In 1919, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was venturing along the northern coast of Russia as part of an expedition when one of his crewmen, Peter Tessem, began suffering chronic headaches. As a result, he was left on Cape Chelyuskin with another explorer, Paul Knutsen, who’d traveled the area before. Roald was confident that they would make it to the nearby town of Dikson, which was just over a month’s journey away. Paul Knutsen knew the locations of supply caches that had been left in the area, so the two should have been in no danger.
George Bass was a surgeon and navigator who played an important role in the mapping of Australia’s coast. Traveling aboard the HMS Reliance between 1795 and 1798, he studied and made records of the plants and animals in Australia, confirmed the presence of coal in Sydney, and identified the strait between New South Wales and Tasmania, which was later named after him. His many achievements led to him being elected as a member of the Linnean Society of London in 1799, the oldest natural history society in the world.
John Cabot is famous today for being the first European to discover North America since the Vikings. Cabot’s history-making voyage most likely landed in Bonavista, Newfoundland, in June 1497. In a manner which loosely resembles the Moon landing, the crew left the ship only briefly to plant the Papal banner and claim the land for England before returning to their ship and spending the next few days exploring the coast from the water. When they returned to England, Cabot was hailed as a hero and received £10 as a reward—the value of about two years’ wages for the average laborer—and a pension of £20 a year.
Several centuries before Columbus sailed to the Americas, a Welsh prince named Madoc departed Wales with ten ships and a dream of discovering a new land. Madoc was the son of King Owain Gwynedd, who had 18 other sons, some of them bastards. Madoc was one of the bastards. When King Owain died in 1169, a civil war broke out between the brothers over who should be the next king. Madoc, a peaceful man, assembled a party of other peace-lovers and set out to find new lands. According to the legend, he returned in 1171 with stories of his adventures and attracted more people to go with him on a second expedition, from which he never returned.
It’s now a well-known fact that Columbus wasn’t searching for America when he left Spain; he was expecting to find Asia. And two centuries earlier, in 1291, that was also the goal of the Vivaldi expedition. Departing from Genoa, the two brothers, Vandino and Ugolino Vivaldi, and their followers hoped to reach India by navigating around the southern tip of Africa. They outfitted their expedition with enough food for ten years of travel, so they clearly expected to be gone for a long time. They passed through the Strait of Gibraltar in mid-1291 and were never seen again.