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History
Explorers

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Circumnavigators
Places (etc.)
Thor Heyerdahl
Explorers by Name

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Explorers and Adventurers

As well as those who explored the seas and the continents, this page includes mountaineers, polar travellers, single–handed sailors, etc.

When it says on this page that someone "discovered" some feature of the world, this generally means that they were the first European to see it. I apologise for this lack of political correctness, which is committed in the interests of succinctness.

See also Explorers: Timeline.

Circumnavigators (etc.)

First circumnavigation (1519–22): his flagship, the Victoria, was the only one (of five that set out) to complete the voyage Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the first English circumnavigation of the world (1577–80) Click to show or hide the answer
First solo circumnavigation (1895) – in the 37–foot cutter Spray (converted to a yawl in the Straits of Magellan) Click to show or hide the answer
Rowed across the Atlantic in 1966 Click for more information Scottish Click to show or hide the answer
English Click to show or hide the answer
Sailed around the world in nine months and one day with only one stop, aged 66, 1966–7 – in the 54–foot ketch Gypsy Moth IV Click to show or hide the answer
Planned to sail around the world at the same time as Chichester, but actually left in July 1967 – returning to Plymouth 354 days later, nine days before his 60th birthday – in the 34–foot ketch Lively Lady Click to show or hide the answer
Won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race (1968–9) to complete the first non–stop solo circumnavigation – in the 32–foot ketch Suhaili, built by himself in India Click to show or hide the answer
Stepped into the sea from his trimaran Teignmouth Electron, and drowned, to avoid disgrace after cheating in the race won by Knox–Johnston Click to show or hide the answer
Failed to finish the race after his boat, the plywood trimaran Victress, sank in his desperate attempt to beat Crowhurst; committed suicide a year later Click to show or hide the answer
Entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race with no sailing experience, retired after rounding the Cape of Good Hope; completed the first non–stop circumnavigation from east to west, against the prevailing winds and currents (1971) – in the 59–foot ketch British Steel Click to show or hide the answer
First solo circumnavigation by a woman (1978) – in the 53–foot Express Crusader – beating Francis Chichester's record by 2 days Click to show or hide the answer
British sailor who broke the record for the fastest circumnavigation, 2005 (71 days 14 hours 18 minutes 33 seconds) – in the trimaran B&Q/Castorama Click to show or hide the answer
French sailor, regained the record from MacArthur 2007–8 – beating her time by just over two weeks Click to show or hide the answer

Places (etc.)

Discovered in January 1820, either by Captain Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen of the Russian Navy or by Captain Edward Bransfield of the Royal Navy Click to show or hide the answer
Legendary city of gold that inspired the Spanish exploration of Central and South America Click to show or hide the answer
Malaysian mountain where five British soldiers were stranded in 1994 Click to show or hide the answer
Atlantic–Pacific sea route around the North of Canada – sought by Baffin, Frobisher and Franklin Click to show or hide the answer
Discovered in 1596 by the Dutch explorers Jacob Heemskerk and Willem Barentsz; name comes from the Dutch for "pointed mountains" Click to show or hide the answer

Thor Heyerdahl

Leader of the Kon–Tiki and Ra expeditions Click to show or hide the answer
Thor Heyerdahl's Kon–Tiki: made of Click to show or hide the answer
Thor Heyerdahl's Ra II (Morocco to Barbados, 1970): made of Click to show or hide the answer
Thor Heyerdahl's third vessel – sailed up the East coast of Africa Click to show or hide the answer

Explorers by Name

Norwegian leader of the first expedition to reach the South Pole (1912) – beat Scott by 34 days; previously (1903–5) led the first expedition to sail through the North West Passage Click to show or hide the answer
Discovered the remains of both the Titanic and the Bismarck Click to show or hide the answer
Crossed Australia from south to north (Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria); both died of starvation on the return journey (1861) Click to show or hide the answer
Click to show or hide the answer
First Westerner to visit Mecca, see Lake Tanganyika or sail down the Amazon; translated the Arabian Nights into English Click to show or hide the answer
US aviator and polar explorer: claimed to have made the first flight over the North Pole in 1926 (disputed at the time, and almost certainly false); also flew over the South Pole in 1929, and led five overland expeditions in Antarctica Click to show or hide the answer
Sailing from Bristol on the Mathew, in 1497, discovered Cape Breton Island (Newfoundland); believed to have been the first European exploration of the North American mainland since the Vikings in the 11th century Click to show or hide the answer
Portuguese discoverer of Brazil (1500) Click to show or hide the answer
Walked around the world in 11 years (1983–94) Click to show or hide the answer
French discoverer of the St. Lawrence River (1534) Click to show or hide the answer
First European to sight the Orinoco River (1498) Click to show or hide the answer
First to circumnavigate New Zealand; discovered that it consisted of two islands (1769–70) Click to show or hide the answer
First to cross the Antarctic Circle, and first to circumnavigate Antarctica (1771)
Killed by natives in Hawaii (1779)
Secured Mexico for Spain by overthrowing the Aztec empire (1519) Click to show or hide the answer
First European to go to India and return (discovered the sea route via the Cape of Good Hope) Click to show or hide the answer
Founder of Quebec (1608) Click to show or hide the answer
First European to explore the Amazon Click to show or hide the answer
European (Spanish) discoverer of the Mississippi Click to show or hide the answer
First European to discover and sail round the Cape of Good Hope Click to show or hide the answer
Skipper of the first all–woman crew to take part in the Whitbread round–the–world race (Maiden, 1990–1) Click to show or hide the answer
Reputedly commanded first Viking ships to reach America (c 1000) Click to show or hide the answer
Viking who discovered Greenland (c 982), naming it to attract settlers Click to show or hide the answer
First person to row across the Atlantic ocean (or any other ocean) – 1969; died 2012 aged 74 Click to show or hide the answer
Named by the Guinness Book of Records as "the world's greatest living adventurer"; first man to visit both the North and South poles by land; first to cross Antarctica on foot; climbed Everest in 2009, aged 65; has a triple–barrelled surname, the first two barrels of which are Twisleton and Wykeham (pronounced Wickham) Click to show or hide the answer
Born in Lincolnshire, 1774; first visited Australia in 1796; circumnavigated Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) in 1802, proving that it was an island; became the first to circumnavigate Australia, in 1803; encouraged the use of the name Australia for the continent (previously it was used for the general area of the globe); held by the French on Mauritius as a spy from 1803 to 1810; died in 1814, aged 40; various things, including a mountain range, an island, and the venue of the Australian Open Tennis Championships, are named in his honour Click to show or hide the answer
Commander of the ill–fated North West Passage expedition, 1845–8 Click to show or hide the answer
English seaman, 1535–94: made three voyages to Canada looking for the Northwest Passage; twice returned home with a shipload of fool's gold, thinking it was real gold; knighted for his part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588); discovered a large inlet on Baffin Island, which was named after him; died from wounds received at the siege of Brest Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the Commonwealth Trans–Antarctic Expedition, 1955–8 Click to show or hide the answer
Drowned off the Azores in the frigate Squirrel (1583) Click to show or hide the answer
Accompanied John Hanning Speke on the expedition that solved the problem of the Nile sources (1860), but was prevented by illness from being with Speke when he discovered Lake Victoria – and thus, effectively, the source of the Nile; one of the largest and most handsome species of gazelle was named in his honour Click to show or hide the answer
Became the youngest Briton to climb Everest, in 1998 (a record since broken); became the youngest ever Chief Scout, 2009 Click to show or hide the answer
British climber: the second Briton, and the first woman, to climb Everest alone and without oxygen (1995); died (also in 1995) while descending from the summit of K2 Click to show or hide the answer

First Britons to climb Everest (1975) Scotsman (died in a ski–ing accident in the Alps, 16 months later) Click to show or hide the answer
Englishman Click to show or hide the answer

First to walk to the North and South Poles (1996); first to complete the "Explorer' Grand Slam" (all four poles – geographical and magnetic – and the seven continental summits – 1998) Click to show or hide the answer
First European to see Niagara Falls; also suggested the site of Detroit as suitable for settlement Click to show or hide the answer
First man to make an undisputed journey on foot to the North Pole (1969) Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the third party to reach the South Pole (1957/8) Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the first expedition to reach the summit of Everest Click to show or hide the answer
Portrayed in Castaway by Amanda Donohue Click to show or hide the answer
Portrayed in Castaway by Oliver Reed Click to show or hide the answer
Swedish aeronaut who accompanied Richard Branson on many of his balloon record attempts – including (a) the first flight across the Atlantic in a balloon (1987), (b) a flight from Japan to Canada in 1991, which broke the distance record for a balloon flight, and (c) an attempt to make the first round–the–world flight in a balloon (with Steve Fossett), taking off in Morocco but making a forced landing in the Pacific Ocean seven days later (on Christmas Day 1998) Click to show or hide the answer
First European to see Victoria Falls or Lake Nyasa Click to show or hide the answer
Met by Henry Morton Stanley at Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika (now in Tanzania) in 1871, having been in Africa since 1866 and thought by many to have been dead for years Click for more information
Leader of the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth (captain of the Vittoria, and commander of the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, and Santiago); first European to cross the Pacific Ocean, 1520 – and named it; killed in the Philippines in 1521 Click to show or hide the answer
38-year-old English schoolteacher, died on Mount Everest in 1924 Click to show or hide the answer
First to row across the Atlantic (1969) Click to show or hide the answer
First to climb Everest alone and without oxygen Click to show or hide the answer
Crossed the English Channel in a solar–powered balloon, 1981 Click to show or hide the answer
Member of Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition, 1911–12, walked out to his death in a blizzard on the return journey rather than delay the others Click to show or hide the answer
Author of Travels in the Interior of Africa (1799) – killed by natives while navigating the River Niger, 1805 Click to show or hide the answer
US naval officer: claimed to have been the first to reach the North Pole, in 1909, but his claim was disputed in a 1989 book by the British explorer Wally Herbert (who said the closest he got was 60 miles away) Click to show or hide the answer
First person to reach the Stratosphere (1931 – 15,785m, 51,775 ft) Click to show or hide the answer
Secured Peru for Spain by conquering the Incas; founded the city of Lima Click to show or hide the answer
Venetian merchant traveller, set off with his father and uncle in 1271 to visit the court of Kublai Khan; served in the court of Kublai Khan 1275–92; described his travels in a book published in about 1300, with a title that translates into English as Books (sic) of the Marvels of the World; died in Venice in 1324, aged 69 Click to show or hide the answer
Led expeditions to the Caroní (1595) and the Orinoco (1616) in search of gold. On the latter his son was killed during an attack on a Spanish settlement, and he himself was executed following his return, in order to appease the Spanish ambassador Click to show or hide the answer
Sailed around the world in Lively Lady, 1967–8 Click to show or hide the answer
Dutch navigator, first to round Cape Horn (1616); named it after his birthplace (Hoorn) Click to show or hide the answer
Irish–born member of Scott's first expedition (1901–4) and leader of three further Antarctic expeditions (1907–09, 1914–17, 1921–22), the second of which (known as the Imperial Trans–Antarctic Expedition) located the South magnetic pole; died on his fourth expedition, in 1922 Click to show or hide the answer
First European to see Lake Victoria – and, as such, the discoverer of the source of the Nile Click to show or hide the answer
Welsh–born US journalist – discovered Lake Edward; Liberal MP for Lambeth North, 1895–1900 Click to show or hide the answer
Met Dr. David Livingstone (whom many believed to have been dead for years) at Ujiji (now in Tanzania) in 1871 – when he is said to have uttered the immortal words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Click for more information
First British woman to climb Everest (1993) Click to show or hide the answer
First woman to climb Everest (1975) Click to show or hide the answer
Dutch seafarer, discovered Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand, and proved that Australia was an island by sailing around it, 1642 Click to show or hide the answer
First Briton to climb Everest without oxygen (1988) Click to show or hide the answer
Florentine merchant explorer (1454–1512) after whom America was named; may have been the first European to recognise it as a continent in its own right; explored the Atlantic coast of South America 1499–1502, discovered the mouth of the Amazon Click to show or hide the answer
Leader of the first party to climb the Matterhorn (14 July, 1865) Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017