Almost every year since 1832, the Royal Geographical Society has awarded a Founders' Medal, its highest and most prestigious accolade. The roll call of past winners reads like a Who's Who of British exploration.
It includes figures such as the Arctic pioneer Sir John Ross; Capt. Robert Fitzroy, the surveyor of Patagonia; Sir James Clark Ross, discoverer of the Antarctic continent; David Livingstone, long presumed dead in Africa; Richard Burton, surveyor of the African great lakes; Sven Hedin, the Central Asia pioneer; the Duke of Abruzzi, who lent his name to the first route up K2; Douglas Freshfield, of Caucasus mountains fame; Sir Martin Conway, author of extraordinary feats in Svalbard and the Karakaram; Col. Howard Bury, leader of the first trips to Everest; Dr Tom Longstaff, another Himalayan pioneer; Wilfrid Thesiger, who crossed the Empty Quarter of Arabia; the great climber and sailor H.W. Tilman; Sir John Hunt, leader of the successful 1953 Everest expedition; Jacques Cousteau, explorer of the undersea world; the mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington - and many others who need little introduction.
To this list must now be added the name of former BCA chairman and doyen of exploratory caving Andy Eavis. This is an incredible honour for him - but also long-deserved recognition for caving as a whole.
Andy, now in his early 70s, is still active and planning to lead a trip to Mulu later this year, Covid rules permitting. He has a very long record of achievement, not only in Borneo - where he helped open up the the Clearwater system on the first, RGS expedition there in 1978 - but also as leader and organiser of ground-breaking trips to China, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. He also served as BCA chairman for nine years.
I just spoke to Andy and he stressed how he wanted this to be seen as a reward for the efforts of the caving community as a whole: "It's wonderful for me to get this, but it's a great thing for cavers and cave exploration to have our efforts recognised and appreciated by such a prestigious body. Many in officialdom still denigrate us - but with this award, the RGS has for the first time celebrated the contribution we have made to the understanding of our planet."
The official announcement is here:https://www.rgs.org/about/medals-award/2021-awards/
And here is the list of past winners: https://www.rgs.org/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguid=64c1cdb4-2f4b-44a3-9e3c-695983da880f&lang=en-GB
And here are a couple of snaps of Andy on a trip to laser scan the great La Muneca chamber in Mexico in 2017, a project led by Badlad of this parish.