Top 10 Greatest World Explorers

5. Ibn Battuta

1304–1368

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Now here is a cat that got around. Ibn traveled over 75,000 miles in his lifetime. For a fellow that could not get or use frequent flyer miles, that is a lot of hoofing. With the help of a writer, he has five full manuscripts of descriptions of cities all over the Asian continent, including parts of China. He traversed deserts and lived in exotic cities where the women walked the streets buck-naked. He spent well over thirty years flat footing it across his part of the word and had more experiences than many of us would achieve in two lifetimes. I wonder if they gave frequent camel miles back then. He traveled in the thirteenth century.

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4. Vasco Da Gama

1460-1524

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At one time or another, this famous explorer from Portugal was a Viceroy, a Knight, a Governor, and married into the King’s family. Vasco, trusted by the King for his successful protection of distant Portuguese trading stations from the French, he successfully led an expedition around the coast of Africa and on to India, traveling over more open ocean (6000 miles of it) than anyone ever had. While he lost several ships and more than one hundred men, the expedition was still considered a success as it was deemed as impossible at the time. Vasco de Gama completed his mission by doing what he had to do, which sometimes meant fighting and firing his cannons into a city or acts of open sea piracy. He was most definitely a determined and kick-assed man who knew how to survive and get things done for the sake of his country. His first voyage opened a direct sea trade route to India, something that had been 80 years in the trying before him.

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On his second voyage, he furthered the name of Portugal as a country that would not be bullied by defending her rights and her beliefs in a very brutal fashion, leaving no doubts to his convictions. In 1519, he became the first Count of Vidigueira on royal decree making him the first Count not born of royal blood. He died of malaria during his third expedition. So famous was he for his acts of cruelty that produced results that he is either hailed as a hero or condemned as a cruel butcher around the world. Either way, Vasco did more to establish Portugal as a world leading country coming out of the dark ages than any other man. There is even a crater on the moon named after him.

 

3. Christopher Columbus

1451-1506

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Christopher Columbus might have been a great navigator and a wonderful sailor but he was a terrible calculator. He convinced the rulers of the time that he could quickly cross the Atlantic for the New World and return with treasures like spices that would give Italy a huge leg up as far as trade goes. He could not have been more wrong. He estimated the trip at 3,000 nautical miles when in fact, it was 12,000. The problem was twofold, he though the Earth was much smaller than it actually is and he though in Italian miles, which are much shorter than an actual mile. His one redeeming quality was that he was one hell of a sailor and figured out how to use the circular winds and currents of the Atlantic Ocean to make it home where not doing so would have killed another crew, the route would have caused their demise through starvation and thirst.

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The popular belief that Christopher Columbus was one of the few visionaries that knew the earth was not flat is false. People knew that long before Columbus set sail on his famous journey and it never came into play in the form of opposition as the books and movies would lead you to believe. Christopher Columbus never had his portrait made while he was alive but one artist painted him from memory after his death. It is the only known portrait of him.

 

2. Amerigo Vespucci

1454-1512

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Oh, no! Christopher Columbus just can’t get a break. I guess that is what he gets for discovering The West Indies thinking he found the New World of North America, which was named after Amerigo Vespucci. Amerigo not only sailed up the coast of South America, he was the first to converse with the Native Americans and record it. (hmm, if the history books got so many other things wrong, why not this?) Amerigo was a great Italian explorer, navigator, and cartographer and paved the way for many trips to the new world by charting (mostly accurately) the way to get to South America and many other areas on that side of the world. He died of malaria in 1512 in Seville.

 

1. Leif Ericson

970-1020

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In Fourteen hundred and ninety two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue

He thought he found a land that was new

Instead, a sign “Leif says screw you!”

 

The history book might still read that Christopher Columbus found the New World but guess what, Chris. Leif Ericson, son of Eric the Red, while not a famous explorer like Columbus, was probably walking the beaches of Massachusetts, buck-assed naked and five hundred years before you. Eric, an outlaw just like his father before him, made landings from Greenland in Canada and the States as early as 1004 or 1005 AD. Don’t feel too badly though, Chris. Christopher Columbus Day (October 12) is much more popular than Leif Ericson Day is. (October 9) That’s funny; the day we celebrate even comes first!

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