Travel: Time Travellers

From Viking longboats to the lunar module, Phil Haines chooses the 50 greatest journeys of the past thousand years

About AD1000, Leif, son of Eric the Red who colonised Greenland in 984, became the first European to land on North America, at Helluland, or Baffin Island. According to the Scandinavian Sagas, he continued to Markland, Labrador and Newfoundland before staying in Vinland, between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia. Archaeological digs in this area have produced remains of fortifications, weapons and drakkars - the longboats distinctive to the Vikings.

AL-IDRISI

Idrisi travelled extensively in his youth - between Asia Minor and England- but from 1145 worked as court geographer to Roger II, the Norman King of Sicily. His book, translated as The Pleasure Excursion of One Who is Eager to Traverse the Regions of the World (also known as The Book of Roger) was completed in 1154 and accompanied a planisphere and map on a silver tablet.

GENGHIS KHAN

The Supreme Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan began his conquest of the world in 1206. Until his death in 1227, his roving hordes had gained an empire stretching from the Black Sea to northern China and the Sea of Japan.

GIOVANNI DA PIAN DEL CARPINI

Pope Innocent IV dispatched Carpini in 1245 as an envoy to the court of the Great Khan of the Mongols, hoping to convert him to Christianity or, at least, to form an alliance. The 60-year-old Franciscan monk revealed to Europeans hitherto unknown Central Asia - the Black, Caspian and Aral seas on his way north of the Gobi desert to the shores of Lake Baikal - in his Book of the Tartars.

MARCO POLO

In 1271, Marco Polo accompanied his father, Niccolo, and uncle, Maffeo, on their second expedition to Cathay (China)- they were the first Europeans to reach Cambaluc (Peking) on their earlier 14-year journey across the Silk Route.

The Venetians travelled via Jerusalem, Persia, the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs to Peking and Kublai Khan's summer palace at Chandu (the Xanadu of Coleridge's poem). They remained as advisers and made extensive diplomatic journeys throughout the East until returning to Venice, via Sri Lanka, in 1295. Imprisoned three years later with a writer, Rusticello, Marco Polo recounted his adventures. The account opened disbelieving European minds of the Dark Ages to other older civilisations.

ODORIC OF PORDENONE

The Franciscan friar, beatified in 1766, began his 12-year mission to the Orient in 1318. Odoric baptised 20,000 people on his journey, visiting Persia, India, Java, Sumatra, Guangzhou and the Hindu Kush, and was the first European in Lhasa. William of Solagna recorded Odoric's extraordinary memoirs.

IBN-BATTUTA

The pious Moslem traveller left Tangiers in 1325 on his first pilgrimage to Mecca. Over the next 30 years he travelled 121,000km to most of Arabia, East and North Africa, Timbuktu, Asia Minor, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and China. Along with Marco Polo's accounts, Ibn-Battuta's record, the Rihlah, stimulated the zeal for adventure and exploration that followed in Europe.

NICCOLO DEI CONTI

From 1419, the Venetian merchant Niccolo Dei Conti travelled by caravan from Damascus to Baghdad and Babylon. He voyaged as far as Java, Sumatra and Burma. Returning to Venice in 1444 with his Indian wife, he was obliged to recount his exploits as a penance for renouncing Christianity.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

Columbus spent many years trying to persuade the Portuguese and Spanish courts that by sailing west you could reach the East. He set sail, under Spanish colours, on 3 August 1492, and landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492. He explored Hispaniola and returned to a hero's welcome believing he had reached the Far East of Asia. His later voyages to the West Indies took him to Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad, Honduras and the Panamanian Isthmus or "Mango Province", which, he said, was "next to that of Cathay".

VASCO DA GAMA

In 1497, Vasco da Gama left Portugal with Bartolemeu Diaz, who had rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, to chart the sea route to India. Using a pilot from Malindi, Kenya - Moslem traders had long been familiar with this route - to guide him across the Indian Ocean, he arrived in Calicut in 1498 and landed in Goa.

AMERIGO VESPUCCI

Between 1499 and 1502, Vespucci led two expeditions along the coast of South America. He controversially claimed that the New World was not Asia but a new continent. The Florentine merchant's achievements were not great but with two continents named after him his reward surpasses that of any other traveller.

HERNAN CORTES

In February 1519, the conquistador Cortes embarked on his mission to the Mexican Aztec empire. Aided considerably by his Indian slave mistress Dona Marina, he was received with honour by Montezuma at Tenochtitln. In 1521, he besieged the city, Montezuma was killed and it became the capital of New Spain.

FERDINAND MAGELLAN

In 1519 Magellan's fleet sailed from Spain and discovered the Magellan strait separating Tierra del Fuego from South America. He was killed in the Philippines and Juan Sebastian del Cano completed the Victoria's circumnavigation of the globe in September 1522. The first man believed to have circled the globe was on board the Victoria, the Sumatran slave Henrique, purchased by Magellan in the Indies. On 28 March 1521, Henrique spoke in his native tongue with a Philippine ruler and was probably unaware of his unprecedented achievement.

ST FRANCIS XAVIER

One of the first seven Jesuit missionaries, Xavier, leaving Rome in 1542, took Christianity into India, the East Indies and Japan. He was the first European in Japan, unless the Peregrinacam by the Portuguese Pinto (dubbed the "Prince of Liars"), who travelled throughout Asia in 1537-52, is to be believed.

FRANCISCO DE ORELLANA

In 1540 Orellana left Cusco, the Inca capital, for Quito. He followed the Coca and Napo rivers until he was swept along into the Amazon and, eventually, reached the Atlantic where he sailed to Trinidad. The Dominican friar, Gaspar De Caravajal, recorded the dramatic voyage, and the description of their encounter with the Amazonas tribe of warrior women led to a renaming of the river Rio Santa Maria de la Mar Dulce.

SIR FRANCIS DRAKE

Apart from being the first captain to circumnavigate the world, from 1577-1580, Drake began the English tradition of discovery. He found that Tierra del Fuego was an island, unattached to Terra Australis, then plundered ports in Chile and Lima, claiming California as New Albion. Failing to locate the North-West Passage, he sailed the Golden Hind across the Pacific and Indian oceans to Plymouth. In 1588, he routed the Spanish Armada.

WILLEM BARENTS

A pioneer of Arctic voyaging, Barents, in 1595, discovered Bear Island, Spitsbergen and rounded the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya. In 1596 his ships became ice-bound and they wintered farther north than anyone on record. Most of the crew survived under his inspired leadership but he died after the thaw in 1597.

ABEL JANSZOON TASMAN

Between 1642 and 1643, the Dutch navigator Tasman discovered Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji and sailed in territory previously believed to be the southern continent Terra Australis. However, his traveller's luck was poor and he narrowly missed discovering Bass, Cook and Torres Straits.

ROBERT CAVALIER, SIEUR DE LA SALLE

From 1679 to 1681 La Salle explored the Great Lakes of Canada and in 1681 he sailed the length of the Mississippi, claiming the whole valley for France, as Louisiana.

CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

From his first voyage, commencing in 1768, to his death on Hawaii during the third voyage in 1779, Cook saw and surveyed more of the world than anyone before. In 1770 he claimed Australia for Britain. In 1773 he was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle and break the myth of Terra Australis. He discovered many islands, including South Georgia, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and New Caledonia and rediscovered and charted many more, sailing as far north as the Bering Strait (naming Vancouver island after his midshipman).

MUNGO PARK

In 1795 the Scottish explorer Mungo Park reached the Niger at Segou and followed it 130km downstream, eastwards as he discovered, then returned to Bamako. He fell ill and eventually journeyed to the Gambia with the aid of a slave trader. He returned in 1805 with 40 Europeans. Decimated by disease, the 11 survivors built a boat and left Sansanding, near Segou, by the Niger. Witnesses reported they passed Djenne and Timbuktu until they were attacked in Hausa territory. They probably drowned in the Bassa rapids 1,600km downstream.

MERIWETHER LEWIS and WILLIAM CLARK

In May 1804 they left St Louis on one of the longest transcontinental journeys ever undertaken, arriving at the Pacific in November 1805. They returned in September 1806 with news about their pioneering route across the Rocky Mountains.

CHARLES DARWIN

Between 1831 and 1836 HMS Beagle made the longest scientific voyage in history. This long, very physical

voyage around South America stimulated a mental voyage for a

young naturalist. Darwin's interpretations of his observations led to his theory on evolution, published in On the Origin of Species.

HEINRICH BARTH

Between 1847-55, the German Barth covered over 16,000km of the Sahara Desert, Central and West Africa including the Niger, Timbuktu, Lake Chad and the Libyan Fezzan. His

five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is still considered an important anthropological, historical and linguistic work.

DAVID LIVINGSTONE

From 1849, the courageous Scottish missionary crossed Africa from Luanda to Mozambique, was mauled by a lion, and made many discoveries - including Victoria Falls and Lake Malawi. Exploring the central African river system from his base at Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, Livingstone was "found" by Stanley in 1871. He died on 1 May 1873, still seeking the source of the Nile.

SIR RICHARD BURTON

Burton was enormously and variously talented: geologist, leading ethnologist, soldier, poet, and he spoke over 25 languages (he translated the Arabian Nights). His exploration searched unknown aspects of cultures (he was fascinated by eroticism, translating the Kama Sutra) as well as unknown places- such as the source of the Nile.

He discovered Lake Tanganyika, with John Speke (who also discovered Lake Victoria) and entered Mecca undetected in the guise of an Afghani.

ROBERT BURKE and WILLIAM WILLS

From 1860-1, Burke and Wills made the first south-to-north crossing of Australia. On their return to Adelaide they separated at Cooper's Creek and both died.

KISHEN and NAIN SINGH

Between 1865 and1882, these two pundit-explorers were employed by the British to help map the Himalayas. By counting their footsteps they measured vast areas of southern China, Nepal and India, covering the Taklaman desert, Leh, Tibet, Kashgar Darjeeling and Chengdu.

HENRY MORTON STANLEY (originally JOHN ROWLANDS)

Stanley went as a reporter to Africa to locate Livingstone. Finding him at Ujiji in May 1871 and travelling with him inspired Stanley to return to East Africa in 1874. He circumnavigated Lake Victoria, confirming it to be the Nile's source. Reassembling his 12m-long portable boat he followed the river Lualaba to the Congo. The total journey lasted 999 days and 114 lives were lost. From 1879-84 he ascended the river Congo in the service of the Belgian King Leopold II. He travelled the Congo again in 1888, losing half of the 700-strong expedition.

FRIDTJOF NANSEN

In 1888, the Norwegian Nansen made the first crossing of the Greenland icecap. In 1893 he attempted, in the Fram, to reach the North Pole by drifting in pack ice from Siberia. Nansen left the Fram by dog-sledge but turned back four degrees short of his target. He was picked up by a British expedition in 1896 and the Fram escaped the ice that August.

CAPTAIN JOSHUA SLOCUM

Joshua Slocum, a non-swimmer, made the first solo marine circumnavigation of the world in an 11.2m yawl between April 1895 and July 1898. Robin Knox-Johnston completed the first non-stop journey in 312 days in 1969.

ROALD AMUNDSEN

In 1903 Amundsen sailed from Oslo and succeeded in navigating the North- west Passage to Alaska. He then joined the race to the South Pole in 1911 and wintered in the Bay of Whales - 95km closer to the pole than Scott at McMurdo Sound on the other side of the Ross Ice Shelf. Amundsen reached the South Pole with four companions and 50 sledge dogs on 14 December 1911.

ROBERT FALCON SCOTT

Scott's second expedition to Antarctica followed Shackleton's 1908 attempt to reach the South Pole, which had ended 156km short. Believing it cruel to use dogs, they set out from McMurdo Sound in October 1911 with motor sledges, that soon broke down, and horses which were soon shot. The small group dragged their provisions and arrived to find Amunsen's Norwegian flag already flying. Their heroic struggle through endless blizzards was recorded in Scott's diary, ending 29 March 1912, 11 miles from the refuge of their supply dump.

ROBERT PEARY

It is widely regarded that the American expedition led by Robert Peary - with Matt Henson, four Eskimos and 40 dogs - was first to reach the North Pole on 6 April 1909. They had left Ellesmere Island, Canada on 1 March 1909 on sledges.

ANDRE CITROEN

On 28 October 1924, eight teams of half-track motor vehicles set out from Colomb-Bechar, North Africa, opening a new era in overland travel. The Croisiere Noire (black cruise) organised by the automobile magnate Andre Citroen, split up in Ubangi-Shari and headed for Djibouti, Dar es Salaam and the Cape of Good Hope. In 1931, the Croisiere Jaune sent 14 of these caterpillar vehicles along the Silk Route, previously travelled only by caravan.

AMELIA EARHART

Earhart was the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, from Honolulu to California, and the first woman to make a solo transatlantic flight in 1932. She died on 2 July 1937 after flying 35,400km in a circumnavigation attempt.

DAME FREYA STARK

In 1930, Freya Stark travelled from Baghdad to the little-known Valley of the Assassins in Iran. Until this time, individuals had explored in the name of Christianity, science, to claim new territories or for fame and fortune. Stark began her 60 years of travel "single-mindedly for fun"; her mission was to feel, observe and write about the world and human nature.

MAO TSE-TUNG

In 1934 Mao and his Communist forces undertook a 10,000km trek from south- east to north-west China under harassment from the nationalist army. Of the 100,000 people who started out from Jiangxi province, only 8,000 lasted the year-long march to Shanxi.

WILFRED THESIGER

In 1945-6, Thesiger - the last of the Arabian explorers before the discovery of oil industrialised the region - traversed the uncharted eastern region of the Empty Quarter, or Rub'al Khali, from Salalah to Liwa Oasis and continued to northern Oman. He made further crossings from the Yemen and Oman until 1948.

THOR HEYERDAHL

On 27 April 1947, the Kon-Tiki, a balsawood raft, left Callao, Peru, landing 97 days later in the Tuamotu archipelago in Polynesia and proving the feasibility of the Incas voyaging across the Pacific. In 1970, Heyerdahl sailed the reed Ra II across the Atlantic and in 1977 the reed Tigris, built to replicate an ancient Sumerian vessel used by Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq, to Karachi and Djibouti. His great contribution was demonstrating how the world was "discovered" long before European charts, caravels, carracks, astrolabes and compasses were made.

BEN CARLIN

From 1951 to 1958, Ben Carlin circumnavigated the world in an amphibious Jeep. The Australian covered 62,765km by land and 15,450km by sea and river. This is the only recorded circumnavigation by amphibious vehicle.

DR JACQUES PICCARD

In January 1960 Dr Jacques Piccard and Lt Donald Walsh reached the lowest point on the earth's surface (10,911m), the Challenger Deep of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Piccard's father, Auguste, had invented the style of submarine, the bathyscaphe Trieste, allowing this descent. August Piccard also made the first balloon flight into the stratosphere, in 1931, and his grandson, Bertrand, made the first balloon circumnavigation of the globe in 1999.

COLONEL YURI GAGARIN

On the 12 April 1962, an official Soviet communique announced that Colonel Yuri Gagarin, aboard the spacecraft Vostok, had taken off from Baikonur Aerodrome and was in elliptical orbit of the earth. The first man in space made one revolution of his home planet during the 40,868km flight of 108 minutes.

ALEXEI LEONOV

On 18 March 1965, Leonov stepped out from Voshkod 2 and became the first person to engage in "extra-vehicular activity". The Russian cosmonaut travelled from the Crimea to Siberia while he space-walked for approximately 10 minutes.

NEIL ARMSTRONG

Neil Armstrong, command pilot of Apollo 11, became the first man on the moon on 20 July 1969. The dazzling white mass of the Sea of Tranquillity appeared on television screens worldwide as he stepped down from the lunar module Eagle and uttered the words: "That's a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

SIR RANULPH FIENNES

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, accompanied by Charles Burton, performed a longitudinal circumnavigation of the globe. They left Greenwich on 2 September 1979, crossing the South Pole on 15 December 1980 and the North Pole on 10 April 1982, and returned to Greenwich, arriving on 29 August 1982 after trekking 56,000km. Sir Ranulph also made the longest unsupported trek in Antarctica, 2,170km via the South Pole, with Dr Michael Stroud, between November 1992 and January 1993.

EMILIO SCOTTO

Emilio Scotto made the longest motorcycle journey around the world leaving Buenos Aires on 17 January 1985 and returning 735,000km later on 2 April 1995. The Argentinian visited 214 countries, became Moslem and married in India.

ARTHUR BLESSIT

Arthur Blessit claims to have walked 53,350km since 25 December 1969 through 277 nations; his wife Denise has accompanied him to 224. He has carried a 3.7m wooden cross and preached throughout his 30-year walk. Between 1983 and 1994 Ffyona Campbell walked 31,521km around the world.

DAVID HEMPLEMAN-ADAMS

Hempleman-Adams became the first person to achieve the Adventurer's Grand Slam of climbing the highest peak on every continent and visiting all four poles in May 1998, after 18 years, when he reached the North Pole.

BERTRAND PICCARD and BRIAN JONES

On 20 March 1999, the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon reached Mauritania, having travelled 42,810km in 19 days, circumnavigating the globe non-stop.

In 1997, at the age of 35, Phil Haines became the youngest person to visit all of the world's 192 sovereign countries.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice