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Expedition Flags

Last modified: 2014-11-15 by rob raeside
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About expedition flags

American explorers usually have not technically had "expedition flags" (although I did make one for a team about to climb Mt Everest in 1989-see photo at but personal and club flags are known to have been used.

flags at the North Pole image by Dave Martucci, 4 May 2014

Admiral Robert E. Perry carried a number of flags on his various attempts to reach the North Pole. Chief among them was a US Flag made by his wife that he displayed at each new "furthest North" point in his travels, just before he would cut a piece out of the flag and bury it at that point. At the North Pole he cut a full diagonal strip out and left that there. Mrs. Perry would patch the flag each time with white material so the missing pieces were highlighted. This flag is on display in Explorer's Hall at the National Geographic Society in Washington DC. Reportedly several pieces of the flag were recovered and resewn onto the flag.

Perry also carried a number of other flags in his expeditions. In his 1910 book about the trip to the North Pole, he displayed a hand colored photo whose caption reads, "Explorer Robert Peary's sledge party at the North Pole. From left: Ooqueh with the Navy League flag; Ootah with the D.K.E. fraternity flag; Matthew Henson with the polar flag; Egingwah with the D.A.R. peace flag; and Seeglo with the Red Cross flag." Peary reported reaching the North Pole on 6 April 1909 and leaving the following day.

The Peace flag, of course, was the US Flag surrounded by a white border. In the hand painting of this photo, the familiar red cross flag became red with a white Maltese Cross. The original un-retouched black & white photo looks more like the normal Red Cross Flag.

Other explorers carried other kinds of flags as well. Commander Donald MacMillan explored the Arctic waters in his specially-built schooner "Bowdoin" and had a special flag made for that vessel that was used in his travels for many years. It is a blue swallow-tail flag with a white polar bear on it and a white thistle in the canton. See gif attached us-bowdoin.gif. He also used a personal version of the MacMillan Clan (of Scotland) flag as his command flag (exact design uncertain).

Many American explorers carried flags of the National Geographic Society, the Adventurer's Club, and the Explorer's Club, among others. The Explorer's Club issues members a flag for a particular expedition and, upon successful completion, it is returned to the club and displayed along with information bout the expedition. They have several hundred such flags. See

Dave Martucci, 4 May 2014