New ships, such as the caravel, allowed for longer exploratory voyages. In August of 1492, Columbus used three caravels (la Niña, la Pinta, and Santa Maria), supplied and funded by the Spanish crown, to set sail towards India. After an arduous voyage, Columbus and his men reached land on October 12, 1492. At dawn Columbus went ashore and encountered a group of people who called themselves the Taino. He renamed their island San Salvador and claimed it for Spain.
Columbus observed in his journal:
“They…brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features…They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
When Columbus returned to Spain, word of his discovery spread through Europe and ignited the Age of Exploration.
1513 Atlantic map from cartographer Martin Waldseemuller. Wikimedia.
The Age of Exploration
Columbus’ voyage pleased the Spanish monarchs, who quickly funded more voyages to the New World. Other countries quickly set sail across the Atlantic to lay claims and to explore. Like Columbus, European explorers set sail to the New World in search of gold. Many set sail to introduce the native people to God, while others set sail seeking glory.
The main explorers during the Age of Exploration were:
Country they sailed for
First explorer to come ashore in the New England Area
First to sail around the southernmost tip of Africa, setting up the route from Europe to Asia
Landed in the Bahamas – eventually this would lead to the discovery of the Americas
Sailed to Chesapeake Bay; helped lay the groundwork for the later British claim to Canada
Explored coast of South America; America was named after Amerigo
Juan Ponce de Leon
Discovered Florida; died looking for the fountain of youth🤔
Reached southern part of South America
Conquered the Aztecs in Mexico
Conquered the Incas in Peru
Looked for the northwest passage; explored parts of Canada
Francisco Vasquez Coronado
Explored and led a large expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States
Samuel de Champlain
Explored and established the city of Quebec in the northern colony of New France
1607 & 1608
Discovered the Hudson River and Hudson Bay.