Tag Archive: Sir Edmund Hillary


Currently housed in a Tudor-style mansion in Manhattan, The Explorers Club is a real place with a legacy of adventurers among its ranks.  Parodied in The Freshman, the club is a meeting place established in 1904 for the purposes of promoting scientific exploration around the planet, and it does host an annual dinner with unusual flair.  A table can cost you $100,000 and features food including tarantula and other exotic animals that would be a nightmare for animal rights advocates, not to mention the taxidermy displays (Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was filmed there).  Honorary members include the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, John Glenn, Sir Edmund Hillary, Buzz Aldrin, and the club has bestowed its highest award to notables including Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall, Robert Ballard, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Not quite a secret society, the members have circumnavigated the world, flown, sailed, driven, and walked across each continent in search of the next discovery, returning back to the club to share the stories of their accomplishments.  In one of his last projects before his death in 2003, journalist and noted personality George Plimpton (himself a member) collected 51 first-hand accounts of these journeys from the club’s ranks and published them as As Told at the Explorers Club: More Than Fifty Gripping Tales of Adventure, available now in a new edition from Lyons Press.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After World War II, in essence a world stunned with death and destruction emerged to try to forge its way into the future after one of the planet’s most trying challenges.  Inspiring tens of millions was the true-life voyage of Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl, a pioneer made of the same mettle as Shackleton and Hillary.  Heyerdahl was a student in Oslo who spent a year in Polynesia, where he developed the idea that peoples like the ancient Incas could have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and settled the area easier than saling from the west.  After a decade trying to prove his hypothesis, Heyerdahl assembled a team of six men, five Norwegians and a Swede, and built a balsa raft consistent with parts and construction the Polynesians would have had available centuries before, which he named Kon-Tiki after an Incan sun god.  His challenge?  To complete the voyage from South America to Polynesia without assistance from modern technology.

Heyerdahl’s 1948 account of the voyage, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, became one of the best-selling books of all time (selling more than 56 million copies), his 1950 documentary of the voyage, Kon-Tiki, earned an Oscar, and an impressive 2012 theatrical adaptation, also named Kon-Tiki, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.  Both of these films are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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