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, conservation, education and community aid projects.

The SES is one of the longest running exploration organisations in the world, with an unrivalled record of initiating over 150 expeditions in its 43 year history, achieving many “world firsts” in exploration, pioneering and testing specialist equipment in the field and developing leadership skills.


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 discover 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 4000 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 world-wide 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 4500 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, 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 Scientific Exploration Society which is that today’s youngsters are tomorrow’s future. Teach them well - they are our legacy.

Council Members

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

Chairman of the Society
Andrew Mitchell BSc, FRGS

Honorary Treasurer
Jill Fitzgerald ICAEW, MA(Cantab)

Honorary Solicitor
Richard Wheen MA, Richard Gerrard MA, LLB

SES Council Members
Peter Kohler FRGS; Dr John Davies MB, ChB, DRCOG, DTM&H, MSc (Med Sci) Travel Medicine, MSc Medical Anthropology MFTM MRCPS (Glasgow), FRGS, FRIA; Barbara Jeffrey; Diane Allen, Mike Laird PIOR, FRGS, DipCll, FRAS

Co-opted Council Members; Jane Davis FRGS; Richard Gerrard, Peter Felix CBE, Trevor Moss.

Honorary Vice Presidents
Phyllis Angliss; Wendy Bentall FLS; Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt OBE; Ambassador Eric Hotung CBE; Richard Snailham MA, FRGS; Rosie Stancer. Neil Laughton, Pen Hadow

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, Sally Reid.

HAB Development Committee: Peter Felix CBE (Chair), John Blashford-Snell, Andrew Mitchell, Barbara Jeffrey, Lucy Thompson, Anthony Belchambers, Nabila Munshi, Claire Hanratty, Paul Turner, Julia Thorold.

Honorary Advisory Board: John Blashford-Snell (Chairman), HSH Duke d'Arenberg, Dr Dame Claire Bertschinger, George Bullard, Simon Chinn, Ben Fogle, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Neil Laughton, Neville Shulman CBE, Rosie Stancer and Levison Wood.

The SES co-operates with SES Jersey

CEO Lucy Thompson - lucy@ses-explore.org
SES Explorer Awards and Events Sally Reid - sally@ses-explore.org
Sesame Rose Whitfield sesame@ses-explore.org
Social Media, Communications and Website Susannah Redman - susannah@ses-explore.org
Book Keeper Gail Lloyd - gail@ses-explore.org
Hon Archivist: Capt Jim Masters MBE Hon Logistics Officer: Dave Smith
SES Marathon team: Sara Westaway - marathon@ses-explore.org

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)

Andrew Mitchell, a leading international authority on forests and climate change, founded Global Canopy Programme, an international network linking leading worldwide scientific institutions focused on tropical forest research and conservation. His current focus is researching innovative financial mechanisms that value forests as natural capital in a 21st century economy where tropical forests, acting as an ecosystem service, underpin worldwide climate, food, water, energy and livelihood security in Amazonia.

An impassioned advocate of forest conservation, his 35 year career spans scientific research, broadcast journalism and environmental policy. He also advises international governments and institutions, including the Prince of Wales' Rainforest Project. In 2009 he launched the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project, endorsed by institutional investors with over $5 Trillion of assets under management, and in 2010, he launched The REDD Desk on-line knowledge platform with the Forum on REDD Readiness, following GCP�s successful Little REDD Book series.

Barbara Jeffrey's magazine publishing career included Global Marketing Director for Conde Nast Vogue Asia-Pacific as well as various marketing positions at fashion magazines in New York City. She is currently a Producer/Creative Services Director based in London.
She has worked, lived, and travelled to Tokyo, Rome, and the Middle East. Her travels include trekking in Nepal, and African safari and exploring India. She participated in various Operation Drake expeditions.
She is married and lives in London

Mike Laird has visited almost 80 countries and led expeditions in areas such as the Danakil in Ethiopia, retraced the fatal 'Into the Wild' journey in central Alaska and cycled solo across Australia. For all of 2000 he was a participant in the BBC's reality documentary 'Castaway 2000'.
He is the founder and Trustee of charity Marocaroundtheclock which has delivered projects in Morocco and Senegal.
Mike is currently working on projects in Iraq. He is also an accomplished photographer and diver, and lectures on remote travel. Mike is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, an Honorary Member of the Anglo Bolivian Society and has been involved with the SES since joining the Kota Mama V expedition in 2004.

Peter Kohler has a BSc in Geographical Information Systems and Science and is currently working as Geospatial Information Lead at Westminster City Council, London. He served as Navigation Officer for expeditions to the Bolivian rainforest with the Scientific Exploration Society’s Kota Mama VIII and the southern Iraqi marshlands with Mike Laird for which he raised £500 for by swimming the Solent Channel. He has navigated 2,000 nautical miles in the South Pacific in Gaff rigged Schooner and holds a PPL (A) Pilots License and is working towards a Seaplane rating. He is also a member of the Royal Institute of Navigation and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS).

The Society, a registered charity (No 267410), incorporated in England as a Company limited by guarantee (No 1145214)
Registered office: Pound View, 26 Chertsey Road, Chobham, Surrey *

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