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travel to a part of the earth that is relatively unknown to the traveler's culture, historically often motivated by a desire for colonization, conquest, or trade.

See also space explorationspace exploration,
the investigation of physical conditions in space and on stars, planets, and other celestial bodies through the use of artificial satellites (spacecraft that orbit the earth), space probes (spacecraft that pass through the solar system and that may or may not
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, geographygeography,
the science of place, i.e., the study of the surface of the earth, the location and distribution of its physical and cultural features, the areal patterns or places that they form, and the interrelation of these features as they affect humans.
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, and articles on localities, e.g., AfricaAfrica
, second largest continent (2009 est. pop. 1,010,000,000), c.11,677,240 sq mi (30,244,050 sq km) including adjacent islands. Broad to the north (c.4,600 mi/7,400 km wide), Africa straddles the equator and stretches c.
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, Arctic, theArctic, the
northernmost area of the earth, centered on the North Pole. The arctic regions are not coextensive with the area enclosed by the Arctic Circle (lat. 66°30'N) but are usually defined by the irregular and shifting 50°F; (10°C;) July isotherm that closely
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, AustraliaAustralia
, smallest continent, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. With the island state of Tasmania to the south, the continent makes up the Commonwealth of Australia, a federal parliamentary state (2005 est. pop. 20,090,000), 2,967,877 sq mi (7,686,810 sq km).
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Early Exploration

Early Egyptian expeditions penetrated into Nubia and Mesopotamia; the Phoenicians and the Greeks explored the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions earlier than 600 B.C.; and a Phoenician expedition (c.600 B.C.) is said to have sailed around Africa. After 500 B.C. the Carthaginians explored beyond the Strait of Gibraltar to trade along the coasts of Spain and Africa. A Greek navigator, PytheasPytheas
, Greek mariner and geographer, fl. late 4th cent. B.C. A native of the Greek colony of Massilia (modern Marseilles), he explored the Atlantic coasts of Spain and France, circumnavigated Britain, and sailed to Thule (perhaps the Shetlands or Iceland) and to the Baltic.
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, sailed beyond Britain c.310 B.C. The conquests of Alexander the Great brought the West in closer relationship with the East, and the Roman legions extended the limits of geographical knowledge, especially in N Europe. Trade with the East was stimulated by the discovery (c.A.D. 15) of a sea captain, Hippalus, that by using monsoon winds it was possible to sail across the Indian Ocean instead of hugging the coast. Roman trade was early established with India and Sri Lanka and later (c.A.D. 100) with China.

After the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the Arabs expanded their relationships with the East. The Chinese also made many explorations in this period. One of the best-known Chinese travelers is Hsüan-tsang, who traveled (A.D. 629–646) to India and farther west. Exploration by Europeans was carried on during the Middle Ages by Norse adventurers and colonists who crossed the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland, and North America. Their journeys, however, did not have much influence on the rest of Europe. European knowledge of Asia gained during the Crusades was extended by the journeys across Asia made by missionaries and by Marco Polo.

The European "Age of Discovery"

By about 1400 the breakup of the Mongol empire and the growth of the Ottoman Empire had blocked Europe's overland trade routes to the East. The search for new trade routes, the rise of merchant capitalism, and the desire to exploit the potential of a global economy initiated the European "age of discovery." Henry the Navigator promoted voyages along the coast of Africa that helped dispel the superstition and misinformation that had impeded previous attempts to sail through the torrid zone. The extent of the globe was revealed by Bartholomew Diaz's rounding of the Cape of Good Hope (1486–87), Vasco da Gama's voyage to India (1497–98), Christopher Columbus's first voyage to America (1492), and the circumnavigation of the globe by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan (1519–22). In the 16th cent. Spanish explorers, notably Vasco de Balboa, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Cabeza de Vaca, Hernán De Soto, and Francisco de Coronado, explored large areas of the Americas. Much of the interior of North America was revealed in the 17th cent. by Samuel de Champlain, Sieur de La Salle, Louis Jolliet, Jacques Marquette, and other French explorers.

A Spanish and Portuguese monopoly of the new trade routes stimulated attempts to find other passages to the East (see Northeast PassageNortheast Passage,
water route along the northern coast of Europe and Asia, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Beginning in the 15th cent., efforts were made to find a new all-water route to India and China.
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 and Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage,
water routes through the Arctic Archipelago, N Canada, and along the northern coast of Alaska between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Even though the explorers of the 16th cent.
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) and was soon challenged by English and Dutch voyages in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Most of the major islands of the Pacific and the coastline of Australia became known to Europeans through the voyages of Francis Drake, Abel Tasman, William Dampier, James Cook, Vitus Bering, George Vancouver, and others. European exploration of the interior of Australia took place in the mid-19th cent., and by the end of the century most of Africa had been explored by David Livingstone, H. M. Stanley, and Richard Burton.

European exploration and colonization frequently had disastrous results for the indigenous peoples. Diseases brought to the Americas and Australia by Europeans decimated the inhabitants, and European intervention in Africa expanded the already thriving slave trade. The aboriginal peoples often viewed the presence of explorers as an encroachment, inevitably leading to war, repression, and dislocation.

Polar Explorations

In the late 19th and early 20th cent. the Arctic was explored by Nils Nordenskjöld, Roald Amundsen, Donald MacMillan, Richard Byrd, and others. In 1909, Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole. The continent of Antarctica was explored in the first half of the 20th cent. by William Bruce, Jean Charcot, Douglas Mawson, Ernest Shackleton, and others. The South Pole was reached first by Amundsen (Dec. 14, 1911) and almost immediately thereafter (Jan. 18, 1912) by Robert Scott. The airplane provided a new method of antarctic exploration, with George Wilkins and Richard E. Byrd as the pioneers. Since World War II there have been many well-equipped expeditions, most notably those during the International Geophysical Year (1957–58), to the Antarctic.


See R. I. Rotberg, Africa and Its Explorers (1970); J. H. Parry, Age of Reconnaissance: Discovery, Exploration, and Settlement, 1450–1650 (1970); S. E. Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500–1600 (1971) and The European Discovery of America: The Southern Voyages, A.D. 1492–1616 (1974); K. R. Andrews, Trade, Plunder, and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480–1630 (1984); P. D. Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History (1984).


(mining engineering)
The search for economic deposits of minerals, ore, gas, oil, or coal by geological surveys, geophysical prospecting, boreholes and trial pits, or surface or underground headings, drifts, or tunnels.


The general activity undertaken to identify and classify the elements of which a soil mass is constituted.


See also Frontier.
Balboa, Vasco Nuñez de
(1475–1517) discovered the Pacific Ocean. [Sp. Hist.: Benét, 75]
Columbus, Christopher
(1446–1506) expeditions to West Indies, South and Central America; said to have discovered America in 1492. [Ital. Hist.: Jameson, 107–108]
de Soto, Hernando
(c. 1500–1542) discovered the Mississippi River. [Sp. Hist.: Benét, 266]
starship on 5-year mission to explore space. [Am. TV: Star Trek in Terrace]
Gama, Vasco da
(c. 1460–1524) navigator who discovered route around Africa to India. [Port. Hist.: NCE, 1040]
Golden Hind
ship on which Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596) became the first Englishman to sail around the world. [Br. Hist.: EB (1963) VII, 575]
Hudson, Henry
seeking a northwest passage to the Orient, in 1609 he explored the river later named for him. [Am. Hist.: Benét, 482]
Journey to the Center of the Earth
expedition through the core of a volcano to the earth’s center. [Fr. Lit.: Verne A Journey to the Center of the Earth in Benét, 1055]
Lewis and Clark Expedition
proved feasibility of overland route to the Pacific. [Am. Hist.: Benét, 583]
Polo, Marco
(1254–1324) Venetian traveler in China. [Ital. Hist.: NCE, 1695]
de Leon, Juan (c. 1460–1521) seeking the “fountain of youth,” he discovered Florida and explored its coast. [Sp. Hist.: Benét, 802]
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