Age of Discovery
From the outset of the Age of Discovery, it became clear to certain Portuguese, Spanish (and eventually French and English) explorers that a transnational guild of explorers would be essential to further their efforts to spread their stories and discoveries for the betterment of the world. The countries, nobles and monarchs who typically backed expeditions were chiefly interested in growing their coffers of precious metals, crops, and spices. They raced to build cartographic maps and trade routes to increase their global influence. In contrast, the explorers who led their crews held a very different mindset: most of them were invested for the art and science of exploration. To explorers, items acquired on these journeys were made valuable not by rare metal, but by the experience of the search; the thrill of the hunt. Explorers took on dangerous unknowns and perilous missions to discover that which bore no record.
A clandestine affair, the first Explorers Guild meeting was held in a time before exploring had become an established trade. This was a time before the Magellan–Elcano global circumnavigation, and shortly after the departure of Columbus. The intrepid Italian would eventually trigger a surge of explorers to the Americas. During this initial Explorers Guild meeting, certain rituals were established which have remained with the Guild to this day.
The first was the official establishment of Stellar Cartography. This art and practice was kept separate from the charts and notebooks retained as official expedition records. Stellar Cartographers recorded each event, as they occurred, sharing their experiences through pictures and words. The Italians were already keeping books called zibaldones; this practice provided the inspiration for the initial concept. The name Stellar Cartography has its roots in the close relationships these early explorers had with the stars. Many of the initial books contained maps and drawings of the stars along with accompanying stories to fully capture the experience. At night, explorers would sit on the decks of ships -- lie down in the vast plains -- or relax on a nicely-shaped rock -- and pass down the stories of past explorers as recorded by the stars.
The second ritual was the line in the sand. Originally, this line was the ramp leading from the dock to a departing ship. Explorers Guild captains would meet guild members at the foot of the ramp and invite them to the great adventure ahead. Crossing this threshold was an important turning point for every explorer. It was important that each member actively, and with sound mind, choose to join an expedition; as guild captains rarely tolerated a half-hearted crew. This ritual eventually extended to land based expeditions, where captains would scrawl a physical line demarcating the threshold to adventure.
The last surviving tradition was the creation of troupes. Troupes were led and organized by captains, who would handpick their expedition crew, traveling under the guild banner and their own troupe banner. Though troupes were highly individualized, they would openly meet, feast, and play games with other troupes. Along the way, troupes would share new skills and trades, leading to the eventual adoption of the merit badge system.
The Explorers Guild has undergone a number of adjustments and changes since its inception. From time to time, it faced enormous pressures from politicians who sought to maintain political lines and stop the guilds’ open lines of communication. During times of extreme political unrest, the guild has agreed to limit inter-troupe communication. This occurred most recently during World War II. After the war ended, the guild regrouped, assembling its highest numbers yet, to celebrate the ideals that brought them together. After the war ended, as it is customary, the guild regrouped in the greatest numbers seen in decades, all in an effort to celebrate the ideals which brought them together in the first place.
In the mid 1990s, Space exploration stalled, which caused Explorers Guild membership to drop dramatically. Many guild operations halted as members, once energized by the ideals of space travel, began to lose interest in exploration. Terrestrially, the Internet caused a paradigm shift in community structure and information sharing. By 2002, Explorers Guild troupes had disbanded, exploration slowed, and the guild went dark.
Though many saw this period as the end of the Guild, a revival occurred in 2015 when the traditions, rituals and ideals were rediscovered and relayed to the San Francisco Bay Area. Troupe 001 was formed, and the Explorers Guild reignited. This renewed interest, shared by Bay Area members, sparked a new wave of exploration in a world many claim to already be fully discovered.
The information presented here is made possible by the hard work and persistence of the historians striving to uncover the centuries of Explorer Guild history.