Reader “C in DC” recently e-mailed me with a great namestorm idea–explorers. She mentioned Zebulon Pike to start things off. Here are ten more explorers I’d add to the list:
Portuguese sailors feared Africa’s dangerous Cape Bojador…until Gil Eannes became the first to sail beyond the Cape (in 1434) and return. His groundbreaking journey marked the beginning of European exploration of Africa and, later, India.
British explorer Henry Kelsey (1667 – 1724) was likely the first European to have seen the buffalo herds, grizzly bears and prairies of inland Canada.
Swiss-Algerian explorer Isabelle Eberhardt (1877 – 1904) converted to Islam and dressed as a man in order to live and travel in Northern Africa around the turn of the century.
American explorer Jedediah Smith (1798 – ca. 1831) was the first Eurpoean-American to reach California via the overland route.
Scottish doctor and surveyor John Rae (1813 – 1893) surveyed thousands of miles of previously unexplored territory while living in the Canadian Arctic. And he did it all on foot, with the help of his Inuit-inspired snowshoes.
English explorer Mary Kingsley (1862 – 1900) was the first European to visit remote parts of Gabon, on the west coast of Africa.
English explorer Ranulph Fiennes (b. 1944) was the first person to circumnavigate the Earth along its polar axis and the first person to cross Antarctica on foot. He also runs marathons (he once ran 7, on 7 continents, in 7 days, just months after suffering a heart attack) and searches for lost cities. Quite the overachiever.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928) was also an ambitious fellow. He was the first person to reach the South Pole, the first person to reach the North Pole, and the first person to traverse the Northwest Passage.
French explorer Robert de LaSalle (1643 – 1687) was the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River. He named the entire Mississippi basin Louisiane (Louisiana) in honor of King Louis XIV.
What other explorers can you think of?