The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success

Overview

Unlock your inner explorer in this riveting account of one of history’s greatest adventures—and a study of the seven character traits all great explorers share.

In 1856, two intrepid adventurers, Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke, set off to unravel a geographical unknown: the location of the Nile River’s source. They traveled deep into a forbidding and uncharted African wilderness together before arriving at two different solutions to the mystery and parting ways as...

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The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success

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Overview

Unlock your inner explorer in this riveting account of one of history’s greatest adventures—and a study of the seven character traits all great explorers share.

In 1856, two intrepid adventurers, Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke, set off to unravel a geographical unknown: the location of the Nile River’s source. They traveled deep into a forbidding and uncharted African wilderness together before arriving at two different solutions to the mystery and parting ways as sworn enemies. The feud became an international sensation upon their return to England, and a public debate was scheduled to decide whose theory was correct. What followed was a massive spectacle with an outcome no one could have ever foreseen.

In The Explorers, New York Times bestselling author Martin Dugard tells the rich saga of the Burton and Speke expedition. To better understand their motivations and ultimate success, Dugard guides readers through the seven vital traits that Burton and Speke, as well as history’s most legendary explorers, called upon to see their impossible journeys through to the end: curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline, and perseverance. In doing so, Dugard demonstrates that we are all explorers and that these traits have a most practical application in everyday life.

Within some of us beats the heart of a mountain climber; within others, that of a budding entrepreneur. Just like the explorers, life will present us with great unknowns: the diagnosis of cancer, the call to help a troubled friend, the need to move forward after great tragedy. As professionals we will attempt to chart paths that have never been mapped. And however modest our lives may appear on the outside, there will be times requiring the same deep moral decisions and complex tactical judgments explorers faced in strange lands, thousands of miles from home.

The Explorers is a book about courage and survival. It is also a book about stepping into the darkness with confidence and grace, aware on some profound level—as were Burton and Speke—that the Promised Land we are searching for is not some lost corner of the world, but a place within ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

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In 1856, already famous adventurer Richard Burton and the young John Hanning Speke ventured deep into the wilderness of the African Great Lakes, searching for the source of the Nile. The Royal Geographical Society expedition proved to be a disaster in more ways than one: Both explorers were taken down by disease; Speke by temporary blindness; most of their surveying equipment was stolen or ruined; and they were ultimately unable to achieve their mission goal. What occurred after they returned home to England was no less disastrous. The two began a venomous public feud that damaged both their reputations, but helped seal a story that told here adeptly by Martin Dugard (Into Africa; The Training Ground) holds our attention to its very end.

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/31/2014
Dugard (The Training Ground) uses Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke’s quest to find the Nile’s source as a framing device to craft a fascinating examination of the seven key traits of history’s most famous explorers. Curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline, and perseverance, Dugard says, are crucial traits explorers must possess in order to achieve their goals: “Take away one... and an expedition was doomed to failure.” He expands on this premise with examples of explorers who embodied (or lacked) those traits including Edmund Hillary’s exploration of Everest, Columbus’s quest for a new path to Asia, and Robert Falcon Scott’s trek to the South Pole. Detailed accounts of vicious attacks (including cannibalism), blindness from extreme exposure, and the constant threat of severe illness demonstrate the pitfalls many explorers encountered. Even when they did reach their goal, it rarely resulted in material wealth—Columbus, for example, was “considered a failure in his day.” The ultimate prize was immortality. In lesser hands, this exercise could come off as pedantic or pedestrian, but Dugard’s infusions of insight and enthusiasm carry the reader and drive his points home. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
James Patterson
“Martin Dugard has written bestselling histories with Bill O’Reilly, and with me, but with The Explorers, he shows that he does his best work as a solo performer. The Explorers has a distinctive voice and the drama never flags from beginning to end.”
James Patterson
“Martin Dugard has written bestselling histories with Bill O’Reilly, and with me, but with The Explorers, he shows that he does his best work as a solo performer. The Explorers has a distinctive voice and the drama never flags from beginning to end.”
Seth Godin
“This is an exciting and uplifting book, with inspiration on every page. You don’t have to be in search of the source of the Nile to benefit from understanding the seven habits of fearless explorers.”
Bill O'Reilly
“Using his usual brilliant research, Martin Dugard takes the reader on a thrill ride to some of the most dangerous places on earth. Can you handle it?"
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-17
An account of the search for the source of the Nile River, mixed in with psychological and sociological lessons to be gleaned from the explorers’ story.Dugard (To Be a Runner, 2011, etc.), who co-authored the Killing… books by Bill O’Reilly, gives gripping treatment to the mid-1800s Richard Francis Burton–John Hanning Speke African adventure, despite the intrusion of a warrantless theory of traits to explain the human urge to explore. It was a curious mingling—the outsized, egotistical personality of Burton with the introverted, disciplined Speke. But as Dugard presents in this enjoyable re-creation of their hellacious journey, they still made considerable discoveries in the wilds of Africa. Then, their very public post-expedition argument provided another angle of melodrama to the already highly colored world of exploration. A number of other explorers get drawn into Dugard’s picture—e.g., Christopher Columbus, Edmund Hillary, Alexander von Humboldt—and the author has a talent for making even the smallest appearance another gratifying ingredient to illustrate our human desire to explore the unknown. However, when Dugard tries to tie a bow around this company of misfits by advancing the notion that they all possess seven traits, the narrative gets forced into a straitjacket. There isn’t a single explorer, or even individual, who would not benefit from possessing curiosity, hope, passion, courage, independence, self-discipline and perseverance, and Dugard fails to make the case that “[t]ake away one—just one—and an expedition was doomed to failure.” Further, the author inflates his focus to include ambition, sacrifice, “ethics and morals,” creative intelligence and a host of other premium qualities—“Their trick was to be bold, even when they were cold, wet, tired, hungry, miserable, or sick”—while playing down or ignoring altogether the less savory grandiosity, simple commercialism or pure greed that certainly afflicted the explorers at various points throughout their journeys.A fine adventure yarn nearly sapped by a gratuitous hook.
Library Journal
05/01/2014
Curiosity. Hope. Passion. Courage. Independence. Self-discipline. Perseverance. Dugard (coauthor, Killing Lincoln) identifies these as the qualities that successful explorers display over the course of their journeys and from which the rest of us can learn. As the foundation for his argument, the author uses the 1857–58 expedition of Richard Francis Burton (1821–90) and John Hanning Speke (1827–64) to find the source of the Nile River, noting the difficulties they experienced in traveling into Africa, the clash of their personalities, and the fallout from their conflicting conclusions regarding the river's source. Dugard arranges his chapters by the traits listed and investigates related psychological/behavioral research then meanders on a far-ranging journey through time and other explorers who have displayed similar attributes. VERDICT Unlike most exploration narratives, this book sets a different course while hitting the highlights of an expedition and its outcome. Dugard's writing so entertains that readers will not mind the various tangents and digressions.—Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451677577
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 74,315
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Dugard is the New York Times bestselling author of Into Africa, The Training Ground, and Last Voyage of Columbus. He is also the coauthor, with political commentator Bill O’Reilly, of Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and Killing Jesus. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three sons.

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