A Conversation With a Chatbot About Exploration

This week, the introduction of an AI bot called ChatGPT has riveted the technology world — and the public. It can converse with a human; write essays; answer questions. Naturally, at ExplorersWeb we wanted to test its prowess on some of the issues relevant to our readers.

Below, some of the questions we put to it, and its answers.

Sports vs adventure

What is the difference between sport and adventure?

Sports are typically organized and governed by rules and regulations and are often competitive in nature. They often involve teams or individuals competing against each other in a structured manner. In contrast, adventure activities are typically more open-ended and may not have set rules or regulations. They often involve exploring and discovering new places, trying new things, and pushing personal limits.

Another key difference is the level of risk involved. Sports are generally safer than adventure activities, as they are typically well-regulated and have safety measures in place. Adventure activities, on the other hand, may involve a higher level of physical exertion or danger.

[Ed: One of its better answers.]


Conquistadors in Mayan art. Photo: Shutterstock

Should we continue to honor explorers of the past who were part of a colonizing culture?

The question of whether to continue honoring explorers from the past who were part of a colonizing culture is a complex and sensitive one. It is important to recognize and acknowledge the contributions that these explorers made to our understanding of the world and its history. However, it is also important to recognize and acknowledge the harm and suffering that was inflicted on indigenous peoples and cultures during the period of European colonization.

The north face of Dhaulagiri.

The north face of Dhaulagiri. Photo: Mapio.net

Last great firsts

What are the hardest routes that are still unclimbed on 8,000m peaks?

Some of the hardest routes on 8,000m peaks that have not yet been climbed include the west face of K2, the northeast face of Annapurna, and the north face of Dhaulagiri. These routes are considered to be among the most difficult and challenging in the world, and they have yet to be successfully climbed by any team.

[Ed: We ran this answer by mountaineering historian Damien Gildea. His response:

“The north face of Dhaulagiri has been climbed at least twice — the Japanese and Russian routes. There is not really a ‘northeast’ face of Annapurna. There IS unclimbed terrain on the ‘southwest’ face, or at least to the left of the British Route on the south face.

“Also, the west face of K2 was climbed in 2006 by the Russians. There is an obvious line left of their line that various top climbers have eyed off over the years. This is the broad but intermittent couloir on the left. Voytek Kurtyka, Steve House, and others have had that line in mind.

“So ChatGPT scores .5 out of 3. Which means my highly paid role as an 8,000m critic is safe, for now.”]

The remains of the tent site on northern Ellesmere Island where Peary lived before setting off toward the North Pole in 1909.

The remains of the tent site on northern Ellesmere Island from which Peary set off toward the North Pole in 1909. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


The Polar controversy

Did Robert Peary reach the North Pole in 1909?

No, Robert Peary did not reach the North Pole in 1909. Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909, but his claim has been widely disputed and is not widely accepted as being accurate. Most historians and polar experts believe that Peary fell short of the North Pole by several dozen miles.

[Ed: That is correct. However, during a follow-up question, ChatGPT refused to speculate whether Peary made an honest mistake or deliberately deceived the public. Fair enough. To take one side or the other would be more of a human answer. Its response:]

Robert Peary.

Robert Peary.


Peary was a highly ambitious and determined explorer, and he spent many years trying to reach the North Pole. He may have genuinely believed that he had succeeded, or he may have been willing to bend the truth in order to achieve fame and recognition. However, without further information, it is impossible to say for certain what Peary’s motivations were.

What is the hardest polar trek that has not yet been done?

Some of the most challenging and difficult polar treks that have not yet been attempted may include a crossing of the entire Arctic Ocean by ski or a traverse of the entire Antarctic continent using only human power. These treks would require a combination of extreme endurance, skill, and determination, and they have not yet been successfully completed by any adventurer.

But haven’t skiers already crossed the entire Arctic Ocean? For example, the Soviet-Canadian Polar Bridge Expedition in 1988, and Torry Larsen and Rune Gjeldnes in 2000?

Yes, you are correct that skiers have previously crossed the entire Arctic Ocean…These expeditions were impressive feats of endurance and determination, but there may still be routes or challenges across the Arctic Ocean that have not yet been attempted or successfully completed.

[Ed: Like many of us, it doesn’t like to admit when it was wrong.]

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. One of Canada’s premier arctic travelers, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and has just finished a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada and in 2022, he received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for services to exploration.