Afonso de Albuquerque (14??-1515) was a Portuguese soldier and explorer who sailed to the Spice Islands (the Moluccas, a group of Islands in Indonesia) in 1507-1511, trying to monopolize trade with this area; from Europe, he sailed around Africa to the Indian Ocean. He was appointed the Viceroy of India by King Emmanuel in 1509. He forcibly destroyed the Indian city of Calicut in January, 1510, and took Goa (in southern India) in March, 1510, claiming Goa for Portugal.
Captain Juan Bautista de Anza (1736-1788) was a Mexican-born trailblazer and explorer. He was the first person of European descent to establish an overland trail from Mexico to the northern Pacific coast of California (then called New Albion). He found a corridor through the desolate Sonoran Desert. His expeditions brought hundreds of settlers to California. He founded the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. De Anza was the commander of the presidio at Tubac.
Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles (Feb. 15, 1519-Sept. 17, 1574) was a brutal Spanish sailor, soldier, explorer, and conquistador. The King of Spain sent Aviles to Florida in the New World, to start a Spanish settlement (St. Augustine, in northeastern Florida), and to decimate a nearby French settlement (Fort Caroline).
Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón (1475-1526) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who tried to start a colony in North America in 1526. He was the first European colonizer of what is now South Carolina. His attempt to settle the coast of the Carolinas (near the mouth of the Peedee River at Winyah Bay) was unsuccessful.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1519) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer. He was the first European to see the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean (in 1513), after crossing the Isthmus of Panama overland.
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca [Cabeza de Vaca means “head of a cow”] (1490?-1557?) was a Spanish explorer who sailed to North America from Spain, leaving in 1527. He traveled from Florida to Texas on a raft, then walked from Texas to Mexico City. He also explored the Paraguay River in South America. De Vaca and his fellow travelers were the first Europeans to see the bison, or American buffalo.
Samuel de Champlain (1567?-1635) was a French explorer and navigator who mapped much of northeastern North America and started a settlement in Quebec. Champlain also discovered the lake later named for him (1609) and was important in establishing and administering the French colonies in the New World.
Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix (Oct. 29, 1682 - Feb. 1, 1761) was a French Jesuit priest, explorer, and writer. His writings are some of the earliest written accounts of North America.
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.
William Dampier (1651 or 1652-1715) was a British buccaneer (pirate), explorer and map-maker. As a teenager, he sailed to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Dampier sailed to Australia, New Guinea, southeast Asia, and the South Seas, charting the coastlines, rivers, and currents for the British Admiralty (1699-1700). He also kept a detailed journal, noting native cultures, the first noted typhoon, and other discoveries made during his voyages. He discovered and named New Britain (near New Guinuea). His book, A New Voyage Round the World, was published in 1697, and quickly became very popular. Dampier died a pauper in March, 1715.
Juan de Fuca (15??-1601?) was a Greek navigator who sailed for Spain under a Spanish name; his original name was Apostolos Valerianos. De Fuca sailed up the western coast of North America from Mexico to Vancouver Island in 1592, looking for a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. He was perhaps the first European to see this area. He sailed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (which was named for him in 1725) and believed it to be the beginning of a route to the Atlantic Ocean (it is not). This strait connects the Pacific Ocean to the Puget Sound and the Georgia Strait, and is located between the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, USA, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
After sailing back to Acapulco, Mexico, de Fuca was not rewarded by Spain for his journey, and his discovery of the strait was not entirely believed until Captain Vancouver retraced de Fuca’s route 200 years later.
Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse (August 23, 1741-1788) was a French explorer and naval officer. La Perouse mapped the west coast of North America in 1786, and visited the Easter Islands and Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaii). He was lost at sea while searching for the Solomon Islands (after reaching Australia’s Botany Bay).
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) was a French explorer. He was sent by King Louis XIV (14) to travel south from Canada and sail down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River (1682). His mission was to explore and establish fur-trade routes along the river. La Salle named the entire Mississippi basin Louisiana, in honor of the King, and claimed it for France on April 9, 1682. He also explored Lake Michigan (1679), Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. He tried to start a settlement in the southern Mississippi River Valley, but the venture ended in disaster.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye (1685-1749) was a Canadian soldier and explorer who traveled farther west than any previous European explorer had; he traveled to Lake Winnipeg and then southwest, almost reaching the Missouri River. He was searching for a route across Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. His father was the sieur de Varennes, the governor of Trois Rivières, Quebec, Canada.
Juan Ponce de Leon (1460?-1521) was a Spanish explorer and soldier who was the first European to set foot in Florida. He also established the oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico and discovered the Gulf Stream (a current in the Atlantic Ocean). Ponce de Leon was searching for the legendary fountain of youth and other riches.
Panfilo de Narvaez (1470?-1528) was a Spanish explorer and soldier. He helped conquer Cuba in 1511 and led a Spanish royal expedition to North America (leaving Spain in 1527). He was born in Valladolid, Spain and died on his expedition to Florida.
De Narvaez was granted the land of Florida by the Emperor Charles V in 1526. He led an expedition there with 300 men, including Cabeza de Vaca. After surviving a hurricane near Cuba, his expedition landed on the west coast of Florida (near Tampa Bay) in April, 1528, claiming the land for Spain.
Fray Marcos de Niza (1495 - March 25, 1558 ) was a Franciscan priest who is said to have traveled to the fabled “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola” in what is now the western part of New Mexico.
De Niza was born in Savoy (now in France, but it was Italian then), and became a Franciscan friar. He sailed to the Americas in 1531, and traveled to Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. He freed some Native American slaves at Culiacán, Mexico.
He and the Moorish slave Estevanico were sent from Mexico City to find Cibola by the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza (March to August 1539). De Niza reported that he and Estevanico saw the extraordinarily rich “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola,” but they were later found to be simple Zuni Indian pueblos. Estevanico was killed by Zuni Indians during this expedition. De Niza survived and eventually was in charge of his Franciscan order (1541).
Juan de Oñate y Salazar (1550?-1626) was a Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain and became New Mexico’s first governor. Oñate, the son of a conquistador who made a fortune in silver, was married to a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés. In 1595, Oñate requested that he be sent to conquer and rule New Mexico, search for treasure (especially the legendary silver treasure of Quivira), and bring Christianity to the local Indians. After governmental approval, Oñate left for New Mexico in January, 1598, with 400 settlers and soldiers (and their livestock). In July 1598, the expedition crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso. They arrived at the Tewa pueblo of San Juan and were helped by the local Indians. Oñate’s group built San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital. After they realized that the area was not rich in silver, many settlers wanted to return to Mexico, but Oñate would not let them go, and executed many of them. He was also incredibly brutal to the local Indians, killing, enslaving, and mutilating hundreds of Indian men, women, and children.
In 1601, Oñate led an expedition to the Great Plains of America that tried, unsuccessfully, to find the legendary silver of Quivira (thought to be in what is now central Kansas, east of Salina). While he was gone, most of his settlers returned to Mexico City. In 1604, he explored the area west toward the Colorado River and south to the Gulf of California. In 1606, Oñate made plans for the town of Santa Fé.
Later in 1606, Spain removed him from office (Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed to be the new governor); Oñate was later tried and found guilty of cruelty, immorality, mismanagement, dereliction of duties, and false reporting. Oñate was exiled from the colony. Later, on appeal, he was was cleared of the charges. Onate, sometimes called the “Last Conquistador,” died in Spain in 1626.
Alonso Alvarez de Pineda was a Spanish explorer and map-maker. De Pineda sailed for the Spanish Governor of Jamaica, Francisco de Garay, who sent him to explore and chart the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico in 1519. Captain De Pineda and his crew were probably the first Europeans in Texas, claiming it for Spain. One of the regions he explored and mapped was the area around Corpus Christi Bay; De Pineda entered Corpus Christi Bay on the feast day of Corpus Christi, hence the name.
Gaspar de Portolá (1767-1784) was a Spanish soldier, leader, and explorer. Portolá was appointed Governor of Las Californias from 1768-1770 and founded Monterey and San Diego (California). As governor, Portola was ordered to arrest and expel all Jesuits from their well-established colleges and 14 missions; many of these missions were given to the Franciscans. In 1768, Portola volunteered to lead a large expedition of settlers, missionaries, and soldiers up the California coast to San Diego and Monterey (in California) in order to establish new Franciscan missions; the expedition was planned by Jose de Galvez. Portolá’s overland expedition began on July 14th, 1769, and included Father Junipero Serra and 63 other men. They reached Los Angeles on August 2, 1769, Santa Barbara on August 19, Santa Cruz on October 18, and the San Francisco Bay area on October 31 (they missed Monterey). They again failed to find Monterey on their return trip to San Diego (both by land and by sea), so Portolá, Father Serra, and others tried another expedition, arriving at Monterey on May 24, 1770. In 1776, Portolá was chosen governor of the city of Puebla; he served for eight years, until his death .
Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (1565-1615) was a Portuguese navigator and explorer who sailed for Spain. He took over the Solomon Island expedition of Alvaro de Mendana in 1595 (after Mendada died) and later discovered and started a Spanish settlement on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.
Quiros was Mendana’s pilot on a 1595 expedition to colonize the Solomon Islands (in the Pacific Ocean). When Mendana died, Quiros led the three leaky ships back to Peru, dealing with starvation, a lack of water, a mutinous crew, and Mendana’s widow (she was a noblewoman who is said to have used drinking water to wash her clothes and kept a pet pig when people around her were starving); only one ship survived.
After other shipwrecks, mutinous crews, and disputes with rulers, Quiros sailed to the South Pacific, intending on traveling to the Marquesas Islands to convert the natives to Christianity. He sailed with two ships carrying close to 300 people. Failing to find the Marquesas, Quiros settled the Island of Vanuatu in 1606. Giving no reason, he decided that the settlers should abandon the settlement after less than a month. As the two ships were leaving the harbor they encountered bad weather, and Quiros signaled the other captain to return to harbor. The other ship did return to the harbor, but Quiros kept going, and sailed on to Mexico. No one knows why; it is thought that wither the crew mutinied or Quiros had a nervous breakdown. Upon returning to Spain, he sent hundreds of letters and maps to King Phillip III asking him to sponsor Quiros in another expedition.
Quiros died near Panama on a 1614 trip to Peru.
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.
Diogo Dias was a Portuguese navigator (and brother of Bartolomeu Dias) who was the first European to sail to Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Diogo Dias landed in Madagascar in 1500, and named it the Isle of St. Lawrence. His ship had been on an expedition with Pedro Álvares Cabral and Bartolomeu Dias, but Diogo Dias’ ship became separated from the others at the Cape of Good Hope, and then came upon Madagasacar. He then returned to Portugal.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo, also known as Bernal Diaz, (1492-1584) was a Spanish historian and soldier who chronicled the Spanish conquest of Mexico. In 1514, he went to America as a soldier, with Pedrarias Dávila, the new governor of Darien. In 1517, he sailed to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, with Francisco de Córdoba’s expedition. He returned to Mexico in 1518 with Grijalva, and in 1519, with Hernando Cortés. This last expedition entailed over 100 battles, including the surrender of Mexico City (in 1521). As a reward for his service, he was appointed governor of Santiago de los Caballeros in Guatemala. Bernal Diaz del Castillo published “Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de Nueva España”, (True History of the Conquest of New Spain) in 1568.
Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was an Admiral). Drake led the second expedition to sail around the world in a voyage lasting from 1577 to 1580 (Magellan led the first voyage around the world).
Jean-Baptiste-Point Du Sable (1750?-1818) was a Haitian-French pioneer and trader; he founded the settlement that would later become Chicago.
Julian Dubuque (or Du Buque) was a French miner who traveled through regions of the Upper Mississippi area of the USA. In 1786, Dubuque founded the city of Dubuque, Iowa, USA. After buying land from the Fox Indians, he started mining lead near what is now Dubuque. Julian Dubuque was Iowa’s first European settler.