Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse (August 23, 1741-1788) was a French explorer and naval officer. La Perouse mapped the west coast of North America in 1786, and visited the Easter Islands and Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaii). He was lost at sea while searching for the Solomon Islands (after reaching Australia’s Botany Bay).
Juan Ponce de Leon (1460?-1521) was a Spanish explorer and soldier who was the first European to set foot in Florida. He also established the oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico and discovered the Gulf Stream (a current in the Atlantic Ocean). Ponce de Leon was searching for the legendary fountain of youth and other riches.
Alonso Alvarez de Pineda was a Spanish explorer and map-maker. De Pineda sailed for the Spanish Governor of Jamaica, Francisco de Garay, who sent him to explore and chart the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico in 1519. Captain De Pineda and his crew were probably the first Europeans in Texas, claiming it for Spain. One of the regions he explored and mapped was the area around Corpus Christi Bay; De Pineda entered Corpus Christi Bay on the feast day of Corpus Christi, hence the name.
Gaspar de Portolá (1767-1784) was a Spanish soldier, leader, and explorer. Portolá was appointed Governor of Las Californias from 1768-1770 and founded Monterey and San Diego (California). As governor, Portola was ordered to arrest and expel all Jesuits from their well-established colleges and 14 missions; many of these missions were given to the Franciscans. In 1768, Portola volunteered to lead a large expedition of settlers, missionaries, and soldiers up the California coast to San Diego and Monterey (in California) in order to establish new Franciscan missions; the expedition was planned by Jose de Galvez. Portolá’s overland expedition began on July 14th, 1769, and included Father Junipero Serra and 63 other men. They reached Los Angeles on August 2, 1769, Santa Barbara on August 19, Santa Cruz on October 18, and the San Francisco Bay area on October 31 (they missed Monterey). They again failed to find Monterey on their return trip to San Diego (both by land and by sea), so Portolá, Father Serra, and others tried another expedition, arriving at Monterey on May 24, 1770. In 1776, Portolá was chosen governor of the city of Puebla; he served for eight years, until his death .
Prince Henry (Henrique) the Navigator (1394-1460) was a Portuguese royal prince, soldier, and patron of explorers. Henry sent many sailing expeditions down Africa’s west coast, but did not go on them himself. Thanks to Prince Henry’s patronage, Portuguese ships sailed to the Madeira Islands (1420), rounded Cape Bojador (Eannes, 1434), sailed to Cape Blanc (1441), sailed around Cap Vert (1455), and went as far as the Gambia River (Cadamosto, 1456) and Cape Palmas (Gomes, 1459-1460).
Ellison Shoji Onizuka (June 24, 1946 - January 28, 1986) was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, an aerospace engineer, and a NASA astronaut. Onizuka flew on two Space Shuttle missions; he died in the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.
Mungo Park (1771-1806) was a Scottish explorer and surgeon who charted the course of the Niger River, in western Africa. Park began at the mouth of the Gambia River on June 21, 1795, and traveled northeast on horseback and by foot over rough country. He reached the Niger River at Ségou (which is now in Mali). Park travelled hundreds of miles, suffering fever and imprisonment along the way. He wrote of his trip in “Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa” (1797). At the request of the Scottish government, Park went on a second expedition in 1805 to find the source of the Niger River. During this unsuccessful mission, Park and his expedition members were attacked at the rapids of Bussa, where Park drowned.
Robert Edwin Peary (May 6, 1856 - Feb. 20, 1920) was an American explorer and Naval officer who led the first expedition to the North Pole. In 1909, Peary, Matthew A. Henson, and four Eskimos were the first people to reach the North Pole.
Juan Perez (ca.1725-1775) was a Spanish navigator who explored the northwest coast of North America. He sailed from Port San Blas, Mexico, up the coast of North America in 1774, in a ship named the Santiago. He had been ordered to sail as far north as Alaska (60 degrees north latitude), but only made it to what is now British Columbia, because of bad weather. He anchored his 82-foot ship off the Queen Charlotte Islands, by northern Vancouver Island. On two occasions, Native Americans canoed to Perez’s ship to trade and invite Perez ashore. Perez never went ashore and so wasn’t able to claim the land for Spain. He made detailed reports of the shoreline and his reports prompted later expeditions.
Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814) was a British Naval Officer who founded the first permanent European settlement in Australia. Phillip commanded the “Sirius,” the flagship of the First Fleet (the eleven ships that carried the first European settlers from Portsmouth, England, to New South Wales, Australia). The First Fleet was commissioned by Thomas Townsend, Viscount Sydney, and sailed for Botany Bay on May 13, 1787. The First Fleet carried 564 male and 192 female convicts, 450 crew members, 28 wives, and 30 children (half from the crew, half from the convicts). They sailed via Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), and by Tasmania. The Fleet anchored at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia on January 26, 1788, and declared Australia a colony of Britain. Phillip was the Governor of New South Wales until 1792, when ill health forced him to returned to England. Australia Day commemorates the arrival of Captain Phillip and the First Fleet at Sydney Cove.
Jacques Ernest-Jean Piccard (1922- ) is a Swiss ocean explorer and scientist who was the first person to go to the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean. On January 23, 1960, he and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh descended over 35,802 feet or 7 miles (10,912 m) in a pressured bathyscape, called Trieste. They went to the bottom of the Challenger Deep of the Marianas Trench (200 miles southwest of Guam), the deepest place on Earth. The trip took five hours. The bathyscape was built by Piccard and his father, Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), a notable Belgian physicist and inventor.
Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 - April 27, 1813) was an American explorer and military officer (he served in the War of 1812). Pike tried to find the source of the Mississippi River; he also explored the Rocky Mountains and southwestern North America. Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named for him.
Martin Alonzo Pinzon (1441? - 1493) was a Spanish explorer and navigator who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, as captain of the Pinta (he was also the co-owner of the Nina and the Pinta). He is remembered for being disloyal and competitive with Christopher Columbus.
Vincente Yáñez Pinzon (1460? - 1523?) was a Spanish explorer and navigator who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, as captain of the Niña. His older brother, Martin Pinzon, was captain of the Pinta and the co-owner of both the Nina and the Pinta.
In 1499, Vincente Pinzon sailed to the Brazilian coast (at a cape he named Santa María de la Consolación). From there, he sailed northwest to the Amazon River, whose mouth he explored. He sailed north to northeastern Venezuela (to the Gulf of Paria) and then returned to Spain.
In 1508, he sailed to the New World twice with Juan Díaz de Solís, trying to find a a passage to the Spice Islands. They sailed to Central America, but the exact locations of these explorations are unknown (they either sailed to Honduras and the Yucatán peninsula or to Venezuela and Brazil).
Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) was a Spanish conquistador who traveled through much of the Pacific coast of America along Peru. He “discovered” the Incan empire and conquered it brutally and quickly, stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures.
Marco Polo (1254-1324) was an Italian voyager and merchant who was one of the first Europeans to travel across Asia through China, visiting the Kublai Khan in Beijing. He left in 1271 (he was a teenager at the time) with his father (Nicolo Polo) and uncle (Maffeo Polo); they spent about 24 years traveling. [Nicolo and Maffeo had previously made a trip to China, from 1260-1269, during which the Kublai Khan (the conqueror of China) requested holy oil blessed by the Pope.]
Chief Pontiac (1720 - April 20, 1769) was a great leader of the Ottawa Indian tribe. He organized his and other tribes in the Great Lakes area to fight the British, in what is known as Pontiac’s War (1763-1764).
John Wesley Powell (1838-1902) was an American scientist and explorer who who explored the deserts of the American Southwest, including the Grand Canyon. Powell was a professor of Geology at Illinois Wesleyan University who had lost his right forearm in the Battle of Shiloh (in 1862). In 1869, John Wesley Powell and nine companions went in four boats to explore uncharted canyons of the Colorado and Green Rivers in what is now Utah and Arizona in the USA. Before this, navigating through the Grand Canyon River Gorge was thought to be impossible. During the trip, three expedition members climbed out of the canyon to leave, but were killed by Indians. Powell’s expedition also trekked through the Great Basin Desert. On a later expedition (1871) funded by the US government, Powell travelled with a surveyor, a photographer, and others to map and explore the Grand Canyon region. Powell published many accounts of his travels, including “The Canyons of the Colorado.”