The Explorers Club
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The Explorers Club is an American-based international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research. The club was founded in New York City, and has served as a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide, all of whom are united in the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore.
The Explorers Club provides expedition resources including funding, online information, and member-to-member consultation. Expeditions promote the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences. The Club also hosts an Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria to honor accomplishments in exploration, which is known for its adventurous, exotic cuisine.
The Explorers Club actively encourages public interest in exploration and the sciences through its public lectures program, publications, travel program, and other events. The Club also maintains an extensive Research Archives—including a library and map collection—to preserve the history of the Club and to assist those interested and engaged in exploration and scientific research.
In 1904, a group of men active in exploration met at the request of Henry Collins Walsh, to form an organization to unite explorers in the bonds of good fellowship and to promote the work of exploration by every means in its power. Among these men were Adolphus Greely, Donaldson Smith, Henry Collins Walsh, Carl Lumholtz, Marshall Saville, Frederick Dellenbaugh, and David Brainard. After several further informal meetings, The Explorers Club was duly incorporated on October 25, 1905. Women were first admitted in 1981, with a class including Sylvia Earle and Kathryn Sullivan. Famous honorary members have included Theodore Roosevelt, John Glenn, Jim Fowler, Walter Cronkite, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Albert I, Prince of Monaco.
The Explorers Club is now spread across twenty-six chapters in the United States and around the world. Chapters serve as local contact points for explorers, scientists, and students. Many chapters hold monthly dinners, lectures, and seminars, award field-research grants to students, publish newsletters, and organize expeditions, field trips, and educational events.
- David Legge Brainard (1856–1946): U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel: Sioux, Bannock, and Nez Perce Campaigns; Survivor, Lady Franklin Bay Expedition (1881-1884); in 1882 claimed Farthest North at 83º24’30” North latitude
- Frank Chapman (1864–1945): Curator of Birds and Mammals, American Museum of Natural History
- Frederick Cook (1865–1940): Surgeon and ethnologist to the first Peary Expedition to Greenland (1892); leader of the SS Miranda Expedition (1894); surgeon on the Belgica Expedition (1897-1898), the first ship to winter over in the Antarctic; founding member of the American Alpine Club (1902)
- Herschel Clifford Parker (1867–1944): Professor of Physics, Columbia University; mountaineer; author; founding member of the American Alpine Club (1902)
- Marshall Howard Saville (1867–1935): Professor of American Archaeology, Columbia University; Curator of Archaeology, American Museum of Natural History
- Henry Collins Walsh (1863–1927): Journalist; historian; explorer of Central America and Greenland; founding member of Arctic Club of America (1894); nominal “Founder” of The Explorers Club (1904)
- Caspar Whitney (1862–1929): Author; Editor, Outing Magazine; Spanish-American War Correspondent for Harper's Weekly
The Explorers Club is renowned for a series of "famous firsts" accomplished by its membership:
- First to the North Pole (1909) – Robert E. Peary & Matthew Henson
- First to the South Pole (1911) – Roald Amundsen
- First to the summit of Mt. Everest (1953) – Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay
- First to the deepest point in the ocean (1960) – Don Walsh & Jacques Piccard
- First to the surface of the Moon (1969) – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins
The Explorers Club held its first regular meeting at its original headquarters in the Studio Building at 23 West 67th Street. The Club finished construction on their next Headquarters at 544 Cathedral Parkway in 1928 and there the Club continued to grow its extensive collection of artifacts, trophies, and books on exploration. In 1965, the Club purchased its current Headquarters at 46 East 70th Street on the Upper East Side, where it houses the James B. Ford Exploration Library, the Sir Edmund Hillary Map Room and a collection of artifacts from more than a century of exploration. The building was previously the home of Stephen C. Clark.
Lectures & Publications
In the 1920’s, the Club began to invite both explorers returning from the field and visiting scientists to tell of their experiences and findings. By the 1930’s these informal gatherings developed into academic lectures and illustrated talks. The Club continues to provide weekly lectures and programs, which are often open to the public at its Headquarters in New York City. In November 1921 The Explorers Club published the first edition of The Explorers Journal to share news from the field, remarks from headquarters, recent acquisitions, obituaries, and book reviews. The Explorers Journal is still published quarterly, with articles and photography from Explorers Club Members in the field.
The Explorers Club Flag
The Explorers Club flag has been carried on hundreds of expeditions by Club Members since 1918. It has flown at both poles, from the highest peaks, traveled to the depths of the ocean, to the lunar surface, and outer space.
To obtain permission to carry the flag, a Club Member must show that an expedition holds the promise of scientific results. Once approved, the flag must be exhibited at every suitable opportunity on the expedition, and must be returned to the Club along with a written record of the expedition—the Flag Report. The Club’s Research Collections is the repository for these unique reports, including the original “Flag Book”—a bound journal of hand-written reports, vintage prints, clippings, and assorted records submitted by the explorers who first carried The Explorers Club flag on expeditions.
Today there are 202 numbered flags, each with their own history. These include flags carried on such expeditions as:
- Flag #2 – Roy Chapman Andrews – The Gobi Desert Expeditions
- Flag #7 – Sir George Hubert Wilkins – The First trans-Arctic Flights
- Flag #32 – Capt. Robert A. “Bob” Bartlett – The Effie M. Morrissey Expeditions
- Flag #123 – Thor Heyerdahl – The Kon-Tiki Expedition
- Flag #193 – Naomi Uemura – First Solo North Pole Expedition
- Flag #161 – James Cameron – The Deepsea Challenger Expedition 
- Flag #50 – Bertrand Piccard & André Borschberg – Solar Impulse Across America 
- Flag #132 – Jeff Bezos – The Apollo F-1 Engine Search and Recovery Expedition 
- NASA missions Apollo 8, Apollo 11, Apollo 13 and Apollo 15 all carried miniature Club Flags on board
Honors & Grants
The Explorers Club Medal, the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Club, is awarded for extraordinary contributions directly in the field of exploration, scientific research, or to the welfare of humanity. Past recipients include:
- 1914 – Robert E. Peary
- 1923 – Adolphus Greely
- 1927 – Roald Amundsen
- 1937 – Richard E. Byrd
- 1954 – Auguste Piccard
- 1961 – President Herbert Hoover
- 1964 – Gilbert H. Grosvenor
- 1968 – Lowell Thomas
- 1971 – Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., & Michael Collins for NASA
- 1979 – Thor Heyerdahl
- 1983 – Sir Ranulph Fiennes
- 1986 – Sir Edmund Hillary
- 1989 – Mary Leakey
- 1993 – Jane Goodall
- 1995 – Robert Ballard
- 1996 – Sylvia Earle
- 2001 – Joe Kittinger
- 2005 – Burt Rutan, Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill for SpaceShipOne
- 2009 – E. O. Wilson
- 2013 – James Cameron 
- 2014 – Walter Munk 
Beyond The Explorers Club Medal, the Club also presents The Lowell Thomas Award, The Sweeney Medal, a Citation of Merit, The Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award and The Tenzing Norgay Award, among others.
The Club also awards a range of grants for field science and exploration, including The Youth Activity Fund Grant, The Exploration Fund Grant, and the Scott Pearlman Field Awards for Science and Exploration.
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- The Explorers Club official website