Captain Juan Bautista de Anza (1736-1788) was a Mexican-born trailblazer and explorer. He was the first person of European descent to establish an overland trail from Mexico to the northern Pacific coast of California (then called New Albion). He found a corridor through the desolate Sonoran Desert. His expeditions brought hundreds of settlers to California. He founded the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. De Anza was the commander of the presidio at Tubac.
Vitus Jonassen Bering (1681-1741) was a Danish explorer and navigator who explored the seas off Alaska and northeastern Siberia. Bering was a sublieutenant in the fleet of Tsar Peter I the Great of Russia.
From 1725-1730, Bering led an expedition to determine whether or not Asia and North America were connected by a land bridge. Bering sailed through what is now known as the Bering Strait, finding a sea route around Siberia to China. He concluded that Asia and North America were not connected (although he did not actually see North America due to fog).
On a second expedition (the Great Nordic Expedition) in 1741, Bering mapped much of the Arctic coast of Siberia for the Russian Empress Anna. Bering reached North America in July 1741. After being blown off course and having both a crew and captain affected by scurvy (a lack of vitamin C), Bering’s ship was wrecked on a small island near Kamchatka, Russia. Bering and his crew spent winter of 1741 on this bare bit of land, where Bering and half his crew died. This island is now called Bering Island. The remaining crew (which included the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller) survived by eating Steller’s seacows (which were given their name because they tasted like beef) and by building a boat from the wrecked ship. Only 27 years after being discovered, Steller’s sea cows were hunted to extinction.
Colonel Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was an American pioneer, soldier, and explorer; he was born near Reading, Pennsylvania. Boone founded the first US settlement west of the Appalachian mountains.
A frontiersman and folk hero, Boone explored the Kentucky wilderness from 1769 to 1782. He traveled down the Ohio River, and trapped furs in the Green and Cumberland Valleys.
Antonie Laumet de La Mothe de Cadillac ( March 5, 1658 - Oct. 15, 1730) was a French explorer, soldier, and leader. Cadillac founded the city of Detroit in 1701 and was the governor of the Louisiana Territory from 1710 to 1716 or 1717.
Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix (Oct. 29, 1682 - Feb. 1, 1761) was a French Jesuit priest, explorer, and writer. His writings are some of the earliest written accounts of North America.
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.
Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse (August 23, 1741-1788) was a French explorer and naval officer. La Perouse mapped the west coast of North America in 1786, and visited the Easter Islands and Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaii). He was lost at sea while searching for the Solomon Islands (after reaching Australia’s Botany Bay).
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye (1685-1749) was a Canadian soldier and explorer who traveled farther west than any previous European explorer had; he traveled to Lake Winnipeg and then southwest, almost reaching the Missouri River. He was searching for a route across Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. His father was the sieur de Varennes, the governor of Trois Rivières, Quebec, Canada.
Gaspar de Portolá (1767-1784) was a Spanish soldier, leader, and explorer. Portolá was appointed Governor of Las Californias from 1768-1770 and founded Monterey and San Diego (California). As governor, Portola was ordered to arrest and expel all Jesuits from their well-established colleges and 14 missions; many of these missions were given to the Franciscans. In 1768, Portola volunteered to lead a large expedition of settlers, missionaries, and soldiers up the California coast to San Diego and Monterey (in California) in order to establish new Franciscan missions; the expedition was planned by Jose de Galvez. Portolá’s overland expedition began on July 14th, 1769, and included Father Junipero Serra and 63 other men. They reached Los Angeles on August 2, 1769, Santa Barbara on August 19, Santa Cruz on October 18, and the San Francisco Bay area on October 31 (they missed Monterey). They again failed to find Monterey on their return trip to San Diego (both by land and by sea), so Portolá, Father Serra, and others tried another expedition, arriving at Monterey on May 24, 1770. In 1776, Portolá was chosen governor of the city of Puebla; he served for eight years, until his death .
Julian Dubuque (or Du Buque) was a French miner who traveled through regions of the Upper Mississippi area of the USA. In 1786, Dubuque founded the city of Dubuque, Iowa, USA. After buying land from the Fox Indians, he started mining lead near what is now Dubuque. Julian Dubuque was Iowa’s first European settler.
Jean-Baptiste-Point Du Sable (1750?-1818) was a Haitian-French pioneer and trader; he founded the settlement that would later become Chicago.
Matthew 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.
Simon Fraser (1776-1862) was a fur trader and explorer. Fraser, his mother, and his siblings, British loyalists, emigrated from America to Canada after the American Revolution (in 1784). In 1792, Fraser began working for the North West Company of Montreal, and was soon sent to Lake Athabasca, Alberta. Fraser established Fort McLeod in 1805, Fort St. James and Fort Fraser in 1806, and Fort George in 1807. He explored the interior of British Columbia, trying to find a trade route to the Pacific Ocean for the North West Company. He followed what he thought was the Columbia River to its mouth at Musqueam, but it was not the Columbia, it was another unknown river. This river was later called the Fraser River (named by David Thompson).
Father Francisco Tomás Garcés, (April 12, 1738 - July 18, 1781) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who was a missionary and explorer. Father Garces explored the southwestern part of North America, including what is now Arizona, U.S., southern California, and the Gila and Colorado rivers (including the western Grand Canyon). He visited Hopi and Havasupai Indians, learning much about the area.
From 1768 to 1776, Father Garces explored with Juan Bautista de Anza and alone with native guides. He and Juan Díaz died in a Yuman uprising in the area where the Colorado and Gila rivers meet; they were trying to find a route from Sonora, Mexico to California.
Robert Gray (1755-1806) was a American explorer who had previously been in the Navy during the Revolutionary War. Gray sailed from Boston, [Massachusetts[(/usa/states/massachusetts/), in 1787, and traveled around South America to the northwest coast of North America and on to China, where he traded furs for tea. He began his journey with Captain John Kendrick on a sister ship. Gray continued west and returned to Boston in 1790. Gray was the first American-born explorer in an American ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1791, he led another expedition to the northwest coast on a ship called “Columbia.” In 1792, Gray sighted, named, and sailed up the Columbia River in Oregon, and also explored Gray’s Harbor in what is now the state of Washington. Because of Gray’s exploration, the United States now laid claim to the Oregon territory. Gray again continued westwards and circumnavigated the globe again, returning to Boston in 1793.
Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer who explored much of Central and South America. Humboldt and his friend, the French botanist Aime Bonpland, explored the coast of Venezuela, the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, and much of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico (1799-1805).
On their many expeditions, Humboldt and Bonpland collected plant, animal, and mineral specimens, studied electiricity, did extensive mapping of northern South America, climbed mountains, observed astronomical phenomena, and performed many scientific observations.
Charles Marie de la Condamine (1701-1774), was a French mathematician, explorer, and geographer. La Condamine was sent to Ecuador in 1735 to measure the Earth at the equator. He also scientifically explored and mapped the Amazon region.
Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe (1683- September 26, 1765) was a French explorer, trader, and soldier who sailed to the southern USA in 1718. He explored the Mississippi, Arkansas, Red, and Sulphur Rivers, and the area near Galveston Bay. He helped settle the area along the Red River, established a trading post, and built a fort.
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.
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.
Juan Perez (ca.1725-1775) was a Spanish navigator who explored the northwest coast of North America. He sailed from Port San Blas, Mexico, up the coast of North America in 1774, in a ship named the Santiago. He had been ordered to sail as far north as Alaska (60 degrees north latitude), but only made it to what is now British Columbia, because of bad weather. He anchored his 82-foot ship off the Queen Charlotte Islands, by northern Vancouver Island. On two occasions, Native Americans canoed to Perez’s ship to trade and invite Perez ashore. Perez never went ashore and so wasn’t able to claim the land for Spain. He made detailed reports of the shoreline and his reports prompted later expeditions.
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.
Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who traveled to Mexico in 1749 to do missionary work and perform other church functions.
In 1767, Serra went north from Mexico to what is now California and continued his missionary work, converting native Americans zealously (sometimes forcibly). He founded many missions in California, including the Mission of San Diego (founded in 1769) and 8 other missions, which were often built by the forced labor of Indians who were rounded up by Spanish soldiers. The death rate of Native Americans at Serra’s missions was tremendously high; many more died than were baptized. Serra also helped an expedition in locating San Francisco.
Father Serra was well-known for his acts of mortification of the flesh; he wore heavy hair shirts with sharp wires that rubbed against his skin, he whipped himself, and he burned himself with candles. Although the Catholic church bestowed sainthood on Serra in 1988 for his missionary work, his cruelty and the tremendously negative effect he had on Native Americans have made him a very controversial saint to many people.
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.
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.