PBS World Explorers

Expand/Collapse PBS World Explorers


Some sailed across the Atlantic, others rocketed to the moon. Learn more about the lives and journeys of some of history's greatest explorers with our PBS World Explorers collection. 

  • Eric the Red and Leif Ericson | PBS World Explorers

    Five hundred years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, Eric the Red and his son Leif Ericson explored areas of Greenland and North America. Now regarded as two of the greatest explorers of all time, the Norwegian explorers established settlements across the Atlantic. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Marco Polo | PBS World Explorers

    While still a teenager, Venetian explorer Marco Polo set off to explore parts of Asia no European had ever seen before. Marco Polo followed in the footsteps of his uncle and father, journeying over 6000 miles from Venice while learning many new languages.

    Grades: 4-8
  • Ibn Battuta | PBS World Explorers

    Ibn Battuta is known as the greatest Muslim explorer in history. Over the course of thirty years, Battuta recorded his adventures from Africa to Southeast Asia. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Zheng He | PBS World Explorers

    Commanding a fleet of over 300 ships, it is surprising how little is known today about Chinese explorer Zheng He. Across seven major voyages Zheng He solidified Chinese dominance in trade and exploration.

    Grades: 4-8
  • John Cabot | PBS World Explorers

    Five hundred years after the viking exploration of North America, Italian explorer John Cabot became the first known European to reach its mainland. Honing his sailing skills in the Meditteranean, Cabot followed in Columbus's footsteps to explore the Atlantic in search of a route to Asia. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Vasco da Gama | PBS World Explorers

    In order to bypass the treacherous silk roads, Vasco da Gama became the first person to find a sea route from Europe to Asia's lucrative trade centers. Born in to a noble Portuguese family, da Gama was a talented navigator and ship captain. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Christopher Columbus | PBS World Explorers

    Brilliant explorer? Or violent conqueror? Almost no other explorer inspires as much controversy as Christopher Columbus. Find more about this Italian explorer's historic journey to the Caribbean in 1492. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Amerigo Vespucci | PBS World Explorers

    Amerigo Vespucci was the first person to realize that the land across the Atlantic was not Asia, but a new continent. Vespucci explored the South American coast, journeying down to the Amazon river. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Juan Ponce de León | PBS World Explorers

    Juan Ponce de Leon was famous for his quest for the fountain of youth. But is there more myth than truth to this legend? Learn more about de Leon's journeys to the Caribbean and the Americas.

    Grades: 4-8
  • Hernán Cortés | PBS World Explorers

    Now one of the most remembered conquistadors of all time, Hernán Cortés conquered vast parts of Mexico for Spain. While Cortés brought about the end of the Aztec civilization, his legacy is marred by his brutal treatment of Mexican natives. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Hernando De Soto | PBS World Explorers

    As one of Spain's conquistadors, De Soto explored South and Central America in pursuit of treasure. Known for his ruthless tactics, De Soto enslaved indigenous tribes during his travels to build his wealth and ability to explore. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Ferdinand Magellan | PBS World Explorers

    Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to reach Asia and the Indian Ocean by sailing a westward route through the Americas and across the Pacific Ocean. Magellan's groundbreaking voyage was the first circumnavigation of earth and gave the first true record of the distribution of oceans and continents.

    Grades: 4-8
  • The Pizarro Brothers | PBS World Explorers

    Ruthless and determined, the four Pizarro brothers explored and conquered much of what is now Central and South America in the name of the Spanish Crown. Led by oldest brother Francisco, the brothers overthrew one of the largest empires in the New World, the Inca Empire, brutally enslaving the native population.

    Grades: 4-8
  • Francisco Vázquez de Coronado | PBS World Explorers

    Francisco Vázquez de Coronado sought the fabled golden cities thought to be farther north of what was then New Spain. His exploration through the American Southwest turned up no golden cities, but made him the first European to see the Colorado river and the Grand Canyon. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Francis Drake | PBS World Explorers

    In the race for exploration and colonization during the 16th century, Sir Francis Drake was a famous privateer and explorer known for his raids on Spanish fleets and harbors. While regarded as a hero to England during his life, Drake's violent privateering and involvement in the slave trade makes him a controversial figure today.

    Grades: 4-8
  • Sir Walter Raleigh and John White | PBS World Explorers

    Sir Walter Raleigh and John White were the founders of the first English colony in the United States, the Roanoke Island colony. The contributions of Raleigh and White greatly expanded European knowledge of the New World. 

     

    Grades: 4-8
  • Henry Hudson | PBS World Explorers

    English explorer Henry Hudson was born at the height of the age of exploration in Europe, as navigators hunted for new routes to Asia. Hudson's multiple voyages in to the arctic in search of a Northwest passage eventually set the stage for British colonial dominance in North America. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Daniel Boone | PBS World Explorers

    Known as "The Great Pathfinder," Daniel Boone provided American settlers on the frontier with a safe route through the Appalachian Mountains. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Samuel de Champlain | PBS World Explorers

    Known as the father of New France, Samuel de Champlain explored much of what is now Canada. Champlain established the French colonies of Port Royal and Quebec City among others, and utilized the navigable waters of the Great Lakes to link the middle of North American with the trade routes of the Atlantic. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • John Smith | PBS World Explorers

    The English explorer John Smith was crucial to the exploration of and establishment of colonies within what is now the Northeastern United States. The first permanent English colony in the New World at Jamestown owes its creation to Smith, as does the mapping of the Chesapeake Bay. 

    Grades: 4-8