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50 votes
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Why could Phoenicians sail past Cape Bojador but later Europeans could not until 1434?

Everyone could sail past Cape Bojador. The actual problem is getting back home. Whether Hanno really went as much south as maximalist interpretations allege is really irrelevant to some extent, as the ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
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46 votes
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Did Shackleton's crew all "miss out" on WW1?

Following the link from Steve Bird, one finds the biographies of 28 expedition members. In Timothy McCarthy's biography: On returning to England after the expedition, McCarthy joined the Royal Navy ...
Jon Custer's user avatar
  • 2,665
36 votes

Why didn't Romans conquer/explore the African Atlantic Coast?

Because the Sahara desert goes all the way to the Atlantic coast. The Romans were not great seafarers and required the support of coastal towns to cover long distances. The Western Sahara represents a ...
Schwern's user avatar
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28 votes

When the Portuguese began the exploration of the West African Coast, did they believe the Indian Ocean was an enclosed sea?

What a wonderful question! Dom Henrique is one of the chief characters of this story, and that means we need to explore him more than the general Portuguese knowledge. These explorations as a whole ...
gktscrk's user avatar
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21 votes

Did anyone in Europe predict the existence of the Americas?

Europeans, perhaps not, someone in the old world, yes. Al-Biruni (973–1050) lived in Khwarezm (modern Uzbekistan). Among other works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, mineralogy, history and ...
Kostya_I's user avatar
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20 votes

Is there evidence of ancient Chinese exploration of Australia?

Is there evidence of Chinese exploration of Australia (before European contact)? There is no tangible evidence that Chinese explorers (or traders or any other Chinese for that matter) did land in ...
0range's user avatar
  • 2,706
17 votes

Why could Phoenicians sail past Cape Bojador but later Europeans could not until 1434?

Cape Bojador remained quite dangerous well into modern times: This is also believed to be the site where Captain James Riley and the crew of the U.S. brig Commerce, sailing at the time from Gibraltar ...
15 votes

Why didn't Romans conquer/explore the African Atlantic Coast?

The Romans for the most part didn't expand because there was nice productive land they'd like to colonize. They expanded for political reasons. For example, North West Africa was originally part of ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
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15 votes
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Are there written historical records of ships possibly affected by underwater volcanic activity?

A quick search, focusing on books and 19th century, yields the 1866 book On Steam, as the Motive Power in Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and on Cavities in the Earth's Crust, which has a section ...
justCal's user avatar
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14 votes
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To what extent were Polynesians in contact with one-another before European contact?

"Was it a continuous and extensive trade network with political interactions like in the ancient Mediterranean?" No. Unlike the Mediterranean, trade is much more marginal in Polynesia. The problem is ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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12 votes

When was the first confirmed circumnavigation of Africa?

The Egyptian/Phoenician circumnavigation of Africa you refer to is recorded by Herodotus: For Libya shows clearly that it is encompassed by sea, save only where it borders on Asia; and this was ...
Spencer's user avatar
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11 votes
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When did Europeans make their first well-attested visit to mainland Alaska?

Although the Spanish had claimed all the coast from Mexico to the Bering Straits, it was Russians who were the first Europeans to actively explore and trade around the Alaskan mainland and nearby ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
11 votes

Did the Inca Empire know about the Polynesians, or vice versa?

Thor Heyerdahl proved it was possible with the Kon-tiki raft to sail from South America to Polynesia. Later he did a similar experiment to see if Egyptians could have crossed the Atlantic with boats ...
Jos's user avatar
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10 votes

When & where were three masted ships invented?

Understanding this development first requires a discussion of various sailing rigs. Further, to understand the consequences of various sail plan decisions, one must need understand the points of sail, ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
9 votes

Why was the spice trade so profitable in the 15th century?

Spices were what we would nowadays call mass luxuries. These are luxury goods that the masses can afford in small quantities. They are desired because they are out of the ordinary, and offer a "change ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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8 votes

Why didn't Romans conquer/explore the African Atlantic Coast?

Because their ships weren't up to very long sea voyages, particularly if they didn't know where they were going. The coast of northwest Africa is dangerous. The Portuguese called part of it the Cabo ...
Ne Mo's user avatar
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8 votes

What did Vikings wear in cold wet conditions at sea?

Jesse Byock in "Viking Age Iceland" reports "a type of rough woolen cloak (vararfeldr) that provided protection from the rain". A higher grade of the same wool was impregnated with animal fat and used ...
Aaron Brick's user avatar
  • 27.6k
8 votes

What clergy went on the second Bering expedition?

Peter Laurisden mentions "seven priests" among the first detachment that left with Bering from St. Petersberg in 1733. On the same page he also describes a "list of names of those engaged", but I am ...
Brian Z's user avatar
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8 votes
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What country has the shortest history of human habitation?

Wikipedia has an article called List of countries and islands by first human settlement. The latest by continuous habitation is Crozet Islands, which was discovered in 1772 but was only intermittently ...
congusbongus's user avatar
  • 14.5k
8 votes

Did the Inca Empire know about the Polynesians, or vice versa?

This article by Paul Wallin in Nature, July 2020, explains a recent paper by Ioannidis et al. Their genetic study makes the case that South Americans did sail to the Marquesas Islands in the late 12th ...
Evargalo's user avatar
  • 5,873
8 votes
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Travel route from UK to Boma (Congo territory) in the 1880s

I've not found an English travel journal yet, but Captain Trivier took about seven weeks from France in 1887. https://books.google.com/books?id=kN4_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA6#v=onepage&q&f=false ...
frankinsensical's user avatar
8 votes

Did the Inca Empire know about the Polynesians, or vice versa?

This is unproven. There are several major claims of possible prehistoric contact between Polynesians and the Americas. The Polynesian culture was the more maritime one. It reached as far as Easter ...
Aaron Brick's user avatar
  • 27.6k
8 votes

When the Portuguese began the exploration of the West African Coast, did they believe the Indian Ocean was an enclosed sea?

gktscrk answers the question directly but, although it is true that there were legends and fears, and simple minded sailors, it is absolutely false that the elite did not expect to find anything ...
Luiz's user avatar
  • 4,458
7 votes

What were the names of Amerigo Vespucci's ships?

We don't know Very little is known about Vespucci's deeds in the continent that was going to be named after him. The only sources of information we have is a series of letters, some of them highly ...
Rekesoft's user avatar
  • 577
7 votes
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Did 15th century Europeans not know about south-east Asia?

Europeans knew about China, India, and South-East Asia. In fact, at the time, the Indies referred collectively both to what we would call the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. As can be seen in ...
serencog's user avatar
  • 194
6 votes
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What clergy went on the second Bering expedition?

Here's a link to an article in Russian that explores the question of which priests were attached to Bering's expedition. According to it, one of the priests was a Lutheran pastor (excuse me if I get ...
Danila Smirnov's user avatar
6 votes

Why was the spice trade so profitable in the 15th century?

I think previous answers miss the most important reason why spices were such a valuable good, and so expensive in Europe (or China, btw). The main point is that spices were mostly consumed not for ...
Evargalo's user avatar
  • 5,873
6 votes
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Where did the term "Indies" come from?

The geographical ideas of the middle ages which were just ending at the start of age of exploration included the idea of the Three Indias. The three Indias included the Greater India which started at ...
MAGolding's user avatar
  • 19.3k
5 votes

Why didn't the Franklin expedition seek assistance from the Inuit?

It seems likely lead poisoning was a factor (if not the definitive factor) in why Franklin's men did not approach the Inuit. Over the course of months, Franklin and his men were poisoned either by ...
N Smith's user avatar
  • 51
5 votes

To what extent were Polynesians in contact with one-another before European contact?

There was contact, but trade wasn't on their mind. A few factors to consider: The land is incredibly fertile. Fish are simple to gather, the land is lush and full of ready food sources, and there ...
Twelfth's user avatar
  • 2,712

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