The term may also be used metaphorically, for example persons may speak of exploring the internet, sexuality, etc. In scientific research, exploration is one of three purposes of empirical research (the other two being description and explanation). Exploration is the attempt to develop an initial, rough understanding of some phenomenon.
1550 BCE to 500 BCE
The Phoenicians (1550 BCE–300 BCE) traded throughout the Mediterranean Sea and Asia Minor; many of their routes are still unknown today. The presence of tin in some Phoenician artifacts suggests that they may have traveled to Britain. Some scientists speculate that they voyaged all the way to Central America, although this is disputed. According to Virgil's Aeneid and other ancient sources, the legendary Queen Dido was a Phoenician from Asia Minor who sailed to North Africa and founded the city of Carthage.
João Fernandes Lavrador (1445? – 1501) – Portuguese explorer. First European reaching Labrador/Newfoundland. Fernandes charted the coasts of Southwestern Greenland and of adjacent Northeastern North America around 1498. In 1501, Fernandes set sail again in discovery of lands and was never heard from again.
García Jofre de Loaísa (1490–1526) - Spanish explorer. First navigator to sail from Europe to the Western coast of North America. Crossed the Pacific Ocean from Mexico, exploring the Philippines and Spice Islands. His expedition was the second to circumnavigate the world (after Magellan and Elcano in 1522) though Loaísa died before completing it.
Andrés de Urdaneta (1498–1568) was a Spanish circumnavigator, explorer and Augustinian friar. As a navigator he achieved the second world circumnavigation in 1536, and discovered the eastern maritime path across the Pacific (from Asia to America) also known as Urdaneta's Route or tornaviaje (Spanish).
Nikolaus Federmann (c. 1505–1542), German adventurer and conquistador in the colonies of Venezuela and Colombia
João Rodrigues Cabrilho (Spanish: Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo; ca. 1499 – January 3, 1543) was a Portuguese explorer noted for his exploration of the west coast of North America on behalf of Spain. Cabrillo was the first European explorer to navigate the coast of present day California in the United States. He helped found the city of Oaxaca, in Mexico
Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540–1596) – English explorer. The first English captain to sail around the world and survive. Second European to explore the West Coast of North America North of Baja and as far North as Drake's Bay.
Yñigo Ortiz de Retez (1545-?) was a Spanish maritime explorer. His expedition crossed the Pacific from South America reaching the northern coastline of New Guinea bestowing the island's name (Nueva Guinea in Spanish).
Willem Barentsz (1550–1597) – Dutch navigator and explorer, leader of early expeditions to the far north.
Luis Váez de Torres (born c. 1565; fl. 1607) – Spanish or Portuguese navigator. Explored the Pacific in the service of the Spanish Crown. As part of the Queiros expedition of 1606, he discovered the Straits that bear his name in northern Australia.
Edmond Halley (1656–1742) -In 1690, Halley patented the diving bell. In 1698, Halley was given the command of the HMS Paramour, a 52-foot Pink, so that he could carry out investigations in the South Atlantic into the laws governing the variation of the compass.
Alexander MacKenzie (1764–1820) – Scottish-Canadian explorer who in 1789, looking for the Northwest Passage, followed the river now named after him to the Arctic Ocean and then in 1793 crossed the Rockies and reached the Pacific in 1793, thus beating Lewis and Clark by 12 years.
José María Narváez (1768-1840) Spanish explorer and navigator, notable for his expeditions in the Pacific Northwest of present-day Canada. He was the first Spaniard to make contact with a large contingent of Russians in Alaska.
Isabella Bird (October 15, 1831 – October 7, 1904) – the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society; she travelled extensively, exploring the Far East, Central Asia, and the American West.
Henry Morton Stanley (1841–1904) – Welsh journalist and explorer in central Africa best remembered for his search for David Livingstone, and upon finding him saying: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (1852–1905) - Franco-Italian explorer and colonial administrator, known for his humanitarian principles and egalitarian treatment of native workers in French Equatorial Africa. He founded the city later named Brazzaville in his honor.4
Harry De Windt (1856–1933) – British explorer and member of the Royal Geographical Society. Travelled overland from Paris to New York via Siberia in 1901–1902. Writer of books about his many expeditions.
Frederick Russell Burnham (1861-1947) - American explorer and Chief of Scouts in British Africa. He lead the massive Northern Territories (BSA) Exploration Co. expedition which first established for the British South Africa Company that major copper deposits existed in North-Eastern Rhodesia.5 In 1901, he lead an expedition through Ghana and Upper Volta to look for minerals and ways to improve river navigation in the region.67 He also made important archeological discoveries of Mayan civilization in Mexico, including the Esperanza Stone.89
Auguste Piccard (1884–1962) – physicist, balloonist, hydronaut. Explored the stratosphere and the deep sea.
Mulford B. Foster (1888–1978) – American horticulturist known for extensive plant explorations of South America. Collected thousands of species of plants for the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. Discovered more new species of bromeliads than the previous plants explorers Andre and Glaziou.1011
Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888–1957) - US naval officer whose expeditions may have been the first to reach the North Pole and the South Pole by air.
Colonel Noel Andrew Croft (1906–1998) – held the record for the longest self-sustaining journey across the Arctic in the 1930s for 60 years.
Eric Shipton (1908–1977) and Bill Tillman (1898–1977) – British climbing pair who pioneered alpine style mountaineering. Became the first to penetrate the Nanda Devi Sanctuary in India (later summited by Tillman). Shipton went on to lead early reconnaissances of Mount Everest while Tillman led deep-sea sailing explorations.
Sir Wally Herbert (24 October 1934 – 12 June 2007) – British polar explorer who became the first to cross the Arctic Ocean across its longest axis (1968–69), and the first undisputed man to reach the North Pole on foot, on 6 April 1969.
Ranulph Fiennes (b. 7 March 1944) – Britishadventurer. First journey around the world on its polar axis using surface transport only, covered 52,000 miles and visited both poles by land. First unsupported crossing of Antarctica.
Reinhold Messner (b. September 17, 1944) – Italian mountaineer, first man to climb all the 14 peaks higher than 8,000 meters (all without the use of supplemental oxygen).
E. Lee Spence (b. 1947) – undersea explorer and pioneer underwater archaeologist: discovered numerous shipwrecks including H.L. Hunley the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship; and the SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser.
Robyn Davidson (b. September 6, 1950) – the first person to make a solo crossing of the Australian Outback by camel; she also explored the remote desert regions of India.13
Michael Asher (b. 1953) – British adventurer. In 1986–1987 Michael Asher and his wife, Italian-born photographer and Arabist, Mariantonietta Peru, made the first ever west-east crossing of the Sahara desert by camel and on foot.
Liv Arnesen (b. June 1, 1953) – the first woman to ski solo and unassisted to the South Pole; she was also one of the two first women to cross the Antarctic continent.
Peter Bray (b. 1957) – British explorer and former British SAS officer. Became the first person to kayak solo across the Atlantic without the assistance of a sail to help with paddling.
Rory Stewart (b. 3 January 1973) – British explorer, travel writer and politician, who in 2001, crossed Afghanistan on foot in the opening months of the war as a part of a 6,000 kilometre trek across the Asian continent.