Annual Meeting
Captain Norman Baker
“The Ra Expeditions”

Date: Friday, May 23, 2014
Time Details: 6:00PM Cocktails
6:45PM Dinner
7:15PM Lecture
Location: Location included on invitations mailed to members and friends



The Ra Expedition was to test the ocean crossing capability of the reed boats designed and built 4,000 years ago to see if they could possibly have transferred the capabilities of the Mediterranean civilization of that time to America. The people in America, until 3,000 years ago, lived in the Stone Age. With no prior indication, a spark ignited in the Yucatan Peninsula and flamed into the Olmec culture, bringing stone architecture, pyramids, cotton cloth, a written language, a calendar system, ability to operate on the living human skull right down to the brain, mummified kings and the worship of a sun god identical to the Egyptian sun god, Ra.

Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian scientist/sailor who had built and sailed the balsa wood raft Kon Tiki across the Pacific from South America to Polynesia to test that watercraft's ability to introduce American culture to the South Pacific, faced the same ridicule about the ability of reed boats to cross the Atlantic with the same sort of inquiry in mind.

We didn't make it. We broke up 500 miles short of America. It took eight days for a rescue vessel to find us. It didn't take the sharks that long. Daunted? No. Stubborn, determined, confident we knew our errors in the building of our raft, we built another, smaller, faster, better, we thought. We reached the nearest American island in eight weeks, the reed boat sinking at the dock 12 hours after we arrived. But we proved the reed boats could have made that voyage and turned the skeptics on their heads.

About the Speaker:

Norman Baker's adventures started early. He won a contest for taking flying lessons at the age of 13 and soloed on his 17th birthday. At Cornell University he played lightweight football, rowed on the crew that won the American Henley Championship, became president of the Cornell Pilots Club, learned to ski and won a number of ribbons riding in horse shows. Graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, Mr. Baker returned the next year to study creative writing, literature, philosophy and history, and to coach the lightweight crew.

His first job was in the gold mines of Alaska, initially as a laborer and later as an engineer for the same company. Mr. Baker's second job was in the desert country of Colorado and New Mexico, staking out that last state boundary in the nation that had never before been surveyed. He was working on a pipeline being built between New Mexico and California when the Korean War broke out. He served two and a half years on a destroyer engaged in troop support and shore bombardment, all four ships in his destroyer division taking direct hits by shore battery fire.

After the war Mr. Baker earned a commercial multiengine pilot license but instead of flying airlines he sailed the Transpacific Yacht Race as a deck hand, rising to first mate and finally professional captain of the ship, sailing her from Honolulu to Seattle for the owner. He learned to scuba dive while working as underwater assistant and celestial navigator for a marine biologist on a research expedition that started in Hawaii and finished in the South Pacific. Mr. Baker later worked as first mate on a commercial schooner with a crew of 21, voyaging between Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands.

Returning to New York, he started a construction company with his brother, a Professional Engineer, attending Cooper Union College at night to become licensed by New York State as a Professional Engineer. That same year he took up skydiving.

Thor Heyerdahl, whom Mr. Baker met in Tahiti, engaged him as celestial navigator, radioman and second-in-command on his three reed boat expeditions, Ra, Ra II, and Tigris.

Walk-Ins Welcome: No
Reservation Deadline: May 19, 2014
Payment Information: Mail your check (payable to The Explorers Club - St. Louis Chapter) – with your name and the names of your guests – to:
   The Explorers Club - St. Louis Chapter
   c/o Mr. Benjamin Hulsey
   Thompson Coburn LLP
   One US Bank Plaza
   St. Louis, MO 63101-9702
Member Dinner Ticket: $65
Guest Dinner Ticket: $70

The Explorers Club St. Louis is Sponsored By a Generous Contribution from Budweiser

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