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To answer my own question...

You need to use the "Publish Point" tool to define the points in the polygon. This tool publishes on the /clicked_point topic. The display of these points, connected as a polygon, is via the "Marker" display that is subscribing to the /exploration_polygon_marker topic. Once the polygon loop has been closed, then it is necessary to also select a point within the polygon from which to start the exploration. Only then will the exploration start.

The explore_client node actually generates messages that are printed to the ROS log to first ask the user to first define the polygon and then to ask for a point within the polygon. However, because my setup was generating lots of ROS warning messages (for an unrelated matter) I was missing these instructions.

To answer my own question...

You need to use the "Publish Point" tool to define the points in the polygon. This tool publishes on the /clicked_point topic. The display of these points, connected as a polygon, is via the "Marker" display that is subscribing to the /exploration_polygon_marker topic. Once the polygon loop has been closed, then it is necessary to also select a point within the polygon from which to start the exploration. Only then will the exploration start.

The explore_client node actually generates messages that are printed to the ROS log to first ask the user to first define the polygon and then to ask for a point within the polygon. However, because my setup was generating lots of ROS warning messages (for an unrelated matter) I was missing these instructions.