University (MA in political science).  He also spent 14 months as Resident Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian.

Dr. Walsh is author of over 200 ocean-related publications from brochures to book chapters.  He has presented over 1,700 lectures, television and radio programs in 64 countries.  His topics have ranged from adventure/exploration to group motivation. From 1973 to the present he has also been an active lecturer on more than 32 cruise and expedition ships doing over 150 cruises and expeditions worldwide.

Since 1959 Walsh has participated in diving operations with over two dozen manned submersibles, piloting seven of them.   He has also been active in the design, manufacture and operation of manned and unmanned submersibles.

For the past four decades, Dr. Walsh has also worked in both Arctic and Antarctic regions including the North (5 trips) and South Poles. To date he has participated in over 50 polar expeditions.  His first trip to the Arctic was in 1955, the Antarctic in 1971. During November 2002 – February 2003, he made a circumnavigation of the continent.  It was only the 11th time this voyage has been made since Captain James Cook first did it in 1773-74.  The "Walsh Spur" (ridge) near Cape Hallett is named for him in recognition of his contributions to the US Antarctic Program.

Among other awards, in February, 2001 Dr. Walsh was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of his four decades of work in the design, construction and operation of undersea vehicles. In March 2001, he was awarded the Explorers Medal by the Explorers Club.  A few years earlier he had received their Lowell Thomas Medal.  Also in 2001, the French Jules Verne Aventures organization awarded him its “Etoile Polaire” medal celebrating “The Greatest Explorations of the 20th Century”.  In 2001 he was also cited as one of the great explorers in the Life Magazine book, “The Greatest Adventures of All Time”. Walsh was awarded The National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in 2010.

In addition to numerous other awards, he is also an Honorary Life Member of both the Explorers Club and the Adventurers Club.  In addition, he is the Honorary President of the Explorers Club.

Since graduation from the Naval Academy, his travels have taken him to about 112 nations throughout the world.  And he isn’t slowing down.  In 1999, using a Russian Mir submersible, he dove 8,000 feet to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near the Azores at the Rainbow Vents hydrothermal vents field.  Later, in July 2001, he dove 12,500 feet to the wreck of RMS Titanic and the next year to the WWII German Battleship Bismarck at 15,500 feet.  Most recently he has dived in Lake Geneva in a Mir submersible.


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