The discovery of America is usually associated to one date and one name: 1492 and Christopher Columbus. This ignores the fact that 500 years before the Spanish navigators touched land with their caravels, a handful of hardy Scandinavian sailors crossed the same ocean in their streamlined knorrs.
Was Genghis Khan really a barbarian risen out of the Asian steppe to bring terror and death onto Christendom, the direct successor of Attila the "wrath of God"? Europe certainly lived in holy fear of the mongol horsemen, for these nomads were the antithesis and the enemies of the "civilized" farming societies that populated the fertile plains of the West at that time.
1325 - Ibn Battuta, a young Maroccan, leaves his home town Tanger to go, as all good Muslim should, on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Little does he know that he is embarking on an extraordinary odyssey, perhaps the greatest journey of all times.
We are at the end of the XVth century. Spain and Portugal both seek the maritime path to India and the fabled spice islands. Nutmeg, pepper, clover: these are products worth their weight in gold ! When King Juan II of Portugal gives Vasco de Gama commandment of four ships to reach India by circum- navigating Africa, he knows that this young captain has the talent to succeed.
In 1518, Captain Fernando de Magellan and his friend the astronomer Rui Faliero are at the court of the king of Spain to present young Charles the Fifth with an astonishing project. The aim is to join the spice islands by heading due west and crossing the Atlantic, whereas since Vasco de Gama's trip in 1488, the Portugese sail to India via Africa, therefore heading south.
The year is 1528 and America is as of yet an unexplored continent. Five caravels appear off the cost of Florida, from which 600 men disembark under the orders of the conquistador Panfilo de Navaez. It is the golden age of the conquistadors, who persue their dreams of Eldorado at the expense of the Indian tribes they encounter.
In 1764, the Frenchman Bougainville, searching for the fabled "terra australis incognita", stumbles upon Tahiti, but fails to find the elusive southern continent that all maritime explorers are so eager to discover.
Scientist and philosopher, humanist, founding father of ethnology and anthropology: impossible to describe in one sentence the vast palette of talents which belonged to Alexander von Humboldt, one of the most brilliant figures of enlightenment!
In all times, the poles have drawn men to them. Axis of the Earth, magnetic indicators, they remain protected from human intrusion by their coat of ice. Towards the end of the 18th century, James Cook approaches both poles without touching land. In the 19th, several scientific expeditions attempt reaching the North Pole, more accurately charted and attainable than it's Antarctic counterpart.
As the 20th century begins, we find that the oceans, continents, tropical rainforests and polar regions of the globe have all seen the arrival of man... And quite sensibly, our children ask Maestro : "We have been to the North, to the South, to the West and the East. So, what is left ? " And our old wise man looks up to the skies.