The Scientific Exploration Society (SES) is a UK registered charity (No. 267410). It was founded in 1969 by Colonel John Blashford-Snell and colleagues following the successful first navigation of the Ethiopian Blue Nile in order to initiate a worldwide programme of scientific expeditions for the exploration of remote regions of the earth; focusing on scientific research, conservation, education and community aid projects, particularly in under-resourced environments.

The SES is one of the longest running exploration organisations in the world, with an unrivalled record of initiating over 150 expeditions since it began, achieving many 'world firsts' in exploration, pioneering and testing specialist equipment in the field and developing leadership skills.

The SES seeks to inspire and support - through the SES Explorer Awards - the next generation of ground breaking 'Pioneers with Purpose'. It also seeks to recognise high quality, innovative and pioneering scientific exploration through championing the aims and objectives of a number of expeditions - Championed Expeditions - annually that match the aims and objectives of the SES.


Reed boats

1994-2012 First re-tracing of trade routes using Reed Boats
Encouraged by the eminent anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, the Society has undertaken 8 expeditions from 1994 in South America aimed at showing that ancient people could navigate from Bolivia to the Atlantic in traditional reed boats. After 2001, these expeditions became devoted to archaeological, geological and community aid projects in Bolivia.

Nepal 1995 river crossing
1991-2012 First discovery of giant elephants in Nepal
A Society backed expedition investigated reports of a giant mammoth-like elephant in the Bardia reserve of Western Nepal. This resulted in the first discovery of ‘Raja Gaj’ or ‘King Elephant’ and a series of 11 expeditions to date (the most recent in 2012) has enabled monitoring of the herd and encouraged the Nepalese Wildlife department to give emphasis to the protection of the area.

1982 Operation Raleigh - FIRST major global expedition for young people
After the success of Operation Drake and initially a 4 year project following in the footsteps of Sir Walter Raleigh, Operation Raleigh took over 4,000 young people around the world linking expeditions. It continues today as Raleigh International, and over 36,000 young people have partaken in projects across the globe.

1978 Operation Drake - FIRST youth project to circumnavigate the globe
Founded by John Blashford-Snell and HRH The Prince of Wales, Operation Drake was the largest youth expedition ever to leave the UK. In its two years, 414 young people took part in the voyage, working on land based projects in over 16 countries.

KM Boats
1974-75 FIRST navigation of almost all of the Zaire River
John Blashford-Snell led an SES expedition navigating almost all the 2,700 miles of the great Zaire (now Congo) River whilst carrying out medical and scientific research.

Range Rover
1971-72 FIRST crossing of the complete Darien Gap
The SES tested Range Rovers on an expedition from Alaska to the Cape of Good Hope, crossing the swamps and rain forests of the Darien Gap of Central America, this ‘missing link’ of the trans-American highway. This expedition has been well documented and attracted world-wide media coverage.

1968 FIRST navigation of the Blue Nile
At the invitation of Emperor Haile Selassie, John Blashford-Snell led a British Army expedition on the first descent of the infamous Blue Nile. It was after the success of this expedition that he and colleagues founded The Scientific Exploration Society.


2007 - Paramotors
The FIRST use of motorised canopies for essential reconnaissance took place during an expedition to Bolivia in 2007.

1984 - Gore-Tex
The FIRST Gore-Tex anorak, tested by John Blashford-Snell in Tibet on Operation Raleigh is now in the Berghaus Museum.

1982 - Global Positioning System (GPS)
The SES FIRST tested GPS equipment in the Honduran jungle in 1982.

1971 - Range Rover
Land Rover’s new Range Rover was tested crossing the impenetrable rainforests of the Darien Gap in Panama.

1969 - Hovercraft
Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ SES White Nile Expedition trialled some of the earliest small hovercrafts. (image courtesy of The Hovercraft Museum).

1968 - Pioneers of White Water Rafting
An innovative prototype vessel designed by the SES to ride rapids, survive impact, carry a heavy load (crew and essential supplies) - pioneering what has now become a worldwide sport.


Under the patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the SES initiated the first ever global youth expeditions Operation Drake in 1976 and Operation Raleigh in 1982 taking 4,500 young people on worldwide expeditions. This pioneering concept spawned what the world now knows as ‘the Gap Year’.

One of the greatest legacies of the SES is in developing leadership skills in young people worldwide, which the SES believes to be absolutely crucial in today’s uncertain political and economic climate where these skills are much in demand.

This work continues today in a many forms, two of the most tangible being:

The Drake Fellowship was formed after Operation Drake specifically to carry on helping under-privileged young people; it ran from centres based in the heart of inner cities within the UK. The work of this invaluable organisation over the past 40 years was recognised by The Princes’ Trust, which went on to absorb The Drake Fellowship (which had joined with the charity Fairbridge) in 2011.

Raleigh International was set up to continue the work of Operation Raleigh. It is a charity which aims to encourage young people to volunteer on scientific, community and environmental programmes around the world. The ‘venturers’ work on projects designed to protect the environment and to enhance community life whilst developing their personal skills, knowledge, leadership and sense of environmental awareness. To date, Operation Raleigh and Raleigh International have been responsible for encouraging over 36,000 youngsters worldwide.

These two institutions carry on the pioneering spirit underlying the ethos of the SES which is that today’s youngsters are tomorrow’s future. Teach them well - they are our legacy.


Honorary President
Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, DSc (Hon), D Eng (hc), FRSGS

Chairman of the Society
Neil Laughton

Honorary Treasurer
Steve Peckham ACA

Honorary Solicitors
Richard Wheen MA, Richard Gerrard

SES Council Members
Neil Laughton (Chair); Diane Allen; James Borrell; Peter Felix CBE; Barbara Jeffery; Peter Kohler; Trevor Moss; Steve Peckham; Briony Turner.

Co-opted SES Council Members
Jane Davis FRGS; Richard Gerrard; Michael Baggs.

SES Trustees
Neil Laughton; Diane Allen; James Borrell; Peter Felix; Barbara Jeffrey; Peter Kohler; Trevor Moss; Steve Peckham; Briony Turner.

Honorary Vice Presidents
Phyllis Angliss; Wendy Bentall FLS; John Davies; Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt OBE; Pen Hadow; Neil Laughton; Ruth Mindel; Andrew Mitchell; Richard Snailham MA, FRGS; Rosie Stancer; Lucy Thompson.

Honorary Advisory Board
Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE (Chair); HSH Duke Leopold d'Arenberg; Dame Dr Claire Bertschinger; George Bullard; Simon Chinn; Craig Cohon; Jane Davis; Robin Edwards; Peter Felix CBE; Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE; Ben Fogle; Bear Grylls; Pen Hadow; Sean Hotung; Neil Laughton; Simon Murray CBE; Dr Mary Jean Reimer; Neville Shulman CBE; Rosie Stancer; Prof Mike Stroud OBE; Levison Wood.

SES Explorer Awards Committee
John Blashford-Snell OBE, DSc(Hon), D Eng(hc), FRSGS; Andrew Mitchell BSc, FRGS; Barry Moss FRGS; Diane Allen; Edward Cooper; James Borrell; Barry Moss; Sally Reid.

SES Endorsed Expeditions Committee
Diane Allen; Richard Gerrard; Trevor Moss; Henrietta Thorpe.

HAB Development Committee
Peter Felix CBE (Chair); John Blashford-Snell; Laura Miles; Diane Allen; Barbara Jeffrey; Neil Laughton; Trevor Moss; Steve Peckham; Sally Reid; Ferzine Esmail.

The SES co-operates with SES Jersey.

CEO: Henrietta Thorpe - henrietta@ses-explore.org
Executive Secretary: TBC - admin@ses-explore.org
SES Explorer Awards and Events: Sally Reid - sally@ses-explore.org
HAB Development Committee Assistant: Laura Miles - laura@ses-explore.org
Finance Manager and SES Membership: Gail Lloyd - gail@ses-explore.org
Film Trusts: Ros Wardall
Hon Archivist: Capt Jim Masters MBE
Hon Logistics Officer: Dave Smith

Overseas Representations
Econ Yolima Cipagauta (Latin America); Captain John Hinchliffe (Myanmar);
John Edwards (India); Professor Terbish (Mongolia); Ato Solomon (Ethiopia);
Jill Weir (Canada); Major General Joe Singh MSS, MSc (Guyana)

The SES is a registered charity (No 267410), incorporated in England as a Company limited by guarantee (No 1145214). Registered Office: Wedgewood, Dartnell Advenue, West Byfleet, Surrey, KT14 6PJ.


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