Jacques Cousteau was a French explorer, naval officer, filmmaker, conservationist, scientist, photographer, researcher, and author. Renowned for his exploration of various forms of life in water, Jacques Cousteau is credited with pioneering marine conservation and co-developing the Aqua-Lung, the first underwater breathing apparatus to achieve popularity and commercial success.
Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is remembered for leading three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He was a key figure of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. An expert in navigation, he had also been a part of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery expedition. He was knighted by King Edward VII for his achievements.
Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer. Specialized in exploring the polar regions, Amundsen was an important figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, an era in the exploration of Antarctica. He disappeared in 1928 when he was involved in a rescue mission in the Arctic. Owing to his significant achievements in polar exploration, several places are named after him.
Chris McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, was made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild, which was later made into a movie. The adventurer had hitchhiked through Alaska, and later took shelter in an abandoned bus, where he eventually died of starvation and poisoning, cut off from civilization.
American mountaineer Scott Fischer was known for scaling the highest peaks of the world, including Mt. Everest and K2, without using oxygen cans. He later became a mountain guide and co-launched his own adventure travel company Mountain Madness. He died in a blizzard while guiding a group of clients to Mt. Everest.
Best known for his bestselling novels such as Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer is not just an author who writes about the outdoors but is also a mountaineer himself. He was part of the 1996 expedition to Mt. Everest which witnessed 4 of the team members dying in a storm.
Robert Falcon Scott was an explorer and Royal Navy officer. He is remembered for leading two expeditions to the Antarctic regions, the second of which was the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. Although Scott and his companions died during the second expedition, they helped discover the first Antarctic fossils, which proved that the place was once forested.
Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian polymath who won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his post-war efforts after the First World War. A well-known explorer, humanitarian, and diplomat, Nansen achieved international fame for his attempt to reach the geographical North Pole during his Fram expedition. His techniques and innovations influenced a generation of succeeding Antarctic and Arctic expeditions.
American naval officer Richard E. Byrd is remembered for his pioneering expeditions to Antarctica, using airplanes. Though he was awarded a US Congressional Medal of Honor for completing the first flight over the North Pole, it was later revealed that he had returned when he was 150 miles away from the destination.
The youngest child of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, Michael Rockefeller shunned his family’s legacy and decided to become an explorer. He went missing while on an expedition to the Asmat region of southwestern Dutch New Guinea and was declared dead 3 years later, raising speculations of cannibalism.
Orphaned, Matthew Henson began his journey as a cabin boy at age 12 and was later hired by Robert E. Peary as an attendant for his expeditions. He, along with Peary and 4 Inuit, were the first men to set foot on North Pole. The African-American explorer later won a Congressional Medal.
Apart from being the first solo balloonist to circumnavigate the world, Steve Fossett also competed the first non-stop solo flight across the world. The adventurer also owned a securities company. His plane went missing on a 2007 mission in western Nevada, and he was declared dead on the discovery of the wreckage.
Robyn Davidson is an Australian writer best known for her book Tracks, in which she wrote about her 2,700 km (1,700 miles) trek across the deserts of Western Australia using camels. As a teenager, she lived a bohemian life and has since traveled across the world. Her book Tracks won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 1980.
Aloha Wanderwell was a Canadian-American explorer, aviator, author, and filmmaker. In 1927, she became the first woman to travel around the world in a Ford 1918 Model T, at the age of 21. When she was 16, she undertook a journey, in which she traveled across 80 countries. Wanderwell is also remembered for making films like My Hawaii.
Jean-Michel Cousteau is a French environmentalist, oceanographic explorer, film producer, and educator. He is also an ardent advocate of a world without nuclear weapons. Cousteau is also credited with founding an education organization and marine conservation called Ocean Futures Society. Inspired by his documentary Voyage to Kure, President George W. Bush took measures to safeguard the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Russian naval officer and explorer Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich was the brother-in-law of the last emperor of Russia, Emperor Nicholas II. He played a significant role in the development of Russian military aviation during WWI. He spent his later life in exile in Paris and conducted many archaeological expeditions.
Joshua Slocum was a seaman who became the first person to sail single-handedly around the world. He was also a noted writer and wrote a book about his journey, Sailing Alone Around the World; the book became an international bestseller. He disappeared in November 1909, during one of his sailing adventures. He was declared legally dead after a few years.
Alexandra David-Néel was a Belgian–French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist, writer, and opera singer. She is best remembered for traveling to important spiritual centers, including Lhasa, Tibet in 1924, when foreigners were forbidden from entering Lhasa. Alexandra David-Néel wrote more than 30 books and her teachings influenced people like Allen Ginsberg, Benjamin Crème, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and Alan Watts.
Charles de Foucauld was a cavalry officer in the French Army in the late 19th century. He later became an explorer and geographer, eventually adopting the life of a hermit and a Catholic priest. He was assassinated in 1916 and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Apart from being a qualified physician, Frederick Cook was also a passionate explorer. He was initially the surgeon on explorer Robert E. Peary’s team. He later created controversy by conflicting with Peary, saying it was him and not Peary who had first explored the North Pole, though his claims were denounced.
Ann Bancroft grew up with a learning disability but later became a physical education teacher. She eventually quit her job and scripted history by becoming the first woman to reach the North Pole. She also led the first women’s group that reached the South Pole on skis.
Freya Stark was an Anglo-Italian travel writer and explorer. One of the first non-Arabs to explore the southern Arabian Desert, Stark penned down over 24 books on her travels in Afghanistan and the Middle East. She also wrote many essays and autobiographical works. In 1968, Freya Stark embarked on her last expedition to Afghanistan at the age of 75.
Walter Bonatti was an Italian explorer, mountain climber, and journalist. He made a solo climb of a new route on the southwest pillar of the Aiguille du Dru in August 1955, among other achievements. He retired from mountaineering at the age of 35 and pursued a career as a reporter. He also wrote several books on mountaineering.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson was a Canadian-born Arctic explorer. He studied anthropology at Harvard University and set off on extensive travels. He did archaeological research in Iceland and went on an Anglo-American Polar Expedition with Ejnar Mikkelsen and Ernest de Koven Leffingwell. He organized and directed a major Canadian Arctic Expedition in the 1910s. He had an affair with novelist Fannie Hurst.
Knud Rasmussen was a Greenlandic–Danish polar explorer. He was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage via dog sled. Also an anthropologist, he is often referred to as the "father of Eskimology." As a young man, he pursued an unsuccessful career as an actor and opera singer before embarking on his major explorations.
Sven Hedin was a Swedish topographer, geographer, photographer, explorer, illustrator, and travel writer. He is best known for making four expeditions to Central Asia. He later shared his experience in a book titled From Pole to Pole. A respected explorer, Hedin was honored with several prestigious awards and medals during his lifetime.
Roy Chapman Andrews was an American adventurer, explorer, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his association with the American Museum of Natural History where he also served as the director. Andrews is credited with bringing to the museum the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs. His life and career are said to have inspired George Lucas' famous character, Indiana Jones.
Maurice Herzog was a French administrator and mountaineer. He is best remembered for leading the French Annapurna expedition in 1950, which scaled the Annapurna peak of over 8000m for the first time. Maurice Herzog reached the peak along with Louis Lachenal and wrote a best-selling book titled Annapurna after his return.
Austrian mountaineer Peter Habele teamed up with Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner to become the first to scale Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. He also scripted history as the first European to climb the Yosemite’s Big Walls. He has also been a skiing instructor and later launched a mountaineering school.
The son of Spanish king Amadeus, Prince Luigi Amedeo, also known as the Duke of the Abruzzia, was a passionate mountaineer and explorer, who scripted history by becoming the first to climb Mount St. Elias in Alaska. He also conquered the world’s second-highest peak, K2, and even explored parts of Africa.