Exploration is the act of searching or traveling a terrain for the purpose of discovery, e.g. of unknown people, including space (space exploration), for oil, gas, coal, ores, caves, water (Mineral exploration, or prospecting), or information.
Although exploration has existed as long as human beings, its peak is seen as being during the Age of Discovery when European navigators traveled around the world discovering new lands and cultures.
According to recent gazettes, Antarctica is undergoing a new Age of Discovery. The broadsheets don’t say so outright, but all signs declare that we are in an exploration age worthy of Captain Cook or Magellan.
For example, Todd Carmichael, on his website, declares that he recently became “the first American to ever solo trek across Antarctica to the South Pole”1, doing so in World Record time2. Though a trek to the South Pole is not precisely “across” Antarctica, as in from one coast to the other, but rather “across” as in “Joe walked across the carpet to look at himself in the mirror,” we still understand the Explorer’s meaning: he has done something new, something original, something unique.3
Such uniqueness is a formidable compulsion, as over the years it has driven more than a hundred Explorers to accomplish almost the same thing. Here we must realize that “almost” is the operative word, for if every Explorer did “exactly” the same thing, the activity might properly be in danger of becoming less “Exploration” than “Trophy Hunting”, such as in this race of five teams (including Team QinetiQ, Team Danske Bank, and the South Pole Flag team, which includes a blind man) to determine who can fastest Explore their way to the Pole. Such competition is why, to be a truly modern Explorer, one must carefully attend to that level of Exploring one is shooting for. After all, one should not compare oneself to being a “classic” Explorer like James Cook battling strange natives and mutinous crews when one is actually a “modern” Explorer like Bruce Jenner, battling one’s opponents in the 100-yard dash.
The varieties of Exploration from classic to modern are outlined below:
1) Go where no one has gone before.
This is the primary meaning of geographical exploration. Other forms of exploration may involve peyote, the stock market, or fondling genitals. But since that meaning of “exploration” opens too many doors, we will hereby constrain ourselves to the geographical idea of exploration.
2) Do something in the place no one has gone before.
In the event that everywhere has been gone to, we must do something useful there. For example, instead of just going somewhere and planting a flag, we can make a map of the place, claim the area for king and country, or wage genocide (if applicable).
3) Be someone unique who does something in the place that no one has gone before.
In the event that everywhere has been gone to, claimed, or the hungry map smeared with blood, we may now turn our attention to accomplishments beyond the crude and basic. This is where modern Exploration begins. In this stage of Exploration, national or personal attributes may be conscripted for the cause, as well as gender or other handicaps. For example, if one wishes to ski to the South Pole (which has already been skied to along a route that has already been mapped), then one must seize a place amongst the Great Explorers by qualifying one’s expedition. Thus, though hundreds of people have traversed to the South Pole, you may always find a fantastic way to do so first.
Take this test to determine if you are the first to traverse to the South Pole:
a) Has anyone from your country done it before? If not, you’re the first.
b) Has anyone of your gender from your country done it before? If not, you’re the first.
c) Has anyone older or younger of your gender from your country done it before?
d) Has another Russian orthodox priest and a cosmonaut done it before?
e) Has anyone who’s not a father and son team, with the youngest being 18, specifically from the UK, done it before?
f) Then, right on top of that, have you been the fastest “unsupported” UK team to reach the Pole? Which brings up the final and ultimate form of exploration. Once all the basic achievements have been baked, boiled, and fried, now it is appropriate to:
4) Be the fastest unique one to do something in the place no one has gone before.
In this degree of Exploration, we not only expect an Explorer to beat others to the punch, but to do so in all haste. Once every possible national, gender, age, or molecular difference between one human being and the next has been exploited, world records should be established for fastest time.
For example, presently the world record for the fastest land crossing to the South Pole is claimed by a UK group who, in an effort to increase “awareness of global warming” and “highlight the impact of climate change on the Antarctic”, decided to drive to the South Pole in a van.
Not only have they “smashed the world record”, but they smashed it “unassisted”. And before you think they are elite snobs, they rebut: “This was a team of ordinary men with regular day jobs. In the time-frame that others might use to go on holiday, they chose to drive where no man has driven before, and take enormous risks to achieve their goals.”
In summary, people able to scrap their way to the South Pole now include young and old, men and women, blind and sighted, priests, cosmonauts, businessmen, and regular Joes who just want to drive to Pole then get back to their day jobs after the holidays.
Those old, sepia-toned explorers used all sorts of tricks, while new Explorers are “unassisted”. Those old explorers took a long time, and often died, while new Explorers break records and fly out on planes after a Galley meal at South Pole Station.
It is clear we are progressing swiftly. The quality of Exploration is getting better every day, and we can now expect new World Records every year from hordes of Little Magellans.
- Todd Carmichael: I broke both skis and I had another 700 miles to go. So I had a very difficult decision to make, which is either stop the expedition, or give it a try. A lot of people at Base Camp didn’t think it was possible to actually walk on ski boots 700 miles to the South Pole.
Talk Show Host: That sounds like another World Record there. No one’s ever walked.
TC: No one’s ever walked, no.↩
- Until someone else beat the record a month later: Canadians smash world record for speed of trek to South Pole ↩
- A PR wonk capitalizes on the moment to add a layer of corporate achievement: “I think Todd might have accomplished another world first by being the first person in history to ever market a blog from the South Pole.” ↩