The Story of Geographical Discovery eBook

Joseph Jacobs
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 140 pages of information about The Story of Geographical Discovery.

NORTH POLAR REGIONS, EASTERN HALF.—­This gives the Siberian coast investigated by the Russians and Nordenskiold, as well as Nansen’s Farthest North.

CLIMBING THE NORTH POLE (prepared specially for this volume).  Giving in graphic form the names of the chief Arctic travellers and the latitude N. reached from John Davis (1587) to Nansen (1895).




How was the world discovered?  That is to say, how did a certain set of men who lived round the Mediterranean Sea, and had acquired the art of recording what each generation had learned, become successively aware of the other parts of the globe?  Every part of the earth, so far as we know, has been inhabited by man during the five or six thousand years in which Europeans have been storing up their knowledge, and all that time the inhabitants of each part, of course, were acquainted with that particular part:  the Kamtschatkans knew Kamtschatka, the Greenlanders, Greenland; the various tribes of North American Indians knew, at any rate, that part of America over which they wandered, long before Columbus, as we say, “discovered” it.

Very often these savages not only know their own country, but can express their knowledge in maps of very remarkable accuracy.  Cortes traversed over 1000 miles through Central America, guided only by a calico map of a local cacique.  An Eskimo named Kalliherey drew out, from his own knowledge of the coast between Smith Channel and Cape York, a map of it, varying only in minute details from the Admiralty chart.  A native of Tahiti, named Tupaia, drew out for Cook a map of the Pacific, extending over forty-five degrees of longitude (nearly 3000 miles), giving the relative size and position of the main islands over that huge tract of ocean.  Almost all geographical discoveries by Europeans have, in like manner, been brought about by means of guides, who necessarily knew the country which their European masters wished to “discover.”

What, therefore, we mean by the history of geographical discovery is the gradual bringing to the knowledge of the nations of civilisation surrounding the Mediterranean Sea the vast tracts of land extending in all directions from it.  There are mainly two divisions of this history—­the discovery of the Old World and that of the New, including Australia under the latter term.  Though we speak of geographical discovery, it is really the discovery of new tribes of men that we are thinking of.  It is only quite recently that men have sought for knowledge about lands, apart from the men who inhabit them.  One might almost say that the history of geographical discovery, properly so called, begins with Captain Cook, the motive of whose voyages was purely scientific curiosity.  But before his time men wanted to know one another

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The Story of Geographical Discovery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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