1. In AD 992 the explorer
Leif Eriksson set sail from the Viking settlements in Greenland,
theorizing that he could reach Canada and the United States.
2. In 1271 Marco Polo, accompanied by his father
and uncle, left Venice and headed to China; he would spend half
of his life in those lands.
3. In 1725 Admiral Vitus Bering, who was called
from his homeland of Denmark to join the fleet of the Russian
tsar Peter the Great, was appointed to chart Siberia. It took
him 16 years to cross this then unexplored region, finally reaching
the sea that now bears his name and discovering Alaska. During
his return voyage, he was shipwrecked on the Aleutian Islands.
Peter the Great died the year Bering set out on his journey, and
Bering himself never saw his homeland again. His remains, along
with those of a group of sailors who had followed him, were finally
discovered in the Aleutian Islands by a Russian-Danish expedition
4. In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson appointed
Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a route that
would link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They set out from
St. Louis and reached the Pacific coast of the United States three
years later. Lewis and Clark were the first to map the route connecting
the two oceans: the legendary Northwest Passage. Their successful
attempt to avoid circumnavigating the continent to reach the opposite
side by land is still considered North America’s most important