Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in 1492. He explored North
Ferndinand Magellan planned to sail around the world. He left Spain
in 1519, and in 1520 reached the coast of Brazil. In 1521 after sailing
across the Pacific he reached the Philippines where he died. The remainder
of his crew arrived back in Spain in 1522.
In 1497, John Cabot became the first European to visit the northeast
coast of North America since the Vikings. Sailing in the service of King
Henry VII of England, Cabot landed on the east coast of Canada or on the
coast of Maine. Cabot's voyage helped lay the foundation of English claims
to North America.
One of the most important Spanish expeditions in the New World was commanded
by Hernando Cortes (pronounced kawr TEHZ), who in 1519 left
with more than 600 men. He sailed to what is now the Mexican state of Yucatan,
which was a center of Maya civilization. Cortes moved along the coast of
Mexico and then inland to Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the capital of
the Aztec empire. Along the way, he met an Indian woman named Malinche,
whom the Spaniards called Dona Marina. Malinche, who knew both the Maya
and the Aztec languages, served as an interpreter for Cortes.
In 1532 and 1533, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro (pronounced
frahn SIHS koh pih ZAHR oh) conquered the Inca Indians. From their home
in what is now Peru, the Inca ruled an empire that included parts of what
are now Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal chose the Portuguese navigator Vasco
da Gama (pronounced VAHS koh duh GAM uh) to sail all the way to Asia.
In 1524, King Francis I of France sent Giovanni da Verrazzano (pronounced
joh VAHN ee dah vehr uh ZAH noh), an Italian navigator, to North America
to find a passage to Asia. Verrazzano explored the east coast from about
Cape Fear in present-day North Carolina to Newfoundland. But he did not
find a passage.
Jacques Cartier (pronounced zhahk kahr TYAY), a French explorer,
also failed to find a passage during a voyage he made in 1534. However,
Cartier became the first European to see the St. Lawrence River in what
is now Canada and helped establish French claims to this region.
Samuel de Champlain (pronounced sham PLAYN), a French explorer and
geographer, charted the Atlantic coast from Cape Breton Island in Canada
to Martha's Vineyard in what is now Massachusetts. In 1608, he founded
the city of Quebec as a fur-trading post. Over the next eight years, he
traveled extensively and learned about the rivers and lakes of the region.
In 1609, Champlain became the first European to reach the lake in present-day
New York, Vermont, and Quebec that now bears his name.
In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish explorer, set out from Campostela near
the west coast of Mexico on an expedition to find the legendary Seven Cities
of Cibola. These supposedly rich and flourishing cities were thought to
lie north of Mexico City. Coronado traveled through what are now Arizona,
New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. He found no important cities,
but his expedition and that of de Soto gave Europeans a good idea of the
width of North America.