Zhang Qian, also called Chang Ch’ien (?-114 BC) was a Chinese explorer who traveled to the steppes of Central Asia during the reign of the Han dynasty Emperor Han Wudi (also called Wu Ti, he reigned from 140-87 BC). He was the first person to bring information on this area to China.
Emperor Wudi sent Zhang Qian to visit the Indo-European Yüeh-chih tribe of central Asia in order to establish a trade relationship. On his way northwest in 138 B.C. with about 100 men, Zhang Qian was imprisoned by the nomadic Hsiung-nu people (the Huns) for 10 years. He escaped and made his way to the Yueh-chih tribe (a journey of over 2,000 miles), returning to China 3 years later. Upon his return from this 12-year journey, Zhang Qian was named supreme counselor of the palace by the Emperor.
Many years later, the Emperor sent him to visit the Wu-sun people to the northwest of China, another Indo-European tribe living in what is now Russia. His travels, and those of his assistants (who visited Uzbekistan and Afghanistan) opened up Chinese trade and helped begin the Silk Road, an important trade route connecting the east and the west.
Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (1565-1615) was a Portuguese navigator and explorer who sailed for Spain. He took over the Solomon Island expedition of Alvaro de Mendana in 1595 (after Mendada died) and later discovered and started a Spanish settlement on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.
Quiros was Mendana’s pilot on a 1595 expedition to colonize the Solomon Islands (in the Pacific Ocean). When Mendana died, Quiros led the three leaky ships back to Peru, dealing with starvation, a lack of water, a mutinous crew, and Mendana’s widow (she was a noblewoman who is said to have used drinking water to wash her clothes and kept a pet pig when people around her were starving); only one ship survived.
After other shipwrecks, mutinous crews, and disputes with rulers, Quiros sailed to the South Pacific, intending on traveling to the Marquesas Islands to convert the natives to Christianity. He sailed with two ships carrying close to 300 people. Failing to find the Marquesas, Quiros settled the Island of Vanuatu in 1606. Giving no reason, he decided that the settlers should abandon the settlement after less than a month. As the two ships were leaving the harbor they encountered bad weather, and Quiros signaled the other captain to return to harbor. The other ship did return to the harbor, but Quiros kept going, and sailed on to Mexico. No one knows why; it is thought that wither the crew mutinied or Quiros had a nervous breakdown. Upon returning to Spain, he sent hundreds of letters and maps to King Phillip III asking him to sponsor Quiros in another expedition.
Quiros died near Panama on a 1614 trip to Peru.