Francisco De Orellana’s Epic Navigation Of The Amazon

Francisco de Orellana Bejarano Pizarro y Torres de Altamirano was born in Trujillo, Spain, probably around 1511, although the precise date is uncertain.  He seems to have been a relative of the conqueror of Peru, Francisco Pizarro; and this sanguinary connection, combined with opportunities for glory and wealth, may have provided the impetus for him to emigrate to the New World around 1527.  He joined Pizarro’s army and served his kinsman well in the power struggles that were then rife among the Spaniards; and when the dust settled, he found himself in possession of substantial tracts of land in Ecuador, and an unsatiated ambition.

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Monstrous And Inconceivable: Jack London Builds His Ship To Sail Around The World

“Monstrous and inconceivable” was how Jack London described the conception and construction of his yacht Snark, the vessel on which he planned to sail around the world. The construction was beset by delays, cost overruns, and incompetence.  London fought through the obstacles, even teaching himself celestial navigation while en route to Hawaii.  This podcast describes his thoughts on building it, his problems and obstacles, and the true spirit of discovery. We then close with some tweet readings from the G Manifesto.

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Burst Away From The Shore, And Head For the Open Ocean

The Latin poet Claudian lived from about 370 to 404 A.D.  He was born in Egypt but as an adult associated himself with the imperial court at Rome.  One of his more famous works is the unfinished epic “The Rape of Proserpina” (De Raptu Proserpinae).  The poem contains a short prologue which I have translated as follows:

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Louis De Freycinet’s Epic Circumnavigation Of The Globe

Those who perform great deeds are guided by inner lights whose intensity never wanes.  Perhaps the most significant French maritime expedition of the nineteenth century was that of naval commander Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet (1779—1841).  Its chief aim, according to novelist Jules Verne, was  “to survey the shape of the land in the southern hemisphere, and to make observations in terrestrial magnetism, without, at the same time, omitting to give attention to all natural phenomena, and to the manners, customs, and languages of indigenous races.”  In an epic voyage that lasted over three years, he and the crew of the corvette Uranie covered a vast portion of the earth’s surface; and he was the first explorer to chart the precise contours of the Australian continent.

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Antonio De Ulloa’s Explorations In South America

Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral may have been Spain’s greatest explorer of the eighteenth century.  The hardships he endured certainly merit his inclusion on any list of that century’s great cultivators of geographic knowledge.  He was born in Seville on January 12, 1716; and like many accomplished travelers, he received a thorough education in the traditional disciplines.  He came from a family with a naval tradition, and young Antonio was eager to follow in these footsteps.

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The Travels Of Sir Thomas Roe

One of the most successful diplomats of his era, Thomas Roe (1581–1644) got an early start on success in life.  In his era it helped to be a part of the nobility.  He was born in Essex, the son of Sir Robert Rowe, and was educated at Oxford; his genteel manners and refined ways soon gained him access to the court of Elizabeth I.  A knighthood followed in 1604, and with this came increased opportunities for advancement and commercial success.

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The Strange Travels Of Pietro Della Valle

Pietro Della Valle was an accomplished traveler as well as a literary figure in his own right.  Other great names of Middle Eastern exploration came after him, but he was one of the very first pre-modern Westerners to gain first-hand experience in the region.  As the reader will discover, he was also undoubtedly the most eccentric.  He was born in Rome on April 11, 1586, to a distinguished family that was able to provide him with a good education.  Developing a flair for literature at an early age, he thirsted for the glories of the sword as well as the glories of the pen; and to this end, he signed up for adventure with a Spanish fleet in 1611 on an expedition to the North African coast.

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Carl Friedrich Philip Von Martius’s Daring Explorations In Brazil

Men undertake explorations and great journeys for many reasons.  Some expeditions–such as those undertaken by Denham, Burton, Burckhardt, and others like them–are primarily focused on expanding geographical knowledge, commercial information, and ethnographic data.  Others, such as those of Humboldt, Rondon, Lewis and Clark, and von Barth, are more interested in the collection of scientific information about the natural world.  The Brazilian explorations of Carl Friedrich von Martius falls into the latter category.

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Every Man Needs His Quest (Podcast)

This is the accompanying podcast to my article Every Man Needs A Quest.

We discuss why every man needs a consuming purpose, and a ennobling goal.

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Read more in Lives of the Great Commanders: