Christopher Columbus – Part 1

christopher-columbusThis is the first part in our series on one of the most famous explorers in history – Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus.

In this first part, we examine Columbus’ early life, and then his attempts to find a backer for his scheme to sail west – into the unknown – as a way to reach the fabled eastern lands of China, Japan, India and the Spice islands.

Below is the famous map of the world as depicted by astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. It shows a much smaller world than reality – and would help convince Columbus that reaching Asia was possible by sailing west.

toscanelli-map

Images courtesy of Wikipedia.

Francisco de Orellana and the Exploration of the Amazon River – Part 2

Francisco_de_Orellana-bustFrancisco de Orellana heads down the Amazon River in a bid to return to civilization. Little does he know that he is about to begin one of the most amazing journeys in the annals of exploration.

His epic trek will include a battle with the legendary Amazons, encounters with cannibals, near starvation and much, much more.


orellana-river-map

Journey of Francisco de Orellana 


Sources

The best book I found on Orellana was River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon by Buddy Levy. It’s a well-written adventure that was my go-to source for this podcast.

Relación del nuevo descubrimiento del famoso río grande que descubrió por muy grande ventura el capitán Francisco de Orellana según la transcripción de don Toribio Medina is a version of Orellana’s tale as written by Father Gaspar de Carvajal – the priest who accompanied Orellana down the Amazon. This version is in Spanish (I could not find an English language version).

Wikipedia Links:

All images courtesy of Wikipedia.

Francisco de Orellana and the Exploration of the Amazon River – Part 1

Francisco_de_OrellanaIn part 1 of our latest podcast, Francisco de Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro head over the Andes in search of El Dorado – the City of Gold. Instead, the two conquistadors only find hardship and death.

While Pizarro will attempt a torturous return over the Andes, Orellana will strike out east on a 4,000 mile journey down the Amazon in a desperate bid to return to civilization.

The feat – sailing the entire Amazon River – is one of the greatest river explorations known to history.

orellana-river-map

Zheng He and the Chinese Treasure Fleet

Admiral_ZhengheExplorers latest episode takes a look at the legendary Chinese Treasure Fleet – and the man who commanded the fleet, Zheng He – which sailed the waters of southern Asia in the early 15th century. The Treasure Fleet consisted of hundreds of vessels – some more than 400 feet long. Over the course of about 30 years, the fleet would sail to Vietnam, Siam, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Spice Islands, Ceylon, India, Arabia and east Africa. It was an amazing tale – all made possible by Zheng He – a muslim eunuch was critical to the success of Ming Dynasty.

Zheng_He-map

Sources

The two best books on Zheng He and the Treasure Fleet that I found (in English) were Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 by Edward L. Dreyer and When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 by Louise Levathes. Both offers excellent, in-depth looks at our subject matter.

Zheng He on Wikipedia is worth the read, as well as their article on the Treasure Voyages.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia.

Étienne Brûlé – the original Coureur de bois

bruleOur latest episode is on Étienne Brûlé – a Frenchman who would become the most famous of the Coureur de bois – or “Runner of woods.” In the early 1600s, he would be critical in exploring lands around the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, becoming the first man to visit Lake Superior and Lake Ontario, as well as venture into modern-day Pennsylvania.

Sources

There is not a lot about Étienne Brûlé, but here is a list of some of the better online resources available:

brule-map

 

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca – Part 2

la-relacionIn the final chapter on Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the soldier and three survivors of the ill-fated Narvaez Expedition set out on a 2,500 mile trek across the America southwest and northern Mexico in a bid to return to Spanish territory. The march would be one of the greatest journeys of survival – as well as exploration – ever recorded.

Sources

The best source you can have on Cabeza de Vaca is his own writings. La Relación is available online in various forms. Texas State University has a really nice readable online version. Or you can download the book at the Internet Archive.

There are numerous quality online biographies of Cabeza de Vaca. Here are a few:

narvaez-de-vaca

Likely route of Cabeza de Vaca.

All images from Wikipedia.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca – Part 1

cabeza_de_vacaIn 1528, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca would wash up on the shores of modern-day Texas – a survivor of the ill-fated Narváez expedition. His story is really not one of exploration – but of survival – as he would spend eight years living and traveling the southwest of the United States and northern Mexico. It is an incredible journey – one of the most unusual in the history of exploration.

In Part 1 of our tale, we recount the aftermath of the destruction of the Narváez expedition, Cabeza de Vaca’s years-long struggle to survive – and thrive – in an alien environment, and ultimately his first steps to returning tp a home he had not seen for many, many years.

narvaez-de-vaca

Route of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

All images from Wikipedia.