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Announcing the 2017 Explorers Club Annual Awardees

This year we will honor the outstanding accomplishments of three individuals with The Explorers Club Medal — the most prestigious recognition in exploration — André Borschberg, FI ‘13 & Bertrand Piccard, M.D., FI ‘00 for their solar powered circumnavigation, Solar Impulse, and Nainoa Thompson, FN ‘15, for his historic work on Polynesian wayfinding and the Hōkūleʻa.

Their fellow awardees include: Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita honored with the Tenzing Norgay Award; George Basch, MN ‘10 with the Citation of Merit; Lee Langan, FN ‘99 recognized with The Edward C. Sweeney Memorial Medal; and Sophie Hollingsworth, SM ‘14 with our first-ever New Explorer Award.

Join us, as we celebrate these outstanding individuals on Ellis Island, Saturday, March 25th 2017. For more information, please see the biographies below, and be sure to reserve your tickets for this amazing event!


The Explorers Club Medal

André Borschberg, FI ‘13

Heading the Solar Impulse project together with Bertrand Piccard, André Borschberg converted the vision of a solar airplane of unlimited autonomy into reality by assembling the technical team, leading the design and construction of two prototypes, and organizing flight missions. The result was the successful completion of the first-ever circum-navigation of the globe in a solar airplane. In 2015, during the Japan-to-Hawaii leg of that flight, André broke the world record for the longest solo flight in an airplane of any kind. Furthermore, he has led the evolution of aviation technology into new, complex engineering solutions that will serve and transform a number of industries.

Bertrand Piccard, M.D., FI ‘00

Bertrand is the initiator and visionary behind Solar Impulse, the very first airplane capable of flying perpetually without fuel. Taking turns at the controls with André Borschberg for the first flight around the world on solar power, his ambition is to leverage pioneering spirit for a useful contribution to the cause of renewable energies. This is why he spent the last 15 years bringing together the major partners providing technologies and funds for this adventure. Together with his wife Michèle, he conceived the Solar Impulse project as a now widely recognized platform to raise public awareness and encourage political actions in favor of clean technologies and energy efficiency.

Nainoa Thompson, FN ‘15

Nainoa Thompson is the President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a master in the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigation. Through his voyaging, he has opened a global, multi-generational dialogue on the importance of sustaining ocean resources and maritime heritage. Thompson is the first person in 600 years to practice Polynesian wayfinding: long-distance open-ocean voyaging on a traditional double-hulled canoe without the aid of modern instruments. Nainoa has dedicated his life to exploring the ocean, maintaining the health of the planet and ensuring that the ancient marine heritage and culture of Polynesia remain vibrant into the future.

The Tenzing Norgay Award

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

Born into a Sherpa community in Lukla, Nepal, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita became one of the first female mountaineering instructors in her country and is the first woman to summit Nangpai Gosum. At the age of 22 she summited Mt. Everest. In 2014, together with two fellow Nepali women, she climbed K2 in an effort to raise awareness about global warming, and to provide medical assistance to pregnant women, young mothers, and the elderly. She is currently working to start a foundation which will be bring basic education to the disadvantaged girls of Nepal.

Explorers Club Citation of Merit

George Basch, MN ‘10

An explorer and humanitarian based in New Mexico, George Basch is the founder of the Himalayan Stove Project – an organization dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people living there. The Himalayan Stove Project provides clean-burning, fuel-efficient cook stoves as replacements to traditional stoves or open-fire pits which cause unsafe levels of indoor air pollution and use excess fuel. George has circled the globe as an adventurer, explorer, photographer and creative entrepreneur. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT.

The Edward C. Sweeney Memorial Medal

Lee Langan, FN ‘99

As a dedicated, long-standing Fellow of The Explorers Club, Lee Langan faithfully served on the Board of Directors for six years without missing a single meeting. He has also served on several committees including the Membership Committee, Grants Committee and Ethics Committee. He is currently the Editor of The Explorers Log and Chair of the Publications Committee, which provides oversight for The Explorers Journal and Chronicle & Roster.

The New Explorer Award

Sophie F. Hollingsworth, SM ‘14

A compelling contemporary role model for a rising generation of explorers, Sophie Hollingsworth combines an interest in two of the most significant topics of our time: environmental change and health. She is the founder of AquaAid International, a non-profit organization that works with community partners to design and implement culturally appropriate, result bearing, and cost-effective water and sanitation projects. Sophie holds a Master’s certification in navigation and Marine Engineering, and is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to study health security in Sydney, Australia. So far, her field research has taken her to remote locations in Nicaragua, Madagascar, and Vanuatu.

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Published by : Explorers Club Staff

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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