The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

The Northern California Chapter of The Explorers Club presents:

Peter McMillan

The Greatest Flight

DINNER MEETING - Friday, September 27, 1996, St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco (see map )

  • 6:00 PM, Business meeting
  • 6:30 PM, Cocktails
  • 7:30 PM, Dinner
  • 8:30 PM, Speaker
  • $35.00 each

    This month, Peter McMillan will describe The Greatest Flight. He, along with his colleague Lang Kidby, began with a vision: to recreate the World War I bomber, the Vimy and to repeat its record-breaking flight. The Vimy achieved the dual spectacular successes, in 1919, of accomplishing the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic, and the first flight half-way around the world, from London to Darwin, Australia. McMillan and Kidby's undertaking was as spectacular and successful as the original 75 years ago. Come, hear about how they did it.

    Next Month: Golden GateAway, October 18-19, 1996. Information enclosed with this Newsletter. If you are interested in attending, you must submit your reservation NOW. The event is almost sold out already.

    About the Speaker:

    Arthur Peter McMillan spearheaded the 1990-94 Vimy Project, and was one of the pilots on the flight which recreated the original feat of the Vickers Vimy biplane. In 1919, the brothers Ross and Keith Smith had flown non-stop across the Atlantic to London from the United States, and then 11,000 miles from London to Darwin, Australia.

    McMillan was born in North Carolina and developed an interest in aeronautics through his fascination with model airplanes as a youth. After college he moved to San Francisco where he worked for an investment firm. He took up flying as a hobby, and then turned to antique planes as his main interest. He had logged more than 1,000 hours in all forms of antique aircraft prior to undertaking his lifelong dream, to recreate what has been called aviation's greatest flight.

    Through his perseverance and his organizational skills, a beautiful replica of the World War I bomber that electrified the imagination of the world in 1919, was built and tested. McMillan and Australian Lang Kidby, his partner, managed the entire project, as well as piloting the plane. They left London in 1994, and overcame all the hazards encountered 75 years ago, plus some modern ones, including a hair-raising forced landing in Sumatra. They ultimately arrived in Australia, as did their predecessors in 1919.

    McMillan and Kidby have produced a book about their adventure, entitled The Greatest Flight, which rekindles for the reader that sense of daring and risk in a hazardous but worthwhile undertaking so common to early day flight.

    McMillan will show both stills and movies of his adventure. The photos and movies were made primarily by Jim Stanfield, a National Geographic photographer. This presentation promises to be an experience which should not be missed!

    Quote Of The Month:

    "When the first human left his safe abode in Central Africa to see what might be hiding in the next valley, he [or she?--Ed.] launched us on an inquisitive exploration that will never end."

    --James A. Michener,
    in the Forward to The Greatest Adventure

    Last May's Speaker:

    Nicholas Clinch (FN-69) is past president of the American Alpine Club, and has been climbing mountains since 1948, when he first scaled the Grand Teton. His next assault on the Grand Teton was in 1978, at which time Dana Isherwood was a member of his team and was a great help to him.

    The first ascent of the Vinson Massif in 1966 was the subject climb of the May evening's talk. At the time of this climb, there was intense interest in the exploration of Antarctica. His expedition was co-sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the U.S. Defense Department, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Navy, and several other agencies. With his sponsors' help, he created a film which he presented at this meeting.

    Nick reported the little-known fact that the South magnetic Pole travels northwest at a rate of about 8 miles a year. It is now a few hundred miles from where it was when it was first found. Nick then proceeded to recount some of the fascinating history of the exploration of Antarctica. He took us from Captain Cook's 1773-75 circumnavigation of Antarctica through the early explorations of first American Nathaniel Palmer, James Wadell, Wilkes, J. Clark Ross, and Shackelton. He described Scott's last tragic trip, and Shackelton's incredible escape after abandoning his ship caught in the ice. The later exploits of Richard E. Byrd, Lincoln Ellsworth, and Vivian Fuchs, who was able to traverse Antarctica in 1957 because of food caches stored by Edmund Hillary, were also described.

    Nick then showed his film which had been made by Barry Corbett, a member of his expedition. The group departed Christchurch, N.Z., in December, 1966. Their C-130 carried their supplies, 1500 pounds of food, and a motor toboggan. After reaching the American base, they flew 4-1/2 hours and 1,300 miles to the Sentinel Range. There they spent the next 40 days (and no nights!) on the Antarctic Plateau, at about 8,500 feet elevation. During that time, they climbed Mt. Vinson, Mt. Skinner, Mt. Tyree, and Long Gables. (Long Gables was named after Explorers Club member Jack Long and his brother, Bill.) When the party arrived on Antarctica they were met by Bob Flint (FN-62) who was a member of the American scientific team at the Antarctic base at that time. Les DeWitt, now an Explorers Club candidate, was also present.

    Nick's ascent of the Vinson massif was the first on record. By the time of his expedition, Antarctic travel was becoming relatively safe, and since then many nations have established bases on Antarctica, and inhabit them year-round. Travel to and from the Continent is frequent.


    This presentation was planned to be a preamble to Expedition Inspiration's trip to Antarctica in November and December of this year; Dana Isherwood was to be among the assault party to scale, once again, the Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica. However, Laura Evans, the breast cancer survivor who spearheads Expedition Inspiration, has decided to postpone plans for the assault on the Vinson Massif for one year, in favor of the organization's new "Take a Hike" program.

    This group is planning events in Denver, Seattle, Boise, and Los Angeles this fall. The program encourages people unable to be mountain climbers to get into out-of-doors programs, and is "what we're all about," states Dana. Expedition Inspiration is made up entirely of women climbers who have survived breast cancer, and was conceived to demonstrate to themselves and to the world, that breast cancer survivors can lead as full and as active lives as they wish, with no restrictions.

    Expedition Inspiration relies heavily on donations for its funding. If you are interested in supporting Dana and their venture, please send contributions to Expedition Inspiration, c/o Bill and/or Dana Isherwood, 37 La Encinal, Orinda 94563.

    The June Meeting: the 16th Annual Carey Baldwin Memorial Garden Party :

    This pleasant afternoon party, hosted once again by Erna Baldwin, was held in the pleasant surroundings of Erna's large and bucolic garden on a day when the Fairfax weather was ideal. Erna provided her usual sumptuous spread of food and drink, while Martha Schmieder was head bartender. Will Siri (FN-55) brought along an original black-and-white photo of Everest, made during his first climbing expedition to the Himalayas. This prompted Jerry Athearn (MN-82) , emcee for the day, to remind us that if we have artifacts of value which we are willing to donate to the Club, we should bring them to the next meeting; or such items may be sent to Bob Schmieder (FN-86) , with some suggested minimum value. [ Bob has planned a silent auction of valuable artifacts at the first evening of the Golden GateAway, the cocktail party to be held at the maritime Museum on Friday, October 18th.]

    On this warm garden party day, Eve Iversen (FN-86) brought along--and modeled--an Inuit parka and mukluks which she had obtained on a recent trip to Alaska. Though the day was not excessively hot, we're sure the parka was not the most comfy-cool outer wear for that day! We did notice that she soon shed her outer garments once everyone had had an opportunity to feel the softness of the well-chewed sealskin.

    Many tales of adventure were told before the afternoon came to a close. Erna, many many thanks, once again, from your Explorers Club colleagues for a wonderful finish to the year's events.


    Swiss Army Knife Project:

    The Explorers Club, with Swiss Army Brands, Inc., is compiling an anthology of individual experiences in which the Swiss Army Knife came to the rescue. If you have any anecdotes or tales of this nature, please pass them on in any form to:

    Ronnie Streichler
    c/o The Explorers Club, 46 E. 70th St., New York, NY 10021

    Your story could result in modifications to the Swiss Army knife, or even a model produced exclusively for Explorers Club members.


    Golden GateAway:



    Jerry Athern announces that he has acquired some great--and exotic--items for the silent auction at the Exotics Encounter on Friday evening, but he is still looking for more donations of artifacts and treasures. His requests are that:

    1. If you are an author, and wish to bring a supply of your books for sale and autographing at the Author's Table, please notify Jerry so that he can be certain of having sufficient table and chair space for you.

    2. If you wish to donate one or more copies of your autographed book(s), notify Jerry.

    3. If you are a photographer and wish to donate a favorite photo, please notify Jerry.

    4. If you have favorite artifacts, mementos, books, and/or maps, you wish to donate, please notify Jerry and provide a short history about them, their significance, a minimum bid price, etc. One member has already donated an autographed copy of Kon-Tiki; another has donated some rare Antarctica wine! [It must be rare!--Ed.]

    5. Jerry will also have a Gift Items Table of official Explorers Club items.

    Donors: please call Jerry in Oakland at (510) 465-9121 during the day, or (510) 653-2572, evenings.

    News of Members

    Marjorie and Gordon Fountain (FN-76) reported at the May meeting on their recent trip to the Cook Islands, Easter Island, and Pitcairn Island, ending in Tahiti. This trip was a recapitulation of one they had last taken almost exactly 50 years ago. One of the highlights of this trip was the barbecue put on for them by the Pitcairn Islanders, many of them descendants of Fletcher Christian. Other Chapter members who were on the same trip were Nonna Cheatham (MN-90) , and the Hank Grandins (MN-81) .


    Rusty and Dan Liebowitz (MN-66) have also returned from a trip through the Cook Islands and the Society Islands. Dan reported at the May meeting that the Society Islands (which include Tahiti) are a French protectorate, and as such seem highly organized and, to some extent, urbanized. The Cook Islands, however, are independent, though they identify with their closest neighbor, New Zealand. These people lead a more rural and primitive life. It was at one of their dance entertainments that Dan was asked to dance, as a result of which he was still suffering from back pains.


    Ron Reuther (FN-74) also reported recently returning from a trip along the Inside Passage to Alaska.


    John Chester, speaker at the April meeting, had donated a large and beautifully framed color photograph, entitled Ice Cream Cones of Antarctica (describing the unusual shapes of some of the icebergs). Chairman Bob Schmieder (FN-86) conducted a silent auction of this photo during the May meeting, at the end of which he announced that Jerry Athern (MN-82) had prevailed, and is now the photo's owner. This was a new fund-raising venture for the Chapter and was such a success that plans were begun to seek donations of artifacts for a silent auction to be held on the first evening of the Golden GateAway on October 18th. Anyone having items of value they are willing to donate, please notify Bob or Jerry. [See Announcements, above.]


    Morton Beebe (FN-78) , who has previously published books about San Francisco and Miami, has just finished work on his latest volume published by Harry N. Abrams, entitled Cascadia: A Tale of Two Cities. This story in photos about Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., portrays the differences in the two metropolises, which have matured along different paths. The book was recently introduced to great acclaim at the annual meeting of the American Society of Media Photographers in Seattle. Best of luck on this latest venture, Mort.


    David Miln Smith, Ph.D. (MN-83) has recently published his latest book through Andrews and McMeel, HUG THE MONSTER: How to Embrace Your Fears and Live Your Dreams. Smith's career as an adventurer has been widely reported over the last 30 years. However, his most significant feat has been his 52 journeys into the wilderness over 22 years, taking schizophrenic patients on adventures which would never have been otherwise available to them, proving that you can "embrace your fears, and live your dreams."


    Click for Calendar of future events


    Reservations: MAIL BY Tuesday, Sept. 17, 1996 Please Return To:

    William F. Isherwood
    The Explorers Club
    Northern California Chpt.
    37 La Encinal
    Orinda, CA 94563
    Bill's Phone: (510) 254-0739

    Please reserve spaces for the Peter McMillan talk at St. Francis Yacht Club on Friday, Sept. 27.

    $35.00/person...$40 if postmarked after Sept. 17.

    Your Name: _______________________________________

    Your Address: _____________________________________


    Guests: ______________________________________

    Date created: 09/10/1996
    Last modified: 06/21/2015
    Content from Charlie (Chapter Secretary) and Louise Geraci email to Charlie and Louise
    Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club. email to Mike

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