Henry Hudson was an English navigator and sea explorer best remembered for his explorations of modern-day Canada and the northeastern United States. He is credited with laying the foundation for the Dutch colonization near the Hudson River, which is named in his honor. During his final expedition, he became the first European to witness the Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait.
Samuel de Champlain was a French colonist, navigator, draftsman, soldier, and explorer who made between 21 and 29 trips across the Atlantic Ocean. He founded Quebec and New France and is considered an important figure in Canadian history. He is also referred to as the "Father of New France." As a businessman, he founded many trading companies.
John Smith was an English explorer, soldier, colonial governor, author, and Admiral of New England. In the early-17th century, Smith played a major role in the establishment of the first indissoluble English settlement in America, which came to be known as the English colony at Jamestown. Apart from helping Jamestown survive various challenges, Smith's leadership also helped the colony flourish.
Dutch explorer and Dutch East India Company merchant Abel Tasman was the first European to reach the shores of Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, and Van Diemen's Land, the last of which was named Tasmania in his honor. His circumnavigation of Australia proved that it was a separate continent.
British colonial official John Rolfe was one of the first English settlers in North America. He not only gained fame as a tobacco planter in Virginia, but also married Pocahontas, the daughter of Native American chief Powhatan. He died in the infamous Jamestown massacre of 1622.
One of the first-known Westerner to gain the title of samurai, William Adams, also known as Anjin Miura, was an English navigator who explored uncharted territories for his country. Apart from being the first Englishman to travel to Thailand and Japan, he was also the third from his country to travel to Vietnam.
Jesuit missionary explorer Jacques Marquette is best remembered for his journey to the Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet, which led to the first accurate documentation of the course. While attempting a communication with the Illinois Indians, he died at the mouth of Père Marquette at age 37.
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was a French adventurer and explorer. He is credited with founding Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which later became the famous city of Detroit. The famous car brand Cadillac was named in Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac's honor.
Willem Janszoon was a Dutch colonial governor and navigator who served in the Dutch East Indies in the early 1600s. He is best remembered for captaining the first recorded European landing on Australia in 1606.
Louis Joliet was a French-Canadian explorer who lived during the 17th century. He is known for making several discoveries in North America. Along with Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, a Catholic priest and missionary, he became one of the first non-Natives to map the Upper Mississippi River. He disappeared during an expedition to Anticosti Island in 1700.
Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede served the Lutheran Church. Known for his missionary campaigns in Greenland, he earned the nickname the Apostle of Greenland. He established Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, and lived among the Inuit community. He also translated books into Inuit and is revered as the National Saint of Greenland.
Avvakum Petrovich, or Awakum, was a Russian priest and a leader of Old Believers. He drifted away from the Russian Orthodox church and supported the Old Rite, bringing in massive reforms. His memoir and letters have made him a pioneering figure of modern Russian literature, too.
Pierre-Esprit Radisson was a French fur trader and explorer who undertook many adventures with his brother-in-law Médard des Groseilliers. As a young man, he was captured and tortured by the Iroquois though he later managed to escape. He eventually became a successful fur trader and also embarked on several missionary expeditions. The town of Radisson, Quebec is named after him.
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville was a soldier and ship captain. Also a daredevil explorer, he led the Hudson Bay expedition in 1686 and played a pivotal part in the capture of the fort at Moose Factory. He founded the French colony of Louisiana in New France. As a member of Compagnies Franches de la Marine, he fought in many wars.
Jean Nicolet was a French trader best remembered for exploring Green Bay, Mackinac Island, and Lake Michigan. He was the first European to explore the present-day Wisconsin. Many public places in Wisconsin and Quebec are named in his honor.
Catalina de Erauso was a Spanish nun who fled from the convent and travelled around Spain and Spanish America. She did several odd jobs disguised as a man and also served as a soldier of fortune in Bolivia, Chile, Perú, and Argentina before returning to Spain where she supposedly visited the Pope. She became a muleteer in her later life.
Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutch explorer who is credited with discovering Easter Island, Samoa, Maupiti, and Bora Bora. Interestingly, he found Easter Island by accident as he was initially sent to find Terra Australis. He is also remembered for publishing his work De val van 's werelds afgod.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye was a French Canadian military officer and fur trader. Along with his four sons, he explored the area west of Lake Superior and established trading posts there. The family also helped in the process of adding Western Canada to the original New France territory. He was awarded the Order of Saint Louis.
Seventeenth-century German physician and traveler Engelbert Kaempfer had been on trade missions across the world, including places such as Russia, Iran, Java, and Japan. His written experiences about his stay in Japan became a valuable source of information on the flora and fauna of the country.
Henry Kelsey was an English fur trader and explorer. He played an important role in establishing the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. Born in England, he moved to Canada as a young man and began his exploration adventures in the winter of 1688–89. He undertook many journeys across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually returned to England.
The son of Neapolitan financier Lorenzo de Tonti, Henri de Tonti was a fearless officer of the French army but lost his right hand in battle. He is also remembered as a passionate explorer who helped in the North American colonization campaigns, sailing along Illinois and Mississippi.
Although Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev became the first European to pass through the Bering Strait, his achievement was forgotten for years, while Vitus Bering, who explored the same region 8 decades later, is credited with discovering it. Several Russian and Soviet icebreakers were named after him.
Italian traveler Pietro della Valle, known for his voyages to India and Persia, was also a talented musicologist and composer. In Baghdad, he married a Syrian Christian woman, who died in Persia. He later also touched Surat and Calicut in India. His three-volume treatise on his travels focuses on Turkey, Persia, and India.
Willem Schouten was a Dutch navigator who worked for the Dutch East India Company. Schouten was the first person to sail to the Pacific Ocean via the Cape Horn route. He later described his expeditions in the Journal, which has since been translated into many languages.
Thomas Button was a Welsh officer of the Royal Navy who was also a prominent explorer. In 1612–13, he commanded an expedition that unsuccessfully attempted to locate lost explorer Henry Hudson. During his travels, he discovered and named Mansel Island. Later on, he was appointed Admiral of the Irish Coasts and was knighted by the Lord Deputy of Ireland.