Which Explorers First Explored the Continents of the World?

continents of the world

Who was La Salle?

Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, was born in 1643 and studied in Jesuit schools to become a priest. But lured by the opportunity of adventure and fortune in North America, the 22-year-old Frenchman traveled to Montreal, a city on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. He cleared a patch of nearby forest and set up a fur post to trade with local Indians, including the Hurons and Ottawas.

Although his business thrived, the young La Salle grew restless. He heard stories that described a giant waterway to the west, a river that sliced through the dense North American forest. Hoping that the river led to the Pacific Ocean, La Salle sold his trading post and organized an expedition to find it. He assembled woodsmen, Indian guides, and missionaries in eight canoes and led them down the St. Lawrence River in 1669.

The expedition paddled into Lake Ontario and found the Ohio River to the south. The river flowed steadily to the southwest, and La Salle was excited thinking it might be the Northwest Passage. But after several months, the expe­dition was halted by a stretch of roaring rapids. Frustrated, La Salle turned back and returned to Montreal.

How did La Salle claim the Mississippi River?

In 1673, La Salle learned that two Frenchmen, Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, had paddled down what Indians called the Father of Waters—the Mississippi River. They had not reached the Gulf of Mexico but had turned back at the mouth of the Arkansas River. La Salle was disappointed to learn that the Mississippi did not reach the Pacific Ocean, but he realized the economic potential of the great waterway.

In 1677, he went to France and told King Louis XIV of the splendid, untamed country and its promise of riches beyond their dreams. The king, inspired by La Salle’s vision of a French empire, granted him a monopoly to build trading posts and forts in the Mississippi Valley. In February 1682, La Salle led an expedition of 23 Frenchmen and 31 Indians—including members of the Illinois, Miami, Shawnee, and Abnaki tribes—down the Mississippi River.

Along the way, La Salle shrewdly negoti­ated with Indians, using gifts and flattering language to convince them of his friendly intentions. Still, he claimed their land for Louis XIV, erecting wooden crosses with the arms of France and crying, “Vive le Roil” On April 6, 1682, La Salle arrived at the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River and its tributaries. He named the colony Louisiana, after the king. In one journey, La Salle had created a French colony several times larger in area than the French nation.

Did La Salle bring French settlers to Louisiana?

Hoping to attract French colonists, La Salle returned to France, recruited 280 settlers, and set sail again for Louisiana in 1684. The voyage was disastrous. The ships mistakenly sailed past the mouth of the Mississippi River and La Salle was forced to send the settlers ashore on the barren coast of Texas.

One ship was wrecked; another returned home. La Salle set off with a band of 20 men east­ward across the harsh Texas landscape in a desperate bid to find the river. But food ran out, frustration rose, and tem­pers shortened. Finally, some of the men revolted and shot La Salle at point blank range, leaving his body to be eaten by vultures.

Who was Alexander Mackenzie?

Born in Scotland around 1755, Alexander Mackenzie left his native country for Canada in 1779. He settled in Montreal, which had grown into a flourishing city, and joined the fur-trading business. Nine years later, Mackenzie moved westward into the Canadian wilderness, where he established a trading post on the shore of Lake Athabasca in northern Alberta. Indian traders told him that the Pacific Ocean existed to the west. Some said that it was quite near.

Like so many other explorers at that time, Mackenzie dreamed of finding a water route across North America that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In June 1789, he led an expedition in three birch bark canoes northward to a giant body of water called Great Slave Lake. The party dis­covered a river at the lake’s western end that flowed west. Eagerly, Mackenzie and his companions followed the river west and then north. The trees grew stockier, the wildlife more rare.

After 11 days, the explorers entered a vast, icy, treeless region covered with rocks and lichen. Mackenzie had reached the Arctic tundra. The river emptied into an ocean clogged with ice. Mackenzie had discovered a route to the ocean, but to the wrong one. Instead of gazing joy­fully on the Pacific, he stared glumly at the Arctic Ocean. Mackenzie named the river Disappointment and returned to his trading post, having traveled nearly 3,000 miles. Today, Disappointment River is called the Mackenzie River.

How did Mackenzie reach the Pacific?

Frustrated but undaunted, Mackenzie vowed to reach the Pacific. After spending a year in England studying astronomy, navigation, and geography, he led another expedition into the Canadian wilderness in May 1793. The ten-man party and its equipment were loaded into a single 25-foot birch bark canoe. The canoe, sturdy but light, car­ried the group as it swiftly paddled west up the Peace River.

After two weeks, Mackenzie spotted the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. The river narrowed and entered chasms, accelerating the current and crashing the water into white foam over treacherous rocks. Abandoning their paddles, the men struggled to pole and pull the canoe upriver. The water often caught the canoe and smashed it against rocks, tearing holes in its hull. The men stopped frequently for repairs, and some wondered whether the journey was doomed to failure. But Mackenzie refused to give up. He ordered the men to carry the canoe and its sup­plies overland, an agonizing journey through forests and fields thick with underbrush. After three days the exhaust­ed party had traveled past the rapids and was able to navi­gate the Peace River again.

For another three weeks, the group struggled west, finally meeting an Indian who guided them to a river that flowed toward the Pacific. But the trip downstream was often more difficult than paddling upstream. At one point the men lost control of the canoe, running into rocks that tore off the bow and stem and spilled the supplies into the swirling current. The men thought certainly that they would turn back. But Mackenzie ordered them to repair the canoe, and they continued.

On July 20, 1793, the party finally spilled out of a river into a salty bay just north of Vancouver Island. After ten weeks of grueling travel, Mackenzie had reached the Pacific. He took navigational readings and guided the party home. In 1801, he published an account of his travels in Voyages from Montreal. One of the most enthusiastic readers of the book was an American president named Thomas Jefferson.

Who were Lewis and Clark?

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson made one of the greatest land purchases in history. The French emperor Napoleon, in need of money to finance his military opera­tions in Europe, offered to sell all French territory in North America for $15 million, or 3 cents an acre. The Louisiana Purchase, which included the entire Mississippi River and its tributary rivers and streams, doubled the size of the United States.

Jefferson, always curious about science and nature, wanted to know more about this largely unexplored terri­tory. What was the landscape? What animals and plants lived there? What kind of people inhabited the land and how did they live? To answer these questions, Jefferson organized an expedition and chose a close friend-29-year-old Meriwether Lewis—to lead it. Lewis realized the importance and danger of the journey. He invited another friend, William Clark, to share command. These two explorers, Lewis and Clark, would spend more than two years and travel 8,000 miles in the most famous exploratory journey in U.S. history.

Who was Sacajawea?

During the winter of 1803-1804, Lewis and Clark camped at the spot where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi. The expedition included 29 soldiers and 16 helpers who would accompany them for the first year before turning back. The men, food, and equipment would travel in two dugout canoes and a 55-foot boat. On May 14, 1804, the expedition began to paddle and row up the Missouri River.

For weeks, the men made their way up the broad river, avoiding floating logs, snags, and shifting sands. By mid-July, they had reached the broad, grass-covered land of the Great Plains, which stretched unbroken to the horizon. Over the next two months, Lewis wrote fas­cinating accounts of the local animal life—including antelopes, badgers, jackrabbits, and coyotes. Herds of buf­falo darkened the plains. Little animals lived by the hun­dreds in underground burrows. Their high-pitched squeals and calls echoed for miles. Lewis called them “barking squirrels.” A sergeant called them prairie dogs, the name they have today.

By November, the expedition had traveled 1,600 miles. As the weather turned cold, the men began to build a camp on the banks of the Missouri to wait out the winter. Before they finished, a French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, offered to join the expedition and act as an interpreter. Lewis was more impressed with Charbonneau’s wife, a young Indian woman named Sacajawea. She was Shoshone, a tribe that lived in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where Lewis expected to travel. They persuad­ed Sacajawea to come with them.

In the coming months, Sacajawea would be invaluable to the expedition, and not just because of her translating skills. In February, Sacajawea gave birth to a son. When the expedition met Indian tribes for the first time, the presence of Sacajawea, with her baby strapped securely to her back, calmed the chiefs. No party with a woman and child intended to make war.

“Sacajawea’s presence,” wrote Clark, “reconciles all the Indians as to our friendly intentions.”

How did the expedition arrive at the Pacific Ocean?

In April 1805, the expedition’s boat, a canoe, and 12 men returned to St. Louis loaded with reports, maps, dried plants, animal skins, Indian artifacts, and crates of other material collected by the explorers. Lewis and Clark and the rest of the men continued west. Lewis was astounded at the size, strength, and ferocity of the grizzly bear, which often required several shots to be killed. “I had rather fight two Indians than one bear,” he observed.

By late May, the expedition had traveled more than 2,000 miles, and some of the men wondered whether the Missouri River would ever end. But on May 26, Lewis glimpsed the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. After another two months, the expedition reached the headwaters of the Missouri River, country inhabited by the Shoshone. But the men found only empty, abandoned Indian camps. The Shoshone, apparently terrified by the visitors, had gone into hiding.

Finally, Lewis surprised three Indian women and convinced them he was friendly. When the Shoshone chief, Cameahwait, arrived at the white man’s camp, Sacajawea burst into tears and embraced him. The chief was her brother. When the expedition left the Shoshone in late August, the tribe provided it with 29 horses and a new guide named Toby, though Sacajawea continued to travel with the expedition.

For three weeks in September 1805, the party struggled through the Bitterroot Mountains. The terrain was treacherous with thick forest covering steep, rocky slopes. Food supplies ran desperately low. Worse, snow came down in sheets, mak­ing the party miserable. Clark recalled being “wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life.”

They finally reached a Nez Perce Indian village, where the expedition rested and built the canoes for the last leg of the journey. The rivers now all flowed west to the Pacific, and Lewis and Clark led the party down the Columbia River into a land of rain forests and thick fog. On November 7, 1805, they paddled into Gray Bay, where they could hear the roar of ocean waves pounding on the shore. “Ocean in view! Oh! The joy!” wrote Clark.

How did the Lewis and Clark journey end?

The expedition spent the winter on the coast of the Pacific, drenched by the frequent rainstorms. On March 23, 1806, they began the long trek back. One group, led by Clark, retraced the expedition’s steps. Lewis led another party down the Yellowstone River, reuniting with Clark on August 12 where the Yellowstone flows into the Missouri River. The expedition sailed down the Missouri, arriving in St. Louis to a joyful welcome on September 23, 1806.

The Lewis and Clark expedition opened up the West to further exploration and, eventually, settlement. It also solved a question that had obsessed explorers for more than 300 years: No usable waterway cuts unbroken across North America.

Who was John Charles Fremont?

John Charles Fremont was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1813. When he was 25, Fremont joined an expedition to the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers, where he learned mapping and surveying. Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, who became Fremont’s father-in-law in 1841, believed passionately in expanding the United States westward. To open the region to white settlers, the senator sponsored Fremont on several exploratory mis­sions, which allowed Fremont to map much of the territo­ry between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

On the first expedition, begun in 1842, Fremont surveyed a route through what is today Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. The route would become the Oregon Trail—a highway into the West for millions of white settlers. While surveying the area, Fremont climbed what he thought was the highest peak in the Rockies (historians are uncertain which peak Fremont climbed).

After returning to Washington, D.C., Fremont and his wife wrote an account of his adventures, firing the imagination of the nation to the potential of the West. In spring 1843, Fremont led a party of 40 men into the mountains again, this time to find a suitable route to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition moved west and found the Great Salt Lake in what today is Utah. Fremont turned north, reached Oregon, and then journeyed south into California.

By winter 1844, the men were starving and freezing in the Sierra Nevada. The Indian guides deserted them, and Fremont and his men struggled for 30 days until finally reaching safety in Sacramento, California. In 1845, Fremont returned to the West, blazing and mapping a new trail to California. Again, Fremont wrote a stirring version of his adventures that became immensely popular with the American pub­lic, earning him the nickname “Pathfinder.” Besides encouraging white settlement in the West, Fremont’s expeditions made him popular enough to run for presi­dent in 1856, but he lost to James Buchanan.

Who was Alexander von Humboldt?

Alexander von Humboldt was born in Prussia in 1769 to a wealthy family. As a young boy, he explored his father’s estate, keenly examining the flowering blossoms, trees, and plants. Humboldt’s mother, however, disap­proved of his growing interest in botany. She insisted that he study law. Humboldt obeyed and began a distin­guished career in civil service. But when his mother died, Humboldt abruptly abandoned his job and about a year later, in 1799, booked passage to Mexico. “What a wealth of observation I shall collect here on the earth’s construc­tion,” he wrote. “What happiness lies before me. I am dizzy with joy.”

Humboldt, accompanied by a Frenchman named Aime Bonpland, landed in Caracas, Venezuela, and began sketching and collecting samples of the flowers, trees, and animals in the country. In February 1800, Humboldt and Bonpland journeyed south into the interior toward the Amazon River. The heat grew unbearable, and the party began traveling at night and dozing during the day in ham­mocks. The two men collected samples, even capturing electric eels in a swamp. Humboldt, impatient to under­stand the eels’ ability to shock, placed his hands on an eel’s barrel and was soon screaming in pain.

The expedition continued south into jungles dense with foliage and loud with the screams of monkeys and the sinister growling of jaguars. The rivers and streams swarmed with vicious piranha, which could strip meat from bone in minutes. Humboldt was fascinated by the teeming life around him, and in his curiosity left nothing unexamined. He spent more than four years in South America and Mexico, even­tually bringing 60,000 samples back to Europe. Humboldt devoted the next 23 years to sorting and publishing his findings, which eventually filled 30 volumes.

Who was Ynes Mexia?

Ynes Mexia was born in Texas in 1870, a descendant of Mexican-American settlers, and spent most of her life in Texas, Philadelphia, and Mexico City. After her husband died, she moved to San Francisco, California, and became a social worker. At the age of 51, she entered the University of California and began studying botany. Many of the plants in North and South America had not yet been identi­fied.

In 1925, she accompanied an expedition to Mexico to collect biology samples. She returned the next year to the western states of Mexico, this time traveling alone. In the following years, she collected samples in Alaska, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico. Working mostly alone, she made cultural observations of the people she lived with and collected more than 150,000 plants, resulting in the discovery of 500 new species.

Who was Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt from Prussia?

Born in Prussia in 1813, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt studied natural science and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Gottingen. As a young man, he traveled through Europe doing fieldwork and became flu­ent in English, French, and Italian. In 1841, an English com­panion sponsored Leichhardt’s voyage to Australia, where Leichhardt planned to use his skills to explore the interior of the young colony. From 1842 to 1844, Leichhardt collected plant and rock specimens in the Hunter River Valley. In 1844, he joined an overland expedition to Port Essington. But Leichhardt grew impatient with the slow pace and raised money for his own trip.

In October 1844, Leichhardt and ten men ventured into the interior of Australia, intending to blaze an overland route from Brisbane on the eastern coast to Port Essington on the northern coast. The expedition members were plagued by their inexperience. Moving only six miles a day, the expedition lost a tent and one-fifth of its flour. Two men quit. The others quarreled bitterly. Leichhardt, an inef­fective leader, couldn’t maintain group harmony.

On June 25, 1845, one man was killed and two others wounded in an aborigine attack. By then, the tiny, weary group was on the verge of starving. Leichhardt had supplies for a seven-month journey, but food ran out. Desperate, Leichhardt used his knowledge to identify plants for food. On December 17, 1844-14 months after they began—the group reached Port Essington, where shocked townspeo­ ple greeted them as heroes. The newly world famous Leichhardt planned another journey—this time to cross the continent from east to west. In March 1848, Leichhardt led another group into the Australian wilderness on an expedi­tion he estimated would last two years. They were never heard from again.

Who were Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills?

Explorers, such as the Englishman Matthew Flinders and the Frenchman Nicolas Baudin, had mapped most of Australia’s coast by the mid-1800s. The vast interior of the continent, however, remained unexplored by Europeans. To encourage exploration, the Royal Society of Victoria sponsored an expedition to cross Australia from south to north.

In August 1860, an Irishman named Robert O’Hara Burke led a party of 15 men, 28 horses, and 27 camels into the interior. The animals carried tents, guns, equipment, and stores of salted meats, lime juice, and flour—enough to feed the expedition for a year and a half. More than 10,000 people turned out in Melbourne to see the men off. Burke told them, “No expedition has ever started under such favorable circumstances as this.”

But within a month, Burke had argued with his second in command and dismissed him, promoting an Englishman named William John Wills in his place. In late October, Burke realized that the increasing summer heat was drying out the landscape around him (in the Southern Hemisphere, the summer months are November, December, and January). In order to make it easier for the animals to forage, he decid­ed to divide his party in two.

Burke went ahead with Wills and six other men and their animals. The other party lagged behind, and Burke decided to continue on to the northern coast without their support. He divided his group again, this time making the final push with three other men. It took them less than two months to travel 750 miles to the sea. They passed through the sands of the Stony Desert and fields covered with spiny grass. At the beginning of February, Burke and Wills could smell the salty ocean, but swamps and showers drove them back. The men were dis­appointed at not seeing the ocean but thrilled to have suc­ceeded in crossing Australia.

How did the Wills and Burke expedition end in tragedy?

The four men marked their positions and began the return to their base camp, a grueling journey that left them half-starved and one of them dead. But when they arrived, they found the camp deserted. A note explained that the supporting party had not yet brought up supplies. Concerned, the men in the camp had decided to set out south to find them.

Burke, Wills, and another man named King were marooned in the middle of Australia, hundreds of miles from help, with only a box containing 40 days’ worth of food left there by the other party. Weak and des­perate, the men tried to reach a sheep station called Mount Hopeless to the southwest. After 60 days, the three men had eaten all their food and had slaughtered their camels. Wills and Burke both died around June 28. Found and kept alive by aborigines, King survived to recount what hap­pened. The bodies of Burke and Wills were recovered and they were buried as heroes in Melbourne.

Who was Mungo Park of Scotland?

Mungo Park was the seventh of 12 children born to a family in Scotland. He studied medicine and accompanied an expedition to Africa as the surgeon in 1792. In 1795, the African Association appointed Park to look for a giant waterway that supposedly ran westward through Africa and emptied out of the western coast into the Atlantic Ocean.

In December 1795, Park left Bathurst, a city on Africa’s west coast, with two servants and traveled into the interior, through parts of present-day Gambia, Guinea, and Mali. Almost immediately, Park was forced to pay tribute to the local king—which cost him most of his tobacco. In the Medina kingdom, Park was greeted warmly by King Jatta. Jatta warned him of the dangers ahead, but Park was per­sistent, and Jatta agreed to furnish him with a guide. Park continued on. Some kings robbed him of his possessions and supplies. Park was able to impress others with his sur­gical skills.

In February 1796, Park crossed into Ludamar, where he was imprisoned by the Islamic ruler. The king accused Park and his companions of being spies. He threatened to cut off their hands and poke out their eyes. After five months in captivity, Park stole a horse and escaped. Without food or water, Park struggled on alone. Exhausted and starving, he stumbled into a Fulani village, where a woman fed him and his horse. Park joined two African travelers, who led him to his goal—the Niger River. Park was the first European to see this great river and describe its eastward flow. On July 30, he began the long trek back to the coast, finally arriving in mid-June 1797.

After returning to Scotland, Park planned to settle down as a country doctor. But in 1803, the African Association asked him to return and chart the Niger River. Park’s medical practice was not doing as well as he had hoped, so he agreed. In May’1804, Park led 45 men on the same path he had used earlier. But he soon faced disaster. The rainy season began, soaking the men and bogging them down in mud. The local kings demanded tribute. After three months, 33 men and all the animals were dead. The survivors continued on in a rigged boat but were mis­taken for slave traders. They were attacked, and Park is believed to have drowned.

Who was Heinrich Barth of Germany?

Heinrich Barth, born in 1821 in Germany, was a very serious student. When he went to the University of Berlin, he studied so hard that his father feared he had no friends. Hoping to cure his son of his shyness, his father sent him on a tour of Paris, London, and the North African coast. The trip did little for Barth’s social ability, but he was fasci­nated by Africa. At age 28, he joined an English expedition led by a former missionary, James Richardson. In March 1850, the party left the Libyan city of Tripoli and journeyed into the Sahara Desert. About 500 miles south of Tripoli, Barth discovered rock paintings thousands of years old. They depicted the Sahara as it changed from fertile plains into a vast desert.

After a year of travel, Richardson died of malaria, and Barth took over the expedition. Though usually shy and awkward, Barth proved adept at impressing the sultans of the kingdoms through which he traveled. He showered them with expensive gifts, and they received him warmly.

While a companion explored Lake Chad—a lake in west central Africa—Barth discovered parts of the Benue River and the Shari River. He planned to travel to Timbuktu along roads made dangerous by robbers. To fool them, Barth pretended to be delivering religious books to the leader of Timbuktu. The ruse worked, and Barth and his men entered the city safely. For two more years, Barth explored West Africa, finally returning to Tripoli in August 1855. He soon returned to Europe, having spent nearly six years in Africa. Barth devoted the next three years to recording his experiences in a book. Many contemporary readers found his writing tedious. Later, Barth’s attention to detail and keen eye for observation would earn him praise as one of Africa’s greatest explorers.

What was one of the greatest mysteries for European explorers of Africa?

In the 1860s, a husband and wife team attempted to solve one of the most elusive geographical mysteries—the source of the Nile, the world’s longest river at 4,132 miles. The waterway flowed north through Egypt, nourishing crops and providing the base for the Egyptian empire. Explorers both ancient and modern had speculated on and sought its source for thousands of years. On December 18, 1862, an Englishman named Samuel Baker and his wife, Florence, embarked on a journey to solve the mystery.

Beginning at the city of Khartoum, Sudan, they led an expedition of about 100 men, four horses, four camels, and 21 donkeys in three boats. But after just two months of travel, the party met two half-starved English explorers named John Hanning Speke and James Grant, who had also been seeking the source of the Nile. Speke explained that he had returned to Lake Victoria, which he had found and named in 1858. (Lake Victoria, second-largest fresh­water lake in the world, extends into present-day Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.)

This time, Speke was certain that the lake was the source of the Nile. Bitterly disappointed, Baker asked if there was anything left to discover. Speke replied that he had not been able to follow the river from Lake Victoria as it flowed downstream. A large part of the Nile remained unexplored. Inspired again, the Bakers bid farewell to Speke and Grant and continued southward overland.

What did Samuel and Florence Baker discover on the Nile river?

The Bakers spent the next nine months crossing through the African wilderness or waiting in villages because civil wars made travel too dangerous. The Bakers were a formidable pair. Samuel was hot tempered and decisive. Florence was quick witted, well organized, and patient. Together, they endured travel through mountain­ous terrain that killed most of their animals. In January 1864, they entered an area in present-day Uganda ruled by a king named Kamrasi. Needing Kamrasi’s permission to continue south, Samuel began swapping gifts with the king.

Eventually, Samuel had little left to give. Kamrasi asked for his guns and navigation tools. Samuel refused. Kamrasi made a final request—Florence. Samuel pulled a revolver from his holster and pointed it at the king while Florence gave a fiery speech in Arabic. The king was shocked; he thought Samuel would be pleased to swap wives. The Bakers left Kamrasi two days later. On March 14, the party at last glimpsed the silver sheen of a massive lake. Here, the Bakers were convinced, lay the true source of the Nile River (later, this was proved wrong). Samuel named it Lake Albert, after the English prince. The return trip down the Nile took another 18 months. After the Bakers returned to England, Samuel was knighted and the Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Victoria Gold Medal, its most coveted award.

Who was David Livingstone of Scotland?

David Livingstone was born in Scotland in 1813. After studying medicine, Livingstone went to Africa as a mission­ary in 1841. By 1843, Livingstone had ventured into Kuruman, an isolated area in present-day South Africa, where he founded a missionary station in the village of Mabotsa. There, while Livingstone tried to convert natives to Christianity, a lion pounced on him, mauling his left arm before being frightened away by gunshots. Livingstone would never be able to lift the arm above his shoulder again.

Livingstone grew discouraged, feeling that the Africans did not take Christianity seriously, and he believed that the tribal culture would have to be destroyed before they accepted Christianity. To do that, theorized Livingstone, Africa needed more trade with Europe. Seeking to find a navigable waterway across the continent, Livingstone trav­eled north from Mabotsa in 1849. After covering 700 miles, he discovered a broad waterway that flowed east called the Zambezi River. Here, exclaimed Livingstone, is the high­way for British commerce and Christianity to penetrate Africa.

In 1853, Livingstone turned west and plunged into Angola. Perhaps he sought a connection between the Zambezi River and the Atlantic Ocean. Traveling through this terrain, with its lush jungles, fields covered in sharp grass, and swamps swarming with mosquitoes, left Livingstone feverish and weak. After six months, he arrived on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite his exhaustion, he wrote of his journeys, prepared meticulous maps, and sent them to England, where his exploits were applauded. But by that time, Livingstone was crossing east again, growing partially deaf in one ear from rheumatic fever and almost losing an eye to a sharp branch.

On November 17, 1855, Livingstone stumbled upon a 300-foot-high waterfall more than a mile wide, thundering in clouds of mists. He named it Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria of Great Britain. (The falls are on the Zambezi River, which borders present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe.) When Livingstone returned to England in 1856, he was showered with medals and praise for his discoveries.

How was David Livingstone rescued?

The 43-year-old explorer returned to Africa in 1858 and led a disastrous expedition up the Zambezi River. The river was blocked by foaming rapids, Livingstone’s miser­able European companions quarreled, and three of them were killed in local tribal wars. In 1866, Livingstone led another exploring party into eastern Africa hoping to find the source of the Nile River.

By 1868, Livingstone had entered Lake Bangweulu (in present-day Zambia), an area of leech-infested swamps. Weakened by fever, Livingstone joined an Arab slave caravan and continued seeking his elusive quarry through 1870. By this time, people began to wonder what had happened to him, as news from Livingstone had not reached the outside world for years. The New York Herald newspaper sent a journalist, a British-American named Henry Morton Stanley, to find the explorer.

In November 1871, Livingstone was lying exhausted in Ujiji, a village on the bank of Lake Tanganyika, a lake that today forms the border between Congo and Tanzania. On November 10, he heard a commotion and saw a crowd with an American flag marching down the street. Livingstone rose and to his shock saw a white man dressed in flannel clothing and freshly waxed boots. Stanley saw Livingstone and uttered his now famous line, “Dr. Livingstone I pre­sume?”

Livingstone had been found. Livingstone died in May 1873. His black porters, who had journeyed with him faithfully for so many years, carried his body 1,000 miles, a trek that lasted almost a year, to the coast, where it was transported back to England for burial.

Who was Henry Morton Stanley?

In 1874, Stanley resolved to explore more of Africa and determine once and for all the source of the Nile River. Using his reputation as the savior of Livingstone, he gathered sponsors to finance an exploring party that arrived on the shores of Lake Victoria in February 1875. After exploring the coasts of the lake, he ventured south and then west, where he discovered a river, nearly a mile wide, flowing north.

In November 1876, Stanley led 356 men into the jungles bordering the river—land that had never been seen by Europeans. When the men put a boat onto the river, they heard calls relayed through the forest. Africans were warning one another of strangers in a boat. “Reed arrows, tipped with poison, were shot at us from the jungles as we glided by,” recalled Stanley. “Out of every bush glared eyes flaming with hate; in the stream lurked the crocodiles to feed.”

For weeks, the party continued down the river in their canoes. At one spot, Stanley and his party, now down to a little more than 100 men, faced 54 canoes filled with African warriors, possibly more than 2,000 in all. Stanley’s men bat­tled desperately and used their guns to a decisive advan­tage. After 32 skirmishes, Stanley and the men entered a safe territory along the river where they were welcomed enthusiastically by a chief. Stanley asked the chief the name of the river. “Ikutu Ya Kongo,” he answered. Stanley named the river Congo.

As the party continued downriver, the water grew treacherous. The canoes entered the foaming maelstrom of the river’s rapids, where whirlpools swamped one canoe and crushed another against rocks. In one after­noon, nine men were drowned, a tragedy so devastating to Stanley that he considered suicide. The river was too dan­gerous, and Stanley ordered his men to abandon the crafts and continue on foot. In August 1876, Stanley and 108 men arrived at the mouth of the river where it emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. The river system of the Congo was opened to Europeans. Back in England, Stanley wrote Through the Dar3k Continent, an immensely popular account of his journey.

Who was Mary Kingsley?

Dressed in a prim, dark dress, Mary Kingsley appeared to be a proper Englishwoman of the Victorian Era. But she was also one of its greatest and bravest explorers. Born in 1862, Kingsley spent her youth in seclusion, rarely leaving her home. When she was 29, both her mother and father died within months of each other, and her brother left to travel east. Devastated, she took a holiday in the Canary Islands, where she heard colorful stories about Africa from sea captains and traders. Her imagination ignited, she visit­ed the ports of West Africa in 1893, delighting in the exotic markets and people.

In December 1894, Kingsley returned to Africa, this time determined to explore parts of the continent and send samples of fish and beetles back to the British Museum for study. Kingsley did not act like most previous European visitors. While the male explorers relied on guns and sur­rounded themselves with armed escorts, Kingsley used her self-confidence and a shrewd ability to trade. On July 22, 1895, Kingsley entered the territory of Gabon in the French Congo and traveled up the Ogooue River.

Kingsley knew the region was inhabited by the Fang, a tribe rumored to be cannibals, but she forged ahead, paddling with guides and stopping at villages to trade. After seven days and 70 miles, her voyage ended. She had safely negotiated with tribes that routinely. killed and ate prisoners. When she returned to England she published an account, Travels in West Africa. The book was an immediate success, but her harsh condemnation of European exploitation in Africa brought severe criticism. “What we do in Africa today,” she wrote, “a thousand years hence there will be Africans to thrive or suffer for it.”

Who was Isabella Bird Bishop from England?

Isabella Bird Bishop, an Englishwoman born in 1831, lost both her parents by the time she was 24. Afterward, she suffered from depression, backaches, and insomnia. When her doctor recommended a change of scenery, Bishop set sail for Australia in July 1872. Six months later, she took another ship across the South Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands.

A hurricane threatened to send the ship to the bottom, but Bishop was thrilled by the adventure. In Hawaii, she watched women as well as men straddle horses while riding. (In Europe, a woman was expected to ride “sidesad­dle,” with both legs on one side.) Bishop broke tradition, rode “cavalier fashion,” and loved it. Bishop found the power and beauty of nature irresistible. She scrambled to the tops of volcanoes to watch them erupt into streams of lava. A torrent of water flowing through a gulch almost drowned her when she attempted to cross it. Drenched, exhausted, bruised—she had never felt better.

Bishop left Hawaii, sailed to the United States, and journeyed into the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. She worked alongside cowboys and drove cattle. One of her guides, Rocky Mountain Jim, was so smitten that he asked her to marry him. But she refused him. “He is a man any woman might love,” she wrote, “but no sane woman would marry.” Bishop traveled on to Japan, China, and Indochina (now Vietnam) before returning to England and marrying an Englishman. She wrote books of her travels that became enormously popular.

At the age of 58, Bishop traveled with missionaries to India, Turkey, and Persia. At age 70, she rode by camel 1,000 miles across Morocco. She wrote of her experiences and described the people, but she was always drawn most to the awesome spectacle of nature. And she never wearied of her travels. Despite frail health, Bishop could eat anything and sleep anywhere. “She has the appetite of a tiger and the digestion of an ostrich,” wrote her hus­band. Bishop seemed to thrive on discomfort. When she died at age 79 in England, her trunks were packed for a trip to China.

Who was Lawrence of Arabia?

Thomas Edward Lawrence, born in 1888, grew up in Oxford, England, where he attended the High School and Jesus College. As a student, he was fascinated by medieval military architecture and in 1909 he visited France. He ped­aled his bicycle through the French countryside and stopped to sketch castles. He then went to Syria and Palestine (modern-day Israel) and compared the French castles to those left behind by the Christian crusaders. His thesis on the subject won him great acclaim, but his expo­sure to the Middle East would change his life.

While travel­ing to Syria, he was attacked by a mob and beaten. An Arab family took in the injured Lawrence and nursed him back to health. Lawrence grew to admire the Arabs. In 1911, he joined an archaeological expedition in the Mesopotamian region. World War I broke out in 1914, pitting Germany, Austria, and Turkey’ against England, France, and Russia. Lawrence returned to the Middle East and helped map the Sinai peninsula for the British. In late 1914, Lawrence was made an intelligence officer in the Middle East and he urged that the British support Arab revolts in Arabia against the Turkish empire. Lawrence joined the Arab guerrilla operations and organized them to attack the Turkish army. His exploits became legend and newspaper reporters referred to him as “Lawrence of Aiabia.” Lawrence recount­ed his adventures in a book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, published in 1927.

Who was Gertrude Bell?

Gertrude Bell, born in 1868 in Durham, England, attended Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford, where she graduated with high honors in history. Bell first traveled to the Middle East in 1892—”the place I have always longed to see,” she wrote to a friend. She visited her uncle, who was the British ambassador to Tehran, a city in Persia (modern-day Iran). Quickly learning Persian, Bell translated Persian poetry into English. In 1899, she went to Jerusalem to study Arabic and visited Lebanon and Jordan to see ancient Roman ruins.

Bell began to travel extensively, going around the world twice before returning to the Middle East in 1905. This time, she traveled through Syria into Turkey, living in tents and staying in houses with friends of her family. Except for her Arab ser­vants, Bell went alone, and she was often the first European woman to see the sights of the Middle East. She wrote about her experiences in Syria: Desert and the Sown (1907). In 1909, Bell traveled down the Euphrates River to Baghdad. In 1913, she visited Ha’il, a city in the center of Arabia rarely visited by Westerners. During World War I (1914-1918), Bell used her extensive knowledge of the Middle East to help the English encourage revolt among the Arabs. In 1917, Bell settled in Baghdad, which became her home for the rest of her life.

Who was Nellie Bly?

In 1885, Elizabeth Cochrane read an article titled “What Good Are Girls For?” in the Pittsburgh Gazette. The article concluded that they weren’t worth much. Cochrane, infuri­ated, fired off an angry letter to the editor. The editor was impressed by Cochrane’s spirit and her writing ability. Far from being offended, he offered her a job. At the Gazette, Cochrane began using a pen name that would one day be world famous—Nellie Bly. Cochrane first wrote about Pittsburgh’s poor and then traveled to Mexico, where she described the corruption of the government. Angered by her harsh criticism, the Mexicans expelled her.

Cochrane left Pittsburgh to work for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. For one story, she pretended to be insane in order to be committed to an asylum for ten days. Her writings on the horrible treatment of the insane led to outrage and reform. On November 14, 1889, Cochrane began her greatest adventure. The Frenchman Jules Verne had written a novel called Around the World in 80 Days. Cochrane decided to go around the world in a shorter amount of time. Traveling on ships, trains, wagons, rickshas, and sampans, Cochrane circled the globe, returning to New York City 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds after her departure. She later wrote Around the World in Seventy-two Days, an immensely popular book that won her acclaim.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.