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Explorers led the way from France

Following the epic adventures of Jacques Cartier, who, in 1534, was the first to explore the Gulf of St Lawrence

1 April 2011

MODERN-day heroes turn to the lesser-known parts of the globe for their voyages of exploration: Christian Clot was the first to study the mountains of Tierra del Fuego; Régis Belleville walked 800km across the Sahara; and Maud Fontenoy became the first woman to row the Atlantic from west to east.

They are following the epic adventures of Jacques Cartier, who, in 1534, was the first to explore the Gulf of St Lawrence, and chart the St Lawrence river. He claimed Canada for France.

Explorer, geographer and cartographer Samuel de Champlain led the 1608 expedition that discovered Quebec, which became the first permanent French colony in North America.

Antoine de La Mothe-Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, the beginnings of modern Detroit, in 1701.

Jacques Marquette discovered the Mississippi in 1673 with Canadian explorer Louis Joliet, and in 1677 priest Louis Hennepin discovered Niagara Falls.

Soon there was an entire French colony running down North America from the St Lawrence to Louisiana.

On the world’s oceans, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville set up the first French colony in the Falkland Islands in 1763 and in 1766 became the first Frenchman to travel round the world.

In 1786, Jean-François de Galaup became the first European to land on Hawaii’s Maui Island (Captain James Cook discovered Maui in 1778, but did not land).

Bougainville and Galaup were forerunners of more modern explorers such as Jacques Cousteau, who explored hitherto impossible depths of the ocean.

He co-invented the aqualung in 1943 that made it possible, then invented underwater archaeology.

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