Between the 15th and 17th centuries, The Age of Exploration took place. This was the time when explorers discovered new lands, found trade routes, explored treasure, and gain territory for their country. Often regarded as the Age of Discovery, this time much of the world was mapped and many world civilizations came into contact with each other. Here are ten of the greatest explorers who have inspired and helped thousands of travelers and explorers over centuries.
1. Marco Polo (1254-1324):
In the early 1270s, a 13th-century Italian teenager set off on a journey to explore Asia with his father and uncle. Marco Polo returned 24 years after he set out to his native Venice, having traveled further into Asia than any European before him. Marco Polo travelled through Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China, taking the path now known as the Silk Route. His travels are recorded in “Livre des merveilles du monde” which inspired many travellers and explorers including Christopher Columbus.
2. Ibn Battuta (1304-1369):
Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan who became known for traveling across the entire Islamic regions of Africa, Asia and southeastern Europe. In his 30 years of journey, he crossed the Himalayas to reach India, China, South-East Asia, Maldives and all the way back to Morocco, covering around 120,000 kilometers. The chronicle of his journey was published in the Rihla. He spoke an account of his journeys, named A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling.
3. Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512):
Vespucci is most famous for being the one, the continent of America was named after. The Italian explorer explored most parts of the eastern coastline of South America. He pointed out that the continent is neither linked to Asia nor is it as small as it was thought at that time. He was also a cartographer and navigator. He was also able to show that Brazil was not part of Asia. Vespucci launched several voyages from Spain and Portugal and discovered the mouth of Amazon.
4. Vasco Da Gama (1460-1524):
Vasco Da Gama is known for his pioneering role in the Age of Discovery. Vasco Da Gama is a Portuguese explorer and the first European who reached India by sea becoming the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and hence, the West and the Orient. Vasco Da Gama reached Calicut (now Kozhikode) in Kerala in 1498. In 1524, he became Governor of India. He crossed the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean to reach ‘the East’ leading more sea voyages from all over Europe.
5. Henry Hudson (1560s/1570s-1611):
Henry Hudson is famously known for his explorations of present-day Canada and parts of the northeastern United States during the early 17th century. He explored the New York area and the Hudson River is named after him. The English sea explorer and navigator tried to create a passage through the New World to reach China. But instead, he established a Dutch Colony what became today’s New York City. When some of his men mutinied against him he and his son passed away.
6. Bartolomeu Dias (1451-1500):
Bartolomeu Dias was a Portuguese explorer who became the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa. He was commissioned by King John (Joao) II of Portugal to find a trade route that would lead to India. In 1488, He sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa and set up the route from Europe to Asia later. He also explored the coastline of Western Africa and encountered the Cape of Storms also known as the Cape of Good Hope.
7. James Cook (1728-1779):
Captain James Cook was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer who is best known for discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Unlike anyone, he is the man who traveled to all the seven continents, crossed both the poles and sailed all the oceans on his HMS Endeavour. He mapped out Newfoundland (East Canada) and led three voyages to the Pacific region discovering Australia, circumnavigated New Zealand and made contact with the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands and traveled for thousands of kilometers doing so. He circumnavigated around the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and around the Indian Ocean.
8. Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521):
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who is best known for being the first man to set off on a journey to go around the world and find sea routes that would help others to navigate the planet as well. He organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522. He sailed from the Atlantic Ocean found his way through North and South America and reach the Pacific Ocean. The waterway through which he did this is named the Strait of Magellan. He discovered the Philippines where he was killed during the Battle of Mactan. He has also been associated with exploring the stars and galaxies above us.
9. Jeanne Baret (1740-1807):
Jeanne Baret is remembered as the first woman to have completed a voyage of circumnavigation of the globe. She disguised herself as a man and enlisted as valet and assistant to the expedition’s naturalist, Philibert Commerçon. She was a member of Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s expedition on the ships La Boudeuse and Étoile and was herself an expert botanist. In 2002, The first English biography of Jeanne Baret by John Dunmore was published. Glynis Ridley’s The Discovery of Jeanne Baret (2010) also gave further information about her.
10. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506):
Christopher Columbus is greatly known for the discovery and colonization of the Americas. Columbus wanted to discover India and to find a better sea route to the eastern country, hoping to circle around the world. Instead, he landed in the Bahamas. He visited the western land and found himself in Central and South America and he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. He established prominent trade links between Europe and America.