July 13, 2007

A Visit to The Explorers Club

New York City is filled with clubs and societies as wide ranging as one can imagine. From the white glove "University Club" on Fifth Avenue to the "Union Club" on Park, from the "Century" to the "Cosmopolitan", there is something for every academic, political and ethnic affiliation.

One club stands out from the rest. The Explorers Club was founded in 1904 and is located in a Tudor style townhouse on East 70th Street. I recently had the good fortune to be invited on a tour of this landmark building and its extraordinary collection.

The Explorers Club is dedicated to "the advancement of field research, scientific exploration and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore". Potential members must establish their interest in and contributions to some aspect of exploration, and prove an active and continuing pursuit of furthering scientific knowledge of the world. The roster of members, both living and deceased, is impressive. No sissies in this lot - member accomplishments include the first visits to the North Pole (Robert Peary, 1909) and the South (Roald Amundsen, 1911), the first ascent to the peak of Mount Everest (Sir Edmund Hillary, 1953), the first descent to the Marianas Trench (Jacques Piccard, 1960) and the first man to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong, 1969)!

The clubhouse is filled with souvenirs of these expeditions and is a taxidermist's delight. In addition to the plethora of tusks and animal skin rugs is a stuffed polar bear and a penguin! There is also a fine collection of paintings of Africa by William Leigh, a map collection, and the actual sled used by Admiral Peary in his Arctic exploration.

Members of this organization are united in their love of science and adventure. No cushy ocean liner travel for them! The ultimate goal for these brave souls is to "Carry the Flag" - to embark on an club approved expedition with one of the coveted Explorers Club Flags and earn the distinction of going where no one has gone before.

It was indeed a privilege to be invited to visit this venerable institution and I thank Judith Bowman for the tour. Happy Travels!

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