History of American Exploration from 1900 to 1975

About the history of American exploration from 1900 to 1975 including explorations of Theodore Roosevelt and Roald Amundsen.


1903-1906 When Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) was a boy in Norway, he slept with his window open in the freezing cold to prepare himself for his future explorations. He began to achieve his dream when, with a crew of six men, he sneaked the 47-ton sloop Gjoa?? Out of Christiania (now Oslo) in the rain at midnight to escape arrest by one of his creditors, and sailed off to the northeast coast of North America to navigate the Northwest Passage. First, however, he put in two years at King William Island completing the scientific part of his mission--to locate the position of the north magnetic pole. In August, 1905, he began the historic journey from Baffin Bay through Bering Strait to Nome, Alaska. Of the last leg, he wrote: "It seemed the old Gj??a knew she had reached a critical moment. She had to tackle two large masses of ice that barred her way . . . and now she charged again into them to force them asunder and slip through. The lads attacked the ice on both sides with boat hooks . . . . The ice yielded a fraction of an inch at a time, but at last it gave way. A wild shout of triumph broke forth as the vessel slipped through." At the end of the trip, the vessel again stuck in ice, so Amundsen traveled 500 mi. by dogsled over a 9,000-ft mountain range to reach the nearest telegraph office. There, on Dec. 5, 1905, he wired news of his accomplishment to the world. Once home, he made enough by lecturing to pay off his creditors.

1911 "Then I rounded a knoll and almost staggered at the sight I faced. Tier upon tier of Inca terraces rose like a giant flight of stairs." So wrote American archaeologist Hiram Bingham (1875-1956) of his dazzling discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu, 2,000 ft. above the Urubamba Valley in the Andes of eastern Peru, whose overhanging ledges had hidden it from Spanish conquistadores.

1914 On a two-month trip, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), his son Kermit, head of Brazilian Indian Affairs Candido Rondon, naturalist George K. Cherrie, and a crew of army men and native paddlers explored and mapped 625 mi. of the Rio Duvido (River of Doubt) in the Brazilian highlands on the edge of Mato Grosso. Besieged by insects, they nearly encountered hostile natives (who killed their dog), had to lower their dugouts down a 35-ft. waterfall, and faced accident (Kermit almost lost his life in a dugout accident in the rapids which killed one of the natives) and illness (Roosevelt almost died of an infected leg).

1975 to the Present Analyzing a 1975 NASA satellite photograph of the Pantiacolla region of southeastern Peru, Peruvian archaeologist Rodolfo Bragagnini spotted 10 mysterious black dots, in two rows, regular as dots on a domino. In actuality, each dot is only a little smaller than the Great Pyramid in Egypt. As a boy, Bragagnini had heard from Machiguenga Indians of a fabulous fortress in that region, but no one had yet explored the area to search for it. Earlier, the Machiguenga had stoned three explorers to death. Photographs taken from planes have not settled the question of whether the dots represent man-made or geological formations.

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