The world of exploration has not historically been inclusive, but many today want to celebrate the distinguished history and continuing successes of LGBTQ+ explorers. Get inspired by these adventurers, who not only push themselves on to amazing feats but also campaign to make the world a more inclusive place for all.
Cason Crane is a high achiever. After graduating from Princeton he went on to compete and win ultra marathons, obstacle course races, six Ironman races and more than a dozen marathons, open air swims and hikes. This was all before completing the seven summits in 2013 - becoming the first openly gay person to conquer the highest peaks on each continent. Crane has encountered prejudice and says “there is always an element of anxiety” to being an LGBTQ+ person in the outdoors. Yet he believes visibility is key for more inclusivity - he carries his pride flag to every summit and raises money for LGBTQ+ and mental health charities with each new feat.
One person Cason Crane directly inspired is Peruvian mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado. They met climbing Mount Denali as part of the seven summits challenge and seeing Crane’s large pride flag gave Vasquez-Lavado the confidence to be more open about her own identity. She became the first gay woman to complete the challenge in 2016 and the first Peruvian woman to ever scale Mount Everest. Silvia finds both fulfillment and healing in her outdoor adventures. She is a survivor of sexual violence and found her first trip to Everest basecamp incredibly powerful for helping to restore her confidence, strength, and resilience. She wanted to share this with others and set up Courageous Girls to help other survivors conquer outdoor challenges together.
K. David Harrison
As a linguist with an expertise in studying endangered languages Dr. K David Harrison travels to some of the most remote places on earth to interview the very last speakers of particular languages. Growing up in Tennessee he wasn’t aware of any role models that were both explorers and openly gay and he wants to change that for future generations. He hopes to increase visibility of historical explorers that couldn’t be open about their identities to “inspire young kids now to say, ‘Oh, yeah I’m gay and I want to be an explorer and a scientist’”
One of the most influential explorers of his time, Berlin-born Von-Humboldt’s name can be found throughout nature. From the Humboldt penguin to the Humboldt mountains in Antarctica he has been credited with many scientific discoveries. He spent many years documenting the wildlife of Latin America and also invented isotherms - the lines you see on weather maps today. His personal relationships have often been glossed over by historians and many of his letters to partners were destroyed. Today, explorers such as Cason Crane and K. David Harrison want to celebrate and bring recognition to these influential LGBTQ+ explorers of the past.
William John Bankes
William John Bankes was another explorer from the past with a fascination for ancient Egypt. He traveled extensively in Europe and Egypt and in 1815 he ‘discovered’ the Philae Obelisk which helped play a role in the decipherment of the hieroglyphics. Despite his contribution to history and exploration he was exiled from his home and country due to his sexual identity. He never returned to England but continued to study and explore abroad until his death in 1855.
British born Sarah Outen rarely stays still. She has described herself as someone who rows, cycles, and kayaks ‘a continuous loop of the planet’. She was the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius and in 2013 completed 150 days and 6000km at sea to become the first woman to row from Japan to Alaska. On this ‘brutal and brilliant’ trip she decided to propose to her girlfriend by satellite phone. She hopes to inspire young people to feel they can do anything they put their mind to.
Ann Banncroft is a renowned polar explorer who became the first woman to cross the ice to both the North and South Poles. She led an all women team to transit Greenland and with the Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen became the first two women to sail and ski across the Antarctic landmass. She is passionate about everybody having the opportunity to access the outdoors and does philanthropic work with her foundation as well as successfully campaigning for equal marriage rights in the state of Minnesota. You can read more about how The Explorer’s Club is working to celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ explorers and scientists around the world here.