Did an ancient explorer make it to the Arctic back in 325 BC? Sounds incredible doesn’t it? His name was Pytheas of Massalia and he’s believed to have gone to the Arctic and returned homw safely. Problem was when he got back home no one believed him and they thought his mad!
Back in his times most people believed that the Sun was jerked around in the sky by the gods and when Pytheas described a place where the Sun didn’t shine all winter lng, a place covered in permafrost and frozen waters with icebergs no one believed him for an astounding 1000 years!
Unfortunately, anything that Pytheas may have written about his trek to the regions of ice is lost and most of what we know about his trek comes from the writings of people who didn’t believe him. This man was an explorer and sailor btw. To get to the Arctic he sailed through the Pillars of Hercules (Strait of Gibralter) and to do so he had to manage to get past the Carthaginian army who had a blockade in the area at the time!
Somehow he and his crew made it past the Carthaginians. Of course, since no one believed his stories about a land of ice they didn’t believe he made it past the Carthaginian blockade either and people though the whole tale was one big lie!
After getting out into the Atlantic Ocean he sailed to Britain. He circled Britain and proceeded northward basing his route on some stories native people had told him about. At this time in history the general belief was that there was nothing beyond Britain but the waters of the ocean and the edge of the world.
Having sailed past Britain for about six days Pytheas came upon a tall rocky coastline of a land he named “Thule.” We don’t know for sure what this land was but the theory is it may have been Iceland or the Nowwegian coast. During his voyage he recorded the sky overhead and how much shorter the days became as he sailed further north.
What is perhaps most surprising is that Pytheas said that there were people living in this strange land! If this was Iceland that would be significant because the island was found to be unihabited 1000 years later! He described the plight of these people living in a harsh land with few plants and few animals eating millet, roots, and other native plants because the land was not suitable for farming.
Pytheas claimed that there was no night at the Summer Solstice in this land he called Thule in the 4th century. If true then he was the first Greek to see the Arctic region. Having never seen such ice and icebergs before, he used his frame of reference to best describe what he saw on his voyage so he used some odd descriptors such as “drifting pancake ice” or “jellyfish-like substances.” So here we have one more story of ancient man sailing the seas to unknown lands and the more we look the more we find similar stories from all around the world!