Exploration has been a major component of our history. Through it mankind discovered new lands, new food products, new animals, new wonders of nature. We know what we got out of it, but why did we explore in the first place? What caused mankind to venture out and seek the unknown?
The bottom line of exploration is downright curiosity. Man needs to know what is beyond the horizon. He cannot stand not to know what is past the mountain peaks. He has got to find out.
Many times in our history the curiosity was there but the drive was absent. It took other catalysts to get mankind to venture out. Many times it was over crowding of the land. Too many people in one area causes disease, war, and discomfort. Man went out to find new land to live and get a little breathing room.
Sometimes exploration began as a political arm. If more territory could be found, more resources, a new route, just anything that could give one faction an arm up, men would go out and risk their lives to find it. If gold could be found in the New World to fund the Spanish endeavors to conquer Europe, then the explorers answered the call and went forth. If a new route could be found to the Far East to obtain spices, men went forth not knowing what lay before them.
Much of the exploration of the New World was for land, gold, and even fur. As settlers arrived and got familiar with the resources of the new land, they ventured further and further out to find more and more of it.
Fur was one of the big reasons that exploration continued in North America. As the demand in Europe increased for the soft pelts, trappers moved deep into the wilderness to find them. They met new tribes, found new rivers, encountered undiscovered mountains, and began many of the major cities of today. All of that over the desire to wear a nice warm beaver stole in the bitter European winters.
Exploration of our world is based on manís curiosity, but from our study of history it usually took greed, persecution, or politics to send men out into the unknown. Discovery came about from needing more and more whether it was land, gold, or power.
Today we try to either paint the explorers as totally evil or set them up on a pedestal. The reality is that they were trying to survive in their own world. That meant moving out and finding new lands. That meant spreading out over mountains and rivers and encountering new people. Exploration was not intended to destroy. It was intended to meet the need of that moment.