September 27 is observed as World Tourism Day to celebrate the human penchant for travel. Here’s a look at some historical figures who travelled and made discoveries along the way.
There are different ways to see the world — trekking along a picturesque mountain trail, hot air ballooning in the skies, lounging in a beach resort, sailing across the ocean… Here are some travellers who created history with their journeys.
Marco Polo: A famous traveller whose journeys inspired many, including Christopher Columbus. His most valuable contribution to the world is the introduction of Asia to Europe through his journey across the former continent that lasted 24 years. During the journey he is also said to have met the famous Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan. His travelogues are some of the most valuable documents.
Christopher Columbus: The map of the world was slowly being redrawn as newer continents and islands were being discovered by explorers especially during the Renaissance. One such explorer was Columbus who ventured into the unknown, intending to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and ended up in America. Though he was not the first to do so, his voyage marked the beginning of the exploration and colonisation of the continent, thus laying the foundation for the world’s super power.
Amelia Earhart: Amelia Earhart fell head-over-heels in love with planes after a ride with pilot Frank Hawks in 1920, which only reconfirmed her initial attraction to them while attending a stunt-flying exhibition as a youngster. At a time when women were subject to conventional gender prejudices, Amelia learned to fly and went on to set many aviation records, including becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.
Xuanzang: At a time when cars, trains and planes were still centuries away from being invented, this seventh century Buddhist monk travelled over 10,000 miles through mountain ranges, traversing the famous Silk Route and crossing regions that are now Kyrgizstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Xuanzang’s 16-year long journey was planned as a pilgrimage from China to India in search of Buddhist texts.
Yuri Gagarin: While journeys across the earth were done and dusted, this man ventured into a new frontier — space. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin’s name will remain etched in history as the first human to journey into space in 1961, and orbit the earth too. This Soviet pilot and cosmonaut set the precedent for other similar manned space journeys that eventually saw the first man (Neil Armstrong) land on the moon too.
Nain Singh Rawat: He was an early 19 century explorer, who mapped and documented Tibet and the surrounding valleys including the Himalayas.
“It (his journeys) brought to light many details of the Himalaya, like the eastern course of the Tsangpo, useful to establish that this big river in Tibet and Assam’s Brahmaputra were one and the same.” reads an article published in The Hindu. For this purpose he would disguise himself as a Tibetan monk and also trained himself to walk strides of a particular length to help measure distances, adds the article.
Bimal Mukherjee: He set out on an journey on his bicycle fromKolkata in 1926, to earn the title of the Indian globe trotter who travelled the entire world on a bicycle. He completed his journey in 1937.
In our lifetime
Jeffrey Corwin: A wildlife conservationist, famous for producing and hosting two nature shows — The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin’s Quest. He has tracked black bear in California, encountered a red panda in the foothills of the Himalayas, trekked in Morocco, searched for rare fauna in England, New Zealand, Mexico and Alaska… this man has been on expeditions to six continents!
Jordan Romero: This young boy’s journeys were all summit-bound. At 13, he became the youngest boy to scale Mount Everst in 2010. In December 2011, when he was 15, he became the youngest person to have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, completing his quest with the Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
Bachendri Pal: In 1984, she became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a feat for which she received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour. The following year, she led an all-woman team on an Everest Expedition that created seven world records.