This timeline gives a chronological listing of the greatest explorers and feats of exploration from 325 BCE to present day
Made a voyage of discovery to North West Europe.
138 – 125 BC
Zhang Qian (Chinese)
Created the Silk Road across Asia.
982 – 985
Erik the Red (Norwegian)
Discovered Greenland and settled there.
Leif Erikson (Icelandic)
Discovered North America.
1271 – 1295
Marco Polo (Italian)
Travelled extensively across Asia.
1405 – 1436
Zheng He (Chinese)
Explored Asia, South-East Asia, Eastern Africa and the Middle East.
1497 – 24th June
John Cabot (Italian)
1488 – Feb-May
Bartolomeu Dias (Portuguese)
Sailed to southern Africa.
1492 – 1504
Christopher Columbus (Italian)
Made four Voyages to the Americas and claimed land for Spain.
1497 July – 1514 February
Vasco da Gama (Portuguese)
Sailed from Europe to India around South Africa.
1499 – 1502
Amerigo Vespucci (Italian)
Theorised America was a new continent – America was named after him.
Vasco Nunez de Bilbao (Spanish)
Led the first European expedition across Panama to the Pacific Ocean.
1513 April – 1514 May
Juan Ponce de Lyon (Spanish)
Discovered and explored Florida.
Hernando Cortes (Spain)
Discovered Mexico and claimed it for Spain.
Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese)
Sailed around the bottom of South America (Magellan Strait), named the Pacific Ocean.
1524 – 1526, 1532
Francisco Pizarro (Spanish)
Explored Colombia and conquered Peru.
Jacques Cartier (French)
Discovered Canada for France.
1542 – 1543
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (Portuguese)
First European to reach California, claimed land for Spain.
1576 7th June – 1578
Martin Frobisher (English)
Discovered Labrador, Canada, Frobisher Bay and Baffin Island while searching for a North-West passage.
1577 December – 1580 September
Francis Drake (English)
Circumnavigated the World.
1585 – 1587
Walter Raleigh (English)
Colonised New England, America.
1608 3rd July
Samuel de Champlain (French)
Founded Quebec and explored Canada.
1609 – 1610
Explored North America and Canada, named the Hudson river and Hudson Bay.
Abel Tasman (Dutch)
Discovered Tasmania and New Zealand.
Vitus Bering (Danish)
Discovered the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia.
1768 – 1779
James Cook (English)
Mapped Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Eastern Australia.
Daniel Boon (American)
Led a group through the Cumberland Gap to found Kentucky.
1791 – 1795
George Vancouver (English)
Explored the north-western Pacific coastline including Alaska and Canada.
1794 – 1806
Mungo Park (Scottish)
Explored West Africa.
1799 – 1805
Alexander Von Humboldt (German)
Explored Central and South America.
1802 April – 1803 June
Matthew Flinders (English)
1804 May – 1806 September
Merriwether Lewis and William Clark (American)
Explored and mapped the American West.
1804 November – 1806
Sacagawea (Native American)
Guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark.
1841 – 1873
David Livingstone (English)
Pioneer, missionary and explorer in Africa.
1845 – 1853
Francis Galton (English)
Travelled the Nile region and explored South-West Africa.
1860 August – 1861 February
Robert Burke (Irish) and William Wills (English)
Crossed Australia from South to North.
1901 – 1922
Ernest Shackleton (Irish)
1909 6th April
Robert Peary and Matthew Henson (American)
First to reach the North Pole.
1911 14th December
Roald Amundson (Norwegian)
First to reach the South Pole.
1912 17th January
Robert Falcon Scott (English)
Second person to reach the South Pole.
1929 29th November
First to fly an aircraft over the South Pole.
1947 April 28 – 7th July
Thor Heyerdahl (Norwegian)
Explored Polynesian islands on the Kon-Tiki raft.
1953 29th May
Edmund Hillary (New Zealand) and Tenzing Norgay (Nepalese)
First to climb Mount Everest.
1948 – 1990
Jacques Cousteau (French)
Pioneered underwater exploration.
1960 23rd January
Don Walsh (United States) and Jacques Piccard (Swiss)
First to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of the oceans.
1961 12th April
Yuri Gagarin (Russian)
First human in Space.
1963 16th June
Valentina Tereshkova (Russian)
First woman in Space.
1969 20th July
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (American)
First men on the Moon.
1969 – 2013
Ranulph Fiennes (English)
Explorer of remote regions including North Pole, South Pole, Antarctica, Arabian Desert, The Nile, Mount Everest.
1970 – 1986
Reinhold Messner (Italian)
First man to climb all 14 mountains over 8,000 metres in height.
1977 – present
Robert Ballard (American)
Pioneer in deep sea exploration, found and explored Titanic, Bismark, Lusitania and other shipwrecks, explored the sea bed.
1978 8th May
Reinhold Messner (Italian) and Peter Habeler (Austrian)
First men to climb Everest without Oxygen.
2018 1st August
Andrzej Bargiel (Polish)
First person to ski down K2 (second highest mountain).
2019 23rd April – 29th October
Nirmal Purja (Nepalise)
Climbed all 14 mountains over 8,000 metres in under 7 months (previous record was 7 years).
First published 2015; updated and re-published Jan 12 2022 @ 7:21 pm – Updated – [last-modified]
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2015 – 2022). Explorers and Exploration 325 BCE to Present Day.