New York is a long flight from Hong Kong, especially when it is only for the weekend, but this trip proved to be a special one. Heralded as the “Oscars of Exploration”, the Explorers Club Annual Dinner is the foremost gathering of scientists and adventurers from all over the world. I had the honour to attend as a member of the Explorers Club Hong Kong chapter, more than 20 of whose members were there to receive the Citation of Merit for a recent expedition into the Gobi desert. A look at the canapés set the tone: scorpion lollipops, alligator meatballs and maggot muffins were offered next to a platter of roasted iguana with General Tsao’s sauce. More than 1,700 geologists, archaeologists, astronauts, mountaineers and explorers had come together for a weekend of intense discussion and talks. Proceedings kicked off amid an evening reception at the club’s Upper West Side headquarters, a heritage building full of relics that range from the globe of Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl – famous for sailing the raft Kon-Tiki across the Pacific Ocean – to a giant taxidermy polar bear. The spirit of expeditions past can be felt in the hallways, and the artefacts afforded a great backdrop for the talks that followed, featuring giant dinosaurs and radioactive-coconut-eating spider crabs. The highlight of the weekend was the gala dinner. “How many of you have been to the South Pole?” asked Richard Wise, the Explorers Club president, opening the evening's proceedings. A strong show of hands made clear that this was no ordinary audience. More surprising was the large number of attendees who had visited space. Next to me sat Charles “Charlie” Duke, the lunar module commander of Apollo 16, who became famous for driving a lunar rover over two kilometres across the moon’s bumpy surface. He shared his very strong views about the importance of humans going to space and how, with the help of private companies, our dreams of going back to the moon and eventually reach Mars would become reality. Duke, together with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and six fellow Apollo astronauts were guests of honour at the dinner, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. They shared anecdotes from their groundbreaking flights to outer space. Their tales of disposing human waste during space flight (with sealed plastic bags through the hatch), the difficulties of landing a spaceship on the moon, and worrying about what to say when stepping on the lunar surface for the first time were fascinating. The Roy Chapman Andrews Centennial Expedition, organised by the Hong Kong Chapter of the Explorers Club, and Michael Barth, the chapter’s founder and chair, were the recipient of this year’s Citation of Merit, an award given in recognition of an outstanding feat of exploration. During a three-week expedition in June 2018, a team of explorers from Hong Kong, together with palaeontologists from the Mongolian Institute of Paleontology and Geology, retraced the journey of American scientist Roy Chapman Andrew, believed to be the inspiration for film persona Indiana Jones. In the 1920s, Chapman Andrews used the latest technology available to make discoveries and was the first to drive cars into the Gobi desert. Using the latest cars from Hong Kong-based Infiniti Motors, the Centennial expedition members employed satellite imagery and drone mapping to locate more than 200 new fossil sites, and identified three new species of dinosaurs. The Hong Kong explorers join a long list of notable past awardees, including Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space exploration company Blue Origin, who received the 2014 citation. Hong Kong chapter member Ian Mangiardi was also awarded the New Explorers prize, for his logistical support of the Chapman Andrews Centennial expedition. Further honorees this year included Dr Kenneth Lacavora, who has undertaken groundbreaking research on giant dinosaurs, and Australian Professor Richard Harris, for his part in the Thai cave rescue last year. The Explorers Club Hong Kong chapter, founded in 2013, organised the first “circumclimb” of Hong Kong Island, creating a coastal pollution map of the island by climbing, scrambling and swimming their way around it. In June 2019 we will embark on a new expedition to Uzbekistan to unearth the remnants of Chorasmia, a long vanished Central Asian civilisation, using radar and imaging technology. “The HK Chapter’s ‘collaboration over conquest’ approach to exploration, creative use of new technology and commitment to serving local knowledge will continue to set the standard for groundbreaking scientific expeditions that impact people and our planet,” says Barth.