Throughout history, brave people have faced uncharted terrain to explore the corners of the world. While some have sought riches or influence or control, others had missions to expand the fields of cartography, geography, and biology through their efforts. Some of their accomplishments—and failures—are memorialized in statues and markers across the globe. In many cases, these monuments are much more accessible today.
Along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon stands a stone monument dedicated to the geologist who led the first documented expeditions through the area. Despite losing an arm during the Battle of Shiloh, John Wesley Powell helmed two exhausting excursions into the canyon, which he recorded in the book Down the Great Unknown. He was later appointed director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Overlooking the docks of Tromsø, Norway, is a statue of famed explorer Roald Amundsen, at the embarkation point of his final expedition. On June 18, 1928, Amundsen boarded a plane on a rescue mission to locate his former partner Umberto Nobile, who had gone missing while flying over the North Pole. Amundsen met the same fate. From the place where the botanist who gave the Douglas fir its name met his untimely end, to the crow’s nest from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s final Arctic voyage, here are places that, to us, capture the spirit and danger of exploration.