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Our Historical Impact

Our First Expeditions

  • 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.
    After this expedition's success, JBS and his
    colleagues founded SES.

    FIRST crossing ofthe entire Darien Gap

    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, the trans-American highway ‘missing link’.

    1978 Operation Drake
    FIRST youth project to circumnavigate the globe

    Founded by John Blashford-Snell and the then Prince of Wales, Operation Drake was the largest youth expedition ever to leave the UK. In its two years, 414 young venturers took part in the voyage, working on land-based projects in over 16 countries.

  • 1982 Operation Raleigh
    FIRST major global expedition for young venturers

    After the success of Operation Drake and initially, a four-year project following in the footsteps of Sir Walter Raleigh, Operation Raleigh took over 4,000 young venturers around the world linking expeditions. It continues today as Raleigh International and over 36,000 young people have participated in projects across the globe.

    FIRST discovery of giant elephants in Nepal

    An expedition to investigate 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 emphasize the protection of the area.

    FIRST re-tracing of trade routes using reed boats

    Encouraged by the eminent anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, SES undertook eight 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.

Our Innovative Product Testing

  • 1968
    White Water Rafting

    SES designed an innovative vessel to ride rapids, survive impact, and carry a heavy load, pioneering what has now become a worldwide sport.


    Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ SES White Nile Expedition trialed some of the earliest small hovercrafts.

    Range Rover

    Land Rover’s new Range Rover was tested crossing the impenetrable rainforests of the Darien Gap in Panama.
  • 1982
    Global Positioning System

    SES FIRST tested GPS equipment in the Honduran jungle in 1982.


    The FIRST Gore-Tex jacket, tested by John Blashford-Snell in Tibet on Operation Raleigh is now in the Berghaus Museum.


    The FIRST use of motorised canopies for essential reconnaissance took place during an expedition to Bolivia in 2007.

Our Research & Medical Studies

• Blindness: Dahlek Islands, 1971
• Cataract operations with the international ophthalmic team: Africa, Asia, and South America
• Medical and dental aid worldwide: all expeditions since 1969
• International study and book on onchocerciasis (River Blindness): Zaire (Congo)
• Wildlife studies to protect species: Nepal
• Botanical and zoological studies worldwide
• Marine conservation projects: Operations Drake and Raleigh
Visit John Blashford-Snell's website to find out more!
Scientific Exploration Society, Expedition Base, Motcombe, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 9PB +44 (0)1747 853353 
(Registered Charity No 267410)
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