Man explored the world long before the days of Columbus and Magellan. Even in the earliest moments of human history, when the known world was little more than what extended within sight, there were men who were sent out to explore the unknown.
When the first explorers set out into unknown parts of the world, they had no way of being prepared for what they saw. They saw parts of the world that were completely unlike anything they had ever imagined. Then, they had to come home and try to find a way to put the things they had seen into words.
10. Hanno and the Burning Jungle
Around the sixth or fifth century B.C., a Carthaginian called Hanno the Navigator set out with 30,000 people in 76 ships and sailed along the western coast of Africa. It is believed that he made it as far as modern Ghana—at the time, the furthest anyone had gone into the continent.
Nobody in his world, at this time, had any idea of what to expect in West Africa, and Hanno came back with some strange reports about the people who lived there. He described people with almost mythic powers, claiming that there were a group of men living in caves who could run faster than horses.
His most harrowing story, though, comes from his exploration of an island. “In the daytime we could see nothing but the forest,” Hanno reported, “but during the night we noticed many fires alight and heard the sound of flutes, the beating of cymbals and tom-toms, and the shouts of a multitude.”
An oracle he had brought with him urged him to leave the island and soon as possible. When he was back on his boat and looked back at the island, it was on fire. “Large torrents of fire emptied into the sea, and the land was inaccessible because of the heat,” Hanno wrote. “Quickly and in fear, we sailed away from that place. For four days, we saw the coast by night full of flames.”