VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Cathy Hunter

Escape From Vietnam

On April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War officially ended with the fall of Saigon to Communist forces. Many Vietnamese fled their country, including one Special Forces officer who painstakingly planned his escape and paid $200 on the black market for a copy of a March 1971 National Geographic map to guide him.

Knowing your place in the pecking order

Despite a reputation for being cooperative, one researcher has noted that female elephants observe a strict hierarchy at the watering hole. Working in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell has been studying different elephant families trying to make sense of the complex relations. For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown,…

A Toast to Our Founders on the Occasion of the Society’s Quasquicentennial

From the top of Mount Everest to the depths of the sea, from the world beneath the microscope to the stars in distant galaxies, the National Geographic Society has reported on “the world and all that is in it” for 125 years. On January 13, 1888, thirty-three men attended a meeting to discuss the “advisability of organizing a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge,” and voted to set up such an organization.

George Melville: A Survivor, A Rescuer, A National Geographic Founder

In 1879, National Geographic founder George Melville boarded a ship called the Jeannette for what would become one of the epic stories in early American Arctic exploration. The men on the expedition hoped to find a warm current that might take them to the North Pole; instead the ship was caught in the polar ice pack and drifted nearly two years before it was crushed.

Winfield Scott Schley: A Hero, But Not Without Controversy

As a U. S. Navy commander, National Geographic founder Winfield Scott Schley performed several daring feats, including the rescue of fellow National Geographic founder Adolphus W. Greely after Greely and his men became stranded in the Arctic during their disastrous 1881 expedition. But Schley’s conduct in battle left some critics questioning his judgment, calling him not brave, but impetuous.

What lies beneath the streets of Moscow

Since the end of the Soviet era, archaeologists have unearthed a treasure trove of information on the mysteries beneath Moscow’s streets.

The Perils of Early Arctic Exploration

National Geographic founder A.W. Greely’s expedition to Lady Franklin Bay in 1881 tragically demonstrated the hardships and deadliness of attempts to explore the Arctic. Despite his many other achievements — including leading the relief efforts after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake — his reputation would forever be tainted.

So That We May All Know More Of The World Upon Which We Live…

National Geographic founder Gardiner Greene Hubbard was not a scientist, but he was a forward-thinking man in a still-young country brimming over with promise and a belief in the marvels of the industrial age. When he met Alexander Graham Bell, something new and bold was bound to result.

A Gallant Gentleman, an Ideal Friend

Otto Tittmann may be one of National Geographic’s lesser-known founders, but his contributions to the Society were held in high regard. So much so that Gilbert H. Grosvenor pulled strings to get a relief bill from Congress that paid Tittmann $150 per month for the rest of his life. Grosvenor told him: “It is not possible to measure the benefits conferred on The Society by your faith in the purposes of The Society and your wise counsels given these forty-seven years without remuneration.”

Lighting the Way

One of National Geographic’s least-known founders, Herbert Gouverneur Ogden was long associated with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Over the course of his career he compiled several U.S. Coast Pilots for the Atlantic, providing lists of lighthouses, fog signals, and information regarding tides.

Setting a Precedent for the Story of the Perfect Storm

From its earliest days, the National Geographic magazine has covered earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and all manner of violent weather. It was National Geographic founder Edward Everett Hayden who set the tone for these dramatic stories with his riveting account of a storm that sunk 185 vessels on the east coast of the U.S. in 1888.

James Howard Gore: Master of the Mathematics of the Earth

National Geographic founder J. Howard Gore liked to keep busy. He was a man of many talents, including geography, astronomy and geodesy. (That last one, in case you were wondering, is defined as “using mathematics to determine exact positions of points and the figures and areas of large portions of the earth’s surface.”) He was also a man with literary connections. His mother happened to be a great-aunt of the novelist Willa Cather and appeared as the abolitionist Mrs. Bywaters in the novel, Sapphira.

In the Field with Plane Table and Horse…

National Geographic founder Willard Drake Johnson learned from the best, assisting the famous geologist Grove Karl Gilbert on his Lake Bonneville research when only 19 years old. Johnson was so enthralled by drama of the natural world that he once wrote fan mail to John Muir, telling him that if he (Muir) were to write a popular physical geography book it would “usurp the place of the novel in the public library.”

The National Geographic’s Society’s First Expedition Leader

He wrote engagingly of his many expeditions to the American West–from the otherworldly realm of California’s Mono Lake with its strange tufa formations to the majesty of Alaska’s Mt. St. Elias. But apart from the scientific writings he left behind, the rest of his life remained somewhat hidden from view. Although he was a National Geographic Society founder, he was not prominent in its early activities–with one very important exception. Israel Russell led the first scientific field expedition in National Geographic history.

Clinton Hart Merriam: From Teenage Taxidermist to National Geographic Founder

Biology was a passion of National Geographic founder Clinton Hart Merriam from an early age. One of his early taxidermy specimens was, unfortunately, his sister Florence’s pet cat. But the rifle-toting, teenage naturalist grew up into a well-respected scientist who carried out fieldwork well into his eighties. His colleagues considered him “a splendid fellow” to camp with despite his tendency for serving questionable meals consisting of eagle (his favorite), wildcat, and skunk.