Scientific Exploration Society (SES) hosted an important event on Tuesday 2nd October in the Great Hall at the Royal Geographical Society (London) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first descent of the greater part of the Ethiopian Blue Nile. Among the 550 guests were 20 former members of what Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE (SES's Founder and Honorary President), using the Amharic name for the river in deference to Ethiopia, had called the Great Abbai Expedition. It was good to see Tadesse Wolde, a 16-year-old boy-interpreter on the expedition and now a semi-retired Doctor of Anthropology at Oxford University in his mid-sixties.
The celebration was graced by the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The Duke is an old friend of the SES and has attended many previous meetings. He and the Duchess seemed pleased with what they heard and saw and subsequently sent a letter expressing their warm thanks to John and his team. John gave a full account of the expedition with his usual aplomb. All the old stories were there, many of them embellished with new twists! The guests loved it. There were brief contributions from Roger Chapman and Dick Snailham on, respectively, an incident with a crocodile and the story of the big white topee. As well as the excellent slides, there were clips from Survival, Anglia TV’s "The Last Great First".
(Photo: Duke and Duchess of Gloucester flanked by Colonel John Blashford-Snell (left) and Neil Laughton (right))
After the presentation came the raffle of gifts from the evening's sponsors, which raised £2,800, to be halved between the SES and CURE, an Ethiopian children’s charity. The lucky winner of a holiday for two in Ethiopia organised by Ben Morison of Far and Wild and Ethiopian Airlines, was Tara Glen. Before and after the presentation, guests could look at an array of equipment from the expedition, including "Charity", one of the Avon inflatable boats used in the most dangerous phase of the descent and looking as wrinkled as the now elderly men who paddled in her!
(Photo: Mr Robert Glen and Colonel John Blashford-Snell standing in front of a photo of them 50 years ago)
It was a wonderful evening of celebration and a great success - followed for some by a dinner at the Polish Ognisko club in Exhibition Road. Many thanks go to all the donors and supporters and those at Expedition Base who made the evening possible, especially John Blashford-Snell and Jim Masters. Jim, sadly, was too unwell to attend, but, at 90, he can be excused.
(Photo: Mr and Mrs Robert Glen (SES's longest standing sponsor) and Colonel John and Judith Blashford-Snell)