Top explorers of all time

It was this week, on 11 June 1770, that James Cook discovered the Great Barrier Reef, which had the team at Explorer Travel Insurance HQ pondering other great explorers.

If you were asked to name a famous explorer the chances are that Christopher Columbus, Scott of the Antarctic or Sir Charles Darwin might trip off the tongue. But who are the other expeditionary greats who’ve led the charge to pastures new? And in this day and age when continents have been claimed, oceans plundered and even inter galactic travel within reach, what does today’s explorer have to do to make the grade?

We’ve compiled the following list of our favourite explorers throughout history:

Admiral Zheng
The name may not be widely known to Western audiences but China’s Zheng stands as a good reminder that Europeans don’t have exclusive rights to globetrotting. Seven Indian Ocean expeditions, visiting 30 nations in Asia and Africa between 1405 and 1433, saw sea-faring Zheng cover 35,000 nautical miles.

Vasco da Gama
The Portuguese Count was the first European to sail direct from Europe to India. After decades of sailors trying to reach India with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, Gama landed in Calicut on 20 May 1498.

David Livingstone
Sent to Africa in 1841 as a missionary, Dr David Livingstone was one of the first Westerners to make a transcontinental journey across Africa, discovering Victoria Falls but failing to find the source of the Nile (well, you can’t have everything).

Mary Kingsley
It would be wrong to assume that women have played no part in history’s great expeditions. British-born Mary travelled through Sierra Leone and Angola, visited Gabon and journeyed by canoe up the Ogooué River where she collected specimens of previously unknown fish, three of which were later named after her.

Edmund Hillary
Explorers of the Twentieth Century needed to go further and higher to step foot on virgin territory. Intrepid New Zealander Edmund Hillary was the first known climber to make it to the peak of Mount Everest along with fellow mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, a feat completed in 1953.

Yuri Gagarin
Just a few years later (1961) an even greater unknown beckoned for Yuri Gagarin, a USSR cosmonaut and the first man to travel into outer space.

In this image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, several objects are identified as the faintest, most compact galaxies ever observed in the distant universe.

Neil Armstrong
It took another eight years for man to go one better. On 20 July 1969 Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon.Along with fellow crew member Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin he spent two hours walking on the moon collecting rock and soil samples. His first words beamed live from the moon have gone down in history.

Jacques Cousteau
From up, up and away and into the deep…Famous for his study and exploration of life under the sea, French Naval officer, Jacques Yves Cousteau was something of a trail blazer when it came to exploring aquatic life.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Maimed twice by frostbite and recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘World’s greatest living explorer’, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has many achievements to his name. These include leading the first team to circumnavigate the world on its polar axis by only using surface transport and becoming the first person to visit both the North Pole and South Pole by surface means. Sir Ranulph we salute you.

Who would you nominate to join this list?

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