What drives our urge to explore?

Veronique Greenwood in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_1300 Aug. 09 22.00First, there is nothing. From all appearances, the fast ferry, whipping through the water in the early morning sun, is headed out into the cold wastes of the Atlantic. But then a shimmering line appears on the horizon. As minutes and miles pass, it grows no taller but, eventually, the black profile of a row of loblolly pines, tossed by the wind, comes into focus.

There is land out here after all; flat, low land, its highest point only 28 feet above the waves. This fragment of coral shelf is the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands, the last before the open ocean, and it has a completely different character from its gaggle of southern sisters. While they are steep green mountains rising from the sea, this place is so low that its Spanish name, Anegada, means ‘covered in water’ or ‘shipwrecked’. The other islands tend to be home to thousands of people and are serviced by commercial flights and ferries. Anegada has a boat every two days or so, and a scant few hundred inhabitants, most of them in the lone settlement called The Settlement.

Looking around at the other people on the ferry, it seems that some might be headed to jobs on the island, in its scattering of restaurants and businesses. A few are tourists come to stay in the handful of basic guesthouses and eat the sweet lobster that is a local speciality. My husband and I came out here because it was the edge of the map. He suggested it after seeing it way out on the rim of things, and I, not totally sure why we were going, made the plans.

More here.