The Explorers Club

The Explorers Club is an American-based international multidisciplinary professional society with the goal of promoting scientific exploration and field study. The club was founded in New York City in 1904, and has served as a meeting point for explorers and scientists worldwide.

The Explorers Club sign
New York City headquarters of The Explorers Club

The Explorers Club hosts an annual dinner to honor accomplishments in exploration, which is known for its adventurous, exotic cuisine.[1][2]


In 1904, a group of men active in exploration met at the request of noted journalist, historian, and explorer 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.[3] Joining Walsh were Adolphus Greely, Donaldson Smith, Carl Lumholtz, Marshall Saville, Frederick Dellenbaugh, and David Brainard. After several further informal meetings, The Explorers Club was incorporated on October 25, 1905. Women were first admitted in 1981, with a class including Sylvia Earle and Kathryn Sullivan.[4] Famous honorary members have included Theodore Roosevelt, John Glenn, Jim Fowler, Walter Cronkite, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Edmund Hillary, Buzz Aldrin and Albert I, Prince of Monaco.[5]

The Explorers Club has 32 chapters in the United States and around the world,[6] which 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.

Charter members

  • 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);[7] nominal "Founder" of The Explorers Club (1904)
  • Caspar Whitney (1862–1929): War correspondent, explorer of North and South America, outdoorsman, sports journalist, member of the International Olympic Committee (1900–1905), author; Editor, Outing magazine.

Famous firsts

The Explorers Club is renowned for various "Famous Firsts" accomplished by its members, including:[8][9]


First floor fireplace

The Explorers Club held its first regular meeting at its original headquarters in the Studio Building at 23 West 67th Street in New York City.[3] The club finished construction on its next headquarters at 544 Cathedral Parkway in 1928 and there the club continued to expand its extensive collection of artifacts, trophies and books on exploration. In 1965, spurred by Lowell Thomas,[3] the club purchased its current headquarters on the Upper East Side, a six-story Jacobean revival mansion on East 70th Street, 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. Certain designated rooms of the Club are open to the general public.

Lectures and publications

In the 1920s, the club began to invite both explorers returning from the field and visiting scientists to relate their experiences and findings. By the 1930s 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.[11] 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,[12] with articles and photography from Explorers Club members in the field.

The Explorers Club flag

The Explorers Club flag

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. These include flags carried on such expeditions as:

NASA missions Apollo 8, Apollo 11, Apollo 13 and Apollo 15 each carried miniature club flags on board.

Honors and 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:[23]

Beyond The Explorers Club Medal, the club also presents, among others, The Lowell Thomas Award, The Sweeney Medal, a Citation of Merit, The Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award and The Tenzing Norgay Award.[28]


The club also awards a range of grants for field science and exploration, including The Youth Activity Fund Grant, The Exploration Fund Grant,[29] and the Presidents Award for Exploration and Technology. One club award, the Scott Pearlman Field Award for Science and Exploration,[30] is named for one of the youngest club members (inducted at age 22) who was a photographer and participant in three flag expeditions. Scott Pearlman contracted hepatitis C and died at the age of 38. Pearlman was a son of Explorers Club member & officer Robert E. Pearlman.


Presidents of the Explorers Club are elected by a vote of the Board of Directors after the Annual Meeting. Men and women may offer their name for consideration.

119051906Adolphus Greely
219071908Frederick Cook
319091911Robert Peary
419121913David Legge Brainard
519131916Robert Peary
619171918Carl Akeley
719191922Vilhjalmur Stefansson
819221925George Gustav Heye
919261927James Ford
1019281930George Gustav Heye
1119311934Roy Chapman Andrews
1219351937Walter W. Granger
1319371939Vilhjalmur Stefansson
1419401943Herbert Spinden
1519441946Alexander Wetmore
1619471948Clyde Fisher
1719491950James Chapin
1819511952John Tee-Van
1919531954Edward Weyer Jr.
2019551958Serge Korff
2119591961Charles Hitchcock
2219611963John Pallister
2319631965Serge Korff
2419651967Edward Sweeney
2519671971Walter Wood
2619711973Hobart Van Dressen
2719731975Russell Gurnee
2819751976E. Lovell Becker
2919761978Virgil Kauffman
3019781981Charles Brush
3119811985George V.B. Cochran
3219851987John Levinson
3319871989John Bruno
3419891991Nicholas Sullivan
3519911993David Swanson
3619931996John Loret
3719962000Alfred McLaren
3820002002Faanya Rose
3920022006Richard Wiese
4020062009Daniel Bennett
4120092012Lorie Karnath[32]
4220122015Alan Nichols
4320152018Ted Janulis[33]
442018Richard Wiese[34]
452021Richard Garriott[35]


  1. Richardson, Lynda (December 3, 2004). "PUBLIC LIVES; Explorers Club: Less 'Egad' and More 'Wow!'". New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  2. Park, Michael (March 17, 2008). "Eating Maggots: The Explorers Club Dinner". Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  3. MacEacheran, Mike. "The secret travel club that's been everywhere". Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  4. "A Gathering Place". The Explorers Club. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  5. "The Explorers Club Honorary Members". The Explorers Club. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  6. "The Explorers Club Chapters". The Explorers Club. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  7. Lembo, Karen; Mendell, Sarah. "Finding aid to the Arctic Club of America" (PDF). The Explorers Club. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  8. "Famous Firsts". The Explorers Club.
  9. Honorary Members
  10. Robert Falcon Scott was elected a member posthumously
  11. "Explorers Club Events Page". The Explorers Club.
  12. "The Explorers Journal: The Official Quarterly of The Explorers Club since 1921". Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  13. "Solar Impulse Visits The Explorers Club". The Explorers Club. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  14. "Updates of the Five Deeps Exepedition". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  15. Malko, George. "Scientology, The Now Religion". Delacorte Press. Retrieved October 21, 2019. It is a fact that in 1940... he [Hubbard] was duly elected a member of the august Explorer's Club in New York... In explaining the circumstances of Hubbard's election to the club, Mr. Randol [Ward Randol, the club's executive director] told me in no uncertain terms that he personally knew the members who had sponsored Hubbard and certainly does not hesitate to vouch for their integrity and judgment... In 1940 Hubbard made his first expedition as a member of the Explorer's Club, and was granted the club flag to carry on his voyage, a distinct honor given only when a member's application and description of an intended expedition has been given the severest scrutiny... Hubbard's expedition that year was to Alaska, under the title of the Alaskan-Radio Expedition. In the years since, Hubbard has made two more voyages flying the Explorer's Club flag, one in 1961, an Oceanographic-Archeological Expedition, and one in 1966, the Hubbard Geological Survey Expedition.
  16. "Chronicle". Media Resources. Retrieved October 21, 2019. On 19 February 1940 L. Ron Hubbard is elected a member of the prestigious Explorers Club. Concurrently he plans an Alaskan expedition, and on 27 July 1940 his Alaskan Radio Experimental Expedition embarks from Seattle. His vessel is the 32-foot ketch Magician, and she sails under Explorers Club flag number 105.
  17. Dokoupil, Tony. "Exclusive New Texts from Scientology's L Ron Hubbard". Newsweek. Retrieved October 21, 2019. In 1940 Hubbard carried the club flag on his first official expedition, sailing a vest-pocket yacht from Washington to Alaska.
  18. Bezos, Jeff. "F1 Engine Recovery Updates: Congratulations Team!". Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  19. EST, Kastalia Medrano On 1/12/18 at 10:02 AM (2018-01-12). "The undisturbed tomb of a Scythian prince was found frozen in time in Siberia". Newsweek. Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  20. Kourounis, George (28 December 2016). "Darvaza "Doorway To Hell" Expedition - Turkmenistan". Retrieved 2017-04-02.
  21. "James Cameron Reflects on Exploration". Archived from the original on March 26, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  22. Dokoupil, Tony. "Exclusive New Texts from Scientology's L Ron Hubbard". Newsweek. Retrieved October 21, 2019. Explorers Club flags are iconic, coveted awards for serious expeditions...One went to sea with Hubbard for most of the 1960s...the same flag as the astronauts aboard Apollo 8, which in 1968 became the first manned mission to orbit the moon.”
  23. "The Explorers Club Medal". The Explorers Club.
  24. Moskowitz, Clara (March 20, 2013). "Astronauts Celebrate Adventure at Explorers Club Dinner". Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  25. Aguilera, Mario (March 4, 2014). "Medal Honors Scripps Icon Walter Munk's Lifetime of Science and Exploration". UC San Diego.
  26. "The Explorers Club Honors". The Explorers Club.
  27. "Victor Vescovo - The 2020 Explorers Club Medal". The Explorers Club. January 14, 2020.
  28. "The Explorers Club Honors - 2019 - Kenneth Lacovara". The Explorers Club.
  29. "The Explorers Club Grants". The Explorers Club.
  30. "The Scott Pearlman Field Award". The Explorers Club.
  31. "About the Club - History - Club presidents, 1905 to present". The Explorers Club. Archived from the original on September 28, 2006.
  32. Ross, Michael Elsohn (March 1, 2014). A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers. Chicago Review Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-61374-441-3. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  33. "The Explorers Club Elects Ted Janulis as 43rd Club President"
  34. "Richard Wiese Elected 44th President of The Explorers Club"
  35. "Richard Garriott Elected 45th President of The Explorers Club"