Blashford-Snell, John (Nicholas) 1936-

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BLASHFORD-SNELL, John (Nicholas) 1936-

PERSONAL: Born October 22, 1936, in Hereford, England; son of Leland John (a minister of Church of England) and Gwendolyn Ives (Sadler) Blashford-Snell; married Judith Frances Sherman, August 27, 1960; children: Emma, Victoria. Education: Attended Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England, 1955-57, and Staff College, Camberley, England, 1969. Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Shooting, travel, food and wine, diving, photography.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Scientific Exploration Society Expedition Base, Motcombe, near Shaftsbury, Dorset SP7 9PB, England; fax: 01747-851-351. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: British Army, Royal Engineers, career officer, 1955-c.1990, commander of Operation Aphrodite expedition in Cyprus, 1959-61, instructor at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and organizer of adventure training, 1963-66, leader of Great Abbai (Blue Nile) expedition, 1968, Dahlak Quest expedition, 1969-70, British Trans-Americas expedition, 1971-72, Zaire River expedition, 1974-75, and Operation Drake, 1978-80, staff officer at Ministry of Defence, 1978-91, founder and expedition leader for Operation Raleigh, 1984-91, director general, 1989-91, director of Tibet expedition, 1987; also served in Belize, Oman, and Northern Ireland; retired as colonel; lecturer and consultant, beginning 1991. Discovery Expeditions Ltd., chair; Operation New World, trustee, beginning 1995; leader of Kalahari Quest expedition, 1990, Karnali Quest expedition, 1991, Karnali Gorge expedition, 1992, Mongolia Amarsana expedition, 1992, and others. Guest on media programs. Merseyside Youth Association, chair of Starting Point Appeal, 1993-2001.

MEMBER: Scientific Exploration Society (founding member; chair, beginning 1969), Royal Scottish Geographical Society (fellow), Explorers Club (fellow; chair of British chapter, beginning 1977), Wig and Pen Club, Artists' Club (Liverpool, England), Buck's Club, Travellers' Club, Galley Hill Gun Club (president), Vole Club (president).

AWARDS, HONORS: Decorated member, Order of the British Empire, 1969, decorated officer, 1996; named British Army man of the year, 1972; Gold Medal for exploration, Darien Action Committee (Colombia), 1972; Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Livingstone Medal, 1975, Patron's Medal, 1993; Segrave Trophy, Royal Automobile Club, 1975; Paul Harris fellow, Rotary International, 1981; named freeman of city of Hereford, England, 1984; honorary Ph.D., University of Durham, 1986; Gold Medal, Institute of Royal Engineers, 1994; D.Eng., University of Bournemouth, 1997; La Paz Medal (Bolivia), 2000.


(With G. R. Snailham) The Expedition Organizer's Guide, Daily Telegraph (London, England), 1969.

(With Tom Wintringham) Weapons and Tactics, Penguin (New York, NY), 1974.

Where the Trail Runs Out, Hutchinson (London, England), 1974.

In the Steps of Stanley, Hutchinson (London, England), 1975.

(With Alistair Ballantine) Expeditions: The Experts' Way, Faber (London, England), 1977.

A Taste for Adventure, Hutchinson (London, England), 1978.

(With Mike Cable) The Offıcial Books of Operation Drake, W. H. Allen (London, England), Volume 1: In the Wake of Drake, 1980, Volume 2: Operation Drake, 1981.

Mysteries: Encounters with the Unexplained, Bodley Head (London, England), 1983.

The Offıcial Books of Operation Raleigh, HarperCollins (New York, NY), Volume 1: The Start of an Adventure, 1986, Volume 2 (with Ann Tweedy): Adventure Challenge, 1987, Volume 3 (with Ann Tweedy): Adventure Unlimited, 1989.

Something Lost behind the Ranges (autobiography), 1994.

(With Rula Lenska) Mammoth Hunt, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Richard Snailham) Kota Mama: Retracing the Lost Trade Routes of Ancient South American Peoples, Headline (London, England) 2000.

(With Richard Snailham) East to the Amazon: In Search of Great Paititi and the Trade Routes of the Ancients, John Murray (London, England), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Colonel John Blashford-Snell's career with the British Army corps of Royal Engineers took him all over the world, and in his capacity as an instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he launched his students in over sixty expeditions for the purpose of adventure training. Blashford-Snell also provided the initiative for many projects involving both young people, many from Britain's inner cities, and older adults in the challenge and excitement experienced as members of an expeditionary force.

Blashford-Snell served as the leader of many expeditions. In 1968, he and a team of joint civilian-military personnel made the first descent and exploration of the Blue Nile in the Great Abbai Expedition. Six years later, he led an international group of explorers, soldiers, and scientists in an attempt to follow the path of H. M. Stanley's historic expedition of a century before and navigate the Zaire River. Using a fleet of large inflatable craft, with jet boats and air support, the group started at the river's source and, after three-and-one-half months, navigated almost every rapid around which his predecessor had been forced to portage. The group finally reached the Atlantic Ocean in 1975. Blashford-Snell's Zaire River Expedition experienced many casualties but, fortunately, no deaths; boats were destroyed in cataracts and one was eaten by a hippopotamus.

Blashford-Snell traveled to Panama's Darien Gap in 1976 where, with the backing of the Explorers Club, he searched for the remains of the abandoned seventeenth-century Scots colony of New Caledonia. His team discovered the site and what seemed to be evidence of the lost Spanish city of Acla. While there, Blashford-Snell had the misfortune of being bitten by a vampire bat and had to undergo anti-rabies injections to avoid poisoning. By 1978, with the encouragement of Charles, Prince of Wales, he launched a mammoth expedition to inspire and challenge young people. Aboard the flagship Eye of the Wind, his group of soldiers, scientists, and young people set out from Plymouth, England on an around-the-world voyage of discovery. As director of operations for the venture, named Operation Drake, Blashford-Snell led the explorers through the Panama jungle, to the crater of Mount Soufriere shortly before it erupted, to Papua New Guinea, Africa, and the Mediterranean. The group confirmed the discovery of the lost city of Acla and achieved other scientific results during its two-year excursion.

In 1979, at the request of the Ethiopian government, Blashford-Snell headed the Dahlak Quest expedition to explore an archipelago of the Red Sea. Then, in 1984, following further encouragement by the Prince of Wales, he launched a new, even more ambitious expedition, which he later commemorated in The Offıcial Books of Operation Raleigh. Involving more than 8,000—as well as 3,000 scientists, service personnel, and other experts—in expeditions, community service, and conservation projects worldwide, Operation Raleigh commandeered a fleet of ships in its continuing circumnavigation of the globe. The expedition achieved a success worthy of a commemoration of the anniversary of the founding of English-speaking America by Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists in 1584.



Blashford-Snell, John, Something Lost behind the Ranges, 1994.


Choice, January, 2002, J. C. Perry, review of Kota Mama: Retracing the Lost Trade Routes of Ancient South American Peoples, p. 921.

Contemporary Review, June, 1994, review of Something Lost behind the Ranges, p. 332.

New Scientist, September 21, 1996, review of Mammoth Hunt, p. 54.

Times Educational Supplement, March 24, 1995, review of Something Lost behind the Ranges, p. 13.

Times Literary Supplement, June 22, 1984; March 11, 1994, review of Something Lost behind the Ranges, p. 36; November 22, 2002, John Ure, review of East to the Amazon: In Search of Great Paititi and the Trade Routes of the Ancients, p. 31.*