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10 Amazing Explorers You've Never Heard Of

Mungo Park

Africa was a mystery to 18th Century Europeans, and the British in particular were dying of curiosity literally. Joseph Banks, himself a legendary voyager, had sent many able-bodied men into the heart of Africa to investigate the continent, but none had ever returned. That is, until Banks came upon the unassuming Scottish doctor Mungo Park. Park was desperate to explore continental Africa despite the harrowing track record of his predecessors, so Banks funded his expedition in 1795. He traveled deep into Western Africa along the Niger River, crossing Mali and Senegal despite frequently being imprisoned and robbed by local tribes. He had been assumed dead in Britain by the time he returned home and wrote his popular account of the trip Travels in the Interior of Africa (1799). But his wanderlust did not stay dormant for long, and he returned to Africa for a second voyage in 1805. Shielding himself from a local tribe's attack, he jumped ship and drowned in the Niger River he so loved. In a tragic epilogue, Park's son Thomas set out to look for his father and also died alongside the banks of the Niger, of fever.

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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