Gem Hunting and Carrying the Explorer’s Flag

Gary Bowersox, the “American Gem Hunter in Afghanistan,” has returned from another gem-hunting expedition to Central Asia. For more than 30 years, Bowersox has been venturing into the ruby, emerald, and lapis mines of Afghanistan. This time, Bowersox’s Central Asian expedition was recognized as an “Official Flag Trip” by Harry Brooks, chair of the flag and honors division for the Explorer’s Club. “Your expedition sounds extraordinary. Godspeed,” Brooks told Bowersox.

With flag in hand, the expedition landed in Peshawar, Pakistan, and once established, drove through the Khyber Pass. Skirting the ongoing fighting near Kabul, the expedition took off to the emerald mines of the Panjshir Valley. But from there, the trip did not continue as planned. With the Northern Alliance supply route out of the picture, this year found the roads in the Anjuman Pass destroyed. Bowersox ended up bypassing the usual route and traveling the long way around, finally reaching the lapis mines in Badakhshan from the north. Then the group returned to Kabul, picking up security forces to guard against Taliban fighters in the area of the ruby mines at Jegdalek.

Messaging from Chitral, Bowersox noted that the Tajikistan portion of the trip “did not work out,” because the chief guide was hospitalized after an earlier auto accident. Even without the Tajikistan leg, the expedition traveled more than 2,000 miles in Afghanistan.

More about the flag. The Explorers Club is dedicated to the advancement of field research, scientific exploration, resource conservation, and preservation of the instinct to explore. The flag, which represents an impressive history of courage and accomplishment, has been carried on hundreds of expeditions since 1918. It has flown at both poles as well as from the highest peaks of the greatest mountain ranges. It has traveled to the depths of the ocean, the surface of the moon, and the vacuum of outer space.

The flag Bowersox took was No. 132. It had traveled with Maynard Miller in 1948 to the Juneau Ice Field, with Robert Ballard in 1988 on the Bismarck Expedition, with Peter Hess in 1990 to photograph the USS Monitor, with David Concannon last year to photograph the RMS Titanic, and with Kenneth Lacovara on the Patagonia Dinosaur Project expedition.

The next ‘extreme adventure’ tour. Bowersox has already begun to promote next year’s expedition to Afghanistan. It will be a shorter version of this year’s, because he hopes retail jewelers will take time out from behind the counter to join the adventure. It will include a trip to Kabul and the surrounding area, two days at the ruby mines at Jegdalek, and two days at the Panjsher Valley emerald mine. For more information about Bowersox, the gems of Afghanistan, and the 2005 trip, log onto For information about the Explorers Club, visit

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