The Phoenicians originated from the area of the Middle East in the vicinity of modern Lebanon and Israel. They established formidable trading empire using their exceptional sailing skills to explore the Mediterranean Ocean and even to extend their own boundaries towards Britain and along the west coast of Africa. The Phoenicians set up a colony in Carthage in Tunisia around about 800BC. They made it a base for their sea-going explorrations, but today it is a jumble of ruins in the desert. The Phoenicians had a great port surrounded by a fertile outpost in an expanding empire.
The Mediterranean Sea was a perfect training ground for the sea-going Phoenicians and their grand maritime ambitions. The Sea captain Hanno sailed forth with 60 ships from Carthage in order to set up colonies along the west coast of the African continent. Hanno even ventured further south around the bulge of West Africa to see exotic animals such as the hippopotomus and the crocodile. He even brought back monkeys to Carthage.
The Ancient Egyptians had two voyages of exploration towards the south around about the years 2500 BC and 1500 BC. They built a canal that joined the Nile River to the Red Sea which enabled them to sail to Arabia and the eastern parts of Africa which they called Punt. The Egyption Pharoah Necho started trading with Punt around about 600 BC. Unfortunately the canal connecting the Red Sea had silted up so Pharoah Necho hired Phoenician sailors to find another route around Africa. The Phoenician explorers found their way to Punt but the length of the journey took three years, which was not found feasible for the Egyptian traders.
Pytheas was a Greek explorer from Massalia, which is modern day Marseilles in the south of France. Pytheas set out to discover whether Britain was an island or not. He explored Britain, then sailed north to Thule which may have been Iceland, the Shetlands, or Norway.
In AD 14 to AD 73 the Roman merchant Hippolus explore the areas to the south and east. Using the monsoons, Hippolus sailed from Arabia to India. Nero sent an expedition to look for the source of the Nile River and this party reached the swamps of southern Sudan, which they had called the Sudd.
Saint Brendan may have ben the first person to cross the Atlantic. Saint Brendan was an Irish missionary and at that time irish monks were looking for remote islands upon which they could live simple lives. The Irish missionaries used currachs, boats made from hides. In the 6th Century they went west and found many undiscovered islands. Saint Brendan may have gone north before crossing the Atlantic, seeing icebergs and volcanoes.
From 1440, Henry the Navigator of Portugal sent out explorers and in 1474, the Portuguese crossed the equator.
Vitus Bering was a Russian seafarer sent out by the czar Peter the Great to find out if Russia and America were joined. Bering went norht along the east coast of Siberia in 1728, he forced his way through the pack ice, found the coast and discovered the gap between Asia and America - the Bering Strait. In 1741, Vitus Bering explored the coast of Alaska. Alaska become Russian territory, later being sold the the United States in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars.
Baron Nordenkjold sailed the northeast passage from Northern Sweden across the top of Russia from 1878 to 1879. Shackleton's ship the Endurance was stuck in the ice for nine months with a crew of 28 in 1915. Ernest Shackleton drifted on the ice for four months after abandoning the Endurance.