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Norman Baker Memorial Service


The Explorers Club will hold a special memorial service to honor and celebrate the life of Norman Baker FN’70 at Club Headquarters on Saturday, September 15th. The Club has a long-standing tradition of honoring those members who have gone on to higher exploration. Before a roaring fire, in the historic Clark Room, members and guests will toast Norm with a glass of whiskey (or another libation) and toss their glass into the open fire.

Norman’s adventures started early. He won a contest for taking flying lessons at the age of 13 and soloed on his 17th birthday.

At Cornell University he played lightweight football, rowed on the crew that won the American Henley Championship, became president of the Cornell Pilots Club, learned to ski and won a number of ribbons riding in horse shows. Graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, Mr. Baker returned the next year to study creative writing, literature, philosophy and history, and to coach the lightweight crew.

His first job was in the gold mines of Alaska, initially as a laborer and later as an engineer for the same company.

Mr. Baker’s second job was in the desert country of Colorado and New Mexico, staking out the last state boundary in the nation that has never before been surveyed. He was working on a pipeline being built between New Mexico and California when the Korean War broke out. He served two and a half years on a destroyer engaged in troop support and shore bombardment, his ship hit by counter battery fire.

After the war Mr. Baker earned a commercial multiengine pilot license but instead of flying airlines he sailed the Transpacific Yacht Race as a deck hand, rising to first mate and finally professional captain of the ship, sailing her from Honolulu to Seattle for the owner. He learned to scuba dive while working as underwater assistant and celestial navigator for a marine biologist on a research expedition that started in Hawaii and finished in the South Pacific. Mr. Baker later worked as first mate on a commercial schooner with a crew of 21, voyaging between Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands.

Returning to New York, he started a construction company with his brother, a Professional Engineer, attending Cooper Union College at night to become licensed by New York State as a Professional Engineer. That same year he took up skydiving.

On his honeymoon in Switzerland he satisfied a childhood dream: he climbed the Matterhorn.

Thor Heyerdahl, whom Mr. Baker met in Tahiti, engaged him as celestial navigator, radioman and second-in-command on his three reed boat expeditions, Ra, Ra II, and Tigris.


Baker on his knees trying to repair the reed boat Ra
as it sinks off Barbados in 1969

In addition to working as an engineer, Mr. Baker was for nine years captain of the sailing schooner Anne Kristine, a Norwegian ship built in 1868 and one of the oldest vessels plying the open seas, conducting sail training and ocean research several months each year. He, his wife and children worked three years rebuilding Anne Kristine in the British Virgin Islands before sailing her in the Tall Ships Parade for the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in New York. Most recently he participated in research expeditions to Easter Island in the South Pacific. He was a Fellow and Director of the Club, did white water canoeing, scuba diving horseback riding, flying, served as a senior member of the National Ski Patrol and as an instructor of oceanography with the Naval Reserve in which he held the rank of Commander.

Date: Saturday, September 15th

Time: 4:00 pm

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Reservation Notes:

Click here to register online

This event is free and open to all. Walk-ins are welcome, but we do ask that guests RSVP when possible. You can also RSVP by emailing us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or calling us at 212.628.8383.

The Ra II crew after passing the halfway mark of its journey across the Atlantic Ocean in 1970.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste