50th anniversary of the first Blue Nile expedition commemorated

8 Oct 2018

On 2nd October, the Scientific Exploration Society commemorated the 50th anniversary of the exploration of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River at a special event at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Mr Fekadu Beyene, Head of Diaspora Affairs (Chargé d’Affaires) attended on behalf of the Embassy and was joined by some of the members of the expedition and a number of VIPs, including members of the Royal Family.

In 1968, Colonel John Blashford-Snell led a 70-strong Anglo-Ethiopian team of civilians and servicemen on the first descent of the infamous Blue Nile, at the invitation of Emperor Haile Selassie.

John welcomed a packed theatre of guests, presenting an illustrated talk about the historic expedition, accompanied by some members of the expedition. Said to be one of the great expeditions of the last century, it was described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the conquest of the Everest of Rivers’.

The commemoration also included an exhibition of equipment used on the expedition, including one of the original Avon whitewater boats.

Until 1968 all attempts to explore the Blue Nile, which runs through the highlands of Ethiopia, had failed.

The team set out from the main base in Ethiopia in late July 1968, reaching their goal in September of that year.

More than 70 papers have been published covering the scientific work of the expedition. The use of the Avon inflatable boats led to the development of white-water rafting. The expedition film was widely acclaimed on TV and the historian Richard Snailham wrote the official book The Blue Nile Revealed.

The expedition attracted widespread support, including from The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who had recently visited Ethiopia and been taken by the emperor to view the Blue Nile’s Tis Issat Falls.

Tis Issat Falls

After the success of this expedition, John and colleagues founded the Scientific Exploration Society in 1969, in order to initiate a worldwide programme of scientific expeditions for the exploration of remote regions of the earth; focusing on scientific research, conservation, education and community aid projects, particularly in under-resourced environments.

The Society is one of the longest-running exploration organisations in the world, with an unrivalled record of initiating over 150 expeditions since it began, achieving many ‘world firsts’ in exploration, pioneering and testing specialist equipment in the field and developing leadership skills.

At the conclusion of the event, one lucky winner won a holiday to Ethiopia courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines and Far & Wild Travel. Funds from the raffle were donated to the CURE hospital in Ethiopia that provides life-changing orthopaedic operations for young children.

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