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Highly Respected Explorers

I was invited to spend an afternoon at the Scientific Expedition Society HQ and meet their inspirational leader,  John Blashford-Snell OBE (JB-S).  John is one of the world’s most renowned and highly respected explorers. Where better to get a view on our forthcoming international maps?

John and David at SES HQ Motocombe, Dorset

John and David at SES HQ Motocombe, Dorset

For me this was a way to find out what a real expedition leader would do with our maps; for JB-S this was a chance to meet the people behind an intriguing personalised SplashMap that arrived through his mail box some weeks ago. But it was a great day to listen and discuss adventure. JB-S; how he’s done most things in most places and transformed lives, me on how our maps stand for adventure locally and pretty soon internationally.

Big take-aways!

  • JB-S loves the maps, saying “SplashMaps are highly innovative and of real value to navigation in the field”
  • We’ll present our international map service as part of the upcoming 30 year Operation Raleigh and Drake celebration event at Baden Powel House, London on 18th October!
  • We’re on stand-by to make those expedition ready jungle-surviving maps of ours for the next expedition!

Approaching Expedition HQ

Even in his comfortable corner of Dorset there were signs of adventure as I approach Scientific Expedition Society HQ. John later explained that the drive is also a bridle way and so shared with mountain bikers and dog walkers. However, rather than the usual polite note to “please train your dog not to soil my roses” there were neat little white signs warning of the dog slaughtering adders that inhabit the undergrowth.

Surviving this I arrived at a beautiful cottage with in an attractive, sun filled rose garden. I presented myself (slightly unsure as I was guided all the way by my Sat Nav… really I could have been anywhere!) to a charming lady called Judith, Mrs B-S. She produced a hot mug of tea and treated me to their favourite chocolate hobnobs (I’m coming here again!) whilst I met with Libby Goulton, the editor of the societies magazine, “Sesame”.

The least I could do was introduce these ladies to our SplashMaps. The latest prototype was around my neck. Lighter and softer than the regular maps (though just as rain proof!) I’d almost forgotten I had one on. We spread the New Forest across the desk and began to pour over places remembered and paths yet trod.

"SplashMaps are highly innovative and of real value to navigation in the field"

John with our International Prototype and the Lake District around his neck “SplashMaps are highly innovative and of real value to navigation in the field”

The Man Himself

JB-S arrived from his exercises in amazing health and rugged fitness. No way was his spark or passion for adventure going to give way to his 77 years of age (I had to look that up twice!). He’d just returned from a Recce of a remote area of Columbia where the native people retain a healthy doom laden fear of white visitors. John told me of the challenges of arranging expeditions to such places. The gradual build-up of trust within local communities is clearly a vital first step.

All the stories JB-S told me were astonishing. From the discovery of healing herbs whilst under sustained rocket fire from the Russians with great friend Eddy McGee (see my piece on his son Perry who launched the South Downs SplashMap series) to his adventures with people like Bear Grylls and the flying Power cutes, Cars and motorbikes that have taken adventurers to the heights of Everest and the depths of Timbuktu.

Bear Grylls and John Power chute for surveys and ... becuase it's fun!

Bear Grylls and John Power chute for surveys and … because it’s fun!

Why SplashMaps for Expeditions?

But the need for better maps was so clear to him given the harsh, hot and humid conditions of the Jungles he frequents and the rivers he travels. And like all adventurers he’s always looking for ways to reduce his load, so multifunctional, lightweight maps are a big win.

JB-S highlighted his love for the utility of the GPS unit he has, but pointed out the batteries in constant use last only a day and that the device just won’t work under the canopy in the forest. On a recent venture to find a lost individual in the jungle he had to return when the GPS could not confirm their position.

Long journey, very wet, hot and humid.  What kind of Navigation stands up to this?

Long journey, very wet, hot and humid. What kind of Navigation tool stands up to all this?

He took the opportunity to increase his collection of SplashMaps with a personalised map of his fathers’ home in Willey near Iron Bridge and gave us great advice on the depictions on our latest prototype.  He’s also given us a list of future expeditions, all of which will be fit for exploration after our October launch.

I’ll always remember my day with the great man behind Operation Raleigh and all the other expeditions that bring such a massive new and hopeful and often edgy dimension to people’s lives. I left with the confidence most have when venturing into the unknown with John… i.e. in the belief they’re on the right track and loving every second!

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