7 record-breaking female explorers who've circled the globe and walked in space
As astronaut and diver Kathy Sullivan breaks yet another record, we’re nominating a few more names for your vision board
Women are ace multitaskers. We’re known for wanting it all and doing everything it takes to achieve it all, while dismantling the archaic concept of “can women have it all?”. The first American woman to walk in space, 68-year-old astronaut and oceanographer Dr Kathy Sullivan dove headfirst into yet another record for female explorers — she’s become the first person to both walk in space and to descend to the deepest point in the ocean.
She, along with Victor L Vescovo, the explorer funding the mission, undertook a 35,810-foot dive to the Challenger Deep (the lowest of the many seabed recesses that crisscross the globe) in June 2020.
Thirty-six years after her walk in space (Oct 11, 1984) with a team from NASA that was the first to include women, she proves that an intrepid explorer never really stops breaking boundaries.
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Alongside women inventors whose creations make daily life a lot easier, history is filled with pathbreaking, trailblazing female explorers who were way ahead of their time .
Here are a few who belong on your vision board.
Iconic female explorers who prove girls have always run the world
Dolma, hailing from Palchan village near Manali, was only 19 years old when she made it to the top of Everest on May 10, 1993 — and became the youngest woman in the world to do it, holding this record for ten years.
All without any advanced mountaineering training. The accolades don’t mean as much to her as the joy she felt at being able to prove that Indian women are as powerful as women anywhere else in the world, she said in an interview with the Hindustan Times.
Even the tallest mountain in the world wasn’t high enough for Uttarkhand-born Bachendri Pal, the Indian mountaineer who became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, in 1984 — a feat she managed as she fought stiff opposition from her family and friends, who advised her against her chosen career. All before she’d even turned thirty.
She may have been known as the first woman to travel into space, back in 1963, but Russian cosmonaut and engineer wasn’t one to rest on her laurels — she went on to orbit the Earth 48 times, spent almost three days in space, and remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission (and the youngest, at 26).
Any list of female explorers would be incomplete without American aviator Amelia Earhart, who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 (and the second person in the world, after Charles Lindbergh).
Her life ended tragically and mysteriously (Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island while attempting to circumnavigate the globe) but her legacy lives on, inspiring young girls everywhere to fly higher than their dreams.
Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman
American investigative journalist Nellie Bly (her pen name) was a trailblazer — she wrote in-depth stories, investigating women’s issues and unveiling atrocities, she even got herself admitted to an asylum to reveal the terrible state of patient care.
The turning point of her career began on November 14, 1889, when she sailed from New York to beat the fictional record of Phileas Fogg, hero of Jules Verne’s romance Around the World in Eighty Days.
She went to England, crossed through Europe into Egypt, travelling across Asia where she made pit stops in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Hong Kong. Seaman touched down in California, from where she returned to her port of departure in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds.
Today French explorer Baré is recognised as the first woman to have completed a voyage of circumnavigation of the globe (back in the 1770s) but she had to fake her gender and dress up as a man in order to make the trip because women were forbidden onboard French Navy ships.
Baré wasn’t mindful of setting international records, she merely wanted to discover new species of plants, alongside her botanist lover. In fact, evidence of her hard work is probably sitting right outside your balcony. The brightly coloured bougainvillea is named for her partner, Louis Antoine de Bougainville.