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Transcription and Exploration

Posted By Cathy Bennett

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History of Exploration

Even the earliest travellers needed to record their thoughts and experiences as they explored, making notes, drawing what they have seen, making maps. Early exploration was on foot and horseback, or by sea. A selection of the world’s greatest historical explorers are below.

Hannibal Barca

A Punic military commander from Carthage (241-c.151 BC). Widely accepted as one of the greatest military commanders in history. One of his most famous achievements was at the start of the Second Punic war when he crossed the Alps with an army , which included elephants. He made the crossing with 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. The passage was made in three columns – Hannibal stayed with the first column, which contained treasure chest, the cavalry, with baggage and other necessities of war. Over the course of the 2 month journey, Hannibal lost 13,000 men.  [1] [2]

Marco Polo

A Venetian merchant traveller (1254-1324). Polo learned the mercantile trade from his father and uncle, with whom he traveled through Asia to China. It was an epic journey and when Polo returned, during the war between Venice and Gerona, he was imprisoned. Whilst in prison, he told the stories of his adventure to his cellmate.

Polo was not the first European to travel to China, but the first whose journey was recorded in detail in the book The Travels of Marco Polo (circa 1300).The book inspired many travellers including Christopher Columbus.  [3]

Christopher Columbus

From Genoa, Italy, Columbus went to sea as a teenager, and settled in Portugal (1451-1506). He is widely known as the man who discovered America, but he was actually looking for a westward sea passage to the Orient when he reached America in 1492.

Columbus tried to gain royal patronage and failed at the Portuguese, French and English courts. He received patronage from the King  and Queen of Spain. He set sail with three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Niña and after ten weeks at sea, land was sighted. They landed on what is now the Bahamas, and Columbus, believing he had reached the New Indies, called the natives ‘Indians’. His unintentional discovery changed world history. [4]

Ferdinand Magellan

An explorer from Portugal (1480–1521). Magellan lead the Castillian expedition to the East Indies, which resulted in the first circumnavigation of the world. He was selected to lead the expedition to the Spice Islands by King Charles 1 of Spain. The island was reached, however Magellan died during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines, so did not complete the journey.

Magellan has had several things named after him: the Magellanic penguin (he was the first European to note it), the Strait of Magellan, and because of his navigation skills, objects associated with stars – Magellanic clouds, twin lunar craters (Magelhaens-A and Magelhaens-B) and the Martian crater of Magelhaens.  [5]

Francis Drake

English vice admiral of the Elizabethan era (1540-1596). Drake carried out a second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, from 1577 to 1580.Whilst he was seen as a hero to the English, he was seen as a pirate to the Spaniards. When he reached the West coast of America, he started the era of piracy. King Phillip II of Spain called him El Draque and purported offered a reward of 20,000 ducats – the equivalent of roughly £4 million! [6]

Ernest Shackleton

Anglo-Irish explorer, who lead the Endurance expedition to the Antarctic (1874-1922).  He made four expeditions to the Antarctic  In 1901, Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott and one other got closer to the Pole than anyone had come before.

In 1908, Shackleton returned to as the leader of his own expedition. His team climbed Mount Erebus, made many important scientific discoveries and set a record by coming even closer to the South Pole than before.

In 1914, Shackleton returned with the ship ‘Endurance’, planning to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. Early in 1915, ‘Endurance’ became trapped in the ice, and ten months later sank. Shackleton’s crew had already abandoned the ship to live on the floating ice. In April 1916, they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching Elephant Island.

“Taking five crew members, Shackleton went to find help. In a small boat, the six men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean to reach South Georgia and then trekked across the island to a whaling station.”

The remaining men from the ‘Endurance’ were rescued in August 1916. Not one member of the expedition died. ‘South’, Shackleton’s account of the ‘Endurance’ expedition, was published in 1919.”.

Shackleton’s fourth expedition aimed to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent but Shackleton died of a heart attack off South Georgia. [7]


Untrodden Paths

There are still parts of our world that are yet to be fully explored. We are still finding undiscovered tribes deep in the Amazon, as per the Channel 4 documentary earlier this year, first aired on 23rd February 2016 – First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon

The tribe featured in this programme has been forced to venture out of the depths of their territory by invading natives from across the border. This is a story as old as time, where exploration has been used as a name for invasion and conquering.

There are many other untrodden and unexplored areas of the world – some due to height or depth, some due to climate or conditions. The examples below are just a variety, in no particular order, of as yet fully explored places. [8]


Antarctica is the coldest place on the Earth’s surface, where the temperature can vary wildly between -10°C and -30°C. The lowest temperature ever recorded there is -89°C.



The ice sheets of Antarctica are up to 2 miles thick. Along with heavy snowfall, crevasses, glaciers and up to 200 mph winds, it’s no wonder mankind has yet to fully explore this beautiful and dangerous continent. [8]

Deep Caves

Since Jules Verne wrote “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” in 1864, in which German professor Otto Lidenbrock believes there are volcanic tubes going toward the centre of the Earth, our imaginations have been captured by exactly what is under our feet.

In the early days of man, caves provided shelter – a home – and have provided records of what life was like through cave drawings.

Three Counties Cave System

Three Counties Cave System [12]

The longest cave system in the UK is to the Three Counties System, found in the Yorkshire Dales. [9] The system has 53.9 miles of passageways.

As it stands now, the deepest cave in the world is the Krubera-Voronja Cave, found in Georgia. It has so far been explored 2 kilometers down, which is a world record. Other caves might extend further but have yet to be fully explored.

Unbearable weather conditions, the sharp rocks, scalding water and slippery conditions can make it difficult for scientists to explore further. Some of the underwater caves in the world are even uninhabited by marine life because of the most deadly of conditions for survival – including that of mankind.


Because of its very nature – hot, dry, windy and sand as far as the eye can see – exploration of the world’s deserts has been difficult. [10] Deserts are arid, and receive very little to no rain. The conditions make it difficult for plant and animal life to exist. Because of the lack of root systems from plants, denudation occurs – meaning the sand is always shifting.

Rub' al Khali - The Empty Quarter

The Rub’ al Khali at Night [13]

The Rub’ al Khali – which means Empty Quarter – covers 650,000 square miles and encompasses parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UEA and Yemen. It is part of the larger Arabian Desert.

Antarctica – a cold desert – is the largest desert in the world. The Sahara desert is the hottest desert in the world. There is also extreme temperature fluctuations take place in deserts, days are very hot and nights becomes very cold. [8]


Exploring the Depths

“Deep-sea exploration is the investigation of physical, chemical, and biological conditions on the sea bed, for scientific or commercial purposes.” [10]

Whilst exploration on land and on the sea began early in the history of man, looking below the waves was a little more difficult. Instruments and equipment have been used historically to measure, map, and observe the ocean’s depths.

Under the Sea

Under the Sea

A sounding weight was one of the first instruments used to examine the seafloor, which consisted of a lead weight, with a hollow bottom attached to a line. Ancient Viking sailors recorded sea depth and sampled seafloor sediments with this instrument. The depth was measured in fathoms.

The first submarine was created by Dutch architect, Cornelius Drebbel. His underwater boat consisted ofa wooden frame wrapped in animal skin. To move the boat through the water, oars were stuck out of the sides through flaps in the animal skin (but were tightly sealed). It  managed depths of up to 4.6 meters. Drebbel tested his submarine in the Thames River in England somewhen between 1620 and 1624.

Until the mid-1800s, the waterydeeps remained a mystery. Scientists and artists alike imagined the deep sea as a lifeless soup of placid water.  Jules Verne portrayed the deep ocean as contained in a bowl of static rock in his “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea”.

“In the latter part of the 1800s, new thoughts and theories, such as the theory of evolution and geological time, created scientific curiosity.”

The Royal Society of England began an ambitious oceanographic mission to expand a scarce collection of existing marine data that included:

  • Charles Darwin’s observations during the voyage of the HMS Beagle (1831–1836)
  • a bathymetric chart created by U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Maury to aid installation of the first trans-continent telegraph cables in 1858
  • a few examples of deep marine creatures

Milestones of Deep-Sea Exploration

1521 – Ferdinand Magellan tried to measure the depth of the Pacific ocean with a 2400 ft weighted line, but did not find bottom

1818 – The British researcher Sir John Ross was the first to find that the deep sea is inhabited by life when catching jellyfish and worms in about 2000 m (6550 ft) depth with a special device

1843 – Nevertheless, Edward Forbes claimed that diversity of life in the deep sea is little and decreases with increasing depth. He stated that there could be no life in waters deeper than 550 m (1800 ft), the so-called Abyssus Theory

1850 – Near the Lofoten, Michael Sars found a rich deep sea fauna in a depth of 800 m (2600 ft) thereby refuting the Abyssus Theory

1872–1876 – The first systematic deep sea exploration was conducted by the Challenger Expedition on board the ship HMS Challenger led by Charles Wyville Thomson. This expedition revealed that the deep sea harbours a diverse, specialized biota

1890–1898 – First Austrian-Hungarian deep sea expedition on board the ship SMS Pola led by Franz Steindachner in the eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea

1898–1899 – First German deep sea expedition on board the ship Valdivia led by Carl Chun; found many new species from depths greater than 4000 m (13000 ft) in the southern Atlantic Ocean

1930 – William Beebe and Otis Barton are the first humans to reach the Deep Sea when diving in the so-called Bathysphere, made from steel. They reach a depth of 435 m (1430 ft), where they observed jellyfish and shrimp

1934 – The Bathysphere reached a depth of 923 m (3028 ft)

1948 – Otis Barton set out for a new record reaching a depth of 1370 m (4495 ft)

1960 – Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, descending to a depth of 10,740 m (35236 ft) in their deep sea vessel Trieste, where they observed fish and other deep sea organisms

2012 – The vessel Deepsea Challenger, piloted by James Cameron, completes the second manned voyage and first solo mission to the bottom of the Challenger Deep [10]

Space Exploration

According to Wikipedia, space exploration is the ongoing discovery and exploration of celestial structures in outer space by means of continuously evolving and growing space technology.

While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic probes and human spaceflight. [11]

Firsts in Space Exploration

The first successful orbital launch was of the Soviet unmanned Sputnik 1(“Satellite 1”) mission on 4 October 1957

The first successful human spaceflight was Vostok 1 (“East 1”), carrying 27-year-old Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961

The U.S. first launched a person into space within a month of Vostok 1 with Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight in Mercury-Redstone 3

Orbital flight was achieved by the United States when John Glenn’s Mercury-Atlas 6 orbited Earth on 20 February 1962

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, orbited Earth 48 times aboard Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963

The first artificial object to reach another celestial body was Luna 2 in 1959

“The first manned landing on another celestial body was performed by Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969.”

  • The first successful interplanetary flyby was the 1962 Mariner 2 flyby of Venus (closest approach 34,773 kilometers) [11]


Transcription and Exploration

There are plenty of reasons for modern day travellers and explorers to use transcription services, whether like Marco Polo, you are recording your adventures for a book or like, Ernest Shackleton, you are noting down your thoughts and experiences for posterity.

Fingertips Typing Services can meet all of your transcription needs.

Written by: Debbie Rowe, Transcriber for Fingertips Typing Services.

Visit Fingertips Typing Services.


[13] By Javierblas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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