Eric Wartenweiler Smith
Wartenweiler Smith is captain of
the Discoverer Ketty Lund.
To be born in 1962 in Topeka, Kansas is hardly the auspicious birth one would look for in an ocean going adventurer. However his Swiss American mother and a U.S. Air Force officer father were just passing through, and within weeks had moved on before the heartland could make its mark. His father, a pilot who traversed the country in his 75 hp Luscomb, and his mother, whose family immigrated to the verdant Napa Valley of California to start a farm after WWII, left a more telling draft, one which seemed to say “seek out what the world has to offer”.
Interested in exploration and adventure from an early age, young Eric was fascinated with the exploits of the early arctic explorers, especially Shackleton, Shipton, Freuchen, as well as the early pioneers in mountaineering and archaeology. Scouring the libraries for the stories of great adventure, one could only speculate that his future would be stormy, wet, and uncomfortable.
Learning the basics of celestial navigation from his father, he went on to study about Polynesian and other aboriginal navigation, and was fascinated by the hidden truths he found about the peopling of the world through the skill of ancient voyagers. They traveled broadly and visiting the family farms in Switzerland, and Napa with his mother from a young age, encouraged an interest in foreign language. At 13 he bought a canoe, and at 15 a small C class Scow sailboat that he could camp aboard while exploring the 35-mile long lake they then lived by in North Idaho. Perhaps because of his interest in boats and sailing, he failed to graduate from high school.
At 17 Eric went to sea in the Alaskan Salmon Fishery and went on to find work while traveling Europe, Japan, China, Tibet, and across the trans Siberian Express circling the globe at a net profit by the time he was 22. A career seemed in order, so he went to school to become a paramedic, volunteered for the inner city shifts and went on to become a flight medic and hyperbaric chamber medic. None of this stopped him from pursuing his avocation of adventure, for during this time he was also able to manage a team in the Paris–Dakar Road Race across Africa, sail across the South Pacific by the stars and then from Australia to South Africa around the cape, join a high tech dive team, and get funding for almost all of it.
Interested in Commercial Diving, he got a job as a hardhat diver doing construction on US Naval bases, hull inspection and repair for the U.S. Coast Guard, and salvage work. He was also lucky enough to meet and marry his wife Teresa, an artist, as well as sailor. They made their home port the island of Key West where Eric operates his research vessel Discoverer Ketty Lund. In 1996 while on a voyage to Havana, Eric met the team of world renowned Underwater Archaeologist Franck Goddio. They soon asked him to join the team as a permanent member, and he has since participated in such magnificent discoveries as Cleopatra’s Palace in Alexandria Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Lost Fleet, the sunken city of Heracleon, at the mouth of the Nile River, as well as more than 25 shipwrecks, ranging in age from the Roman era to Chinese Junks to Revolutionary War ships. Covering the globe in search of sunken antiquities, Goddio’s team continues to find fascinating discoveries.
Over the years, Eric held and nurtured a dream. It was his focus, his vision, and one day to be his reality; to have his own team of sailors/divers/explorers, and most important of all, a ship. With a license from the Coast Guard to Captain a ship of up to 500 tons on any ocean based on his experience as captain of tug boats, research vessels, racing catamarans, and his own cruising sailboats, he had nurtured and developed this dream of the perfect vessel with which to explore the oceans into the 21 century, a vessel named the Discoverer.
Several years went into the planning stages of the dream, including contacting sponsors, arranging scientific missions, discussing details of construction with naval architects. And then, while perusing a maritime trade journal he saw her, exactly the ship he had been dreaming of, for sale in Lunenburg Nova Scotia. Her name was Ketty Lund.
Captain Hamilton Carter is no stranger to the sea. After a lifetime of sailing out of the Maritime Provinces as a schoonerman, fisherman, and eventually a world-renowned Antarctic and Arctic Research Vessel captain, he was retiring from the Arctic Exploration trade and looking for someone to take over his beloved Ketty Lund. Captain Ham had put a lifetime of experience into the new accommodations on this sturdy, tried and true vessel, and within weeks he was training Eric on the intricacies of her operation and the details of her engine room. The transfer of command took place officially in October of 2002 in a ceremony at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg, next to the Bluenose II and down the hill from the cemetery that hosts Captain Carter’s sailing forefathers back to the 1700s.
Now surrounded by his team of hand-picked divers and researchers, an international collection of friends that Eric has worked with around the world, the Discoverer Ketty Lund continues her 40-year tradition of exploring the seas.
View his Facebook page. Read his blog The Human Voyage.