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.

Pánfilo de Narváez and the Narváez Expedition

narvaezSpanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez marched into to swamps and forests Florida in 1527 with 300 men. Narváez and his men were in search of gold. Unfortunately, they are in store for a whole lot of misery and death. The Narváez Expedition is notable in that it marked the beginning of the amazing story of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca – whose life we will cover in our next podcast.

Please note that the upcoming podcast on Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca is really an extension of the Narváez podcast. A link to that page will be added with the Cabeza de Vaca podcast has been published.

Resources

No better document for this podcast is the writings of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the expedition’s second-in-command. You can read it free online. Here is a good online version – or you can download a PDF or eReader version at archive.org.

I also want to give a nod to the folks at Wikipedia. The page that was set up detailing the Narváez Expedition is wonderful. Also, from there, you can access links to the various players in our tale.

narvaez-de-vacaThis map shows the route taken by the Narváez Expedition – in addition to the later travels of Cabeza de Vaca.

All images are from Wikipedia.

Bartolomeu Dias and the Cape of Storms

diaz_on_his_voyage_to_the_capeIn 1487, Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias (aka Bartholomew Diaz) sailed from Lisbon with orders to round the southern tip of Africa and chart a trade route to Asia. Dias would make history as he would temp the fates by rounding the Cape of Storms (today known as the Cape of Good Hope), one of the deadliest places in the world for sailing ship.

bartolomeu_dias_voyage

Mungo Park and the Exploration of the Niger River – Part 2

mungo-park-bookAfrica is not done with Mungo Park. In Par 2 of our series on Mungo park, he returns to West Africa in 1805 with a large force – nearly 40 soldiers – determined to map the Niger to its outlet – as well as find the legendary city of Timbuktu.

Sources

There is no better source than Mungo Park himself for this podcast. His book, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa is a classic. It holds up well today – and best of all – it’s free. In addition to Park’s book, many of the free versions include his journal from his second expedition – as well as notes explaining Park’s ultimate fate.

As usual, Wikipedia has a good page on Mungo Park.

mungo-park-map

The map (from Wikipedia) above shows Park’s travels, including his second one (in red), the subject of this podcast.