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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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1300's and Earlier 1400's Early 1500's Late 1500's 1600's 1700's 1800's 1900's Glossary of Exploration Terms

Explorers from Britain

BURTON, RICHARD F.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was an English explorer, linguist, author, and soldier. He was the first European to see many Muslim cities and Lake Tanganyika; he wrote voluminously about his trips.

For more information on Richard Francis Burton, click here.

CABOT, JOHN
John Cabot (1450-1499) was an Italian-born English explorer and navigator. In Italy, he is known as Giovanni Caboto (which is his original name).

For more information on Cabot, click here.

CABOT, SEBASTIAN
Sebastian Cabot (1474?-1557?) was an explorer, mapmaker and navigator of Italian descent. He worked as a cartographer (mapmaker) for England's King Henry VIII, was a captain for Spain's King Ferdinand V, explored for England's King Henry VII, and may have secretly explored for Venice. Sebastian Cabot's father was the explorer John Cabot.

Cabot searched for the Northwest passage across North America (1508). He began an unsuccessful trip around the world (1526-1529) in a voyage that supposed to sail to China and the Moluccas (the Spice Islands, in Indonesia), but he only made it as far as the enormous mouth of the Rio de la Plata (a river between Argentina and Uruguay in South America). Later, he began to work for the English again, searching for a water passage across the north of Asia around 1553.

For more information on Sebastian Cabot click here.

COOK, JAMES
James Cook (October 27, 1728- February 14, 1779) was a British explorer and astronomer who went on many expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, Antarctic, Arctic, and around the world.

Cook's first journey was from 1768 to 1771, when he sailed to Tahiti in order to observe Venus as it passed between the Earth and the Sun (in order to try to determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun). During this expedition, he also mapped New Zealand and eastern Australia.

Cook's second expedition (1772-1775) took him to Antarctica and to Easter Island.

Cook's last expedition (1776-1779) was a search for a Northwest Passage across North America to Asia. Cook was killed by a mob on Feb. 14, 1779, on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). At the time, he was trying to take the local chief hostage to get the natives to return a sailboat they had stolen.

Cook was the first ship's captain to stop the disease scurvy (now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C) among sailors by providing them with fresh fruits. Before this, scurvy had killed or incapacitated many sailors on long trips.

For more information on James Cook, click here.

CUNNINGHAM, ALLAN
Allan Cunningham (1791 - 1839) was an English explorer and botanical collector. Cunningham's explorations included Brazil (from 1814 to 1816), eastern Australia (1816 - 1839), and New Zealand (1826) .

For more information on Cunningham, click here.

DAMPIER, WILLIAM
William Dampier (1651 or 1652-1715) was a British buccaneer (pirate), explorer and map-maker. As a teenager, he sailed to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Dampier sailed to Australia, New Guinea, southeast Asia, and the South Seas, charting the coastlines, rivers, and currents for the British Admiralty (1699-1700). He also kept a detailed journal, noting native cultures, the first noted typhoon, and other discoveries made during his voyages. He discovered and named New Britain (near New Guinuea). His book, A New Voyage Round the World, was published in 1697, and quickly became very popular. Dampier died a pauper in March, 1715
DRAKE, FRANCIS
Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was an Admiral). Drake led the second expedition to sail around the world in a voyage lasting from 1577 to 1580 (Magellan led the first voyage around the world).

For more information on Francis Drake, click here.

EYRE, EDWARD JOHN
Eyre mapEdward John Eyre (1815-1901) was an English-born Australian explorer. With his aboriginal friend called Wylie, Eyre was the first European to walk across southern Australia from east to west (along the coast). This arduous trip took 4 1/2 months. They traveled from Adelaide to Albany, across the Nullarbor Plain. The expedition had begun with many men and pack horses, but harsh conditions and lack of food and water forced most of the men and the horses to turn back. Eyre and Wiley survived by using sponges to collect the morning dew, and eating kangaroos. Previously, Eyre had been on many shorter expeditions searching for good sheep-grazing land in southern Australia. An expedition to the center of Australia (from Adelaide) failed at Mt. Hopeless.
FIENNES, RANULPH
Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (March 7, 1944- ) is an English explorer and author who has led over 30 expeditions to the North and South Poles, the desert, the Nile, and many other remote places. In 1982, Fiennes led the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth. In 1992, Fiennes and others found the legendary Lost City of Ubar in the desert of Oman. In 1993, Fiennes and Dr. Mike Stroud made the first unsupported walk across the continent of Antarctica, each man dragging a 500-pound sledge.

Fiennes holds many world exploration records. The Guiness Book of Records described Fiennes as "the world's greatest living explorer."

For more information on Fiennes, click here.

FLINDERS, MATTHEW
FlindersMatthew Flinders (March 16, 1774 - July 19, 1814) was an English explorer, naval officer and navigator who circumnavigated (sailed entirely around) Australia and mapped much of its coastline. He and George Bass were the first Europeans to realize that Tasmania was an island; they sailed around it.

For more information on Flinders, click here.

FRANKLIN, JOHN
Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was an English explorer and Admiral who proved the existence of a Northwest Passage (a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada). In 1819 to 1822, Franklin surveyed part of the northwestern Canadian coast east of the Coppermine River. On a second expedition, from 1825 to 1827, Franklin explored the North American coast from the mouth of the Mackenzie River, in northwestern Canada, westward to Point Beechey (Alaska, USA).

In 1845, Franklin sailed from England with an expedition of 128 men to Canada in search of Northwest Passage. The ship became trapped in ice, and the desperate, freezing and starving survivors resorted to cannibalism. A small contingent of the expedition (without Franklin) may have reached Simpson Strait, the final part of the Northwest Passage. Scottish explorer John Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin's fate. Lead poisoning from poorly-canned food may have also hastened their death.

For more information on Franklin, click here.

FROBISHER, MARTIN
Sir Martin Frobisher (1535?-1594) was an English privateer (a pirate licensed by the British government), navigator, explorer, and naval officer. After years of sailing to northwestern Africa, and then looting French ships in the English Channel, Frobisher sailed to northeastern North America to search for a Northwest Passage (a sea route across northern Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, making the trip to Asia easier).

For more information on Frobisher, click here.

HAWKINS, JOHN
Sir John Hawkins [also spelled Hawkyns] (1532- 1595) was an English naval officer, slave trader, privateer, and cousin of Sir Francis Drake.

Hawkins sailed to Hispaniola (now Haiti) in 1562-1563 for a London syndicate of businessmen in order to trade Guinean (West African) slaves in the Spanish West Indies. Hawkins was the first English slave trader. He was hated by the Spanish, who did not want foreigners entering their highly profitable slave-trading business. Queen Elizabeth backed a second and third slave-trading expedition (1564-1565).

During a third West Indies slave-trading trip with Drake, a need for repairs sent their six ships to a harbor in San Juan de Ulua, near Veracruz, Mexico. The Spanish fleet then attacked the English ships; only two ships survived (those commanded by Hawkins and Drake).

This attack led to a series of battles that later culminated in a war between the Spain and England. In this war, England crushed the Spanish Armada in 1588 and became the dominant world power. Hawkins was third in command during this struggle. He invented the strategy of blockading the Spanish Armada at the Azores (islands in the Atlantic Ocean far off the coast of Spain) and stealing the treasures that the Spanish had stolen from the New World.

Hawkins died on Nov. 12, 1595, before an attack of Puerto Rico; he and Drake had sailed with 27 ships to raid the Spanish West Indies.

HOVELL, WILLAM
William Hilton Hovell (1786 - 1875) was an English sea captain and overland explorer of Australia. Hovell, together with Hamilton Hume (an Australian explorer) and six convicts, travelled overland through southeast Australia (the Berrima-Bong Bong District) to look for any large rivers. They set out in 1824 from Appin (where Hume lived), near Sydney, and travelled overland from Gunning to Corio Bay, discovering the Murray River, the Murrumbidgee River and Mount Bland; they named Mount Disappointment. They traveled 670 miles, and 150 miles less on the return trip. They returned in 1825.
HUDSON, HENRY
Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who explored parts of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay are named for Hudson.

For more information on Hudson, click here.

KELSEY, HENRY
Henry Kelsey (1667-1724) was a British explorer of inland Canada. Also known as Boy Kelsey, he became the first inland explorer of the Hudson's Bay Company when he was seventeen years old (in 1684). On an expedition lasting from 1688 to 1690, Kelsey travelled to the Churchill River region. During his second expedition (1690 - 1692), Kelsey was the first European to see the Canadian prairies. Kelsey extended the trade routes of the Hudson's Bay Company's trade to the Saskatchewan River by negotiating with various Indian tribes, including the Bree, the Gros Ventres. Kelsey spoke Cree (and perhaps Assiniboin); he respected and enjoyed Indian culture. After his Canadian expeditions, Kelsey returned to his native England and remained with the Hudson's Bay Company. The company kept his journeys secret for many years since they were crucial to its trade. Kelsey's journal was re-discovered in 1926.
KINGSLEY, MARY
Kingsley, MaryMary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) was a British explorer who made two pioneering trips to West and Central Africa. She was the first European to enter remote parts of Gabon.

For more information on Kingsley, click here.

LANDER, RICHARD LEMON
Richard Lemon Lander (1804-1834) was an English explorer who made three trips to West Africa; he and his brother John were the first Europeans to canoe down the lower Niger River to its delta (where it meets the sea).

For more information on Lander, click here.

LIVINGSTONE, DAVID
David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a British missionary and explorer who explored the interior of Africa. He arrived as a missionary in Africa in 1841, but began to explore the land in 1853. For over two decades he traveled over land, walking across the continent, and exploring the Zambezi River. He searched for the source of the Nile River. Livingstone was the first European to see the enormous Victoria Falls. Livingstone was thought to be dead (because of rumors started by deserters of his expedition), but the American reporter Henry M. Stanley was sent to Africa to find Livingstone. Stanley found him (1872) and brought him needed food and medicine, then left to recount the tale to readers. Livingstone died a year later in Africa; his heart was buried there, but his body was buried in Westminster Abbey, London, England, after an 8-month journey. .
MACKENZIE, ALEXANDER
Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1755?-1820) was a Scottish-born fur trader and explorer who charted the Mackenzie River in Canada and also traveled to the Pacific Ocean. Mackenzie emigrated to Canada in 1779. From 1788 to 1796 , he commanded the trading post Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabasca in Alberta. In 1789, Mackenzie went on an expedition to chart the 1,100-mile Mackenzie River, travelling from the Great Slave Lake to the mouth of the Mackenzie in the Arctic Ocean, using Peter Pond's incorrect prediction that a river led from that lake to the Pacific Ocean. In 1793, on his second expedition, Mackenzie went from Ft. Chipewyan across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast in is now British Columbia, going via the Peace, Parsnip, McGregor and Fraser Rivers and overland. He was the first European to cross the North American continent north of Mexico (and he did this twice). Mackenzie later retired to his native Scotland. Mackenzie wrote "Voyage from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the Years 1789 and 1793," which was published in 1801.
NEWPORT, CHRISTOPHER
Captain Christopher Newport (1560? - 1617) was an English privateer and navigator who transported colonists to the first permanent English colony in America, Jamestown, and sailed back and forth from England to the New World five times between 1606 and 1611, transporting both supplies and colonists. Captain Newport had been hired by the Virginia Company to transport the colonists. On December 19, 1606, Captain Newport sailed from London, England, commanding three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, carrying the Jamestown, Virginia settlers, including Capt. John Smith. Jamestown was founded on May 14, 1607, by this small group of English settlers. Newport left the 104 settlers in June 22, 1607, sailing back to England for supplies. That winter, most of the Jamestown settlers died from starvation, attacks, and disease. In 1608, back in Virginia, Newport halted the execution of Captain John Smith (the Jamestown leader who had been accused of causing the deaths of the men on his expedition to obtain food from the Indians); Smith's life had been previously saved by Pocahontas when he was brought before the Indian Chief Powhatan. On his fourth trip to America (in 1609), Newport was ship-wrecked in the Bermuda Islands and did not reach Virginia until mid-1610. After his American adventures, he sailed to Persia in 1613-1614 for the East India Company. Captain Newport died in Bantam, Java in 1617 on a voyage to the East Indies.
OXLEY, JOHN J.
John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley (1785? - 1828) was an explorer and surveyor who explored areas of eastern Australia and Tasmania; he also collected geological information. Oxley was the surveyor-general of New South Wales, Australia.

Oxley was born in England, and sailed to Australia in 1802 while in the British Navy. For years, he surveyed the coast of Australia, then in 1806 he commanded a ship to Van Diemen's Land (later called Tasmania).

After returning to England and being promoted to lieutenant, Oxley sailed to Australia (1808). He was granted 600 acres (240 hectares) of land in Sydney and was appointed surveyor-general of New South Wales. He continued his surveys of Australia, including: the Lachlan River region (with George Evans, 1817), the Macquarie River (1818), Jervis Bay and Port Macquarie (1819), Moreton Bay and 50 miles (80 km) up the Brisbane River (1823).

PARK, MUNGO
Mungo Park (1771-1806) was a Scottish explorer and surgeon who charted the course of the Niger River, in western Africa. Park began at the mouth of the Gambia River on June 21, 1795, and traveled northeast on horseback and by foot over rough country. He reached the Niger River at Ségou (which is now in Mali). Park travelled hundreds of miles, suffering fever and imprisonment along the way. He wrote of his trip in "Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa" (1797). At the request of the Scottish government, Park went on a second expedition in 1805 to find the source of the Niger River. During this unsuccessful mission, Park and his expedition members were attacked at the rapids of Bussa, where Park drowned.
PHILLIP, ARTHUR
Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814) was a British Naval Officer who founded the first permanent European settlement in Australia. Phillip commanded the "Sirius," the flagship of the First Fleet (the eleven ships that carried the first European settlers from Portsmouth, England, to New South Wales, Australia). The First Fleet was commissioned by Thomas Townsend, Viscount Sydney, and sailed for Botany Bay on May 13, 1787. The First Fleet carried 564 male and 192 female convicts, 450 crew members, 28 wives, and 30 children (half from the crew, half from the convicts). They sailed via Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), and by Tasmania. The Fleet anchored at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia on January 26, 1788, and declared Australia a colony of Britain. Phillip was the Governor of New South Wales until 1792, when ill health forced him to returned to England. Australia Day commemorates the arrival of Captain Phillip and the First Fleet at Sydney Cove.
RAE, JOHN
John Rae (1813-1893) was a Scottish explorer, surveyor, and surgeon who explored the Canadian Arctic. Rae made three voyages, in 1848-1849, 1851, and 1853-1854, to find the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who had disappeared together with his Arctic expedition. Rae surveyed and mapped over 1,400 miles (2255 km) of uncharted Canadian coastline. He also showed that King William Land was an island. On his third journey, Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin's fate. During his Arctic expeditions, the hearty Rae walked over 23,000 miles (37000 km).
RALEIGH, WALTER
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a British explorer, poet, historian, and soldier. Raleigh led expeditions to both North America and South America; he was trying to found new settlements, find gold, and increase trade with the New World. In 1585, Raleigh sent colonists to the east coast of North America; Raleigh later named that area Virginia, in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. He is often credited with bringing tobacco and potatoes from the New World to Britain, but they were already known there. Raleigh was later executed by King James I for treason.
ROSS, JAMES CLARK
RossSir James Clark Ross (1800 - 1862) was a British explorer and naval officer who went on missions to both the Arctic and the continent of Antarctica, doing magnetic surveys.

The Arctic: Ross went on Arctic expeditions with Sir William E. Parry from 1819 to 1827. Ross and his uncle, Sir John Ross, located the north magnetic pole on Boothia Peninsula (in northern Canada, north of King William Island) on May 31, - June 1, 1831.

Antarctica: James Ross led an Antarctic expedition (1839-43), commanding the "Erebus" while his friend Francis Crozier commanded the "Terror." Ross charted much of the coastline and in 1841 discovered the Ross Sea, and the Victoria Barrier, which was later renamed the Ross Ice Shelf.

For a page on James Clark Ross, click here.

SCOTT, ROBERT F.
Scott mapRobert Falcon Scott (June 6, 1868 - March 29, 1912) was a British naval officer and Antarctic explorer. Scott led two expeditions to the South Pole, and died on the disastrous second trip, along with his crew. His expedition was the second to reach the South Pole (1910-1912); Roald Amundsen led the first.

For more information on Scott, click here.

SHACKLETON, ERNEST HENRY
AntarcticaSir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1872-1922) was a British explorer (born in Ireland) and member of the Royal Naval Reserve. Shackleton was involved in many expeditions attempting to reach the South Pole.

For more information on Shackleton, click here.

SMITH, JOHN
John Smith mapJohn Smith (January 9, 1580 - June, 1631) was an English adventurer and soldier, and one of the founders and leaders of the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement. Smith also led expeditions exploring Chesapeake Bay and the New England coast.

Smith was one of 105 settlers who sailed from England on December 19, 1606, and landed in Virginia on April 26, 1607. When they reached North America, the group opened sealed instructions and found that Smith was chosen as one of the seven leaders of the new colony.

For more information on John Smith, click here.

THOMPSON, DAVID
David Thompson (1770-1857) was a Welsh explorer (born in London, England); Thompson's family name was originally as Tomos. Thompson was also a mapmaker, surveyor, fur trader, and journal writer. . Thompson explored western North America, including what is now western Canada and the western USA. Thompson was the first European to explore the entire length of Columbia River. Thompson's detailed maps of western North America were the first ones made, and were the basis of maps for years to come. Thompson began working as a clerk for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1784. In 1796, Thompson explored Lake Athabasca. In 1797, Thompson joined and become a partner in the North West Company (a rival trapping company). In 1797-1798, Thompson went on an expedition down the Missouri River; he discovered Turtle Lake, one of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, in 1798. In 1807, Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains and built the first trading post on the Columbia River. From 1818 to 1826, Thomson surveyed the border between Canada and the USA.
VANCOUVER, GEORGE
Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) was an English explorer and navigator who sailed to the northwest coast of North America. His two ships, "Discovery" and "Chatham," reached the Strait of Juan de Fuca (near what is now the US-Canadian border) in May, 1792. He then sailed to Puget Sound (near what is now Seattle); Vancouver named Puget Sound (he named it for Lieutenant Peter Puget who was sailing under Captain Vancouver on the ship "Discovery"). Vancouver also named Mt. Rainier, Whidbey Island, and the Hood Canal. The expedition then sailed north, discovering what is now called Vancouver Island, and then sailing around it. Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named for him. Vancouver had previously served under Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages sailing around the world.
WEDDELL, JAMES
James Weddell (1787 -1834) was an English explorer, naturalist, geographer, and sealer who sailed on three expeditions to the Antarctic (in the years 1820-21, 1821-22 and 1822-23). Captain Weddell sailed on the brig "Jane." On these sealing/scientific expeditions, Weddell discovered the Weddell Sea (near the South Pole) and the Weddell Seal, Leptonychotes weddelli in 1823. Weddell sealCaptain Weddell also set an 80-year record for the farthest southern latitude reached (74°15'S, set February 20, 1823). Weddell wrote of his adventures in the book, "A Voyage Towards the South Pole in the Years 1822-24" (published in 1825). Weddell died in poverty at the age of 47.
YOUNGHUSBAND, FRANCIS
Sir Francis Younghusband (1863-1942) was an English explorer and Army officer who went on many expeditions to the Himalayan Mountains and Tibet.

Younghusband was born in India to British parents, and was educated in England. His first expedition to the Himalayas was in 1884, when he went to Afghanistan and Kashmir for the British Army. In 1886, he went to Manchuria, China, and returned to India overland with Colonel Mark Bell. They traveled over 1,250 miles (they split up for part of the journey), crossing the Gobi Desert, the Taklamakan Desert, the Karakorum Mountains, and the Himalayas, returning to India at Rawalpindi.

In 1889, Younghusband returned to the Karakorum Mountains for the Army and later became an official of the Indian Foreign Department in order to stop the Russians (who were exploring the border regions near Afghanistan and Tadzhikistan). In 1890, he traveled with Sir George McCartney on a diplomatic trip to central Asia. Leading an anti-Russian 1903 trip to Tibet, Younghusband was accompanied by 3,000 troops commanded by Sir James MacDonald. Along the way, they explored the Brahmaputra River and the Sutlej River.

Younghusband wrote of his adventures in the books: Heart of a Continent (1896), India and Tibet (1910), and The Epic of Mount Everest (1926).

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