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John "Fighting Branch" Loftin, usually referred to as "Branch," was the first man to discover D'ni. This man had a long association with another archeologist by the name of Elias Zandi. Both of them concentrated their professional efforts on the Southwest United States. Branch had a knack for finding the kinds of artifacts that Elias was interested in.
It was in 1987 that Branch first stumbled upon the D'ni cavern, finding the D'ni digging machines. This triggered a series of expeditions with Zandi.
1988 was the first major trip they took deep into the caverns, making it as far as the top of the Great Shaft. Both men were markedly changed by this experience. 1989 saw the third major trip down the caverns, in which the two explorers made it as far as the cavern, seeing the immense ruined City.
In 1990, another explorer was added to the group, Dr. Richard Watson. On this expedition, they made it to Ae'gura, the main city of the D'ni, retrieving several artifacts, including Catherine's journals.
In 1991, Branch made his last trip to D'ni. Through some currently undisclosed circumstances, he lost his life there, a death for which Dr. Watson takes responsibility.