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Explorers: Timeline

Explorers: Timeline

See also Explorers (which sorts them by name).

874Ingolfur Arnason (born in Norway) becomes the first permanent Nordic settler in Iceland (the island is believed to have been settled as early as the 7th century by Irish and/or Scottish monks, who left when the Norsemen arrived)
c985Eric the Red, exiled from Iceland for murder, sails west and discovers Greenland
c1000Lief Ericsson – son of Eric the Red – sails west from Greenland and discovers Baffin Island and Newfoundland
1274Marco Polo, accompanying his father and uncle on their second expedition, reaches China and enters the service of Kublai Khan
1292Marco Polo leaves China
1295Marco Polo arrives back in Italy
1336The Italian poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) climbs Mont Ventoux, for no other reason than to reach the top – the first person known to have climbed a mountain purely for pleasure
1434–62Portuguese expeditions sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator discover the Cape Verde Islands and advance down the African coast as far as Sierra Leone
1488Bartholomeu Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope
1492Christopher Columbus (Genoan, in the service of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain) sails from Palos de la Frontera, near the south–western tip of Spain, reaching an island in the Bahamas in 33 days and naming it San Salvador. (Opinion varies as to which island this was, but it was probably not the one known today as San Salvador, which was known until 1925 as Watling Island). He also explored the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola
1493Columbus sails from Cadiz on his second voyage, reaching and naming several Caribbean islands including Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Nevis and St. Kitts, and Puerto Rico
1497John Cabot (Genoan, in the service of Henry VII of England) discovers Cape Breton Island (Newfoundland); believed to have been the first European exploration of the American mainland since the Vikings in the 11th century
1497Vasco da Gama sails from Portugal, reaching Calicut on the south–west coast of India in April 1498; left in August, and returned to Lisbon in July 1499
1498Columbus sails from Sanlúcar, near Cadiz, on his third voyage. He lands on Trinidad and explores the coast of what is now Venezuela, including the Orinoco river. He originally believes he has discovered a new continent (which of course he has), but later retreats to the view that he is in Asia. He is detained by an administrator, sent by Ferdinand and Isabella in response to the complaints of the colonists he had left on Hispaniola in 1492, and shipped home
1499da Gama returns to Portugal, having confirmed the sea route to the East and thus beaten Columbus to the Indies
1499Florentine merchant Amerigo Vespucci, in the service of Spain, discovers the mouth of the Amazon
1500Vicento Pinzon (Spain) lands in Brazil (before Cabral)
1500Pedro Alvares Cabral, looking for the East Indies but sailing too far West, reaches Brazil and claims it for Portugal
1502Columbus sails from Cadiz (on 11th May) with his brother and son, on his fourth voyage, nominally in search of the Strait of Malacca which separates Sumatra from the Malay peninsula. He lands on Martinique and is denied port at Santo Domingo. After a brief stop at Jamaica he lands in the Bay Islands off Honduras, from where he reaches the mainland of Central America. He spends two months exploring the coast.
1503Columbus beaches his ships in St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica, after they are damaged in a storm. He is stranded there for a year before grudging help arrives to take him back to Spain. He dies in 1506, still convinced that the coast he had explored was that of Asia (although there is a theory that he was actually Portuguese, knew very well that he hadn't been to India, and was deliberately misleading the Spaniards – he was a secret agent!)
1518Hernando (Ferdinand) Cortes leads a Spanish expedition from the West Indies to Mexico, and is received by the Aztec emperor Montezuma II as a god
1519Ferdinand Magellan (Portugal) sets sail with five ships to seek a Western route to the East Indies, and navigates the eponymous strait
1519Hernando de Soto and d'Avila (Spain) sail to Darien, Central America
1520Aztec emperor Montezuma II killed after being captured by Conquistador Hernán Cortés
1521Magellan is killed by natives in the Philippines
1521Cortes, previously expelled from Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) by a revolt, recaptures the city and overthrows the Aztec empire
1522The one survivor of Magellan's five ships returns to Spain
1524Pedro de Alvarado (Spain) conquers Guatemala
1528Hernando de Soto explores the Yucatan peninsula
1534Jacques Cartier (France) discovers and explores the St. Lawrence river
1539de Soto explores Florida, Georgia and the Mississippi river (which he discovered)
1541Francisco de Orellana (Spain) becomes the first European to explore the Amazon
1554Martin Frobisher reaches Guinea, West Africa
1576Frobisher sets sail in search of the North West Passage; visits Labrador and Baffin Island
1577Frobisher's second voyage in search of the North West Passage
1577Francis Drake sets sail in the Pelican on his circumnavigation
1579Drake lands on the Pacific coast of N. America (probably northern California), naming it New Albion
1578Frobisher's third voyage in search of the North West Passage
1580Drake completes his circumnavigation, his ship now renamed the Golden Hind
1583Sir Humphrey Gilbert claims Newfoundland for Elizabeth I, but is drowned when his ship the Squirrel sinks off the Azores on the return journey
1597Willem Barents (Holland) dies on his third attempt to find the North East Passage
1616William Baffin explores Baffin Bay
1616Willem Schouten (Holland) names Cape Horn after his birthplace (Hoorn)
1616Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition up the Orinoco, in search of gold, ends in disaster
1620America's Pilgrim Fathers set sail in the Mayflower
1642Abel Tasman discovers Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand, and proves Australia to be an island by sailing around it
1643Tasman discovers Fiji
1725Danish explorer Vitus Bering, in the service of Peter the Great of Russia, sets out on his first (6–year) expedition, to explore the Pacific coast of Siberia
1733In the service of Russian empress Anna Ioannovna, Bering sets out on his second (10–year) expedition, to explore the Arctic coasts of Siberia and America
1759Captain Cook surveys the St. Lawrence river
1768Cook sails for the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus
1769Cook reaches Tahiti (in the Endeavour); sails round New Zealand, and surveys the eastern coast of Australia, naming New South Wales and Botany Bay
1771Cook returns from his first voyage
1772Cook sails with the Resolution and Adventure to search for the Southern continent
1775Cook returns from his second voyage, having plotted several Pacific islands
1776Cook sets sail with the Resolution and Discovery on his third voyage. Sails north from Hawaii in search of the North West Passage, but finds the Bering Strait blocked by ice
1779Cook is murdered in a scuffle with Hawaiian natives
1786Michel–Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat (France) make the first successful ascent of Mont Blanc
1795Mungo Park (Scotland) sets out on a 2–year exploration of the Niger river
1806Park fails to return from his second Niger expedition – having probably been murdered by natives
1845The expedition of Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin leaves Greenhithe (Dartford, Kent) on HMSs Terror and Erebus, on its quest to find the North West Passage
1846The Franklin expedition, having virtually discovered the North West Passage and wintered (probably) on Beechey Island, becomes trapped in ice off King William Island
1847Death of Lord Franklin (according to a note found later on King William Island); his grave was never found
1849Dr. David Livingstone (Scotland) reaches Lake Ngami (Botswana)
1853Richard Burton becomes the first European to visit Mecca (in disguise)
1855Livingstone becomes the first European to see Victoria Falls
1858Burton and Speke reach Lake Tanganyika, while exploring the sources of the Nile; Speke goes on to find Lake Victoria
1863Speke's second expedition confirms Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile
1865Edward Whymper's party becomes the first to reach the summit of the Matterhorn
1871Stanley and Livingstone meet at Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika (now in Tanzania)
1877Stanley follows the course of the Congo (Zaire) river to the sea
1896George Harbo and Frank (Gabriel) Samuelson, Norwegian-born Americans, become the first people to row across the Atlantic – or any other ocean (New York to Scilly, then to Le Havre)
1901Robert Falcon Scott sets sail on his first expedition to the Antarctic (returns 1904)
1906Roald Amundsen (Norway) becomes the first person to navigate the North West Passage
1909Robert Peary (USA) becomes the first person to reach the North Pole
1909Ernest Shackleton (Ireland)'s second Antarctic expedition (the first being Scott's first) locates the South magnetic pole and climbs Mt. Erebus
1911Amundsen's party becomes the first to reach the South Pole
1912Robert Falcon Scott's British party reach the South Pole 34 days after Amundsen – and all perish on the return journey
1916Shackleton abandons his ship Endurance when it gets crushed in the ice of the Weddell Sea on his third Antarctic expeditionClick for more information
1921C. K. Howard–Bury's reconnaissance expedition discovers the North ridge route on Everest
1922C. G. Bruce's expedition gets to within just over 2,000 feet of the summit of Everest
1922Shackleton dies on board the Quest on his fourth Antarctic expedition, and is buried on South Georgia
1924George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappear during a strong summit bid on Everest
1926Richard Evelyn Byrd (USA) makes the first flight over the North Pole
1929Byrd makes the first flight over the South Pole
1947Thor Heyerdal (Norway) sails from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands along the Humboldt Current, in the balsa wood raft Kon–Tiki
1951Eric Shipton's reconnaissance expedition discovers the South Col route on Everest
1953Edmund Hillary (New Zealand) and Sherpa Tensing (Nepal) become the first people to reach the summit of Everest (as part of a British expedition led by Colonel John Hunt)
1957The Commonwealth Transantarctic expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary, begins
1958Fuchs and Hillary complete the first successful crossing of Antarctica
1966John Ridgway and Chay Blyth become the second pair to row across the Atlantic (from Cape Cod to the Aran Islands)
1967Francis Chichester, aged 66, completes a solo circumnavigation (beginning 1966) with only one stop
1968Greengrocer Alec Rose completes a solo navigation, 9 days before his 60th birthday
1969John Fairfax becomes the first person to row solo across the Atlantic (from the Canary Islands to Florida)
1969Tom McLean becomes the first person to row solo across the Atlantic from West to East (from Newfoundland to Ireland)
1969Robin Knox–Johnston completes the first non–stop solo circumnavigation
1969Heyerdahl sets sail from Morocco to cross the Atlantic in a traditional Egyptian papyrus–reed boat, Ra
1970Heyerdahl reaches Barbados in Ra
1971Chay Blyth completes the first non–stop circumnavigation in an east–to–west direction, against the prevailing winds and currents
1973Doug Scott (England) and Dougal Haston (Scotland) become the first Britons to reach the summit of Everest – the first ascent of the South West face
1975Junko Tabei (Japan) becomes the first woman to reach the summit of Everest
1975First authenticated ascent of Everest from the North (by a Chinese expedition)
1975Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler (Austria) climb Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak) without oxygen – the first 8,000m peak to be climbed thus
1977Thor Heyerdahl sails up the East coast of Africa and crosses the Persian Gulf, in Tigris
1978Naomi James becomes the first woman to complete a single–handed circumnavigation
1978Messner and Habeler become the first people to climb Everest without oxygen
1980Messner becomes the first person to reach the summit of Everest alone and without oxygen
1981Julian Nott crosses the English channel in a solar–powered balloon
1982Ranulph Fiennes and Charles Burton's Transglobe Expedition becomes the first to visit both poles, and makes them the first men to circumnavigate the world via both poles
1988Kay Cottee of Australia becomes the first woman to complete a solo non–stop circumnavigation
1988Stephen Venables becomes the first British climber to reach the summit of Everest alone and without oxygen – and the first to do so via a new route
1993Rebecca Stephens becomes the first British woman to reach the summit of Everest
1994Ffyona Campbell completes her walk around the world
1995Alison Hargreaves (England) becomes the first woman, and the second Briton, to climb Everest alone and without oxygen
1996David Hempleman–Adams becomes the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles
1999Brian Jones (England) and Bertrand Picard (Switzerland) complete the first circumnavigation by balloon
2005Ellen MacArthur sets a new record time for a circumnavigation: 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, and 33 seconds (breaking the previous record, set one year earlier by Francis Joyon of France, by just over 1 day and 8½ hours)

© Haydn Thompson 2017–22