Just a few hundred years ago, the world was a very big place. Native tribes in remote places, such as Australia and Hawaii, had never seen other people. Many Europeans believed that the Earth was flat. They thought that if you sailed far enough into the ocean, you might fall right off the edge.
Explorers, looking for land, wealth or even better trade routes, set sail in search of adventure. Other people followed them and settled in newly discovered places, such as North and South America. Unfortunately, most of the time, explorers and colonists brought disease and waste to the native people already living there. Colonists often stole land and riches, or even made slaves of the native people.
For better or worse, our world was changed forever by early explorers.
Fun Facts about Famous Explorers for Kids
- Explorers often spent years wandering through uncharted territory sometimes only to return without finding anything new or not returning at all.
- Empirical research has three purposes of which exploration is one.
- The Age of Exploration began in the early 15th century and ran into the 17th century. This is when Europeans explored Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
- Not all exploration happened long ago or even on earth. Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon rank him as one of the top explorers in history.
- Christopher Columbus is one of the most well-known explorers in the world for his discovery of the New World even though he was really looking for Asia. Sometimes mistakes pay off.
- Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world.
- In 1804 the Mariwether Lewis and William Clark were hired by the U.S. government for $2,500 to explore the newly obtained Louisana Purchase.
- Marco Polo is not just a game to play in the pool. He really was an explorer in the latter part of the 1200’s. He went to what is now China and spent many years in the court of Kublai Khan, later venturing into parts of India and Burma as well.
- Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to sail around the world.
- The first person to reach the South Pole was Norwegian Roald Amundsen.
Famous Explorers Vocabulary
- Remote: Distant; disconnected
- Explore: To seek something or to investigate
- Colonist: Founder or member of a settlement of emigrants
- Empirical: Based on experience; Observations made using physical senses
- Uncharted: Not surveyed or mapped
All About Famous Explorers Video for Kids
Here’s a great video for kids all about Famous Explorers:
An animated video cartoon about stories of early explorers around the world, told from past to present.
Famous Explorers Q&A
Question: People have been questing for a long, long time. What is left to explore?
Answer: Though the surface of the earth has been well trod by men there are many, many more things yet to be explored. From the bottom of the ocean to outer space and all the microscopic and cellular places in between there are several things just waiting to be discovered. Start in your imagination and see where that takes you!
Question: How is it that explorers were able to take off for years at a time on these adventures?
Answer: Most explorers needed a backer or sponsor to pay for their expeditions. Many expeditions were so expensive they needed the backing of a government. As an example, Christopher Columbus’ attempt to find Asia was paid for by the Spanish government. For these people exploring was their livelihood so they could be completely devoted to it.
Question: How could explorers know which way they were going when they couldn’t see land?
Answer: Explorers would use the stars at night to help them determine where they were and which way they were going. Because the stars don’t seem to move they are used as fixed points of reference. This is a little like coming out of a friend’s house and knowing where your house is by seeing other things and houses across the street.
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