The Explorers Club's Next Great Adventurers
by Jeffrey Slonim
FROM LEFT: Chris Walker, Ted Hartley, and Morgan Hartley
His Explorers Club student membership may have expired, but that isn’t stopping 22-year-old Morgan Hartley from exploring.
Young Hartley, who graduated from the University of Chicago last year, has already served as a deck hand on Sea Cloud, a sailing vessel originally built for his step-great-grandmother, Marjorie Merriweather Post (Post Cereal Company heiress and General Foods founder), that was once the largest in its class. Last in the field for The Scripps Research Institute, Hartley studied sperm whales and their attraction to rope.
“I was a total newbie and got the top bunk under insulation pipes that dripped water,” said Hartley of his first expedition on Sea Cloud, where his step-grandmother Dina Merrill, Post’s daughter, grew up traveling in the ship’s princely staterooms.
Last Thursday, at The Explorers Club, Morgan’s grandfather Ted Hartley, CEO of RKO Pictures and husband of Merrill, kicked off his grandson’s latest voyage—a challenge put forth by Ted himself.
The challenge began late last year when Hartley emailed his grandfather saying that he didn’t want any “stuff” that Christmas. “I want a challenge, something you really believe I will not succeed in,” wrote Hartley.
His grandfather did not disappoint. “I want you to write a book: you’ve got only 2.5 years to do it, a publisher must give you $3,000, and you have to sell 5,000 copies,” Ted wrote back.
“Our concept is that over a two-year period, we’re going to seek out five to seven entrepreneurs,” explained Hartley. Traveling from Paris to Tblisi, Georgia, Hartley and co-explorer Chris Walker, also 22 and a graduate of UCLA, have contacts throughout their route to assist with introductions and translating. “We’re both entrepreneurs and we’re trying to engineer our own MBAs,” said Hartley.
Both Morgan and Walker are seasoned travelers. “I’ve done a lot of backpacking and worked as a deck hand on Sea Cloud,“ said Morgan. ”I was the youngest crew member by ten years.”
With a full camping suite, the dynamic duo will hop from Mumbai to Kathmandu to Yangon to Singapore to Shanghai, podcasting here and there as they seek out game changers in microfinance, gender and GLBT rights, the environment, and health care issues that they believe will define change in 21st century emerging economies.
On the pair’s decision to use bicycles as their main mode of ground transport, grandpa Ted noted, “You can get through the traffic and meet people in the souks, the markets, and the mud puddles.”
Follow the journey at postulateone.com
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.