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About 890 , Ohthere of Norway, “desirous to try how far that country extended north,” sailed round the North Cape, along the coast of Lapland to the White Sea.

But most Norsemen sailing in high latitudes explored not eastward but westward.

Stories survive of a few men who are credited with bringing new knowledge from distant journeys.

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From the time of the earliest recorded history to the beginning of the 15th century, Western knowledge of the world widened from a river valley surrounded by mountains or desert (the views of Babylonia and Egypt) to a Mediterranean world with hinterlands extending from the Sahara to the Gobi Desert and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean (the view of Greece and Rome).

It later expanded again to include the far northern lands beyond the Baltic and another and dazzling civilization in the Far East (the medieval view).

Sometimes one motive inspires the promoters of discovery, and another motive may inspire the individuals who carry out the search.

For a discussion of the society that engaged in these explorations, and their effects on intra-European affairs, geographical exploration are continuous and, being entwined one with another, are difficult to separate.

Strong among them are the satisfaction of curiosity, the pursuit of trade, the spread of religion, and the desire for security and political power.

At different times and in different places, different motives are dominant.

Thule has been identified with Iceland (too far north), with Mainland island of the Shetland group (too far south), and perhaps, most plausibly, with Norway.

Pytheas returned to Brittany and explored “beyond the Rhine”; he may have reached the Elbe.

with 60 ships and 30,000 colonists “to found cities.” Even allowing for a possible great exaggeration of numbers, this expedition, if it occurred, can hardly have been the first exploratory voyage along the coast of West Africa; indeed, Herodotus reports that Phoenicians circumnavigated the continent about 600 .

Some scholars think that Hanno reached only the desert edge south of the Atlas; other scholars identify the “deep river infested with crocodiles and hippopotamuses” with the Sénégal River; and still others believe that the island where men “scampered up steep rocks and pelted us with stones” was an island off the coast of Sierra Leone.

Sweeping down the outer edge of Britain, settling in Orkney, Shetland, the Hebrides, and Ireland, they then voyaged on to Iceland, where in 870 they settled among Irish colonists who had preceded them by some two centuries.

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