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Four Expeditions That Shaped The Modern World

Nowadays much of ocean travel is about spending some time at your leisure to enjoy new surroundings and escape everyday stresses, but there was a time when voyages like this had an entirely different aim.

Brave explorers and fearless captains alike once ruled the ocean, chasing new frontiers and attempting to make a name for themselves. Many of these trips were successful and so there names, along with their feats, have gone down in history. Here are four such journeys that helped to shape the modern world in which we live.

Leif Ericson Discovers Canada’s East Coast

Lief Ericson

Around the turn of the second century, on his way back to Greenland from Norway to spread the word of Christianity, Leif Ericson and his crew were blown off course to a land they had heard rumours of but never expected to find. It is proposed that this stretch of land was part of the eastern coast of Canada. After rescuing two shipwrecked sailors, he sailed back to Greenland and began making plans to visit this new land more permanently. He bought a ship from a man who had claimed to have seen the coastline himself, before gathering a crew and sailing west once again. This time purposefully.

The story, taken from the Saga of Erik the Red (Leif’s father), states that Ericson and his crew made three landings. The first was at a position thought to be part of Baffin Island, the second was further south (possibly Labrador), and the third, where he finally made land for a sustained period of time, he christened Vinland. The men stayed for the winter, collecting timber and grapes, and then returned to Greenland the next year to the relief of a country that was running low on supplies.

Ferdinand Magellan Circumnavigates The World

Ferdinand Magellan

Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, earned the acclaim of being the first person to circumnavigate the earth when he set off looking for a path from the Atlantic into the Pacific in 1519. He is always credited with this feat even though he was killed whilst the crew were in the Philippines and so never saw the completion of the trip. In fact, as few as eighteen men were left alive when the ship finally returned to Spain three years after they set off.

Having departed from Seville, Magellan and his crew headed west towards South America. They found the fabled route after rounding Cape Horn and continued into south-west Asia where Magellan was killed during a local war. The crew headed home with just two of their three ships, but it is Magellan who is immortalised for this voyage and is commemorated with the naming of the Strait of Magellan and Magallanes - the former name for the Chilean city of Punta Arenas.

Zheng He’s Expeditions

Zheng He Map

The third point on our list is made up of more than one voyage by Chinese explorer Zheng He. Between the years of 1405 and 1433, He pioneered journeys all over Asia, into the Middle East and even as far as Africa. These expeditions were carried out under the rule of the Ming dynasty and were in aid of increasing China’s wealth, political control and its knowledge about the world.

Some of the treasures that He returned with included spices, ivory and even a giraffe which he took from Kenya after believing it was a mythical Chinese creature known as a qilin. These exploits are considered to be part of the golden years of Chinese exploration and perhaps helped the country to become the political and trade superpower that it is today.

Columbus ‘Discovers America'

Christopher Columbus

Ignoring the fact that it is quite difficult to ‘discover’ a place which already has inhabitants that have lived there for hundreds of years and the fact that his first voyage only took him as far as The Bahamas, Christopher Columbus did indeed reach what we now know as the Americas after setting sail from La Gomera in 1492. However, he was unaware of this fact throughout his whole life. Until the day he died he continued to claim that it was actually Asia he had discovered, something that it was his lifelong goal to do.

This by no means negates what was an influential achievement. Even though he was himself an Italian, he was working under the orders of the Spanish monarchy and so this, and three other subsequent visits to Central and South America, paved the way for the Spanish colonisation of this part of the world.

If you would like to follow in the footsteps of these great explorers and embark on an adventure of your own, Fred.\ can help make it a reality. See the wonder of the Polar Regions as you learn what it’s like to truly walk on the wild side.