Friday, July 29, 2011
Members of The Explorers Club, the world renowned international exploration organization, discovered a bit of urban archaeology unseen for years – the North Face of their iconic Upper East Side headquarters named for famed broadcaster and Club member Lowell Thomas.
The 107-year-old Club celebrated completion of the restoration of its 46 East 70th Street north-facing façade, and removal of construction scaffolding, with a public open house on July 28. Immediately following the ribbon ceremony, a climber descended the east exterior wall of the six-story building, highlighting the next area of the building targeted for Phase II of the renovation project. The Phase II renovation will also focus on the Club’s outside terrace and a colonnade of particular historical import that dates from the medieval period, another portion of which is believed to be housed at The Cloisters.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Members and Public Discover
The Explorers Club “North Face”;
Celebration of completion of
Phase I Headquarters Renovation
Open House, Thursday, July 28,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Public Welcome
NEW YORK, N.Y. (July 26, 2011) – Members of The Explorers Club, the world renowned international exploration organization, will soon discover a bit of urban archaeology unseen for years – the North Face of their iconic Upper East Side headquarters named for famed broadcaster and Club member Lowell Thomas.
The 107-year-old Club will celebrate completion of the restoration of its 46 East 70th Street north-facing façade, and removal of construction scaffolding, with a public open house starting with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, July 28, at 11 a.m. Immediately following the ribbon ceremony, a climber will descend the east exterior wall of the six-story building, highlighting the next area of the building targeted for Phase II of the renovation project. The Phase II renovation will also focus on the Club’s outside terrace and a colonnade of particular historical import that dates from the medieval period, another portion of which is believed to be housed at The Cloisters.
Upon taking office as president in 2009, Lorie Karnath ¬– the 37th president and second female president in the Club’s 107-year history – launched a fundraising campaign to raise capital to begin the much needed revitalization of the 100-year-old headquarters. This initial campaign has raised the most amount of money to date for the Club under one administration.
“As explorers our mission is to not only conduct field research and add to man’s body of scientific knowledge, but to help ensure cultural and historical preservation as well. In this instance, cultural preservation starts at H.Q.,” stated Karnath.
In addition to restoring the façade of the Jacobean revival mansion, Phase I of the renovation involved repairing 114 stained-glass windows; installing a new roof membrane; replacing limestone ribs on the exterior; and repointing the South and East façades.
A spectacular 3-1/2-story bay window was meticulously rebuilt with reinforced stone, cast and color matched to the original that had deteriorated beyond repair.
The initial building fundraising campaign “Preserve a Brick” called for $50 donations to preserve each brick. “Adoptions” of stained-glass windows were offered beginning at $5,000 each, supplementing the numerous donations received from private individuals as well as a number of foundations including the Mabel Dorn Reeder and Richard Olson Foundations.
Rarely Viewed Artifacts
Rarely viewed artifacts from the Club’s extensive collection will be displayed throughout the day. These will include fragments of matting used in the burial of 10th century Alaskan mummies; a Polar Capsule left at the North Pole by the 1986 Steger North Pole Expedition and recovered off the north coast of Ireland three years later; an axe from 1911 used in the construction of Robert Falcon Scott's base shelter in Antarctica; and a 1906 recording made by Robert E. Peary, who would successfully claim to reach the North Pole in 1909.
There will also be a solar display courtesy of event sponsor Eastern Mountain Sports where guests can charge their cell phones while viewing the building’s elegant interior.
The unveiling of the North Façade and open house will be followed that evening by a presidential picnic hosted by President Karnath to launch Phase II of the capital campaign (tickets required). Old Pulteney has prepared an appropriate whisky tasting for the event in celebration of the restored North Face of the Lowell Thomas Building, the Club’s polar traditions, and Old Pulteney’s current Arctic expedition, “Row to the Pole.”
For more information: www.explorers.org.
Friday, July 15, 2011
The Explorers Club is Monitoring Flags Like Never Before
©Copyright 2011 The Explorers Club
During the early part of the 20th century, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an Honorary Member of The Explorers Club, carried three flags on his second Antarctic expedition in 1933-35. Yet by the mid-1950s, when their whereabouts were still a mystery, the celebrated explorer was reportedly miffed that Club officials would ask for them back. You can imagine the sense of unease when the Club president solicited board volunteers: “Who here wants to ask Admiral Byrd to return our flags?”
There are 202 numbered flags in existence, but several are still unaccounted for. Occasionally they turn up from time to time. In fact, just last spring, while rummaging through some old archives, polar explorer Paul Schurke of Ely, Minn., found number 124 that he had taken on his 1989 Bering Bridge Expedition. “It was mismarked in a box marked ‘Flags Flown at Pole,’” he reported somewhat sheepishly. It has since been returned.
Now flags are being tracked like never before thanks to a new website feature at Explorers.org. Log on, click Expeditions-Flag Expeditions–Interactive Map and view a real-time map of the flags almost anywhere in the world (the polar regions have yet to be added). Click an individual flag to read the Flag Report from that expedition, a report flag-carrying members are required to submit upon completion of their project.
The Explorers Club flag represents a history of courage and accomplishment and has been carried on hundreds of expeditions since 1918: to both poles, to the highest peaks of the greatest mountain ranges, to the depths of the ocean, and to outer space, perhaps someday even to Mars and beyond. Flag expeditions fulfill a fundamental part of the Club's mission: To engage in scientific exploration and share the results. Flags are constantly being re-circulated, even more so now. New durable nylon fabric construction withstands the rigors of expedition travel better than the cotton flags of old which often returned stained and in shreds.
Consider the tale of Flag no. 170. Starting in 1956 it went to the South Pole with Albert L. Raithel, Jr., then Nepal with John Alley (1968), the North Pole with Rev. Laurie Dexter (1981), Madagascar with Terry J. Cooper (1985), and the North Pole again with Will Steger’s first confirmed dog sled expedition (1986), with numerous stops in between.
“Flags are the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for an expedition. We receive fantastic applications that are really impressive,” said former Club director and Flag and Honors Committee member David Concannon. Each year, the committee considers about 100 applications, rejecting at least half because they do not meet exacting standards of what constitutes a flag-worthy expedition. Just being first to do something is not enough; what matters is the science, the research, and how the project improves understanding of the world, according to Concannon.
Flags require a $250 deposit and, like Hollywood’s Oscars, can never be sold. Members don’t own the flag, they can only be borrowed. One year when a flag came up for auction at Christie’s, the Club had it removed despite strong interest from collectors to own one the easy way – with just a few strokes of a well-heeled checkbook.
Flags are only retired if they were taken on a trip where a member died, or if they participated in an historic expedition, such as the flags taken on three moon voyages and now displayed under glass in the Clark Room in the Club’s Lowell Thomas Building in New York. Nearby is flag number 2, featuring an older design, taken to the Gobi Desert in 1925 by famed paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews. Also on display is Thor Heyerdahl’s retired flag no. 123 carried on the historic voyage of the Kon Tiki, an expedition that inspired many of today’s explorers. You can see it in one of the images in his famous book about the expedition.
Sadly, the last flag to be retired was no. 68 in 2009, carried by highly regarded British diver Carl Spencer, 37, who perished in 400 feet of water while diving the Britannic, sister ship to the Titanic. The flag began its career in 1937 and had twice voyaged aboard the Space Shuttle.
“Members have studied some of the world’s greatest mysteries,” said Club President Lorie Karnath. “The Titanic, the tombs of pharoahs, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. I’m sure we’re up to the task of locating more of the missing flags, especially with the help of the new mapping feature on Explorers.org.” She tells Club members, or anyone else for that matter, “If you have a flag, or know the whereabouts of one, let us in on the mystery and we’ll track it down.”