Media Background: Top 50 Trailblazers
The full list of Australia's 50 Greatest Explorers.
RIDING THE WAVES: OCEANS
Abel Tasman (historic)
Dutch seafarer/explorer; 'discovered' Tasmania in 1642. First European to reach Tasmania and New Zealand, and to sight the Fiji islands. His navigators mapped substantial portions of Australia, NZ and Pacific Islands.
James Cook (historic)
Explorer, navigator, cartographer; over three voyages, Cook charted vast areas of the globe. One of the first European’s to visit Eastern Australia. Discovered many sub-Antarctic Islands, circumnavigated Antarctica, explored much of north Pacific. Regarded as one of greatest-ever maritime explorer.
Joseph Banks (historic)
Cook's biologist and naturalist; introduced Europe to Australia’s flora/fauna. The Banksia was named for him. Banks advocated British settlement in NSW and colonisation of Australia, and advised the British government on all Australian matters.
Matthew Flinders (historic)
Navigator and cartographer; first to circumnavigate Australia in 1801-03, confirmed Tasmania is an island in 1798-99, produced first map to use the title Australia.
William Bligh (historic)
Sailor, navigator and cartographer; best known as the captain of the Bounty when its crew mutinied, his extremely difficult, six-week voyage in an open boat and as the failed Governor of New South Wales.
Ron & Val Taylor AM (modern)
Scuba divers, spear fishermen, environmentalists and filmmakers; pioneers of underwater filming and photography.
Jessica Watson OAM (modern)
Sailor; youngest person to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world when just 16 years of age.
Kay Cottee AO (modern)
Sailor; first female sailor to perform a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the world.
Jesse Martin OAM (modern)
Adventurer; in 1999 became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop, and unassisted
Travelled to England with Captain Arthur Phillip in 1792, the first Aboriginal to do so – along with Yemmerrawanne. He returned to Sydney three years later.
Chief of clan in NSW, four trips on European boats between 1799 and 1817 (with Phillip Parker King) circumnavigating Australia. With Flinders on HMS Investigator 1802-3.
Ron Allum (modern)
Played a key role in of some of the most daring explorations of our planet; in 1983 was a dive leader on world record exploration of Cocklebiddy Cave under Australia’s Nullarbor Plain. In 2012, awarded NSW Senior Australian of the Year in recognition of contributions in engineering, science and exploration.
TREKKING THE WILDS: JUNGLES, DESERTS AND INLAND
John McDouall Stuart (historic)
First successful exploration of Australia from South Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back again; never lost an expedition member.
Robert O’Hara Burke and William Wills (historic)
First Expedition to cross Australia from Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria; perished on the return journey.
Friedrich Ludwig Leichhardt (historic)
Explorer and naturalist; led explorations from Brisbane to Port Essington across central and northern Australia. Enduring mystery as to his ultimate disappearance.
Emily Caroline Creaghe (historic)
Explored parts of the Northern Territory in 1882-83 with her husband Harry Creaghe; later wrote an account of the hardships they experienced.
Jon Muir OAM (modern)
Adventurer, desert explorer, mountaineer; first to walk across Australia solo and unsupported. Undertook multiple Everest climbs, South and North Pole expeditions, desert walks and canoe trips.
Robyn Davidson (modern)
Solo crossing by camel from Alice Springs to Indian Ocean; wrote Tracks as a result. Has studied nomadic life in Australia, India and Tibet.
Frank Hurley George (historic)
Photographer, cinematographer, adventurer; talked himself onto Mawson's expedition to Commonwealth Bay, then with Shackleton on Endurance. War photographer during WW1, then in New Guinea and Tassie.
Ernest Morrison (historic)
Adventurer, traveller, journalist; walked from Melbourne to Adelaide in 1880. Then from Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne retracing Burke and Wills route. Explored New Guinea, walked from China to Burma, then down the length of the Yangtse River.
Tim Cope (modern)
Adventurer; born 1978. Road recumbent bicycle from Moscow to Beijing, rowed boat length of Yenisey River Siberia, followed route of Genghis Khan on horseback, 10,000 km from Mongolia to Hungary.
Andrew Harper OAM (modern)
Scientific researcher in central Australia; first person to walk across Oz with camels.
Charles Sturt (historic)
Member of Museum, inland sea explorer; his wife was first white woman to travel Murray River.
Sir Thomas Mitchell (historic)
Embarked four expeditions, collected specimens of extinct bandicoot; knighted in 1839 for contribution to the surveying of Australia.
Tim Flannery (modern)
Scientific explorer; award winning scientist, author and Australian of the Year. Contributions of international significance.
Jackey Jackey (historic)
Indigenous explorer; travelled with Kennedy on fatal trip to Cape York in 1848.
Indigenous companion of John Eyre during explorations around Great Australian Bight in 1840s.
Lady Jane Franklin (historic)
1791-1875 assisted in creation of an 'infant nation' rather than to play the passive role of governor's lady in Tasmanian colony; first woman to climb Mount Wellington and travel overland Melbourne-Sydney and Hobart-Macquarie Harbour; visited USA, Japan, and India.
William Sheridan Wall (historic)
In 1844, made a collecting expedition along Murrumbidgee under George Macleay; enduring an encounter with a bushranger, extreme weather conditions, sick and dying animals, penury, starvation, and lack of collecting equipment
Harold Fletcher (historic)
Accompanied Mawson to Antarctic; Simpson Desert Exploration from Australian Museum in 1939, Fletcher second in command to Dr Madigan - first to successfully cross the Simpson Desert.
GOING OVER AND UNDER: CAVES AND MOUNTAINS
Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth (historic)
Crossed Blue Mountains in 1813; a defining moment in European Australian exploration; assisted by Aboriginal trails.
Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki (historic)
Explorer and geologist; first European to discover and climb Mt Kosciuszko, explored and mapped much of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
Gerard Krefft (historic)
Scientific explorer; exploration of Wellington Caves and discovery of megafauna. Krefft explored the junction of Murray and Darling Rivers and consumed one of last remaining specimens of pig-footed bandicoot collected en route. Krefft was one of the first scientists to observe a bandicoot alive (before he ate it).
Greg Mortimer OAM (modern)
Geologist, mountaineer; first Australian to climb Everest, K2, Mt Vinson (Antarctica), Mt Minto, Chongstar and more. Early Pioneer of Antarctic tourism.
Alan Warild (modern)
World's greatest caver; has set depth records around the globe, has trialled new techniques and device. He is also the world's best solo caver and rescue caver.
Andrew Lock OAM (modern)
Mountaineer; first Australian to climb all 14 "eight-thousanders".
ON THIN ICE: THE POLES
Sir Douglas Mawson (historic)
Geologist, explorer, academic; first to South Magnetic Pole. Led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition to East Antarctica where his companions Ninnis and Mertz died tragic deaths but he survived.
Sydney Kirkby (modern)
Surveyor and Antarctic Explorer; credited with surveying more of Antarctica using traditional means than anyone in history. First to explore many mountain ranges in East Antarctica. All the more extraordinary as he suffered from polio as a child and had strong limp from then on.
Sir Hubert Wilkins (historic)
Polar explorer, ornithologist, pilot, soldier, geographer and photographer; first flight in Antarctica, first submarine under polar ice cap.
James Castrission and Justin Jones (modern)
First to paddle sea kayak west to east across the Tasman Sea. First unsupported walk to South Pole and back.
Tim Jarvis AM (modern)
Professional adventurer specialising in historic re-enactments including Mawson and Shackleton.
Linda Beilharz OAM (modern)
First Australian woman to walk to South and North Poles; also crossed Greenland and Patagonian ice caps.
UP AND AWAY: AVIATION AND SPACE
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (historic)
Aviator; first flight across Pacific from USA to Australia, first non-stop flight across Australia, first flight between Australia and New Zealand, new record for Australia to London flight.
Nancy Bird Walton AO (historic)
Pioneering aviator; taught by Charles Kingsford Smith, helped set up Royal Flying Doctor Service, trained women pilots during WW2.
Dick Smith AC (modern)
Aviator, adventurer, entrepreneur; first solo helicopter flight around the world, flew around the world via South and North Poles, first helicopter flight to North Pole, first balloon flight across Australia and first balloon flight 'against the wind' from New Zealand to Australia.
Andy Thomas AO (modern)
Aerospace engineer, astronaut; has flown on six missions and spent over 177 days in space. His great-great-grandfather (Frank George Waterhouse) was a naturalist with John McDoual Stuart.
Ryan Campbell (modern)
In 2013, became the youngest person to fly solo around the world. Supported by Dick Smith.
Gaby Kennard OAM (modern)
First Australian woman to circumnavigate the world by airplane. Gaby followed Amelia Earhart's route as closely as possible.
Lawrence Hargrave (historic)
Engineer, explorer, astronomer, inventor, aeronautical pioneer; the step he made in our conquest of the air was important, with far-reaching consequences.
William Bradfield AM (historic)
Bradfield discovered 18 comets, all visually, and what is most striking is that he was the sole discoverer of all 18.
Fourteen more Great Explorers whose exploits make them worthy of mention.
Sir Tannatt Edgeworth David (historic)
A household name in his lifetime; discovered the major Hunter Valley coalfield in New South Wales; lead the first expedition to reach the South Magnetic Pole as part of Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition
Bert Hinkler (historic)
Pioneer Australian aviator and inventor; he designed and built early aircraft before being the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, and first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
Don McIntyre & Margie McIntyre (modern)
Polar adventurers with more than 20 trips to the Antarctic. Don sailed an open boat 4000nm from Tonga to Timor, retracing the legendary voyage of William Bligh after the mutiny on Bounty.
Michael Dillon AM (modern)
One of Australia’s leading cinematographers and makers of adventure and expedition documentaries having won more awards in this field than any other individual worldwide.
George Bass (historic)
With Flinders, sailed around Tasmania and explored some parts of east coast.
Paul Scully-Power AM (modern)
Chosen by NASA to be a member of13th Shuttle mission to study Earth Sciences; mission started on 5 October 1984, taking the first person born in Australia into space.
George Finch (historic)
Chemist and mountaineer, in 1922 set altitude record on Everest, developed oxygen apparatus subsequently used on Everest attempts, as well as down clothing.
Sue Fear OAM (historic)
Mountaineer, outdoor guide. Climbed five of the 14 highest peaks in the world. First Australian-born woman to climb Everest by north ridge.
Sorrel Wilby (modern)
Adventurer/contemporary; road bicycled solo through Asia. Then trekked 3000 km across Tibet solo. Then trekked 6,500 km the across the Himalayas. Chair of the Australian Geographic Society.
Greg Child (modern)
Rock climber, mountaineer, author; with Greg Mortimer, first Australian to climb K2. Pioneered new routes on El Capitan, Yosemite; Trango Tower, Pakistan; Gasherbrum IV.
Geoff Wilson (modern)
Kite surfer that crossed the Torres St; dragged a boob sled across Antarctic unassisted for breast cancer.
Andrew McCauley (historic)
Australian adventurer best known for mountaineering and sea kayaking in remote parts of the world. Presumed to have died at sea while attempting to kayak 1600km across Tasman Sea in Feb 2007. McAuley climbed many peaks in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Patagonia.
John Sanders AO (modern)
Jon Sanders was the first man to circumnavigate Antarctica. First sailor to completed two consecutive solo non-stop circumnavigations.