Adventures with One
of the Most Traveled
Men on Earth

Lew Toulmin

New Land Adventures

New Land Adventures
Vanuatu Mon Amour
Travel and Politics
Finding Lost Airplanes
Memory Systems
Cars and Rallies
New Cruising Stories
Adventures in Genealogy
The Florian Letters
Songs and Shanties
Selected Academic Publications
Cool Lectures
Boring Lectures
Most Traveled Man
Lew launched two 2021 archaeological Explorers Club Flag Expeditions to President James Madison’s Montpelier plantation in central Virginia. Both were part of on-going professional archaeological investigations at Montpelier. The first involved “traditional dirt archaeology,” especially of an apparent tobacco smoke-curing barn. The second focused on a mystery structure which is still unidentified, and used a rigorous, structured metal detecting approach. Both sites related directly to the 100-125 enslaved persons that the Madison family owned each year in their 120-year control of the plantation. The first Expedition also included a genealogical/historical component, and led to a report (provided below) tracing an eleven-generation African-American descent from Africa to Montpelier, Monticello, the White House, service in the Union Army in the Civil War, down to the present.

Lew also carried the Flag in an expedition to Gloucestershire, England, to search for the missing Banqueting Hall and Tudor Garden of Queen Elizabeth I. This mysterious Hall – possibly with a stone foundation and a tent superstructure – was erected by the 3rd Baron Chandos of Sudeley Castle to entertain and impress the Queen. While the team has located the Tudor Garden using LiDAR and excavations, the site of the Banqueting Hall is still in question. More work to do!

In 2020, Lew carried the Explorers Club Flag on an expedition to support the new Reverend Josiah Henson Museum in Montgomery County, Maryland. In one of the greatest escapes in US history, in 1830 Reverend Henson and his family trudged 600 dangerous miles from Kentucky to Canada to escape slavery. Henson became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, saving over 100 other persons from slavery. His astounding life was a major inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the best-selling novel that helped spark the Civil War and end slavery. Lew’s project involved archaeological and genealogical work that researched Rev. Henson and also Matthew Alexander Henson, the co-discoverer of the North Pole.

Lew also began writing a travel/exploration/adventure column for Montgomery Community Media of Maryland, producing pieces on the new Henson Museum, the life and death and after-life of Prince Philip, the risks of travel under Covid, and the current sitrep re the search for Amelia Earhart.

Lew dashes off to Malaysia to try to solve the most famous disappearance on land in South-east Asia. This was the disappearance in 1967 of Jim Thompson, the "Silk King of Thailand," who went for a short afternoon walk in the high jungle of the Cameron Highlands of north central Malaysia, and was never seen again. The biggest land search in Malaysian (and likely SE Asian) history failed to find a single trace. Lew analyzes the case from a scientific search and rescue point of view, the first time this has ever been done. This results in the first advances in the case in 48 years, with 25 possible causes for the disappearance whittled down by half, and a "road map" to a possible solution laid out. This massive report also contains comprehensive primary document annexes with extensive data, previous classified as "Secret," from the FBI, CIA, OSS and US Department of State.

Lew’s report on "The Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the 'Silk King of Thailand,' A Search and Rescue Analysis" is downloadable below in pdf form. Also provided are four stories published in The Montgomery Sentinel about the case, as well as a PowerPoint briefing. This briefing is in the process of being given to chapters of The Explorers Club, to the Siam Society, Rotary Clubs, travel clubs, etc.

Lew then follows up the Jim Thompson disappearance mystery by trying to find Jim’s 1000-year-old Buddha cave, where some of his beautiful Buddha heads originated. He geo-locates Jim’s cave in central Thailand for the first time, then tries to find another cave that Jim tried and failed to find. See the Montgomery Sentinel stories and an academic cave journal story on this search – that took up an entire issue of the journal!

In 2019 Lew co-led an Explorers Club Flag Expedition to assist in the excavation, documentation and historical research on Old St. Stephens, the site of the first capital of Alabama. See the report, two stories in The Montgomery Sentinel, and photos below from this exciting effort.

Lew also explores one of the most famous yet little-known islands in literature, "Bali-h'ai" from the movie, play, book, record and mini-series "South Pacific." He proves that the island of Aoba/Ambae in Vanuatu/New Hebrides inspired James Michener to write about this island paradise, but identifies another possible secondary contributor to the inspiration. Then he visits and studies the island, solves the mystery of a crashed World War II airplane on the island, documents the bizarre pig-killing and stone-moving ceremonies on the island, and analyzes the threat to the island posed by its mammoth, active and very dangerous volcano. (The substantial report on "Expedition to Ambae, the Real Bali-h'ai" is downloadable below in pdf form.) 

Lew hits the road and drives his fabled 1968 “Bullitt” Mustang across the US on Route 66, then up the Pacific Coast Highway to Seattle, and back home to Maryland on the Lewis and Clark Trail. He scores a journalistic coup by interviewing a Papal Swiss Guard and a famous explorer, describes the Peking to Paris classic car rally’s race across Iran, and sneaks into secret worlds as low as the “U.P.” and as high as the fabled gentlemen’s clubs of London. (No, not those kinds of gentlemen’s clubs!)

Lew and Susan also compete in an intense car rally coast-to-coast, the amazing Great Race, driving the "Bullitt" from the US Capitol to Tacoma, Washington, in 15 days through 100 degree heat with no air conditioning. See the briefing below for pictures of dozens of gorgeous classic cars, some close to 100 years old, that completed the 2500-mile rally.

Lew leads an expedition to the Republic of Vanuatu to find, interview and document the “Female Chiefs of Vanuatu,” who had never previously been identified, in over 120 years of anthropological research.

Lew participates in a search on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne for a missing monastery that was famously attacked by Vikings in the year 793, a raid that began the Age of Vikings. He tots up his 56 expeditions and projects in archaeology, anthropology and history, and develops a substantial list of research questions that need to be answered about the current Covid 19 pandemic. He also organizes two panels on search and rescue/recovery at the Royal Geographical Society in London -- see the special section below on these panels.

By the way, for other presentations, expeditions and stories about Vanuatu, the least-known, most amazing country on Earth, see the section of this website on “Vanuatu Mon Amour.”

In 2022 Lew led an Explorers Club Flag Expedition to research Polee and Rose Allen, descendants of the slave ship Clotilda and the Africatown, Alabama community they co-founded.

Final Report on Clotilda-Africatown 2022 (pdf)

Polee and Rose Allen Descendants Report (pdf)

Lew leads an Explorers Club Flag Expedition to research the descendants of the slave ship Clotilda and their Africatown, Alabama community.

Flag Report Lindisfarne Expedition (pdf)

Henson Expedition Patch

Genealogical Report on the Henson Family Feb 2021 (pdf)

Final Flag Report On Henson Expedition April 2021 (pdf)

Final Flag Report Excavating Montpelier October 2021 (pdf)

Final Report Genealogy of Monticello-Montpelier-WH (pdf)

Final Report Montpelier Nov 2021 Flag Expedition (pdf)

Final Flag Report on QE I Banqueting Hall Expedition (pdf)

Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire hides a missing Tudor Garden and Banqueting Hall built for Queen Elizabeth I

Adventures Reported in Montgomery Community Media

Lew and the Flag of The Explorers Club at the new Josiah Henson Museum in Montgomery County, Maryland
New Josiah Henson Museum and Henson bio, Part 1 (pdf)
Josiah Henson bio and expedition, Part 2 (pdf)
The Real Life of Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Part 1 (pdf)
The Afterlife of Prince Philip, Part 2 (pdf)
Prince Philip -- Cool Dude, Part 3 (pdf)

Amelia Earhart, First Lady of the Air
Amelia Eahart Search update, Part 1 (pdf)
Amelia Eahart Search, bizarre theories, Part 2 (pdf)
Amelia Earhart a sarky song, Part 3 (pdf)
Amelia Earhart, a sad sweet song, Part 4 (pdf)
Toulmin's Travel Theorum During Covid-19 (pdf)
Search for the Banqueting Hall of Queen Elizabeth I, Part 1 (pdf)
Search for the Banqueting Hall of Queen Elizabeth I, Part 2 (pdf)

Lew at Sudeley Castle searching for the Banqueting Hall of Queen Elizabeth I

Presentations at the Royal Geographical Society
Below are presentations on air, land and underwater search and rescue/recovery (SAR) made by distinguished speakers at the Royal Geographical Society 2019 Annual Conference, held in London. These were from two panels organized by Lew Toulmin. The presentations cover SAR efforts for Amelia Earhart; for bandleader Glenn Miller; for Air France 447; for the Apollo F-1 engines underwater; for hikers in Yosemite National Park; for graves and missing persons using forensic dogs; and for Jim Thompson, the “Silk King of Thailand.” See below for these PowerPoint presentations. (Note that the Yosemite presentation can also be obtained on line at: or on

Carrying the Flag from Alabama to Vanuatu(PDF)

Lindisfarne Patch

Flag Report Lindisfarne Expedition (pdf)

The link below leads to a briefing given by Lew in May 2021 on the archaeological search for the first monastery of King St. Oswald on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in NE England. This monastery was famously attacked in 793 AD by Vikings, and this terrible raid marks the beginning of the 250-year Age of Vikings. The briefing was given to the Mid-Potomac Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland.

Lew returns the Explorers Club Flag carried on the Lindisfarne Expedition at the 2019 Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner.

Old St. Stephens expedition article, part 1 (pdf)
Old St. Stephens expedition article, part 2 (pdf)

List of Toulmin Expeditions and Projects (pdf)

Pandemic Research Questions for ASPA Task Force (pdf)

Jim Thompson Cave Story: Part 1 (pdf)
Jim Thompson Cave Story: Part 2 (pdf)
Jim Thompson Cave Story: Part 3 (pdf)

Female Chiefs of Vanuatu in Asia Pacific Journal June 2017 (pdf)

Female Chiefs printed article in Island Life 1-2017(PDF)

Female Chiefs of Vanuatu Briefing at the Royal Geographical Society, London (pdf)

Jim Thompson story part 1 (pdf)
Jim Thompson story part 2 (pdf)
Jim Thompson story part 3 (pdf)
Jim Thompson story part 4 (pdf)

Report on the Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the "Silk King of Thailand" (pdf)

PowerPoint Briefing on the Disappearance of Jim Thompson, the "Silk King of Thailand" (pdf)

50th Anniversary of Jim Thompson -- Article by DPA Int'l (pdf)

Jim Thompson Temple Cave Article (pdf)

Presentation on the Jim Thompson disappearance by Lew Toulmin at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT)

Interview with Lew Toulmin by Panther Nation
(the student media organization for the International School of Bangok -- ISB) about ISB and Jim Thompson

Expedition to Ambae, the Real Bali-h'ai (pdf)

Vegetarian survivalist Dani Beau beats the odds in the Colombian jungle (pdf)

How to survive on a TV survival show (pdf)

Baltimore Grand Snafu (pdf)

Lawrence of Arabia: Oddest Hero? Part 1 (pdf)
Lawrence of Arabia: Oddest Hero? Part 2 (pdf)

Explosions in Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa (pdf)

The Search for Montgomery Pie: Bringing Pies to the Pieless (pdf)

The Last Post Card from Nakhchivan Part 1 (pdf)
The Last Post Card from Nakhchivan Part 2 (pdf)

Travel Tales Turns Ten (pdf)

Why Travel When You Could Stay at Home (pdf)

PowerPoint Briefing on the Most Traveled Man on Earth (pdf)

Surprising North Dakota

Trouble in Tonga

Down the Lewis and Clark Trail in a 1968 "Bullitt" Mustang: A Photographic Briefing

Up the Pacific Coast Highway in a 1968 "Bullitt" Mustang: A Photographic Briefing

Across America on the National Road and Route 66 in a 1968 "Bullitt" Mustang: A Photographic Briefing

The Great Race

Across Iran in Classic Cars

Enter the Secret World of London Clubs

Forest Lawn -- Almost Heaven

Yoopers -- you betcha!

Driving The National Road

Driving All of Route 66: Part 1
Driving All of Route 66: Part 2
Driving All of Route 66: Part 3

Profile of a Swiss Papal Guard

Become an Explorer and Save the Planet

Traveling Through Time in Baldwin County, Alabama

Destination Tallinn

Flag Report for Female Chiefs Expedition Final (pdf)

Gear list and Info for Female Chiefs Expedition-FINAL (pdf)

Fellow of Explorers Club Justification for Toulmin (pdf)

Presentation on Toulmin experiences at Eckerd College 2003 (pdf)

Rolling Down to Cuba (pdf)

The Toulmin Wedding story (pdf)

In honor of Queen Elizabeth, a semi-temporary Banqueting Hall was erected and the most expensive party in British history was held – and Lew is still looking for the traces, the leftovers, and the crumbs!

Prince Philip as a young British naval officer, when he was NOT a Prince, AFTER he was Prince, and BEFORE he was a Prince!

Reverend Josiah Henson escaped slavery, founded a town in Canada, learned to read and write as an adult, became an officer in the Canadian militia, captured an enemy ship, was a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, exhibited at Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851, was received by Queen Victoria, inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and helped to end slavery in the US. Whew!

Matthew Alexander Henson was perhaps the greatest black explorer, became the first black member of The Explorers Club, and inadvertantly beat his co-discoverer Capt. Robert Peary to the North Pole by 45 minutes!

George Shorter (left) and Lew at Old St. Stephens (OSS), AL

Volunteer archaeologists' flag at Old St. Stephens

Lew in OSS near the site of Judge Harry Toulmin's 1805 home

A ruined tower in the mile wide city of Si Thep

Khao Amon Rat mountain from the south

Thai Star of the Order of the White Elephant

Letter with sketch of cave by Jim Thompson

Lew Toulmin (right) and monks in the Jim Thompson cave

The Bali Hai expedition documented Ambae island, the "real Bali Hai," in north Vanuatu.

Lew Toulmin and Andrew Vanua with the Explorers Club Flag and the wrecked WW II Corsair fighter engine on the north shore of Ambae.

Lt. John E. Date, Jr., USMC, crashed his Corsair into Nanako village on Ambae, but parachuted out at the last minute. The plane just missed a wedding party of 100 villages, but thankfully no one was hurt.

Children of Nanako village, west Ambae, play with a rusted .50 caliber machine gun from their wrecked Corsair. A few weeks earlier a village lady threw the machine gun on a fire and it "cooked off," sending a round whizzing through the village but luckily injuring no-one. Seventy years of rust and abuse and it still works -- who says American products aren't great?

Lew Toulmin with Malaysian police staff in the Cameron Highlands, investigating the Thompson disappearance.

A 55 year old letter from Jim Thompson (with original signature), re an order placed by Mrs. Harry [Mary] Toulmin, to buy Thai silk items in 1960, when Mary, Harry and son Lew Toulmin were living in Thailand. This letter was found in Mary's bedside bureau on the day in May 2015 when Lew finished writing the Jim Thompson report. Thanks, Jim!

The second page of the order for Thai silk items placed by Mary Toulmin for her friend Mary Partridge [Mrs. Thad Partridge] of Mobile, Alabama and filled by Jim Thompson in 1960. Note the signature of Charles Sheffield in the lower right; he is an (unlikely) POI in the Thompson disappearance, as described in the downloadable report. The shirt for 200 Ticals costs about $10 USD. Unfortunately, the silk order and letter gives no clue as to where Jim Thompson disappeared to, seven years later....

Jim Thompson in World War II. He rose from private to Lt. Col. in the OSS in just six years, undertaking secret missions in France and the Balkans. Later he was a CIA asset in Thailand and resurrected the Thai silk industry.

The Moonlight Bungalow in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia -- this was the "last known point" (LKP) for Jim Thompson in March 1967.

The Launching Pad restaurant man near the start of Route 66

The Cadillac Ranch on Route 66

Lew and his 1968 "Bullitt" Mustang at the Grand Canyon

Route 66--Here it is!

Darth Vader at New Mexico balloon festival

Buddha head from Tha Morat cave

Large Buddha figure in Jim Thompson Tha Morat cave in Thailand

Notari and children of Kerembei with Flag of Explorers (Huang Menders)

Sketch of Chief Hilda Lini

Women of Kerembei in a waterfight at the Festival (Wyrick)

Young Notari of Vanuatu looks to her future (Huang Menders)