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Taking it to the edge : did you know? What is an explorer? Definitions and interpretations

''The Men … should be habituated to the Bush, and confident in wandering about it, accustomed to and fearless of the Natives, uncomplaining under privations, and vigilant and steady in the performance of their duties …''
Charles Sturt Letter to Lord Stanley 16 March 1843 in Four letters from Charles Sturt, Sullivan's Cove 1988 p 17

The Oxford English Dictionary says explore is 'to search into or examine (a country, a place etc) by going through it: to go into or range over for the purpose of discovery'. Discover is 'to obtain sight or knowledge of (something previously unknown) for the first time; to find out, to bring into fuller knowledge'.

Benedict Allen in the Faber book of exploration (2002) wrote 'Exploration meant bringing back information from a remote place regardless of any great self-discovery', elsewhere he said 'exploration is about pushing back a frontier of knowledge… crucial to the process is the reporting back of that new information. 'To map, lay boundaries, and assess potential.'

In the Oxford book of exploration (1993) Robin Hanbury-Tenison wrote 'explorers are quite different from travellers. They are driven by a desire to discover which transcends the urge to conquer, the pursuit of trade, the curiosity of the scientist, the zeal of the missionary, or the simple search for adventure which first sent them abroad. Their achievements and, indeed, their failures have a lasting significance which may affect the destiny of mankind…the real explorers were those who for tens of thousands of years before history began searched the world for uninhabited land.'

Finally John Keay in the Royal Geographical Society History of world exploration (1991) wrote 'until recently explorers were the men who filled in the blanks on the map-or at least the blanks in our perception…'

''The success of an expedition depends primarily on the preliminary organization.''
CT Madigan Crossing the Dead Heart Adelaide, Rigby, 1974 page 13

The western concept of exploration demands documentation of exploration and discovery through charts and maps which plot mountain ranges, river systems and deserts, together with evidence of the resources of the land and sea, whether these be animal, vegetable or mineral.

Indigenous cultures also have a need to know the resources and nature of their land, and this was and still is recorded through oral history and story telling.

Further reading:

Macinnis, P. Australia's pioneers, heroes & fools: the trials, tribulations and tricks of the trade of Australia's colonial explorers Millers Point, N.S.W.  Pier 9, 2007

Elder Exploration Expedition setting out
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Explorers toast the Queen's birthday
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The expedition starts out
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