Martin Behaim (1459-1537) was a German mapmaker, navigator, and merchant. Behaim made the earliest globe, called the “Nürnberg Terrestrial Globe”. It was made during the years 1490-1492; the painter Georg Glockendon helped in the project. Behaim had previously sailed to Portugal as a merchant (in 1480). He had advised King John II on matters concerning navigation. He accompanied the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cam (Cão) on a 1485-1486 voyage to the coast of West Africa; during this trip, the mouth of the Congo River was discovered.
After returning to Nürnberg in 1490, Behaim began construction of his globe (which was very inaccurate as compared to other maps from that time, even in the areas in which Behaim had sailed).
It was once thought that Behaim’s might may have influenced Columbus and Magellan; this is now discounted. Behaim may have also developed an astrolabe. Behaim’s globe is now in the German National Museum in Nürnberg.
John Cabot (1450-1499) was an Italian-born English explorer and navigator. In Italy, he is known as Giovanni Caboto (which is his original name).
See John Cabot.
Alvise da Cadamosto (1432?-1511?) was a Venetian (from Venice, Italy) navigator and merchant who sailed for Prince Henry of Portugal.
In 1455, Prince Henry sent the Cadamosto on two expeditions. On the first, in 1455, Cadamosto reached the mouth of the Gambia River (in west Africa). On the second, in 1456, Cadamosto sailed up the Gambia river to the Geba River. He tried trading with the Africans but was unsuccessful. Cadamosto claimed to have discovered the Cape Verde Islands, but this is uncertain.
Cadamosto published a detailed account of his explorations in 1507.
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, hoping to find a route to India (in order to trade for spices). He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504, sailing for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) was a Portuguese explorer who discovered an ocean route from Portugal to the East.
Da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, to India (and back) in 1497-1499. At that time, many people thought that this was impossible to do because it was assumed that the Indian Ocean was not connected to any other seas.
Da Gama’s patron was King Manuel I of Portugal, who sent da Gama, then an Admiral, on another expedition to India (1502-1503). After King Manuel’s death, King John III sent da Gama to India as a Portuguese viceroy (the King’s representative in India). Da Gama died in India in 1524.
Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) was a great Portuguese navigator and explorer who explored Africa’s coast. In 1488, Dias led the first European expedition to sail around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, leaving Tagus, Portugal in 1487. This breakthrough of circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope opened up lucrative trading routes from Europe to Asia. Dias may have originally called the southern tip of Africa the “Cape of Storms”; it was later renamed the Cape of Good Hope. On a later expedition (in 1500, with Pedro Álvares Cabral), Dias sailed near South America on the way to Africa, and spotted land at Espírito Santo in Brazil, calling it the “Land of the True Cross.” Although they thought it to be an island, Dias was still among the first Europeans to see Brazil. Dias died during this expedition; he was lost at sea near the Cape of Good Hope in 1500.
Gil Eannes (15th century) was a Portuguese explorer (sailing for Prince Henry) who was the first person to sail beyond the dreaded Cape Bojador and return. Cape Bojador is on the coast of Africa just below latitude 27° North (off the western Sahara Desert). This feat was amazing because Cape Bojador had frequent, violent storms and strong currents. Mariners told legends of a “Green Sea of Darkness” beyond this cape, from which there was no return. Eannes’ journey in 1434 opened the African coast to navigators, and, soon, many Europeans were exploring the coast of Africa and beyond.
Prince Henry (Henrique) the Navigator (1394-1460) was a Portuguese royal prince, soldier, and patron of explorers. Henry sent many sailing expeditions down Africa’s west coast, but did not go on them himself. Thanks to Prince Henry’s patronage, Portuguese ships sailed to the Madeira Islands (1420), rounded Cape Bojador (Eannes, 1434), sailed to Cape Blanc (1441), sailed around Cap Vert (1455), and went as far as the Gambia River (Cadamosto, 1456) and Cape Palmas (Gomes, 1459-1460).
Martin Alonzo Pinzon (1441? - 1493) was a Spanish explorer and navigator who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, as captain of the Pinta (he was also the co-owner of the Nina and the Pinta). He is remembered for being disloyal and competitive with Christopher Columbus.
Vincente Yáñez Pinzon (1460? - 1523?) was a Spanish explorer and navigator who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, as captain of the Niña. His older brother, Martin Pinzon, was captain of the Pinta and the co-owner of both the Nina and the Pinta.
In 1499, Vincente Pinzon sailed to the Brazilian coast (at a cape he named Santa María de la Consolación). From there, he sailed northwest to the Amazon River, whose mouth he explored. He sailed north to northeastern Venezuela (to the Gulf of Paria) and then returned to Spain.
In 1508, he sailed to the New World twice with Juan Díaz de Solís, trying to find a a passage to the Spice Islands. They sailed to Central America, but the exact locations of these explorations are unknown (they either sailed to Honduras and the Yucatán peninsula or to Venezuela and Brazil).
Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) was an Italian explorer who was the first person to realize that the Americas were separate from the continent of Asia. America was named for him in 1507, when the German mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller, printed the first map that used the name America for the New World.
On his first expedition (sailing for Spain, 1499-1500), Vespucci was the navigator under under the command of Alonso de Ojeda. On this trip, Ojeda and Vespucci discovered the mouth of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America, thinking it was part of Asia. On his second expedition (sailing for Portugal, 1501-02) he mapped some of the eastern coast of South America, and came to realize that it not part of Asia, but a New World.