The 10 most famous travelers and their discoveries

Today we know about our planet almost everything, every corner of the Earth has been thoroughly explored, described, photographed and found its place in the geographical textbooks. And thanks to the rapid development of tourism, you can visit any exotic country or even take a cruise to the shores of Antarctica. But just a few centuries ago, the only sure source of knowledge about distant lands and territories was the intrepid explorers who made invaluable contributions to the exploration of our planet. Their names and discoveries will forever be remembered in history. Below we bring you the top ten most famous explorers.

Ranking of the most famous explorers and their discoveries

NominationplaceTravelerfame rating
The 10 most famous travelers and their discoveries10Roald Amundsen4.1
9David Livingstone4.2
8Nikolai Miklukho-Maklai4.3
7James Cook4.4
6Leif Eriksson4.5
5Fernand Magellan4.6
4Vasco da Gama4.7
3Amerigo Vespucci4.8
2Christopher Columbus4.9
1Marco Polo5.0

Rual Amundsen

Rating: 4.1

Rual Amundsen

Famous Norwegian explorer known primarily for his polar expeditions. Since childhood, Rual Amundsen had dreamed of becoming a sailor, inspired by the example of Rear Admiral John Franklin. He began preparing for the rugged life of a sailor and explorer from his teens, exercising, skiing, and generally leading a Spartan lifestyle. In the course of his training, Amundsen also attended lectures by the polar explorer Avin Astrup, which finally strengthened the young man’s determination to devote his life to polar exploration. But when he tried to join an expedition to Franz Josef Land, he encountered rejection for lack of experience.

But Amundsen did not give up, and in 1986, having been promoted to navigator, set off on an Antarctic expedition with the group of Adrien de Gerlache. On this trek, he became the world’s first man to cross Tu Hammock Island on skis. Together with his team he was forced to spend thirteen months on the ice of the Southern Ocean, after which they had to return without ever having reached their destination. The turning point in Amundsen’s life came in 1901 when he bought the yacht Yoa and began to re-prepare for a voyage to the South Pole. With his crew on a converted fishing boat, they made their way to the shores of Antarctica and reached their goal in mid-December, several weeks ahead of Captain Robert Scott.

Almost all of Roald Amundsen’s life was spent in various expeditions. In 1928 his plane crashed when he went in search of his colleague, Umberto Nobile. The explorer himself was never found.

David Livingstone

Ranking: 4.2

David Livingston

David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary who explored Africa and introduced the world to its culture and customs. After obtaining his doctorate, he applied to the London Missionary Society, and thus found himself on the African continent, beginning his journey in the southern part of the. Livingston spent his first seven years in the country of the Bechuan, in what is now Botswana. Then he had the idea to study the South African rivers in order to explore new routes deep into Africa. In 1849 he explored the Kalahari Desert and discovered Lake Ngami, then traveled along the Zambezi River. David Livingstone was the first European to cross the African continent. In 1855 he made one of his greatest discoveries, a vast waterfall 120 meters high on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Livingstone named it Victoria Falls, after the Queen of England.

A year later, the missionary returned home and published a book there detailing his research and travels. He was also awarded a gold medal by the Royal Geographical Society. Returning to Africa, Livingstone continued his travels, mostly exploring the great rivers. He also discovered Lakes Bangweulu and Mwelu. In 1873, while searching for the sources of the Nile, he died of malaria near the village of Chitambo (Zambia). During his lifetime, Livingstone was famous as a tireless traveler and was nicknamed “The Great Lion” by the natives, but after his death he left behind a lot of invaluable information about Africa.

Nikolai Miklukho-Maklay

Rating: 4.3

Nikolai Miklukho-Maclay

Nikolai Miklukho-Maklai was a famous Russian traveler and scholar who made enormous contributions to the study of the indigenous peoples of Oceania, Australia, and Southeast Asia. As a young man, Miklukho-Maclay was educated in Germany and was an assistant to the naturalist Ernst Haeckel. On his return to Russia he succeeded in convincing the Russian Geographical Society of the necessity to explore the Pacific territories, and in the autumn of 1870 he sailed for New Guinea on the warship “Vityaz. Miklukho-Maclay explained his choice of location by the fact that primitive society on these islands was of exceptional ethnographic and anthropological value, since it was least influenced by civilization.

The Russian explorer lived among the Papuans for more than a year, learning about their customs, way of life, and religious practices. In 1872, in the clipper Emerald, Miklukho-Maclay sailed around the Philippines and several other islands in the Pacific. Two years later he returned to New Guinea and lived in the western part of it for a time, and from 1876 he went to explore Western Micronesia and the Melanesian islands. Miklukho-Maclay was known not only as a scientist, but also as a humanist, a social activist, a fighter for the rights of natives and an opponent of slavery. He spent the last years of his life in St. Petersburg.

James Cook

Rating: 4.4

James Cook

A navigator, known for his three voyages around the world, which led to the discovery of new territories and detailed maps of the islands of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, and of the coasts of Newfoundland, Australia, and New Zealand. James Cook was born and brought up in a farmer’s family, but against his father’s wishes he decided to become a sailor. From the age of 18 he worked as a cabin boy, then rose to the rank of officer, took part in the Seven Years’ War.

In 1768, the English government decided to send a scientific expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean. The challenge was given to the by then experienced navigator James Cook. He became captain of the three-masted steamship Endeavour and was ordered to set a course for the islands of Tahiti to observe the passage of Venus through the solar disk, which would make it possible to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Also the mission, besides astronomical, had another purpose – to find the southern continent. During this voyage Cook discovered New Zealand and explored the east coast of Australia. A few years later a second expedition took place, accompanied by a series of discoveries: Norfolk Island, Caledonia, the South Sandwich Islands. It was followed by a third, in the course of which Hawaii was discovered. An armed confrontation between the ship’s crew and the local population in Hawaii resulted in Cook’s death. During his voyages, the captain was able to produce charts so accurate and detailed that they remained current until the middle of the 19th century.

Leif Eriksson

Rating: 4.5

Leif Eriksson

Legendary Scandinavian navigator, considered the first European in history to set foot on the shores of the North American continent. Leif Eriksson, nicknamed “lucky”, grew up in the family of Viking Erik the Red, the discoverer of Greenland. About 1000 Met the Norwegian Bjarni Herjolfsson, who told him about unknown western lands. Eriksson, eager to explore and find new territory for his tribesmen to settle, bought a ship, assembled a crew and set sail.

On this voyage, he discovered three regions of Canada. The first shore that met the navigators was Baffin land, which the Scandinavians called Helluland (stone). The next was the Labrador Peninsula, which they named Markland, meaning “forest land.”. And finally, the third, the most attractive coast of the island of Newfoundland, which Eriksson and his men called Vinland, that is, “fertile land”. There they founded a small settlement and stayed for the winter. After returning home, Leif commissioned his own brother, Thorwald, to continue exploring Vinland. However, the second expedition of Viking descendants to the North American shores collapsed, as they had to retreat after fierce skirmishes with a Canadian Indian tribe.

Fernand Magellan

Rating: 4.6

Fernand Magellan

Cook was the world’s first person to circumnavigate the globe and make significant discoveries in the process. Magellan was born in Portugal, to a noble family. His first maritime expedition was in 1505, when he sailed to India as part of Francisco di Almeida’s squadron. Magellan soon had a plan to set sail for the Molucco Islands in hopes of finding a western route to them. Unable to obtain the consent of the Portuguese monarch, he made the same request to the king of Spain and eventually obtained five ships at his disposal. In 1519 Magellan’s expedition left the harbor.

After a year of sailing, Fernand Magellan and his flotilla reached the shores of South America, where he was forced to stop in a harbor for the winter. In the same year he discovered the strait later named after him and set out into the ocean. The travelers never encountered a storm during their nearly four-month voyage through uncharted waters, so they decided to call the ocean the Pacific. The expedition reached the Mariana Archipelago, then the Philippine Islands were discovered. This point was the terminus of Magellan’s voyage, as he was killed during a battle with the Mactan Island tribe. Only one ship returned to Spain with news of her great discoveries.

Vasco da Gama

Rating: 4.7

Vasco da Gama

Portuguese navigator, discoverer of the sea route to India, and the first European to set foot on Indian soil. Vasco da Gama grew up in a noble family and was educated, and at a young age he joined the Navy. He proved himself in battles with French corsairs and succeeded in winning favor with King Manuel I, who commissioned him to lead an expedition to India. Three ships and more than 170 men were used for the voyage. Vasco da Gama set sail in 1497, by December of that year they managed to reach the shores of South Africa, and six months later the ships docked on the Indian coast. Although the voyagers’ plans to establish trade with the natives were not successful, they were greeted with honor at home, and da Gama was appointed Admiral of the Indian Ocean.

During his lifetime, Vasco da Gama made two more voyages to India. The second expedition was to establish Portuguese factories in new territories. He went there a third time in 1502 to strengthen the power of the Portuguese government and fight corruption in the colonial administration. The navigator spent his last years in India.

Amerigo Vespucci

Rating: 4.8

Amerigo Vespucci

Florentine navigator and merchant who first proposed the theory that the part of the world Christopher Columbus discovered was a new, previously unknown continent. As a young man, Amerigo Vespucci graduated from a prestigious university and later worked for the Medici merchant-banking house. In 1499 he joined the crew of a ship under the command of Spanish admiral Alonso de Ojeda. The object of the expedition was to explore the lands of the New World.

During this sea voyage, Vespucci served as navigator, geographer, and cartographer. He described in detail all the details about the terrain, fauna and flora of the new lands, encounters with the natives, and made a map of the starry sky. He later participated in another expedition, in 1503, during which he commanded a small ship. Vespucci was the first explorer to explore much of the Brazilian coast.

Christopher Columbus

Rating: 4.9

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus is best known as the discoverer of the Americas, though he made other important discoveries in his lifetime. He grew up in a poor family but was well educated. In 1470 he took part in commercial maritime expeditions. Columbus’s chief dream was to find a sea route to India across the Atlantic. He repeatedly petitioned European monarchs for help in organizing and funding the expedition, but only in 1492 did he receive permission from Queen Isabella of Spain.

With three ships and a volunteer crew, Christopher Columbus set sail. He discovered the Bahamas, Cuba, and Haiti. A second expedition followed, during which Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, and the Virgin Islands were discovered. In 1498 Columbus set out on his third voyage, which resulted in the exploration of the island of Trinidad. Finally, in 1502, he succeeded in obtaining permission from the king of Spain for a fourth expedition, during which Columbus’s ships reached the shores of Central America. All his later life Christopher Columbus was sure that the land he discovered was connected to Asia, and he did find a sea route to India.

Marco Polo

Rating: 5.0

Marco Polo

One of the most famous travelers who inspired many discoverers, including Christopher Columbus. Marco Polo grew up in the family of a Venetian merchant and from an early age was used to accompany him on his travels, while searching for new trade routes. In 1271, the Pope sent them to China, appointing them as his official representatives. After a five-year expedition through Asia Minor, Persia, and Kashmir, the Polo family reached the residence of Khubilai Khan, ruler of the Mongol Yuan state, of which China was then a part. The young and daring Marco immediately appealed to the Khan, so he decided to keep the travelers at his court, where they spent the next 17 years.

In 1291, Kublai instructed the Polo family to accompany a flotilla that was taking a Mongolian princess to Persia, where she was to become the wife of the Shah of Persia. But during the trip he learned of the Shah’s death, after which Polo decided to return to Venice. Soon after returning home, Marco took part in a war with Genoa and was captured by the Genoese. While in prison he met the Italian writer Rusticello, who wrote detailed accounts of his remarkable adventures and life in China.

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