5 Bad Ass Explorers You Probably Never Heard Of

by MrSparrow

You never hear about them in history classes but they totally rocked!

Read about five amazing explorers which you won't find in history books. Ever heard of Kazimierz Nowak, Leif Ericson, Ibn Battuta, Juan Sebastián Elcano or Estevanico? Most likely not! However they have been through some amazing adventures and set world records for their time. In some cases, other explorers are known for their achievements and take all the credits while the real heroes lie forgotten in the pages of history.

5. Kazimierz Nowak

The Only Solo African Expedition

Kazimierz Nowak with his bike in the desert

Kazimierz Nowak was a polish explorer who between 1931 and 1936 undertook what seems to be the only solo expedition to cross the whole of Africa from North to South and back again only by bike, walking and riding. Overall he traveled more than 40.000 km and managed to get back safely even though he had major funding shortages and battled diseases such as malaria. On the way he made contact with both white European colonists of various nations but also with local tribes such as the Watussi, the Pygmies, the Hottentots, the Babinga dwarfs, the Trnsvaal Boers, the Abasalampasu, the Hausa and many more. The little money he had was earned by selling photographs to Polish and German newspapers.

Kazimierz Nowak with african people

He started out the journey by bike, which was already 7 years old at that point and with which he made several journeys within Eourpoe, getting as far East as Turkey. Needless to say that at some point in the African expedition his bike broke down so he found some horses, then a camel, then a boat and in the end a new bike. 

Search Google for more awesome pictures from Kazimierz's trip

4. Estevanico

The First African To Reach North America

Compared to the other people in this list Estevanico wasn't an explorer by choice...he actually was a slave sold to the Spanish by the Portuguese. In 1527 he found him self against his will on the Navarez expedition in which 600 people set sail in order to colonize Florida and the Mexican Gold coast. Somehow their plans were got ruined by nasty weather and by the local inhabitants which attacked them relentlessly after setting base in North America. From the whole expedition only four people survived among which Estevanico. He remains in history as the first African person to ever each the continental USA

3. Leif Ericson

Discovered America

Leif Ericson

We all know from geography and history lessons that Christopher Columbus was the first one to discover America. Well...it turns out that the first European there was a guy named Leif Ericson...almost 500 (yes five hundred) years before Columbus!

His father was the viking explorer Eric the Red which discovered Greenland and established the first permanent settlement there. Continuing the family tradition, Leif gathered a crew of 35 men and set sail westwards of Greenland in a wooden ship as he heard there might be land there. Archaeologists later found his settlement in Newfoundland which is thought to have been active (although not permanently) for 400 years. Judging by his helmet with two wings and a walrus, there couldn't have been any better explorer to discover the Americas. 

2. Juan Sebastián Elcano

First Circumnavigation

Juan Sebastián Elcano

Although Ferdinand Magellan is considered to be the first person to circumnavigate the Globe, he actually never made it back alive to Portugal as he got killed by the native people of the Philippines. 

Juan Sebastián Elcano, being second in command, took the lead of the expedition and managed to get back safely thus being the first man in history to travel around the world (together with the rest of the remaining crew). From the 237 people who set sail only 18 managed to return after a 3 year long expedition. 

1. Ibn Battuta

14th Century Explorer

Ibn Battuta is arguably one of the most prolific explorers ever having traveled over 121.000 km during the 14th century. Up to the industrial revolution nobody surpassed the distance he managed to gather in his more than 30 year long expedition. Being an Muslim, he was mainly interested in exploring the Islamic world but he did also venture deep into other cultures borders such as China. Compared to the closest big explorer, Marco Polo, Ibn traveled more than three times more.

He set off from Morocco in 1325 when he was only 21 years old and came back when he was over 50. On his way he spent 3 years in Mecca, a month in Constantinople, 8 years in Delhi and 9 months in the Maldives. After eventually coming back home, he dictated all his travel memories which ended up as a book named ""A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling" or "Rihla".


Updated: 10/30/2012, MrSparrow
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