The SES Explorer Awards


Xinyang Hong
The SES Explorer Awards 2014

The SES are delighted to be offering their first SPONSORED AWARDS, with a total of £15,000 available in 2014. The Society are indebted to the Swiss watch maker Zenith, to The Rivers Foundation and to Cadogan Tate for their generous support.

  • The SES Zenith Explorer Award is an award of £8,500, and a Zenith watch, for an outstanding entrepreneur leading an inspiring and innovative expedition.
  • The SES Rivers Foundation Award for Health & Humanities is an award of £5,000, with its focus on improving the lives of communities, and with an interest in culture, arts and music within communities.
  • The SES Cadogan Tate Explorer Award is an award of £1000, for those leading an expedition with sustainable, organic, conservation and environmental focus.

The SES is embarking on its next great expedition, a global search for the world’s "Pioneers with Purpose"; leaders and visionaries who are setting out to change the earth through extraordinary feats of ingenuity and scientific exploration. With the support of some of the great names of exploration (see testimonials below), we want to support the rising stars in the world of exploration, who will gain knowledge of value and purpose by leading the expeditions of the future. He or she should share the pioneering commitment of John Blashford-Snell, by inspiring young people to go on and do great things.

THE SES EXPLORER AWARDS are intended to offer support to people who can demonstrate their leadership capabilities to date, and how the experience they will gain from planning and carrying out their own expeditions will provide a legacy for their own development, as well as a legacy in the field in which the expedition takes place.

Applicants must instigate their own expedition, which must contain scientific fieldwork which will be assessed to verify that it is capable of making a significant contribution to the project concerned, and that it falls into the Society’s objectives:

‘To promote, organise or support (whether financially or otherwise) expeditions for the exploration of the under-developed regions of the earth for the purpose of advancing knowledge of, or research into, or for the purpose of educating individuals in the geography, geodesy, geophysics, history, archaeology, sociology and economics, together with the topography, ecology, geology, meteorology, botany, zoology, human physiology and glaciology of the said regions and allied subject relating thereto and, where incidental to such expeditions, to advance the education and relieve the poverty and sickness of the people of such regions.

The SES Zenith Explorer Award 2014

Zenith El Primero 36 000 VpH watch
John Blashford-Snell has proudly worn a Zenith el Primero chronograph watch for over 40 years, proving the capabilities of the watch through the most testing of conditions. The SES are therefore delighted to welcome Zenith as their first sponsor of the SES Explorer Awards. Zenith has always been about ‘Entrepreneurial spirit’, in its ability to come up with new ideas, and be a world leader in their technical development. Zenith watches have been associated with some of the world’s greatest adventurers, Roald Amundsen, Mahatma Gandhi, Prince Albert I of Monaco, Louis Leriot, John F Kennedy and most recently Felix Baumgartner.

The SES and Zenith invite applications of the highest quality from those who can demonstrate the same Entrepreneurial spirit and ability to inspire other through their scientific research and daring adventure.

An award of £8,500 is available, together with a Zenith El Primero 36 000 VpH. Applicants should ensure that they have fully read the  Introduction and Guidelines to The SES Explorer Awards 2013 v1.pdf (304 KB) as well as the specific criteria contained within the application form before submitting an application. The closing date for applications is 31.12.13.

It is strongly suggested that those considering an application first contact the SES to discuss their expedition and eligibility.  SES Zenith Explorer Award 2014 Application Form and Notes.pdf (1.75 MB)


The Rivers Foundation has for many years provided support for children and young adults, both in the UK and internationally. It particularly focuses on the education, social development and medical well being of young people. Alan Rivers, chairman of The Rivers Foundation is a long time friend and supporter of John Blashford-Snell and the SES, and has generously donated money to purchase and school books to be distributed by John during his expeditions as well as medical equipment and supplies. The Rivers Foundation also has an interest in development of the arts, culture and music, and would love to hear about projects involving development of these areas within their expedition.

An award of £5,000 is available, and designed to support projects focussing on improving the lives of communities in deprived and under-developed regions of the world. It may be awarded to support expeditions with a health focus, or for anthropological projects including those with a cultural interest. Applicants should ensure that they have fully read the  Introduction and Guidelines to The SES Explorer Awards 2013 v1.pdf (304 KB) as well as the specific criteria contained within the application form before submitting an application. The closing date for applications is 31.12.13.

It is strongly suggested that those considering an application first contact the SES to discuss their expedition and eligibility.  SES Rivers Foundation Award 2014 Application Form and Notes.pdf (294 KB)


Global removal company Cadogan Tate has been enormously helpful to the SES for many years, having moved stores to expedition equipment to destinations throughout the world. They have built a loyal following amongst individuals and organisations who expect the highest level of service and expertise.

The SES Cadogan Tate Explorer Award of £1,000 is designed to support expeditions focussing on the advancement of organic, sustainable and natural practices, conservation, and preservation of our planet, life on the planet and its environment. Applicants should ensure that they have fully read the  Introduction and Guidelines to The SES Explorer Awards 2013 v1.pdf (304 KB) as well as the specific criteria contained within the application form before submitting an application  SES Cadogan Tate Explorer Award 2014 Application Form and Notes V2.pdf (132 KB). The closing date for applications is 31.12.13.

It is strongly suggested that those considering an application first contact the SES to discuss their expedition and eligibility.


The Trustees of the SES will award two SES Explorer Awards each of £500, during 2014. The recipients may be selected from those applying for but unsuccessful in their applications for a sponsored award; they may be selected from planned expeditions which the SES learn about during the year. A completed application form must be submitted by those who have not already applied for a sponsored award.

Applicants should ensure that they have fully read the  Introduction and Guidelines to The SES Explorer Awards 2013 v1.pdf (304 KB) as well as the specific criteria contained within the application form before submitting an application.
 SES Explorer Award application form 2013 v3.pdf (290 KB)

SPONSORS We invite organisations and individuals who are interested in joining our venture to showcase emerging talent to take a look at this short presentation  PowerPoint - SES Awards for Exploration 2013.ppt (1.42 MB) and to contact Sally Reid at the SES.


Ranulph Fiennes
Ranulph Fiennes - The organisers of London 2012 sought to 'inspire a generation', and this vision is echoed by the SES in the launch of their Explorer Awards. With support and backing from the SES, the rising stars of the exploration world can discover so much that is yet unknown, and inspire others to join their quest for knowledge.

Monty Halls
Monty Halls - It is a commonly held misconception that the days of the great exploratory expeditions are over. Programmes such as the SES Explorer Awards are vital to fuel the efforts of young explorers, to facilitate the projects of the next generation of expedition leaders, and to continue the long and proud British tradition of stepping off the map.

Neil Laughton
Neil Laughton - JBS and the SES were instrumental in supporting my desire to travel and explore the world. As a direct result my life has been tremendously exciting, culminating in my achieving the Explorers Grand Slam. This is a wonderful opportunity for young and aspiring adventurers of the next generation.

Rosie Stancer
Rosie Stancer - The SES is to be applauded in its initiative for throwing open the gates to plucky young explorers, to go out into the unknown, meet fresh challenges whilst inspiring others through their own achievements. Such opportunities will yield a rich legacy of learning and continue to uphold our proud heritage of exploration.

John Blashford-Snell - Exploration today is all about advancement; we aim to give people the opportunity to explore their particular areas of interest first hand, to discover what is happening and to gain the knowledge and understanding to do something to help.


SES EXPLORER 2013: Xinyang Hong - Selin Cuo Expedition

Xinyang Hong Tibet
The first Scientific Exploration Society Explorer 2013, Xinyang Hong has recently returned from her expedition to Selin Cuo, a breath-taking but very understudied plateau at over 4500m in Tibet. During her expedition, Xinyang (now in her 3rd year as a D.Phil in Zoology at Oxford) and team followed a family of the endangered black-neck crane (Grus nigicollis) during the breeding season, monitoring how they co-habit with terns and yak and how wildlife in the region is responding to the increasing levels of industrial disturbance to the wetland habitat. A study was also carried out of en endemic fish (Gymnocypris selincuonsis), with the first ever images and underwater footage recorded. Xinyang is currently working on a documentary to raise awareness of the issues, and will use this study as a model to promote eco-tourism and raise awareness of wildlife protection in Tibet to be screened within Tibet, wider and also at various conservation events and documentary festivals.

The SES Explorer Award funding was used towards the hire of the essential photographic equipment required. Xinyang says ‘The opportunity to lead an expedition in Tibet has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had to date. I am grateful for the assistance and support that the SES has given me throughout the research and planning of the expedition. The SES suggested great contacts and organisations to help with the expedition planning. It also wouldn’t have been possible to obtain the footage that we have without the generous financial support of the SES’.

The SES recognise Xinyang’s pioneering work, and her longer term efforts to use her findings to preserve such stunning and vulnerable species and habitats see her as a perfect illustration of the ‘Pioneers with Purpose’ the Society wish to show-case through the SES Explorer Awards. The Society have recently announced a series of sponsored awards with a total of £15,000 available in 2014. For more information click here.

SES EXPLORER 2012: Augusta Thomson - Expedition to Mount Kailash in Tibet

Augusta Thomson
In the summer of 2012, the SES was pleased to support Augusta Thomson of the Oxford University Expeditionary Society (OUEC) to mount an expedition to Mount Kailash. Together, as an expedition team of three, we spent five weeks documenting and researching the practice of pilgrimage and the various sacred offerings left at pilgrimage sites across the Tibetan Plateau and, specifically, around the Mount Kailash Kora, or pilgrimage route.

Augusta says, "Our time in Tibet and around the Sacred Mountain provided extensive data on the implications of material culture offerings for pilgrimage practices, and the results of the expedition confirmed that these offerings do help to construct a pilgrim community, comprised of diverse human communities that might not otherwise interact or crosspaths.

I am currently sifting through thousands of photographs taken in-field, and am finishing up the first draft of the final expedition report. This autumn Lara Yeo (Expedition Treasurer) and I presented our project before high school students at several schools around New England. We have additional talks lined up for the winter and spring, and are hoping that our story will feature in the Wellesley College Magazine and other publications. Additionally, we currently have two film projects underway, based on the footage we compiled of the journey- one documentary will serve as an educational tool about pilgrimage practices across the Tibetan Plateau, in extent, and one which will focus on our journey around Mount Kailash. I also just discovered that one of my expedition photographs will be featured in a calendar sponsored by Stitch UK Ltd to raise money for environmental conservation. Whilst I will use the research results from the expedition to write my Third Year dissertation on pilgrimage at Oxford University, I also hope to use my experiences in-field to raise awareness about the need to preserve the culture and landscape of the Tibetan Plateau, and to inspire other explorers to pursue overseas travel.

This expedition would have been impossible without the generous support of organisations like the Scientific Exploration Society, and, along with the rest of the expedition team, I would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank the SES for its generous financial contribution to our project. Our experiences of researching, planning and finally undertaking and completing the expedition to Mount Kailash, were deeply enriching. And I continue to work on our post-expedition data analysis, results, and assorted dissemination projects, and to collaborate with the Scientific Exploration Society, I urge others to take advantage of this remarkable opportunity to obtain funding to lead an expedition or mission to a remote region of the world!"

SES EXPLORER 2011: David Lewis - Expedition to Afar in Ethiopia

SESAS photo by Anthon Jackson
In August 2011, the SES was pleased to support the then Oxford University Expeditionary Society (OUEC) Student President, David Lewis, leading his anthropological study of the Afar people in Northern Ethiopia. David sent a thorough and fascinating report to the SES, including this marvellous testimonial:

“The Oxford University Danakil Expedition was without doubt one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date. The chance to lead an international team to the Danakil is something I’m incredibly thankful for and it certainly would not have been possible without the help of organisations such as the Scientific Exploration Society. We are especially indebted to the SES for their kind guidance and support through the newly-launched bursary scheme, as well as anecdotal advice from the well-travelled and field-hardened team back at HQ in Motcombe!

The expedition was particularly challenging, mentally as well as physically, though the skills we honed were invaluable and the memories unforgettable. The pragmatism and thoroughness we developed through the necessary research, meticulous planning and eventual execution of the expedition will undoubtedly stick with us and be practised for a long time yet - a very formative experience indeed!”
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