L. Ron Hubbard was a member of the Explorers Club L
ast night I was up at the Explorers Club,” wrote L. Ron Hubbard from his New York residence on December 13, 1939. “Wilkins and Stefansson and Archbold and ad infinitum were there and they made me much at home.” In fact, he was soon to be honored with a full membership (effective February 1940), and thus a long association with those who “had to be big or fall before the unknown.” But first let us add a few pertinent details:

Wilkins was, of course, Sir George Hubert Wilkins, the first to fly the Antarctic and second in command of Ernest Shackleton’s British Imperial Antarctic Expedition. Stefansson was naturally Vilhjalmur Stefansson of North Canadian and Arctic Circle fame, while Archbold was Richard Archbold of New Guinea exploration. Among other cited qualifications for admission—and requirements for full Explorers Club membership are, indeed, stiff—were the aforementioned LRH additions to West Indies Coast Pilots from his Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition, his conducting of the first complete Puerto Rican mineralogical survey under United States domain and the closure of some thirty hazardous airstrips following from his Department of Commerce report. Finally, let us understand the Explorers Club had been founded in 1904, then stood on Seventy-second Street (now on Seventieth Street) in New York City and evoked precisely what one would expect from the realm of grand exploration, including stuffed polar bears on staircase landings, leopard skins across the hearth and a pair of elephant tusks to grace the fireplace. The club also boasted—and still maintains—an astonishing library of field journals and maps from those who actually shaped those maps. Then, too, as Ron’s note implies, one could regularly find the likes of Wilkins and Stefansson swapping stories of polar adventure (or periodically seated in the banquet hall to dine on flank steaks cut from a long-frozen mammoth).

More to the point, however, particularly as regards Ron’s story, is the famed Explorers Club flag. Awarded to active members in command of or serving with expeditions of legitimate scientific concern, the Explorers Club flag represents an official sanction of exploratory ventures. It has a bold history from Roy Chapman Andrew’s descent into the Gobi to Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mount Everest, from the bottom of the ocean to the face of the moon. (The flag was literally planted on the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong.) Moreover, men have suffered beneath it, died beneath it, and those entrusted with it are sincerely implored to “always bear in mind that this flag has been used in the past by many famous persons belonging to the Explorers Club, and it is a signal honor to carry it.”

Recipes For Adventure Continued...

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