When men invented ways to move from one place to another, may it be through wheels or sails, many brave souls ventured into the unknown to defy logic? Such explorers made a name in history, and surely lived a life of adventure.

Let’s hear their tales of discovery and exploration.

Famous Explorers

The Age of Discovery or the Age of Exploration primarily began from the beginning of the 15th century until the end of the 18th century.

It is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and was the beginning of globalization.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited.

From the perspective of many native population or non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.

Global Exploration

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Photo: The Age of Discovery / The Art of Travel Partners

Global exploration started with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, the coast of Africa, and the discovery of the sea route to India in 1498.

This was followed by the trans-Atlantic Voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas between 1492 and 1502 and the first circumnavigation of the globe in the early 16th century.

These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia that continued into the late 19th century, and ended with the exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.

Let us relive the stories of 16 of the most famous explorers in the history of humankind.

Marco Polo

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners / Public Domain Archive

What sets Marco Polo apart from the rest of the explorers is his written account of his travels. Though when he published it, many believed it to be fiction, but now historians confirm many of his accounts as facts that Marco Polo mentioned in his book.

Polo was an Italian, his father and uncle were successful Jewel Merchants in Asia. When they came back to Italy, Marco Polo went with them to China. He describes his first look of hardships in Afghanistan and Gobi Desert.

Later when he made it to China, Kublai Khan sent him on voyages to Tibet, Burma, and India. After working for King Kublai Khan for 17 years coming back home after 23 years was a difficult transition. He was also imprisoned in Genoa for declaring war against the city.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners / Public Domain Archive

Inside the prison, he recorded his tales in “The Travels of Marco Polo.” This made him a celebrity later after he got out of prison. After being released from the prison, he lived 25 more years with his daughters and died in 1324.

Vasco Da Gama

A Portuguese by nationality and an explorer at heart, Vasco Da Gam learned to navigate the ships at an early age from his father, Estevao. When King Manuel discovered that Indian and Atlantic Oceans merged, he wanted to know the route that led to India.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners / Public Domain Archive

The King sent Vasco Da Gama on his way, the changes in weather forced half of his crew to fall to scurvy. That is the reason Da Gama made a rest at Mozambique, the first step of Portuguese colonialism planted here.

On his way, he stopped at Mombasa and Malindi and took a guide Ahmed Ibn Magid with him. In the May of 1498, Da Gama landed in Kochi.

After establishing spice trade in India, he went on his way back to Portugal. And Scurvy claimed the lives of his fellow crew member, as well as his brother Paulo. After struggling to keep his brother for a year in the Azores, he got back home as a hero.

His next voyage to India portrays his ruthlessness. He ordered the death of 380 Muslims aboard a ship back from Mecca. And his determination made him the dominant spice trader in Kochi. After twenty years of his second voyage to India, in 1524 he ventured to India once again.

But this time age took over mental strength and as soon as he reached Kochi, he became ill. A Catholic Church acted as his burial ground, but later his remains got back to Portugal.

Sir Walter Raleigh

He was not only a favorite of Queen Elizabeth but also a sworn enemy of the Spanish. The reason behind his hatred for Roman-Catholicism was the persecution of his family under Queen Mary I who was a Catholic.

He went to France to fight Wars of Religions, and he also studied law at Oxford. His Voyage includes his quest to find the North West Passage, but along the way, the Spanish army became the vessels of his wrath.

He became the Queen’s favorite after his return; it is even said that when he married the Queen imprisoned him in a jealous fit.

That aside, apart from North West Passage Sir Walter Raleigh established a colony in Roanoke. His Last Voyage was to South America after which he died in Westminster (sentenced to death because of treason).

Roald Amundsen

Born to a family of shipowners and captains in Norway, Roald Amundsen was the first ever explorer to navigate the South Pole as well as the first to travel the North West Passage.

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Photo: Public Domain Archive / The Art of Travel Partners

He was the leader of the Antarctic exploration. His first expedition led to his being locked up in sea ice west of Antarctic Peninsula. After surviving a harsh winter, he led his crew through the North West Passage.

Roald first wanted to explore the North Pole, but hearing he won’t be the first one to do so discouraged him. It took two attempts for him and his team to reach Polheim or the South Pole.

Abel Janszoon Tasman

Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644 in the service of the Dutch East India Company. He was the first known European explorer to reach the islands of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania after his name), New Zealand, and the Islands of Fiji.

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Photo: Tasman’s voyage route to Tasmania and New Zeland / Public Domain Archive

Ironically, from the point of view of the Dutch East India Company, Tasman’s explorations were a disappointment: he had neither found a promising area for trade nor a useful new shipping route. Although received modestly, the company was upset to a degree that Tasman did not fully explore the lands he found and decided that a more “persistent explorer” should be chosen for any future expeditions.

For over a century, until the era of James Cook, Tasmania and New Zealand were not visited by Europeans – mainland Australia was visited, but usually only by accident.

James Cook

James Cook was the brave captain who led his ship to dangerous territories. Son of a farmhand in Yorkshire he gradually grew up and worked as an apprentice for a shipowner in Whitby.

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Photo: Gisborne, New Zealand / The Art of Travel Partners

Due to his experience with ships and ports, he joined the British Nany, then ended up as the Ship’s Master. After the Seven Years War, he took on a scientific expedition to the uncharted areas of New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef.

He also took a tour of Antarctica in which he discovered Ester Island, Tonga, and he smashed the belief of fabled southern continent’s existence.

He did more than any sailor ever did to fill in the vast blank spaces in the world map. He died in a battle with the locals of Kealakekua Bay.

Sir Francis Drake

The relationship between Spain and England was not a warm one during the 16th century. When n Francis Drake became a successful slave trader as he sailed to Africa, but after that, he became a victim of Spanish forces in 1568.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

He and Hawkins deluded the Spanish Navy. Then, Queen Elizabeth, I issued a privateer’s commission to Drake saying he has right to plunder the properties belonging to King Phillip II.

For his next voyage, he went to Panama and raided the coast, then came the best point in British Naval history when Sir Drake became the first British to circumnavigate the earth.

Ferdinand Magellan

Magellan is often revered as the first man to circumnavigate the earth. That is so not true, his crew was. In his conquest to find a route to the Spice Islands from Spain without Portugal coming in the way, he lost his life.

But before that, he sailed to East Africa, Malacca (Malaysia), Indonesia. After his employment in Morocco had finished, he moved to Seville, Spain.

Under the orders of King Charles I, he sailed to Brazil, Patagonia, South America, Strait of Magellan, Philippines. He died while fighting in a mutiny in the Homonhom Island.

David Livingstone

In earlier days sailors were rowdy and cruel, they needed a rough exterior while traveling on the unknown waters. But David Livingstone was a saint among the devils.

He was a Scottish pastor who fell in love with Africa. He went to Africa in 1836 to work as a missionary. Even though he traveled to his country, he loathed slavery and adhered to his morals.

His madness for exploration led him to a hand to hand combat with a lion even. After retiring from his missionary job, he continued in Africa- but his source of motivation was to glean knowledge about the origin of the Nile River.

He was unsuccessful in his studies, but he made a dramatic exit from life when he died while on his knee- praying.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was an Italian-born to a weaver father, but that did not stop him from going on voyages to Mediterranean and Aegean seas. He was a disillusioned hero who thought he had arrived in South Asia when he had actually discovered America by error.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

Columbus made four remarkable voyages. The first one nearly took his life, when French privateers attacked his ship in Portugal’s Coast. But Columbus did not give up and swam to the shore.

Both the Portugues and the Italian Kings rejected his idea of exploring a safer route to Asia, after the war when the Spanish sponsored his expedition Columbus reached the Bahamas.

In his subsequent voyages he set foot in Venezuela and Cuba, but in his death, he still thought that it was some part of Asia.

Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator, and cartographer. Born in the Republic of Florence, he became a naturalized citizen of the Crown of Castile in 1505.

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Photo: Vespucci arrives in New World /Public Domain Archive

Vespucci first demonstrated in about 1502 that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages, but instead constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to people of the Old World.

Colloquially referred to as the New World, it came to be termed “the Americas”, a name derived from Americus, the Latin version of Vespucci’s first name.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula and played an important role in Pizarro’s conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru.

But Soto is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and most likely Arkansas).

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

De Soto’s North American expedition was a vast undertaking. He is also the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River.

It ranged throughout the southeastern United States, both searching for gold, which had been reported by various Indian tribes and earlier coastal explorers, and for a passage to China or the Pacific coast.

Brave leadership, unwavering loyalty, and ruthless schemes for the extortion of native villages for their captured chiefs became de Soto’s hallmarks during the conquest of Central America.

De Soto died in 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi River; different sources disagree on the exact location, whether what is now Lake Village, Arkansas, or Ferriday, Louisiana.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa

Vasco Núñez de Balboa was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

He traveled to the New World in 1500 and, after some exploration, settled on the island of Hispaniola.

He founded the settlement of Santa María la Antigua del Darién in present-day Panama in 1510, which was the first permanent European settlement on the mainland of the Americas (a settlement by Alonso de Ojeda the previous year at San Sebastián de Urabá had already been abandoned).

John Cabot

John Cabot was an Italian navigator and explorer, born in the Kingdom of Naples. His 1497 discovery of the coast of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England was the first European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

Like other explorers at those times, including Christopher Columbus, Cabot led an expedition on commission, in his case, England. Cabot planned to depart to the west from a northerly latitude where the longitudes are much closer together, and where, as a result, the voyage would be much shorter.

He still had an expectation of finding an alternative route to China.

Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson was an English sea explorer and navigator during the early 17th century, best known for his explorations of present-day Canada and parts of the northeastern United States.

In 1607 and 1608, Hudson made two attempts on behalf of English merchants to find a rumored Northeast Passage to Cathay (China) via a route above the Arctic Circle.

In 1609 he landed in North America and explored the region around the modern New York metropolitan area, looking for a Northwest Passage to Asia on behalf of the Dutch East India Company.

He sailed up the Hudson River, which was later named after him, and thereby laid the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region.

Hudson discovered the Hudson Strait and the immense Hudson Bay on his final expedition, while still searching for the Northwest Passage.[6] In 1611, after wintering on the shore of James Bay, Hudson wanted to press on to the west, but most of his crew mutinied. The mutineers cast Hudson, his son, and seven others adrift; the Hudsons and their companions were never seen again.

Lewis and Clark

The Lewis and Clark Expedition began near St. Louis, made its way westward, and passed through the Continental Divide of the Americas to reach the Pacific coast.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

From May 1804 to September 1806, it was the first American expedition to cross the western portion of the United States.

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and to establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.

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Photo: The Art of Travel Partners

The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and to establish trade with local American Indian tribes. The expedition returned to St. Louis to report its findings to Jefferson, with maps, sketches, and journals in hand.

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December 3, 2018 10:56 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

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