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- "The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams."
- –Neil deGrasse Tyson
- "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
- –T.S. Elliot
Historical Context Edit
Since man first settled in one place, there have always been those among them who have been driven to see what lies over the horizon. Whether motivated by profit, adventure, religion, necessity or just curiosity, explorers have widened our knowledge of the world and its wonders. In the process of exploring, they have also linked diverse and distant cultures, for good or ill. And they found along the way many new ways to die.
The Phoenicians sailed all about the ancient Mediterranean seeking new trade goods; tin found in their artifacts indicates they may even have reached distant Britain. The Carthaginian Hanno “the Navigator” explored the coast of Africa beyond the Pillars of Heracles c. 500 BC. Restless Greeks wandered into northern Europe, maybe even to far Thule. During the 2nd Century BC the Han dispatched explorers into Central Asia to see what lay to the west of their borders, beyond those annoying Xiung-nu. Much later, the Chinese admiral Zheng He sailed past Southeast Asia, the Indonesia islands, around India, and along the east coast of Africa, lands full of barbarians and new things to trade. Around the same time, Vikings were venturing across the North Atlantic to explore and settle Iceland, Greenland, Vinland and other places.
The so-called “Age of Exploration” saw crowded and troubled Europe spew out explorers. And there was a lot to explore, for little was known about the hearts of Africa or Asia. They found the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and a bunch of islands scattered across the Pacific. Commencing in the 15th Century, they established first trading empires, and then more “forceful” ones. Later explorers such as the Portuguese Diego Cao travelled up the Congo, and the Spaniard Francisco de Orellana up the Amazon, and the Lewis and Clark expedition up the Missouri and Columbia rivers.
By 1900, not much was left to explore, save for the polar regions; both Cook and Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole in 1908 and 1909 respectively, while Amundsen’s team arrived at the South Pole in December 1911.