Early ocean explorers took on unchartered seas; overcame countless dangers and were the first to lay their eyes on the New World. Guided by celestial navigation techniques, they embarked on their perilous journeys in the hopes of conquest, trade and discovery.
Who were these individuals that were so driven, ambitious and without fear? Most importantly, what motivated them to literally go where none of their countrymen have gone?
Above Ocean Surface Exploration
One of the most notable early ocean explorers, Christopher Columbus , was responsible for general European awareness of the American continents from 1492 and the start of the Spanish colonization of the New World.
Despite Columbus’s noble efforts to propose that the he be given ships to search for a western route to the Orient, his proposals were continuously rejected.
Many reasons were provided as to why Columbus couldn’t persuade the Spanish crown. One of the reasons was a term in his proposal that stated Columbus to be named ‘Great Admiral of the Ocean’, appointed governor of the lands that he discovered and as if that wasn’t a tall order already, he also wanted one-tenth of revenue from those lands.
Columbus was motivated to spread the Christian religion but it was the Spanish crown’s motivation to gain dominance over the other European kingdoms through a profitable spice trade with Asia, that finally authorized his voyages into the New world.
Below Ocean Surface Exploration
In 1620 Cornelis Drebbel built the first steerable submarine. Drebbel used William Bourne’s design from 1578 and later went onto build a model that carried 16 passengers and with 6 oars. The contraption drew quite a crowd, including the company of King James I and thousands of Londoners.
James couldn’t resist testing out this new invention and accompanied Drebbel on a journey from Westminster to Greenwich and back, at a depth of 4 to 5 metres.
Unlike other early ocean explorers, Drebbel wasn’t motivated to explore oceans far but rather to discover the ocean’s depths.
Ocean Exploration leads to Evolution Theory
Aboard the HMS Beagle, a young Charles Darwin ferociously captured notes and theorized about his observations and findings while exploring the coasts of South America in 1831.
It was this single voyage that lasted 5 years, which catapulted Darwin into scientific success and the start of the formulation of the Evolution Theory based on natural selection.
Darwin was motivated to as he put in his own words, “Light will be thrown on the origins of man” and it was ocean exploration that led him to that discovery.
Early ocean explorers pushed the limits of what was known to mankind. Their dogged determination helped humanity make significant advances in science, commerce and cultural diversity.
Columbus, Drebbel and Darwin, all shared an understanding with another brilliant individual:
“A ship is always safe at the shore - but that is NOT what it is built for.” Albert Einstein