We are all explorers. Our desire to discover, and then share that new-found knowledge, is part of what makes us human — indeed, this has played an important part in our success as a species. Long before the first caveman slumped down beside the fire and grunted news that there were plenty of wildebeest over yonder, our ancestors had learnt the value of sending out scouts to investigate the unknown. This questing nature of ours undoubtedly helped our species spread around the globe, just as it nowadays no doubt helps the last nomadic Penan maintain their existence in the depleted forests of Borneo, and a visitor negotiate the subways of New York.

exploration= discovery, search 

explorer= traveler, voyager 

desire= wish, craving, aspiration

new-found= recently obtained, found, or achieved

indeed= actually, in fact, in reality

play a part/role= to have an effect or influence on something

species= class, type, kind, sort, group 

caveman= someone who lived in a cave many thousands of years ago

slump down= drop, fall, crash, collapse #rise

grunt= mumble, murmur, make a sound

wildebeest= a large southern african animal with a tail and curved horns

yonder= over there – used to show or explain where something or someone is

ancestor= forefather, antecedent #descendant 

send out= to make a person or a group of people or things go from one place to various other places 

scout= detective, spy

the unknown= things that you do not know or understand

quest= search, hunt, seek #find

nature= someone’s character

undoubtedly= certainly, unquestionably, undeniably, without doubt #doubtfully

globe= world, earth

doubt= uncertainty, disbelief #certainty

nomadic= if someone leads a nomadic life, they travel from place to place and do not live in any one place for very long

existence= life, presence, survival

depleted= reduced, drained, diminished

negotiate= pass, navigate, go around

subway= a path for people to walk under a road or railway

Over the years, we’ve come to think of explorers as a peculiar breed — different from the rest of us, different from those of us who are merely ‘well travelled’, even; and perhaps there is a type of person more suited to seeking out the new, a type of caveman more inclined to risk venturing out. That, however, doesn’t take away from the fact that we all have this enquiring instinct, even today; and that in all sorts of professions — whether artist, marine biologist or astronomer — borders of the unknown are being tested each day.

come to do sth= to begin to have a feeling or opinion 

peculiar= strange, weird, unusual, abnormal #normal 

breed= type, class, kind, sort

the rest of= what is left after everything or everyone else has gone, been used, dealt with, or mentioned 

merely= just, only, simply, purely

suited= suitable, appropriate, fit

seek out= to try to find someone or something, especially when this is difficult

inclined= to be likely to do something or behave in a particular way

risk= hazard, venture, take the risk of, take a chance 

venture out= to go somewhere that could be dangerous

take away from= to spoil the good effect or success that something has

enquiring= interested, curious, questioning 

instinct= nature, character, predisposition 

profession= job, career, vocation

marine= relating to the sea and the creatures that live there

astronomer= stargazer, starwatcher, astronomer,

border= edge, limit, boundary, margin

test= examine, check, assess

Thomas Hardy set some of his novels in Egdon Heath, a fictional area of uncultivated land, and used the landscape to suggest the desires and fears of his characters. He is delving into matters we all recognise because they are common to humanity. This is surely an act of exploration, and into a world as remote as the author chooses.Explorer and travel writer Peter Fleming talks of the moment when the explorer returns to the existence he has left behind with his loved ones. The traveller ‘who has for weeks or months seen himself only as a puny and irrelevant alien crawling laboriously over a country in which he has no roots and no background, suddenly encounters his other self, a relatively solid figure, with a place in the minds of certain people’.

fictional= imaginary, imagined, fantastic #real 

uncultivated= fallow, unplanted, unfarmed #cultivated 

landscape= scenery, land, site, scene

suggest= propose, recommend, put forward 

character= a person in a book, play, film etc 

delve into= explore, research, examine, look into 

humanity= humankind, people, human race 

remote= far, distant, faraway

puny= a puny person is small, thin, and weak

irrelevant= immaterial #relevant

alien= extra-terrestrial, extraterrestrial, creature from outer space, space invader

crawl over= if an insect crawls, it moves using its legs 

laboriously= arduously, strenuously, hard #easily 

root= origin, derivation, foundation

background= someone’s family, education, previous work etc

encounter= meet, come across, bump into

relatively= quite, rather, comparatively

solid= hard or firm, with a fixed shape, and not a liquid or gas

In this book about the exploration of the earth’s surface, I have confined myself to those whose travels were real and who also aimed at more than personal discovery. But that still left me with another problem: the word ‘explorer’ has become associated with a past era. We think back to a golden ageas if exploration peaked somehow in the 19th century — as if the process of discovery is now on the decline, though the truth is that we have named only one and a half million of this planet’s species, and there may be more than 10 million — and that’s not including bacteria. We have studied only 5 per cent of the species we know. We have scarcely mapped the ocean floors, and how even less about ourselves; we fully understand the workings of only 10 per cent of our brains.

surface= outside, facade, exterior

confine yourself to (doing) sth= restrict, restrain, limit, keep

leave sb with sth= if an event, accident, illness etc leaves you in a particular condition, you are in that condition because of it

associated= related, linked, connected

past= previous, earlier, preceding

era= age, period, time

golden age= period during which sth is very successful, especially in the past

as if= in a way that makes it seem that something is true or that something is happening

peak= top, climax #dip

somehow= in some way, or by some means, although you do not know how

bacteria= microorganisms, microbes, germs

scarcely= barely, hardly #fully

map= to discover or show information about something, especially about its shape or arrangement, or how it moves or works

ocean floor= the bottom of a sea or ocean

the workings of sth= the way that an organization, machine or organism operates

Here is how some of today’s ‘explorers’ define the word. Ran Fiennes, dubbed the ‘greatest living explorer’, said, ‘An explorer is someone who has done something that no human has done before — and also done something scientifically useful.’ Chris Bonington, a leading mountaineer, felt exploration was to be foundin the act of physically touching the unknown: ‘You have to have gone somewhere new.’ Then Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a campaigner on behalf of remote so-called ‘tribal’ peoples, said, ‘A traveller simply records information about some far- off world, and reports back; but an explorer changes the world.’ Wilfred Thesiger, who crossed Arabia’s Empty Quarter in 1946, and belongs to an era of unmechanised travel now lost to the rest of us, told me, ‘If I’d gone across by camel when I could have gone by car, it would have been a stunt.’ To him, exploration meant bringing back information from a remote place regardless of any great self- discovery.

define= describe, state, explain

dub= call, name, label

scientifically= in a way that relates to science, or uses the methods of science

leading= famous, outstanding, well-known 

mountaineer= hiker, climber, walker, rock climber 

in the act of doing sth=at the moment that you are doing something

campaigner= activist, supporter, promoter 

on behalf of= instead of someone, or as their representative

so-called= used to show that something or someone is usually called a particular name

tribal= ethnic, clannish

far-off= far, remote, distant

cross= traverse, go across, cross over 

unmechanised= not performed with machines or involving machines

camel= a large desert animal with a long neck and either one or two humps (=large raised parts) on its back

stunt= something that is done to attract people’s attention, especially in advertising or politics

bring back= to start to use something again that was used in the past

regardless of= irrespective of, despite, notwithstanding, no matter, in spite of, apart from #considering

self-discovery= the process of learning about yourselfand your beliefs

Each definition is slightly different — and tends to reflect the field of endeavour of each pioneer. It was the same whoever I asked: the prominent historian would say exploration was a thing of the past, the cutting-edge scientist would say it was of the present. And so on. They each set their own particular criteria; the common factor in their approach being that they all had, unlike many of us who simply enjoy travel or discovering new things, both a very definite objective from the outset and also a desire to record their findings.

definition= explanation, description, meaning 

slightly= marginally, vaguely #considerably 

reflect= reveal, indicate, signal

endeavor= attempt, effort, try

pioneer= innovator, inventor, developer, creator, discoverer

prominent= famous, well-known, important, outstanding, renowned #obscure

historian= someone who studies history, or the history of a particular thing

cutting-edge= leading-edge, front-line, pioneering, innovative, radical #old-fashioned

scientist= someone who works or is trained in science 

and so on/forth=used at the end of a list to show that you could continue it in a similar way

criteria= standards, principles, measures, norms

approach= method, tactic, attitude

definite= sure, certain, fixed #uncertain, unsure 

objective= object, purpose, aim, point, goal, intention 

from the outset= from the beginning

finding= the information that someone has discovered as a result of their study, work etc

I’d best declare my own bias. As a writer, I’m interested in the exploration of ideas. I’ve done a great many expeditions and each one was unique. I’ve lived for months alone with isolated groups of people all around the world, even two ‘uncontacted tribes’. But none of these things is of the slightest interest to anyone unless, through my books, I’ve found a new slantexplored a new idea. Why? Because the world has moved on. The time has long passed for the great continental voyages — another walk to the poles, another crossing of the Empty Quarter. We know how the land surface of our planet lies; exploration of it is now down to the details — the habits of microbes, say, or the grazing behaviour of buffalo. Aside from the deep sea and deep underground, it’s the era of specialists.However, this is to disregard the role the human mind has in conveying remote places; and this is what interests me: how a fresh interpretation, even of a well-travelled route, can give its readers new insights.

declare= state, announce, assert, say publicly 

bias= prejudice, partiality, favoritism, predisposition, preference #impartiality

expedition= voyage, excursion, trip, journey 

unique= sole, exclusive, exceptional, distinctive #common

isolated= remote, lonely, cut off

uncontacted tribes= referred to lost tribes, are communities who live, or have lived without significant contact with global civilization

slant= viewpoint, attitude, perspective

move on= progress, move ahead, go on 

continental= mainland, inland, interior, central, main land

voyage= relating to a large mass of land

pole= the most northern or most southern point on a planet, especially the earth

microbe= bug, germ, bacteria, microorganism 

graze= if an animal grazes, or if you graze it, it eats grass that is growing

aside from= besides, apart from, except for 

underground= under the earth’s surface 

specialist= expert, professional 

disregard= ignore, discount, forget

convey= communicate, send, pass on, express 

fresh= good or interesting because it has not been done, seen etc before

interpretation= clarification, understanding, explanation

route= way, road, path

insight= vision, perception, awareness