Famous Explorers

Easy Geography for Kids on Famous Explorers - Image of the Statue of Ponce de Leon
Easy Geography for Kids on Famous Explorers - Image of the Statue of Ponce de Leon

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.

Famous Explorers Facts For Kids

  • Christopher Columbus reached America in 1492.
  • Marco Polo traveled from Europe to Asia.
  • Ferdinand Magellan’s crew circumnavigated the globe.
  • Lewis and Clark explored Western America.
  • Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.
  • Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911.
  • Amelia Earhart was a pioneering female aviator.
  • Jacques Cousteau explored the ocean depths.
  • Ernest Shackleton explored Antarctica’s icy landscapes.
  • Edmund Hillary was the first to climb Mount Everest.

Christopher Columbus

Though he’s often credited with discovering America, Christopher Columbus actually stumbled upon the New World while seeking a shorter route to Asia. This Spanish explorer thought he had reached Asia, but in fact, he had arrived in the Bahamas.

Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain, in 1492, 1493, 1498, and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, he accidentally stumbled upon the Americas.

Yet, he was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland during the 10th century. Columbus’s explorations opened the way for the widespread European exploration and eventual conquest of both North and South America. His journeys marked the beginning of centuries of transatlantic colonization.

Marco Polo

You might know Marco Polo as a great adventurer who journeyed all the way to China in the 13th century, but did you know he’s also credited with introducing Europe to many Asian goods and customs? That’s right, this Italian explorer was more than just a traveler, he was a cultural bridge between the East and West.

Marco Polo set off from Venice when he was only 17, eager to explore the unknown. His journey took him through treacherous terrains, but he never gave up. Eventually, he reached the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor of China.

Marco Polo fascinated Kublai Khan with tales of his homeland and in return, he learned about Chinese culture, inventions, and products. He brought back knowledge of paper money, coal, gunpowder, and even pasta.

So, Marco Polo was not just an explorer, he was a conveyor of knowledge and culture, influencing both continents for centuries to come.

Ferdinand Magellan

Switching gears, let’s delve into the life of Ferdinand Magellan, a figure who’s equally pivotal in the history of exploration.

This Portuguese explorer is famous for leading the first expedition to sail all the way around the world. Yep, you heard it right! He’s the one who discovered the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific through what’s now known as the Strait of Magellan.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Ferdinand Magellan faced many challenges, like mutinies and battles. Despite these, his expedition marked an important milestone in world exploration.

Although he didn’t survive the entire journey, his legacy continues to inspire explorers today. Isn’t it interesting how one person’s curiosity and determination can change our understanding of the world?

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Just like Magellan, Lewis and Clark’s expedition played a significant role in shaping our understanding of the world.

You’ve probably heard of these famous explorers from history class.

The Lewis and Clark expedition, initiated by President Thomas Jefferson, began in 1804 and lasted until 1806.

Their mission was to explore the newly purchased Louisiana territory, extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

With the help of their guide, Sacagawea, they successfully navigated through unknown lands, making friendly contact with Native Americans, and documenting new plant and animal species.

Their journey opened a gateway for westward expansion in the United States.

So, next time you’re studying history, remember the significant contributions of these fearless explorers.

Vasco da Gama

Continuing our journey through historical voyages, let’s delve into the story of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator who’s known for his groundbreaking sea route from Europe to India.

Da Gama was a courageous explorer, forever remembered for his daring expedition in 1497.

Born in Portugal, Vasco da Gama’s life was all about the sea. His determination and thirst for discoveries led him on a journey that would change the world.

With his crew, da Gama set sail around the Cape of Good Hope, surviving treacherous seas and dangerous storms. His expedition opened up a new sea route, connecting Europe and Asia directly.

This incredible achievement not only made him one of the most famous explorers in history, but also drastically transformed global trade routes.

Age of Discovery

Dive into the Age of Discovery and feel the thrill of uncharted territories and the allure of unknown cultures. Explore this fascinating epoch that transformed the world! This was a time when famous explorers facts for kids come to life. Brave men like Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Amerigo Vespucci set sail for the unknown. They were among the bold European explorers who dared to venture beyond known boundaries.

During the Age of Discovery, new routes to Asia and the Americas were discovered, changing the course of history forever. It wasn’t easy, though. They faced treacherous seas, unfamiliar lands, and hostile natives. But their courage and determination led to the world we know today.

So, sit back, and let your imagination sail the high seas of history!

Sir Francis Drake

Boldly sailing into the annals of history, Sir Francis Drake’s daring exploits certainly made waves during the Age of Discovery. This English explorer was a key player in the 16th century exploration boom. Known for his fearless voyages into uncharted territories, Sir Francis Drake became a household name.

Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, a feat that secured his place among the world’s greatest explorers. He was also instrumental in defeating the Spanish Armada, protecting England’s sovereignty. His daring adventures and immense bravery made him a national hero.

So, kids, whenever you think of the Age of Discovery, remember Sir Francis Drake and his fearless contribution to exploring our vast world. This adventurous seafarer certainly left his footprints in the sands of time.

James Cook

Just as daring and adventurous was James Cook, a British navigator who forever changed our understanding of the globe.

This exceptional person was born in 1728 and launched his first major voyage in 1768. Cook’s explorations took him to places no European had ever seen before. He crossed the Antarctic Circle and discovered the Hawaiian Islands.

Cook’s voyages also included mapping the east coast of Australia and the entire coast of New Zealand. His accurate maps were used for generations, helping other explorers navigate the seas.

Sadly, Cook’s adventures ended in 1779 when he was killed in a dispute with Hawaiians. But his legacy lives on. As you explore your world, remember James Cook’s courage, curiosity, and contribution to our knowledge of the world.

Hernán Cortés

Let’s not forget Hernán Cortés, the audacious Spaniard who, despite his controversial actions, undeniably had a significant impact on the world as we know it.

This Spanish conquistador, famous for his daring expeditions, was a catalyst for change in Central America. Cortés is best known for conquering the Aztec Empire in Mexico, an event that marked a pivotal point in history.

Think about this: Cortés started his life as a law student in Spain but craved more adventure. He sought it in the New World, inspired by tales of vast wealth and civilizations waiting to be discovered.

His contemporary, Hernando de Soto, was also a prolific explorer, yet Cortés’ actions arguably had a more profound impact. So, remember Cortés when you think of exploration and its transformative power.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Switching gears, let’s dive into the life of Sir Walter Raleigh. This daring explorer and visionary made a lasting impact on the world with his adventurous voyages and insatiable thirst for discovery. Born in England during the reign of Henry VII, Raleigh quickly became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She granted him permission to embark on explorations of North America.

In 1584, Raleigh set sail on his first expedition with the goal of establishing a colony. They named this colony ‘Virginia’ in honor of the virgin queen. Throughout his various trips to North America, Raleigh often found himself in conflicts with Spanish expeditions. However, his dream of creating a permanent English colony did not come to fruition until after his death.

Raleigh was not just an explorer, but also a poet and adventurer. His passion for exploration helped shape the world as we know it today.

Kids Science Fun Facts All about Famous Explorers - Image of the Statue of David Livingstone
Kids Science Fun Facts All about Famous Explorers – Image of the Statue of David Livingstone

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.

Easy Geography for Kids all about Famous Explorers - Image of the Statue of Ponce de Leon
Easy Geography for Kids all about Famous Explorers – Image of the Statue of Ponce de Leon

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

  1. Remote: Distant; disconnected
  2. Explore: To seek something or to investigate
  3. Colonist: Founder or member of a settlement of emigrants
  4. Empirical: Based on experience; Observations made using physical senses
  5. 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.


Enjoyed the Earth Science for Kids all about Famous Explorers info? Take the FREE & fun all about Famous Explorers quiz and download FREE all about Famous Explorers worksheet for kids. For lengthy info click here.