René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) was a French explorer. He was sent by King Louis XIV (14) to travel south from Canada and sail down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River (1682). His mission was to explore and establish fur-trade routes along the river. La Salle named the entire Mississippi basin Louisiana, in honor of the King, and claimed it for France on April 9, 1682. He also explored Lake Michigan (1679), Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. He tried to start a settlement in the southern Mississippi River Valley, but the venture ended in disaster.
Robert 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.
Scylax of Caryanda was an ancient Greek explorer who explored the Middle East, including the Indus River, in the 6th century B.C. Scylax’s small expedition sailed from the city of Caspatyrus (in Pactyica) toward the sea and explored for 30 months. Scylax was sent by the Emperor Darius of Persia (now Iran), who wanted the information in order to expand his empire and conquer India.
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.
Sir 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.
Alan B. Shepard Jr. (1923-1998) piloted America’s first manned space mission. This astronaut briefly flew into space on May 5, 1961, in Freedom 7, a Mercury space capsule. The capsule splashed down at sea and was retrieved by helicopter. Shepard also piloted Apollo XIV to the moon, accompanied by Edgar D. Mitchell and Stuart A. Roosa. They took off on January 31, 1971. Shepard and Mitchell landed on the moon in the lunar module (landing near the Fra Mauro Crater) on February 5, 1971, while Roosa orbited the moon in the command module. Shepard hit golf balls on the moon during this historic trip.
Jedediah Smith (1798-1831) was an American mountain man, hunter, trapper, and explorer. Smith was from New York and was the first European American to reach California overland from the east (though the Rocky Mountains and the Mojave Desert). He was also the first European American to cross the Great Basin Desert via the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Salt Lake (on his return from California). During this trip, the heat was so unbearable that Smith and his men resorted to burying themselves in the sand during the hottest parts of the day. Smith was killed by Comanche Indians on the Santa Fe Trail near the Cimarron River in 1831. His body was never found. Smith never published an account of his travels, so little is known about them.
John 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.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (November 3, 1879 - August 26, 1962) was a Canadian explorer (born of Icelandic parents) who explored the Canadian Arctic and lived among the Inuit (Eskimos) for many years.
Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (1797-1873) was a Polish nobleman, explorer, geologist and fossil collector. He explored the Snowy Mountains of Australia (with James Macarthur), climbed and named Australia’s highest mountain Mount Kosciuszko (to honor the Polish general Thaddeus Kosciusko), and traveled through the Gippsland area of eastern Victoria. In the four years Strzelecki spent in New South Wales and Tasmania, he walked over 7000 miles. Strzelecki wrote “Physical Description of New South Wales. Accompanied by a Geological Map, Sections and Diagrams, and Figures of the Organic Remains” (London, 1845).
Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) was a Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam (now called New York City). Stuyvesant was born in Holland and began working for the Dutch West India Company in 1632. In 1643, Stuyvesant was appointed the director of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire (islands in the Caribbean). Fighting against the Portuguese in the Caribbean, Stuyvesant lost his right leg when it was crushed by a cannonball, and thereafter walked on a silver-tipped wooden leg.
In 1645, Stuyvesant became the director general of the extensive Dutch lands in North America, including islands in the Caribbean. He went to New Amsterdam (New York City, New York) as governor in 1647, succeeding Willem Kieft. Stuyvesant ruled the chaotic colony in a harsh, despotic manner that was often resented by the colonists. After the colonists demanded self-governance, Stuyvesant appointed a 9-man advisory board based on a model of Dutch government (this was the first municipal government in New Amsterdam), but Stuyvesant was still in charge. In a boundary dispute, Stuyvesant gave up a large tract of land between New Netherland and Connecticut in 1650. He also conquered New Sweden, driving Swedish colonists from their land along the Delaware River.
Stuyvesant lost New Amsterdam to the British in 1664, when the colonists decided to surrender to the British without a fight (against Stuyvesant’s wishes). New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and the British Captain Richard Nicholls became governor. Stuyvesant later retired to his 62-acre farm on Manhattan, called the Great Bouwerie. (Bouwerie is the old Dutch word for farm, from which the modern-day Bowery gets its name.) Stuyvesant died in August, 1672.