Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are two inspirational explorers from the mid-1900s. They became known as the first travelers to reach Mount Everest summit, which is known to be about 29,000 feet above sea level. Not only is this the highest point of earth, but it is known to have over 400 miles that are excruciatingly difficult to climb and often succumbs to dangerous storms. People learned about Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s Mount Everest success on June 2, 1953, which was also the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The people of England saw this as a good sign. Why? Because of the dangerous and unpredictable weather and the mountain’s low oxygen levels. Most people felt that no one could ever reach the summit.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, during the mid-1800s, Sven Hedin became a well-known explorer, photographer, topographer, and geographer focused on Sweden and writer. In fact, he wrote many books, including “My Life as an Explorer” and “The Wandering Lake.” Hedin’s focus during his travels was Central Asia, where he made four expeditions, including the Transhimalaya, a mountain range in China, Nepal, and India. He received several awards, including the Victoria Medal, Founder’s Gold Medal, and the Livingstone Medal. Finally, Hedin is known as the first explorer to travel along the mountain range of Tibet, allowing him to create a map of the mountainous country.
You will enjoy reading about this next traveler if you are of Norwegian heritage. Born in 1918, Anne Ingstad was always interested in archeology and history. In fact, she became known as a Norwegian archeologist alongside her husband, Helge Ingstad, who is also a well-known explorer. These two individuals are best known for discovering the remains of L’Anse aux Meadows, a Norse settlement in Newfoundland. Because of this discovery, Anne became known as a sifter of Viking secrets. She would continue to study the Vikings’ remains until she could no longer travel. Luckily this did not stop her from writing about her explorations.
When talking about history, sometimes women explorers get left behind, including one with the caliber of Gertrude Bell. This English archaeologist and linguist was the first woman to get a first-class degree in modern history in just two years; she was also high rank in the British military intelligence and a diplomat who helped establish the modern state of Iraq in the 1920s. Her curiosity took her to climb high mountains, making her one of the first women to do this, bringing a lot of data and findings for her books. Gertrude’s many attributions helped shape many British policies and mapped various areas in the Middle East.
The early 1900s were a time to explore higher places. People wanted to witness all the scenery that was once impossible to see. Fortunately, it also helped map out areas so future generations could go on adventures. Today, we can see what’s out there without getting lost. Most of these explorers were scientists and cartographers. They were searching for new discoveries that might revolutionize the community. Perhaps, they could answer some of life’s questions. For instance, explorers took this image at the summit of Pinnacle Peak. It is in an area that is now King County in Washington State. You can go hiking and admire the beauty that these explorers admired in the early 1900s.
The 1900s were wild with exploring and going to places that people never thought of checking. Seeing this old picture of an explorer on a rock that almost feels like their falling off the mountain is unbelievable. Rock climbing back in the day was extremely dangerous. Even today, with the technology and tools we have, there are many risks. This picture was taken in Lake District in the United Kingdom, where there are many peaks with breathtaking views of the place. Having a vintage photograph of what it looked like in 1900 is fascinating.
I’m sure many people think that Christopher Columbus was the one that discovered the Americas, but they are wrong; someone else beat him to it, and his name was Leif Erikson, also known as Leif the Lucky. This Norse explorer landed at the northern tip of modern Canada, which he named Vinland, at least around 500 years before Columbus. He chose the name Vinland because they were many grapes growing wild in the area; the area is believed to be Newfoundland, Canada, because of all the archeological evidence found in the area, including a ship repair station and waypoint.
In the early 1900s, rock climbing was at an all-time high, with explorers from all over the place trying to find new discoveries and things that would get them in the history books. So you might find pictures around of these expeditions, which sometimes would have a climbing guide to help the hikers get into places as safe as possible. For instance, in this picture, you can see Guide Fairman B. Lee (Far left) with a party of hikers at the Nisqually Glacier in Mount Rainier, Washington State. We are not sure at what time of year this was taken, but I’m sure those clothes were not warm enough for the weather.
One of the traditions, when explorers and mountain climbers go all the way up to the top of a mountain, is to leave a piece of them behind as proof that they have been there at some time in history. Most of the time, they bring a flag of their nationality to represent the country they’re from. As you can see in this picture, the team of explorers left a giant United States Flag to show pride in their achievement at the top of the summit. Reaching the summit was not easy, as there was slippery ice all over the ground, making it extremely dangerous. So it’s great to celebrate once you reach the top.
Mount Rainier in Washington has 25 glaciers in total, plus other unnamed snowfields. But from all the glaciers you can find in the area, Nisqually Glacier is the most visited one of all. One of the reasons for this is because it is very easy to access for hikers and mountaineers. This means that the area has been studied for a very long time, specifically since the mid-1800s, with Lt. August Kautz being the first to cross the glacier attempting to reach the summit. The park scientists regularly do surveys to see the water supply and human impact in the area to this day.
One of the main things these explorers did when going to new places was gather data, and the best way to measure a mountain is Triangulating. Here we see William McCaslan Scaife, an Army captain with his team of explorers, triangulating a mountain in Alaska in 1923. Nowadays, triangulating is more manageable than climbing a mountain and taking measurements; we now get help from satellites, making measurements even more accurate and less dangerous. Having to do this manually put everyone at risk of slipping and falling to their deaths.
There are many photographs of expeditions in the early 1900s. Still, some of the most memorable came from professional photographer, George Ponting. He took some of the most breathtaking pictures of the South Pole. In 1911, Herbert was part of the Terra Nova Expedition to the Antarctic. In their camp, he even had a photographic darkroom where he could work after every expedition. During the journey, scientists were studying the behavior of Antarctic animals like penguins, seals, and killer whales. The latter almost ate him when a pod broke the ice where he was. But also took pictures like this grotto in an iceberg with the Terra Nova and scientists in the background.
Oregon has many sightseeing places that are meant to be explored, including some fantastic mountains like Mount Hood. What kept mountain climbers and researchers of the time interested is that it is an active stratovolcano; in other words, it’s actually a volcano with many layers of hardened lava. It is also Oregon’s highest mountain and one of the loftiest mountains in the nation. And as you can see in the early 1900s picture, it has snow all year round, and today it’s the only Lift-served skiing area in North America.
For a very long time, the Eiger’s North Face, the legendary peak in the Swiss Alps, was thought to be impossible to climb to the top. In fact, climbers would call it “Mordwand” or the Murderous wall because it was a sure leap to your death and, sadly, was a graveyard for many climbers. It wasn’t until July 24, 1938, that a team led by Austrian climber Heinrich Harrer and three others figured out how to climb to the top successfully. This picture shows the explorers after they descended from it and being the first ones to survive it.
Today, we see that women can do anything they dream of, but it was harder to do what your heart wanted to do back in the day. But one of the women who broke that from the aviation industry was Raymonde de Laroche, who became the first woman to pilot a plane and the first one in the world to have a license. Her friend, airplane builder Charles Voisin, was the one who taught her how to fly by herself since the plane only had a seat for one person. Flight magazine called her a “baroness” since she was not of noble birth.
Mount Shasta in California is a volcano in Siskiyou County that is the fifth highest in the state and one that has been visited for a very long time. In the picture above, you can see a group of men and females hiking in the area with very little equipment and a pole to stay balanced. Its highest part is nearly 10,000 feet tall, and on a clear day, it can be seen from the floor of the Central Valley 140 miles away. Its beauty has been an inspiration for many people, including poets and authors.
No matter if today we have the best technology and tools that we have ever had, traveling through the Antarctic is hazardous for even the most well-prepared people. So imagine how difficult it was over 100 years ago when a team of three, headed by geologist Douglas Mawson when everything went the wrong way and ended with him being the only survivor of the scientific expedition. Even with tragedy, the mission was the first to establish communication wirelessly between Antarctica and Australia and brought many discoveries, including the first meteorite found in Antarctica.
Mont Blanc (which means White Mountain) is the highest mountain in Western Europe and in the Alps. For a very long time, it felt impossible to go to the top of the mountain because the proper equipment was not available. However, even after it was possible to go tot the top, there was no photographic evidence for the feat. That is until French photographer, Auguste-Rosalie Bisson, took the first pictures in 1861, and this picture was one of the first he took. But to get to the top with his equipment, he needed a team of 25 porters to carry everything for him.
Anyone who has climbed Mount Fuji knows the view from there is spectacular, especially because it is the tallest mountain in Japan. This picture from 1905 shows a view of Lake Yamanaka, which is the largest of the five Fuji lakes. What’s interesting about this view is seeing how empty it looked compared with how many buildings are in Japan today. It’s so insightful seeing how much we have evolved in over 100 years. Also, did you know there is a post office at the top of Mount Fuji that opens only in the summer?
Failure is part of being an explorer in the history of exploration. No one knows it better than Ernest Shackleton and his team of 27 brave men in 1914. Their objective was an Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to be the first one to cross Antarctica. But nothing went according to plan, and their ship was hit by ice which made them stranded in the middle of nowhere. So for 17 months, they survived in some of the harshest weather with their faithful companions, the dogs that were going to transport them around. Thankfully, their photographer was there with his equipment unscathed to show everyone how hard they had failed.
33. Lewis and Clark Were Nothing Without Sacagawea
They say that behind every successful man, there is a great woman, and for Lewis and Clark, that woman was Sacagawea. She was a Lemhi Shoshone woman that helped guide and translates for their expedition towards the Louisiana Territory. They traveled for thousands of miles together, helping them have contact with the Native American people every step of the way. She also taught them about the natural history of every region they visited. She was only a teenager when she took part in the expedition because she could speak Shoshone, which was a language they were sure to encounter.
Hiking was something that was always present since the beginning, especially for the first explorers and scientists who wanted to know more about this planet we call Earth. But it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that hiking started being relevant in the population as something more than just for the military or explorers, but as a recreational thing. So in the U.S., many hiking clubs started showing up with equipment to make trips easier. For instance, this picture was taken in 1923 while climbing for a station at the top of the mountain.
Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to Antarctica was almost like a trial and error for him and his crew. But one thing they got right when they got there was to bring their dogs for transportation. Dog Mushing is something that has been used for millennia to move around the ice and snow in a faster way. Not only did they bring their mushing dogs but also ponies, thinking it’ll also be an excellent way to move around. Soon enough, they learn that it was a mistake since horses do not have what it takes to survive in the harsh weather of Antarctica.
One of the most critical and mysterious monuments in the whole of Britain has to be the prehistoric Stonehenge. For centuries since it was discovered, experts have been trying to figure out what is these large monuments with rocks placed in such a particular way, who built them, and what their function was. Around the 1860s, a group of royal engineers, with Colonel Sir Henry James in charge, decided to find the answers to these questions by first mapping and doing survey work in the area. They discovered that it was built in 3 phases between 3000 and 1500 BC with some renovations over time. But overall, the mystery continues.
History has shown you some interesting and strong women that had opened the doors to many discoveries and achievements. Geographer, Travel writer, cartographer, explorer, and mountaineer Fannie Bullock Workman is one that was not afraid to go on an adventure, breaking records while at it. After she got married to William Hunter Workman, she packed her bags and went traveling many places with him and learned how to climb while in New Hampshire. She even traveled to places like India, France, Italy, Spain, and many others just with a bicycle, traveling thousands of miles and writing about it in her books.
The popularity and the appreciation of nature found in the Yosemite National Park were partly thanks to James Mason Hutchings (second from left to right). He was a businessman turned journalist that brought a lot of attention to the park and the natural beauty that is in Yosemite by making guiding parties with artists and people with influence to show them around. Sketches and photographs of the Yosemite Park were published in national magazines, which gathered a lot of attention. He even made a tourist business in the valley with guide services and a lodging area for visitors.
Israel Russell’s expedition to Mount St. Elias to survey and map the area in 1890 was not only crucial for the scientific community but also for anyone who loves reading National Geographic. Russell spent two years exploring the Alaskan border and sharing his findings which were sponsored by the National Geographic Society, which back then was a club for wealthy people who were interested in traveling and exploration. The photographs that were taken by Russell and his team are now part of the history that is still going strong 134 years after its foundation.
The 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, after losing re-election, decided that the next step in his journey was to explore the Amazon, something that almost took his life. The Roosevelt- Rondon Scientific Expedition into the Rio Dúvuda in Brazil was led by Teddy. Colonel Cándido Rondon was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and collected new insect and animal specimens that were never seen before. The trip was hazardous, with three people dying and Teddy getting an infection from a wound on his leg. Because of it, they rename the river “Rio Roosevelt” for putting his life at risk.
American-born mountaineer Edward Fitzgerald met his new best friend, Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen while on a hiking trip. Together they set their goal to be the first ones to go with a team to survey and study the high plateau regions of the southern Andes. Not only were they successful, but Fitzgerald ended up writing a book about it named The Highest Andes in 1899. Afterward, they climbed Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas, spending six weeks surveying the area and later going all the way to the top, becoming the first one to do so successfully.
There are people that want to test how much a body can endure in higher places, and that’s what mountaineer, Alison Hargreaves did when she decided that her goal was to climb the three tallest mountains in the world without using supplementary oxygen or any type of support by herself. So that’s what she did when she climbed Mount Everest in 1995. This explorer even climbed the north faces of the Alps in a single season and was the first one to do it. Sadly, she passed away while descending K2, the second-highest mountain in the world.
Amerigo Vespucci was an explorer at the same time as Columbus was. He is most known for being the first one to recognize that the continent Columbus had discovered was, in fact, not Asia, but an entirely new continent unknown to the modern world. In fact, in 1496, this explorer even got to meet and talk to Columbus himself. In 1503, he wrote a letter to his patron Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de’ Medici, telling him why he felt the new continent was not Asia because it was much larger than initially described. Most importantly, it was nothing like Asia had been described previously.
Henriette d’Angeville loved to walk and climb since she could remember, so there is a wonder that all she wanted to do was climb one of the highest mountains in Europe. Which she did in 1838, making her the first woman to climb Mont Blanc with barely any tools. Even when a guide suggested she join two all-male groups, she refused and went on to climb it with scarcely any help but with a crowd cheering her on. Her team of explorers left on September 4, 1838, at 2 am, and by 1:15 pm, she made it to the top, celebrating with champagne and releasing doves to let everyone know she had made it.
Sir Francis Drake was known best for his many conquests against Spanish ships and towns, as well as being the first Englishman to sail around the world. Sent by Queen Elizabeth in 1577 to South America, Drake spent the next few years capturing loot and attacking Spanish-owned territories. In 1588 the Queen rewarded his efforts with a Knighthood. When he died in 1596, he was buried in a full suit of armor and then sealed in a lead-lined coffin and buried at sea off the coast of Panama. Divers and treasure hunters seek his coffin to this day.
He is primarily regarded as the first man to traverse the world alone in his sailboat single-handedly. On June 21, 1892, he relaunched the boat named The Spray, which he spent the last year rebuilding. Then, on April 24, 1895, Captain Slocum left the safe harbor at Boston, Massachusetts. Eventually, he found his way to Gibraltar, then to Brazil. From there, this explorer had to wait 40 days to enter the Pacific Ocean due to storms. Soon then, he found his way to Australia, crossed the Indian Ocean, and headed for home.
Not all exploration happens at the tops of mountains or in the farthest reaches and coastlines. Some of the most crucial inquiries happen within ourselves, as evidenced by the tale of Pocahontas. Initially, she was born to a tribal chieftain in what is now Virginia. She did not marry or even really know much about John smith; the story about her saving his life is apocryphal. She did, however, marry a man named John Rolfe. They married on April 5, 1614, and she declared herself a Christian and took the name Rebecca, and they had one child named Thomas.
Roald Amundsen was absolutely sure, even at a very young age, that he wanted to explore the wilderness as an adult. Amundsen initially promised his mother that he would not go out to sea. Still, when she died, this explorer immediately quit his University schooling to set up expeditions. His first successful trip was in 1903, where he became the first known man to make it through the Northwest Passage, a difficult part of the Atlantic Ocean that is frequently clogged with ice. Then in October 1911, he began his expedition with four other men to reach the South Pole, which he accomplished on December 14, 1911.
Pedro Álvares Cabral was a Portuguese nationalist and explorer. His biggest claim of fame is that he was the first European to have discovered what is now the country of Brazil. Cabral initially left Portugal with 13 ships, following the initial route of Vasco da Gama; however, on April 22, 1500, Cabral got sight of land that ended up being Brazil, where this explorer stayed for ten days before resuming his trip to India. While in India, he traded for spices and other goods and ran into mercenaries and destructive storms. He returned to Portugal with just five ships and refused to travel to India again.
We may never know if the team of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ever made it to the top of Mount Everest. In 1922, he took part in what was called the 1922 British Mount Everest expedition, and this was his second attempt at making the summit. These explorers were last seen some 245 meters from the top of the mountain and then were never heard from again. Amazingly, 75 years later, Mallory’s body was located and retrieved. However, they still did not answer if they actually reached the top.
Siegfried Herford is most known in his era for initiating “gritstone climbing” alone with partners John Laycock and Stanley Jeffcoat. This is a process for climbing large rocks and boulders. In 1914, Herford and his companions successfully climbed the Central Buttress of Scafell, setting a new benchmark for rock climbing in the British Isles. This method and practice allowed for more personal exploration of people in their immediate areas. In 1911, he invented what is known as the “girdle traverse,” setting new standards for rock climbing.
A wealthy heiress whose parents encouraged a healthy outdoor lifestyle, Louise Arner Boyd inherited their estate when they passed on in 1920—using her enormous wealth to fund her own scientific expeditions on the coasts of Greenland. She used her time to document, photograph, collect and survey hundreds of plant and animal species. However, her most important call to fame was in 1955, when she became the first woman in the world to fly above the North Pole in a privately chartered DC-4 plane.
The travels, conquest, and exploration of Christopher Columbus are generally viewed as a turning point in human history. Before his exploration, little was known about the rest of the planet and the other type of people that inhabited it. While remaining a controversial figure, it is no doubt that his quests connected humanity together like no one that had come before. His travels lead the pathways to human learning, expansion, and development. His legacy is felt all over the world, whether entire countries named after him like Columbia or undoubtedly as small as a street named after him in your local area.
Before Christopher Columbus, there was a man known as Giovanni Caboto. He was known to have led three expeditions to the Americas. His first expedition was poorly run, and he was forced to return to England before it got very far. In his second and most important expedition, it is known that he managed to sail across the Atlantic and make it to an unknown point in Canada, which in celebration of the 500th anniversary, was officially declared to be Cape Bonavista Newfoundland. He did not travel inland, but he did sail the coast but had no contact with any other people.
Just as important to the exploration of the North Pole is the South Pole, and there was no more prominent name for it at the time than Ernest Shackleton. He was leading the Nimrod expedition, which took place between the years 1907 and 1909. The journey, named after the 40-year-old small ship he had to use, Shackleton and his expedition made it to the farthest South anyone ever had at the time, to latitude 88° 23′ S. He was just under 100 miles from the actual South Pole. Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Shackleton was given Knighthood by King Edward the VII.
Robert Peary has many credentials to his name. His first expedition launched in 1891 to 1892, and during this first trip, he confirmed to all that Greenland was, in fact, entirely an island. In another expedition taking place in 1894, Peary reached the Cape York Meteorite, located 23 miles just east of Cape York. His best and the most known trip took place from 1898 to 1902, in which he and fellow explorer and member of the expedition Matthew Henson both claimed to have reached what was considered the North Pole at the time.
Frequently momentous achievements get overshadowed by more known ones. While Amelia Earhart was well documented and set her own records, she was certainly not the only one to do so. In the lifetime of Beryl Markham, she set the record for the first person to fly from Great Britain to North America across the turbulent Atlantic ocean all by herself in one single flight, non-stop. The flight took place on September 16, 1936, and lasted for over 20 hours. However, her plane, named The Messenger, had ice clog the fuel lines causing her to crash land on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. She survived the landing and lived until the age of 83.
These days, traveling to the other side of the world and back is a relatively simple act. But then consider that Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition was the first to do it all the way back in 1522. The primary journey was to find a Westward route to the Spice Islands. This voyage started in 1519 and led the Spanish-funded explorer across the Atlantic ocean, down the seaboard to South America, leading to the discovery of the Strait Of Magellan on the southern tip of South America. From there, the fleet crossed the expansive Pacific Ocean and landed in the Philippines.
Vitus Bering was a Danish national who was enlisted by Russia to explore the Asian Pacific Coasts and areas surrounding them. The first major expedition was named the First Kamchatka Expedition and was financed by Peter the Great in 1724. The journey led to the discovery and confirmation of the Bering Strait, a gap of ocean between the Russian and American continents. Based on this success, a second expedition named Great Northern Expedition was launched in 1733. As one of the largest explorations of its kind in history, this expedition led to the discoveries of the Commander Islands, the Aleutian Islands, and the European discovery of what is now Alaska.
Aviation exploration is rife with stories and legends, but none is more well known than the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. While her disappearance and death were never solved and might never be, her records and achievements will always be a part of Aviation and exploration history. She was not only the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, but she was also the first to fly in an autogyro and to do so across the United States. She was the first person to fly solo between Hawaii and California, as well as the first woman to fly coast to coast across the United States.
James Cook initially joined the British Merchant navy when he was just a teenager, where he stayed until 1755, when he joined the Royal Navy. In his first-ever expedition, Cook sailed to what is now New Zealand and completed the first detailed map of the area. He also made the first European contact with the Maori tribes. On his Second Expedition, Cook attempted to travel to Antarctica but was unsuccessful. Instead, he traveled south and returned to New Zealand to restock. Before heading home, he traveled to the South and mapped out what is known as Cape Horn today. Cook became the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands on his third and final voyage.
Fridtjof Nansen originally started his education as a Zoologist but quickly switched over to being a renowned explorer. His first significant expedition led him and a team of explorers to cover the expanse of Greenland’s ice-covered ground on June 3, 1888. They encountered temperatures of nearly 50 below zero F and snow that acted like mud to pull their supplies through. Between 1983 and 1896, he leads the Fram Expedition to reach the North Pole. Though the trip was not successful, they did manage to achieve the highest altitude record at the time of 86°13.6′N before having to call off the trip. In his life, he was awarded or honored 18 times by 11 different countries for his contributions.
We see from movies and stories all the time of the heroic explorer vanishing into the deep, expansive Jungle. This is precisely what happened to Percy Fawcett and his son Jack. They both disappeared in 1925 while exploring the jungles of what is now Brazil without so much as a trace. Yet, items owned by the explorer seem to randomly pop up through history, such as in 1979 when Fawcett’s signet ring was found in a Pawn Shop, sparking renewed interest in the story and the idea that Fawcett and his son were killed by bandits.
It started as a simple suggestion in 1888 from a woman known as Nellie Bly (pen name of the actual journalist, inventor, and industrialist Elizabeth Cochran Seaman) that she would take a real trip around the world and turn the fictional book ‘Around The World in 80 Days’ into a reality. On November 14, 1889, Bly boarded the ship Augusta Victoria and began her journey. The round trip ended up taking just 72 days and was just short of 25,000 miles in length. She traveled utterly alone, with little more than a few changes of clothing and a small bag of money that she carried around her neck.
Howard Carter is perhaps the best-known explorer of antiquities in the modern era. His most notable discovery is the fully sealed and intact Tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in November of 1922. Inside the Tomb were over 5000 different items, including gilded couches, food, incense, trumpets, thrones, and a fully intact solid gold coffin holding the mummified remains of the Pharaoh. It took well over ten years for Carter to catalog the contents of the Royal burial site thoroughly. Carter died on March 2, 1939, from Hodgkin’s disease. He only had nine people attend his funeral.