Famous British Explorers

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Do you know what’s common between Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry Hudson, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Alexander Mackenzie? Other than the fact that each of them was a British explorer, they all were passionate about adventure. Had it not been for their ability to face the harshest conditions that explorations come with, the world wouldn’t have been the same as it is today. The indomitable attitude of the British explorers and navigators helped expand the borders of the world, conquering new lands, sea and mountains. Their achievements are beyond words as they helped the world come to a common platform exposing the culture and traditions of new lands. Their exploits are undeniably impressive and remarkable. Through their voyages, British explorers discovered a number of places which were previously unknown to mankind. While some survived the harsh conditions and unknown dangers, the others gave their life to explorations. It is to these heroes that we own most of our world to! Dig into this section and equip yourself with detailed information about the life and explorations of British explorers. Their adventures and explorations are sure to give you an adrenaline rush!
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 1 
James Cook
(British Naval Captain, Navigator and Explorer)
James Cook
19
Birthdate: November 7, 1728
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marton, England
Died: February 14, 1779

British explorer, navigator, and cartographer James Cook, who had also served the merchant navy and Royal Navy, was the first to complete an expedition around New Zealand. He explored areas in the South Pacific, such as eastern Australia and Hawaii. He was killed while trying to kidnap a Hawaiian king.

 2 
Francis Drake
(Best Known for His Circumnavigation of the World in a Single Expedition)
Francis Drake
17
Birthdate: 1540 AD
Birthplace: Tavistock, Devon, England
Died: January 28, 1596

Francis Drake was an English explorer and naval officer. He is remembered for his Raiding Expedition, a prominent historical maritime event which unfolded between 1577 and 1580. Although Drake is considered a hero in the United Kingdom, his privateering led the Spanish to refer to him as a pirate. His expedition has also had a major cultural impact in Britain.

 3 
Walter Raleigh
(English Statesman, Soldier, Writer, Explorer and One of the Most Notable Figures of the Elizabethan Era)
Walter Raleigh
16
Birthdate: 1552 AD
Birthplace: Hayes Barton,United Kingdom, United Kingdom
Died: October 29, 1618
English explorer Walter Raleigh is best remembered for his involvement in the Siege of Smerwick and for colonizing North America. He made smoking tobacco popular in England. His accounts of his first voyage to South America led to the legend of El Dorado. He was executed to please the Spanish.
 4 
Sir Ernest Shackleton
(Anglo-Irish Antarctic Explorer)
Sir Ernest Shackleton
16
Birthdate: February 15, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kilkea, Ireland
Died: January 5, 1922

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.

 5 
Henry Hudson
(Navigator and Explorer)
Henry Hudson
9
Birthdate: 1565 AD
Birthplace: England, United Kingdom
Died: 1611 AD

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.

 6 
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
(Science-Fiction Writer Known for His Novels: ‘Childhood's End’, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Rendezvous with Rama’)
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
5
Birthdate: December 16, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Minehead, Somerset, England
Died: March 19, 2008
Sir Arthur C. Clarke is best known for his short story The Sentinel, which became the basis of the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke spent the final years of his life in Sri Lanka and hosted shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.
 7 
John Smith
(Explorer)
John Smith
11
Birthdate: January 6, 1580
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lincolnshire, England
Died: June 21, 1631

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.

 8 
Richard Francis Burton
4
Birthdate: March 19, 1821
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torquay
Died: October 20, 1890

Richard Francis Burton was a British explorer, soldier, and scholar. He is best remembered for his explorations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Along with John Hanning Speke, Burton was the first European to witness the Great Lakes of Africa. A prolific writer, Burton wrote several scholarly articles about numerous subjects like sexual practices, falconry, human behavior, travel, and ethnography.

 9 
Robert Falcon Scott
(British Royal Naval Officer and Explorer)
Robert Falcon Scott
11
Birthdate: June 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Plymouth, Devon, England
Died: March 29, 1912

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.

 10 
Alfred Russel Wallace
(Naturalist, Explorer, Geographer, Anthropologist and Biologist)
Alfred Russel Wallace
5
Birthdate: January 8, 1823
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Llanbadoc
Died: November 7, 1913

British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace is largely remembered for his theory of evolution through natural selection, which inspired Charles Darwin’s studies. He began his career as a surveyor’s apprentice and later introduced concepts such as reinforcement in animals, also known as the Wallace effect. He was awarded the Order of Merit.

 11 
Ranulph Fiennes
(Explorer who became was the first person to get to the North and South Pole without flying and the first to cross Antarctica without driving)
Ranulph Fiennes
10
Birthdate: March 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Windsor, Berkshire, England
 12 
John Rolfe
(English settlers of North America)
John Rolfe
8
Birthdate: May 6, 1585
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Heacham, United Kingdom
Died: 1622 AD

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.

 13 
John Franklin
(Explorer, Royal Navy officer)
John Franklin
7
Birthdate: April 16, 1786
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Spilsby, England
Died: June 11, 1847
 14 
William Adams
(Navigator, Merchant-Adventurer and the First Englishman to Reach Japan)
William Adams
4
Birthdate: September 24, 1564
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gillingham, England
Died: May 16, 1620

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.

 15 
George Vancouver
(Explorer, Officer)
George Vancouver
4
Birthdate: June 22, 1757
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: King's Lynn
Died: May 10, 1798

English navigator and Royal Navy officer George Vancouver was the first to explore the Pacific coast of North America. His explored territories included the Canada’s British Columbia, the US’s Alaska, and Australia’s southwest coast. His 3-volume treatise on his journeys, with a collection of maps, was published posthumously.

 16 
Matthew Flinders
5
Birthdate: March 16, 1774
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Donington
Died: July 19, 1814
 17 
Ed Stafford
(Explorer and the First Human Ever to Walk the Length of the Amazon River)
Ed Stafford
8
Birthdate: December 26, 1975
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cambridgeshire, England

Ed Stafford is a British explorer who became the first person to walk the length of the famous Amazon River in 2010. Walking the Amazon is widely regarded as the longest jungle trek in the history of mankind and the feat is also recognized by the Guinness World Records. He currently hosts shows for the Discovery Channel.

 18 
Ellen MacArthur
5
Birthdate: July 8, 1976
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Whatstandwell, England
 19 
John White
(Governor of the Second Attempt to Found Roanoke Colony on the Same Island in 1587)
John White
3
Birthdate: 1539 AD
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 1593 AD
 20 
James Clark Ross
5
Birthdate: April 15, 1800
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: April 3, 1862
 21 
David Thompson
(Canadian Fur Trader, Surveyor and Cartographer)
David Thompson
3
Birthdate: April 30, 1770
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Westminster, England
Died: February 10, 1857

David Thompson was a British-Canadian explorer, fur trader, and surveyor. He was known to some native peoples as Koo-Koo-Sint or "the Stargazer". He traveled over 90,000 kilometers (56,000 mi) across North America over the course of his career and established a successful fur trade. He was married to a Metis woman and had numerous children. 

 22 
Martin Frobisher
4
Birthdate: 1535 AD
Birthplace: Altofts, England
Died: November 21, 1594
 23 
Charley Boorman
(TV presenter)
Charley Boorman
10
Birthdate: August 23, 1966
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wimbledon, London, England, UK
 24 
John Hanning Speke
(Discoverer of the source of the Nile)
John Hanning Speke
3
Birthdate: May 4, 1827
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Somerset
Died: September 15, 1864
 25 
William Dampier
(Explorer)
William Dampier
4
Birthdate: September 5, 1651
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: East Coker, Somerset, England
Died: February 29, 2017
 26 
Alexander Mackenzie
6
Birthdate: 1764 AD
Birthplace: Stornoway, Lewis, Scotland
Died: March 12, 1820
 27 
Gavin Menzies
(Explorer, Submariner, Historian, Writer)
Gavin Menzies
4
Birthdate: August 14, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London
 28 
Joseph Dalton Hooker
(British Botanist, Explorer and Founder of Geographical Botany)
Joseph Dalton Hooker
3
Birthdate: June 30, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Halesworth, Suffolk, England
Died: December 10, 1911

British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker is remembered as one of Charles Darwin’s greatest supporters. The man who is known as the pioneer of geographical botany, Hooker followed in the footsteps of his botanist father. The Copley Medal winner is also known for his iconic work Genera Plantarum.

 29 
Sir Wilfred Thesiger
(British explorer)
Sir Wilfred Thesiger
3
Birthdate: June 3, 1910
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Died: August 24, 2003
 30 
Robert FitzRoy
(Scientist)
Robert FitzRoy
3
Birthdate: July 5, 1805
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ampton
Died: April 30, 1865
 31 
Christopher Newport
4
Birthdate: 1561
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Limehouse
Died: 1617 AD
 32 
Charles Sturt
(British explorer)
Charles Sturt
4
Birthdate: April 28, 1795
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bengal
Died: June 16, 1869
 33 
Freya Stark
(Explorer)
Freya Stark
5
Birthdate: January 31, 1893
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 9, 1993

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.

 34 
Humphrey Gilbert
(Adventurer)
Humphrey Gilbert
3
Birthdate: September 9, 1539
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: England
Died: September 9, 1583
 35 
H. Saint John Philby
3
Birthdate: April 3, 1885
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Badulla, Sri Lanka
Died: September 30, 1960
 36 
Sir Francis Chichester
3
Birthdate: September 17, 1901
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Barnstaple, England
Died: August 26, 1972
 37 
Robert Dudley
(Explorer)
Robert Dudley
3
Birthdate: August 7, 1574
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Died: September 6, 1649
 38 
Mary Kingsley
(British Ethnographer, Scientific Writer and Explorer Known for Her Travels and Writings on West Africa)
Mary Kingsley
3
Birthdate: October 13, 1862
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Islington, London, England
Died: June 3, 1900

English ethnographer and traveler Mary Kingsley was the daughter of renowned physician and traveler George Kingsley and the niece of Charles Kingsley. Unlike girls of her era, she was well-educated and later ventured on an exploratory trip to West Africa, becoming the first European to enter remote areas such as Gabon.

 39 
Edward Whymper
(Mountaineer)
Edward Whymper
3
Birthdate: April 27, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: September 16, 1911
 40 
Edward John Eyre
2
Birthdate: August 5, 1815
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Whipsnade, England
Died: November 30, 1901
 41 
Frederick Selous
3
Birthdate: December 31, 1851
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 4, 1917
 42 
Nicholas Briggs
(Explorer, Actor, Voice actor, Composer, Film director, Screenwriter)
Nicholas Briggs
4
Birthdate: September 29, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London
 43 
George Bass
(Former Explorer, Surgeon known as one of the first people to explore the interior of Australia)
George Bass
3
Birthdate: January 30, 1771
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom
Died: 1803 AD

British naval surgeon George Bass is best remembered for his exploratory voyage to Australia, aboard the Reliance. He explored areas such as the Sydney coastline, Tasmania, and New South Wales. However, he was declared lost at sea after disappearing on a commercial voyage to South America.

 44 
Nathaniel Bacon
(Colonist)
Nathaniel Bacon
4
Birthdate: January 2, 1647
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Suffolk, England
Died: October 26, 1676
 45 
Francis Younghusband
(Army Officer)
Francis Younghusband
2
Birthdate: May 31, 1863
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Murree, Pakistan
Died: July 31, 1942
 46 
Edward Adrian Wilson
(Explorer, Ornithologist, Painter, Scientist)
Edward Adrian Wilson
2
Birthdate: July 23, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cheltenham
Died: March 29, 1912
 47 
Thomas Cavendish
2
Birthdate: September 19, 1560
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Trimley St Martin
Died: April 30, 1592
 48 
James Bruce
(Explorer, Archaeologist, Film editor, Botanist)
James Bruce
2
Birthdate: December 14, 1730
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stirling
Died: April 27, 1794

Scottish explorer James Bruce is best known for his treatises of travel and his discovery of the source of the Blue Nile. Initially a wine merchant, he later became a British consul in Algiers and decided to explore North Africa. He traveled to places such as Syria, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

 49 
Francis Light
(Explorer)
Francis Light
2
Birthdate: 1740 AD
Birthplace: Dallinghoo, England
Died: October 25, 1794
 50 
Sir Samuel White Baker
(English Explorer)
Sir Samuel White Baker
2
Birthdate: July 8, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 30, 1893