Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) was a Norwegian polar explorer who was the first person to fly over the North Pole in a dirigible (May 11-13, 1926) and was the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his small expedition reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911, traveling by dog sled. Amundsen was also the first person to sail around the world through the Northeast and Northwest passages, from the Atlantic to the Pacific (in 1905). He was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. Amundsen died in a plane crash attempting to rescue his friend, the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile who was lost in an airship.
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.
Vitus Jonassen Bering (1681-1741) was a Danish explorer and navigator who explored the seas off Alaska and northeastern Siberia. Bering was a sublieutenant in the fleet of Tsar Peter I the Great of Russia.
From 1725-1730, Bering led an expedition to determine whether or not Asia and North America were connected by a land bridge. Bering sailed through what is now known as the Bering Strait, finding a sea route around Siberia to China. He concluded that Asia and North America were not connected (although he did not actually see North America due to fog).
On a second expedition (the Great Nordic Expedition) in 1741, Bering mapped much of the Arctic coast of Siberia for the Russian Empress Anna. Bering reached North America in July 1741. After being blown off course and having both a crew and captain affected by scurvy (a lack of vitamin C), Bering’s ship was wrecked on a small island near Kamchatka, Russia. Bering and his crew spent winter of 1741 on this bare bit of land, where Bering and half his crew died. This island is now called Bering Island. The remaining crew (which included the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller) survived by eating Steller’s seacows (which were given their name because they tasted like beef) and by building a boat from the wrecked ship. Only 27 years after being discovered, Steller’s sea cows were hunted to extinction.
Colonel Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was an American pioneer, soldier, and explorer; he was born near Reading, Pennsylvania. Boone founded the first US settlement west of the Appalachian mountains.
A frontiersman and folk hero, Boone explored the Kentucky wilderness from 1769 to 1782. He traveled down the Ohio River, and trapped furs in the Green and Cumberland Valleys.
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.
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.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (? -1543) was a Spanish or Portuguese explorer (his nationality is uncertain). Cabrillo was the first European explorer of the Californian coast. In 1542, he sailed from Acapulco to southern California, claiming California for King Charles I of Spain. Cabrillo named San Diego Bay and Santa Barbara. He died on San Miguel Island (in the Santa Barbara Channel) after a fight with Indians, from complications resulting from a broken leg.
Antonie Laumet de La Mothe de Cadillac ( March 5, 1658 - Oct. 15, 1730) was a French explorer, soldier, and leader. Cadillac founded the city of Detroit in 1701 and was the governor of the Louisiana Territory from 1710 to 1716 or 1717.
Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson (Dec. 24, 1809 - May 23, 1868) was an American explorer, guide, fur trapper, Indian agent, rancher, and soldier, who traveled through the southwestern and western USA.
Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was a French explorer who led three expeditions to Canada, in 1534, 1535, and 1541. He was looking for a route to the Pacific through North America (a Northwest Passage) but did not find one. Cartier paved the way for French exploration of North America.
Cartier sailed inland, going 1,000 miles up the St. Lawrence River. He also tried to start a settlement in Quebec (in 1541), but it was abandoned after a terribly cold winter. Cartier named Canada; “Kanata” means village or settlement in the Huron-Iroquois language. Cartier was given directions by Huron-Iroquois Indians for the route to “kanata,” a village near what is now Quebec, but Cartier later named the entire region Canada.
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.
Sebastian Meléndez Rodríguez Cermenho (also written Cermenon) was a Spanish navigator and explorer (Cermenho was Portuguese by birth). Cermenho was directed by Cortés to explore the California coastline in 1595. With a crew of 70 men on the Manila (Philippines) Galleon San Agustin in the service of Spain, Cermenho sailed from the Philippines to California. After running aground near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco), Cermenon named the nearby bay San Francisco (it is now called Drakes Bay). They built a smaller boat from the wreckage and sailed to Acapulco, Mexico, charting the coastline all the while.
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.
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) set out in May 1804 to explore and map the American West. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition to explore the newly-bought Louisiana Territory. Lewis and Clark were accompanied by a crew of men, and later, the Shoshone Indian guide and interpreter Sacagawea and her infant son. Lewis and Clark travelled by river and by land from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Oregon coast (Fort Clatsop), and back again. Their journey took 2 years, 4 months, and 10 days; they covered over 8,000 miles.
Activities: Print out this map, then draw Lewis and Clark’s route and label the states they passed through.
Do a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activity on Lewis and Clark
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.
James Cook (October 27, 1728- February 14, 1779) was a British explorer and astronomer who went on many expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, Antarctic, Arctic, and around the world.
Cook’s first journey was from 1768 to 1771, when he sailed to Tahiti in order to observe Venus as it passed between the Earth and the Sun (in order to try to determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun). During this expedition, he also mapped New Zealand and eastern Australia.
Cook’s second expedition (1772-1775) took him to Antarctica and to Easter Island.
Cook’s last expedition (1776-1779) was a search for a Northwest Passage across North America to Asia. Cook was killed by a mob on Feb. 14, 1779, on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). At the time, he was trying to take the local chief hostage to get the natives to return a sailboat they had stolen.
Cook was the first ship’s captain to stop the disease scurvy (now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C) among sailors by providing them with fresh fruits. Before this, scurvy had killed or incapacitated many sailors on long trips.
Francisco Fernández de Córdoba (? - 1524) was a Spanish explorer and slave trader who explored Mexico (1517) and Nicaragua (1524).
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510-1554) was a Spanish ruler, explorer and conquistador. He was the first European to explore North America’s Southwest.
Gaspar Corte Real (1450?-1501?) was a Portuguese explorer who sailed to Greenland in 1500, and perhaps also reached the coast of North America (Newfoundland). Gaspar was lost at sea about 1501, and his brother Manuel died trying to find him.
Hernán Cortés (also spelled Cortez), Marqués Del Valle De Oaxaca (1485-1547) was a Spanish adventurer and conquistador (he was also a failed law student) who overthrew the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain (1519-21).
Cortes sailed with 11 ships from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula to look for gold, silver, and other treasures. Hearing rumors of great riches, Cortés traveled inland and “discovered” Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. He then brutally killed the Aztec emperor Montezuma and conquered his Aztec Empire of Mexico, claiming all of Mexico for Spain in 1521. Treasures from the Aztecs were brought to Spain, and Cortés was a hero in his homeland. Cortés was appointed governor of the colony of New Spain, but eventually fell out of favor with the royals. He then returned to Spain where he died a few years later.
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 .
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).
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.
Jean-Baptiste-Point Du Sable (1750?-1818) was a Haitian-French pioneer and trader; he founded the settlement that would later become Chicago.
Eric the Red (950?-1003 or 1004?) was a Viking explorer who was the first European to sail to Greenland. He sailed from Iceland in 982 and led a group of colonists to Greenland in 985-986.
Leif Ericsson (also spelled Eriksson) the Lucky (980?-1020?) was a Viking (Norse) explorer who was possibly the first European to sail to North America. Leif sailed north from the southern tip of Greenland, then went south along the coast of Baffin Island down to Labrador, and then landed in what is now called Newfoundland (which he called Vinland). Ericsson sailed around the year 1000.
Ericsson was born in Iceland and was one of the sons of the explorer Eric the Red.
Ericsson was probably preceded to Vinland by the Icelandic explorer Bjarni Herjulfsson, who spotted the coast of North America in 985 or 986 when blown off course from Iceland to Greenland (but he did not go ashore). Hearing of Herjulfsson’s discovery, Ericsson sailed for North America in the year 1000 with a crew of 35. He landed in what is probably southern Baffin Island (which he called Helluland, meaning the “land of the flat stone”). He then went on the what is now Labrador (which he called Markland, meaning “forest land”). In 1001 they reached Vinland (perhaps the southern tip of Newfoundland), where remains of an ancient Norse settlement have been found). Ericsson and his crew returned to Green land in the spring of 1002.
Ericsson later inherited his father’s position as leader of the Norse colony in Greenland.
Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was an English explorer and Admiral who proved the existence of a Northwest Passage (a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada). In 1819 to 1822, Franklin surveyed part of the northwestern Canadian coast east of the Coppermine River. On a second expedition, from 1825 to 1827, Franklin explored the North American coast from the mouth of the Mackenzie River, in northwestern Canada, westward to Point Beechey (Alaska, USA).
In 1845, Franklin sailed from England with an expedition of 128 men to Canada in search of Northwest Passage. The ship became trapped in ice, and the desperate, freezing and starving survivors resorted to cannibalism. A small contingent of the expedition (without Franklin) may have reached Simpson Strait, the final part of the Northwest Passage. Scottish explorer John Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin’s fate. Lead poisoning from poorly-canned food may have also hastened their death.
Sir Martin Frobisher (1535?-1594) was an English privateer (a pirate licensed by the British government), navigator, explorer, and naval officer. After years of sailing to northwestern Africa, and then looting French ships in the English Channel, Frobisher sailed to northeastern North America to search for a Northwest Passage (a sea route across northern Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, making the trip to Asia easier).
Father Francisco Tomás Garcés, (April 12, 1738 - July 18, 1781) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who was a missionary and explorer. Father Garces explored the southwestern part of North America, including what is now Arizona, U.S., southern California, and the Gila and Colorado rivers (including the western Grand Canyon). He visited Hopi and Havasupai Indians, learning much about the area.
From 1768 to 1776, Father Garces explored with Juan Bautista de Anza and alone with native guides. He and Juan Díaz died in a Yuman uprising in the area where the Colorado and Gila rivers meet; they were trying to find a route from Sonora, Mexico to California.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539-1583) was an English nobleman, Army officer, member of Parliament, and explorer.
Early in his career, Gilbert started English settlements in Ireland (to try to stop the Irish rebellion) and, much later, sailed to North America in search of a Northwest Passage (a sea route to Asia through North America). He founded an English settlement in Newfoundland.
Robert Gray (1755-1806) was a American explorer who had previously been in the Navy during the Revolutionary War. Gray sailed from Boston, [Massachusetts[(/usa/states/massachusetts/), in 1787, and traveled around South America to the northwest coast of North America and on to China, where he traded furs for tea. He began his journey with Captain John Kendrick on a sister ship. Gray continued west and returned to Boston in 1790. Gray was the first American-born explorer in an American ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1791, he led another expedition to the northwest coast on a ship called “Columbia.” In 1792, Gray sighted, named, and sailed up the Columbia River in Oregon, and also explored Gray’s Harbor in what is now the state of Washington. Because of Gray’s exploration, the United States now laid claim to the Oregon territory. Gray again continued westwards and circumnavigated the globe again, returning to Boston in 1793.
Sir John Hawkins [also spelled Hawkyns] (1532- 1595) was an English naval officer, slave trader, privateer, and cousin of Sir Francis Drake.
Hawkins sailed to Hispaniola (now Haiti) in 1562-1563 for a London syndicate of businessmen in order to trade Guinean (West African) slaves in the Spanish West Indies. Hawkins was the first English slave trader. He was hated by the Spanish, who did not want foreigners entering their highly profitable slave-trading business. Queen Elizabeth backed a second and third slave-trading expedition (1564-1565).
During a third West Indies slave-trading trip with Drake, a need for repairs sent their six ships to a harbor in San Juan de Ulua, near Veracruz, Mexico. The Spanish fleet then attacked the English ships; only two ships survived (those commanded by Hawkins and Drake).
This attack led to a series of battles that later culminated in a war between the Spain and England. In this war, England crushed the Spanish Armada in 1588 and became the dominant world power. Hawkins was third in command during this struggle. He invented the strategy of blockading the Spanish Armada at the Azores (islands in the Atlantic Ocean far off the coast of Spain) and stealing the treasures that the Spanish had stolen from the New World.
Hawkins died on Nov. 12, 1595, before an attack of Puerto Rico; he and Drake had sailed with 27 ships to raid the Spanish West Indies.
Heriolf was one of the Viking settlers who who sailed with Eric the Red in A.D. 986 and settled in the new colony that Eric established in Greenland. Heriolf was among 400 to 500 settlers who traveled with Eric the Red from Breidafjord, Iceland, in 14 ships to settle in southern Greenland. After doing well for a while, the settlement experienced unusually cold weather. What happened to Heriolf after settling in Greenland is unknown.
Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who explored parts of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay are named for Hudson.
Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer who explored much of Central and South America. Humboldt and his friend, the French botanist Aime Bonpland, explored the coast of Venezuela, the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, and much of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico (1799-1805).
On their many expeditions, Humboldt and Bonpland collected plant, animal, and mineral specimens, studied electiricity, did extensive mapping of northern South America, climbed mountains, observed astronomical phenomena, and performed many scientific observations.
Louis Joliet (1645-1700) was a Canadian explorer (born in Québec City) who explored the Canadian wilderness, including the Great Lakes area. He and Father Jacques Marquette found the Mississippi River in 1673; they were the first Caucasians to see the Mississippi River. Together, they travelled along Lake Michigan to Green Bay, canoed up the Fox River, and went downstream on the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River. They travelled almost to the mouth of the Arkansas, and then stopped because they were warned of hostile Indians and Spanish explorers. They returned via the Illinois River, then the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. Joliet’s journal and his maps were lost when his canoe overturned on the rapids of the Montreal River. Marquette’s diary is all that remains of their journey. Joliet expanded fur trade westward, did extensive mapping, and established a fort on Anticosti Island.
Henry Kelsey (1667-1724) was a British explorer of inland Canada. Also known as Boy Kelsey, he became the first inland explorer of the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was seventeen years old (in 1684). On an expedition lasting from 1688 to 1690, Kelsey travelled to the Churchill River region. During his second expedition (1690 - 1692), Kelsey was the first European to see the Canadian prairies. Kelsey extended the trade routes of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade to the Saskatchewan River by negotiating with various Indian tribes, including the Bree, the Gros Ventres. Kelsey spoke Cree (and perhaps Assiniboin); he respected and enjoyed Indian culture. After his Canadian expeditions, Kelsey returned to his native England and remained with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The company kept his journeys secret for many years since they were crucial to its trade. Kelsey’s journal was re-discovered in 1926.
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J., (Aug. 10, 1645 - March 15, 1711) was a Jesuit priest, missionary, explorer, map-maker, mathematician, and astronomer. Kino was a missionary who founded many missions and explored areas in southwestern North America (Pimería Alta), including areas in what are now northern Sonora (Mexico), southern California (USA) and southern Arizona (USA).
Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe (1683- September 26, 1765) was a French explorer, trader, and soldier who sailed to the southern USA in 1718. He explored the Mississippi, Arkansas, Red, and Sulphur Rivers, and the area near Galveston Bay. He helped settle the area along the Red River, established a trading post, and built a fort.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1755?-1820) was a Scottish-born fur trader and explorer who charted the Mackenzie River in Canada and also traveled to the Pacific Ocean. Mackenzie emigrated to Canada in 1779. From 1788 to 1796 , he commanded the trading post Fort Chipewyan, on Lake Athabasca in Alberta. In 1789, Mackenzie went on an expedition to chart the 1,100-mile Mackenzie River, travelling from the Great Slave Lake to the mouth of the Mackenzie in the Arctic Ocean, using Peter Pond’s incorrect prediction that a river led from that lake to the Pacific Ocean. In 1793, on his second expedition, Mackenzie went from Ft. Chipewyan across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast in is now British Columbia, going via the Peace, Parsnip, McGregor and Fraser Rivers and overland. He was the first European to cross the North American continent north of Mexico (and he did this twice). Mackenzie later retired to his native Scotland. Mackenzie wrote “Voyage from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence, Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the Years 1789 and 1793,” which was published in 1801.
Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit priest and explorer. He sailed to Quebec in 1666 and in 1671 started a Chippewa mission at Chequamegon Bay (at the western end of Lake Superior). Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette (and five others) found the Mississippi River in 1673; they were the first Caucasians to see the Mississippi River. They travelled along Lake Michigan to Green Bay, canoed up the Fox River, and went downstream on the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River. They travelled almost to the mouth of the Arkansas, and then stopped because they were warned of hostile indians and Spanish explorers. They returned via the Illinois River, then the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. Marquette died of dysentery on his way to the Kaskaskian indians, to whom he had planned on preaching.
Peter Minuit (1580-1638) was the first director general of New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony in America. Minuit was sent to the area by the Dutch West India Company. Minuit is famous for buying the island of Manhattan (in what is now New York, USA) from Native Americans in 1626. He bought the island with trinkets valued at about $24. He founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan. In 1631, Minuit was dismissed from the Dutch West India Company, and in 1638 headed a Swedish group that founded New Sweden (the first European settlement on the Delaware River). Minuit bought land from the Native Americans and founded Fort Christina (near what is now Wilmington, Delaware, USA). Minuit died in a hurricane in the West Indies while on a trading mission in 1638.
Captain Christopher Newport (1560? - 1617) was an English privateer and navigator who transported colonists to the first permanent English colony in America, Jamestown, and sailed back and forth from England to the New World five times between 1606 and 1611, transporting both supplies and colonists. Captain Newport had been hired by the Virginia Company to transport the colonists. On December 19, 1606, Captain Newport sailed from London, England, commanding three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, carrying the Jamestown, Virginia settlers, including Capt. John Smith. Jamestown was founded on May 14, 1607, by this small group of English settlers. Newport left the 104 settlers in June 22, 1607, sailing back to England for supplies. That winter, most of the Jamestown settlers died from starvation, attacks, and disease. In 1608, back in Virginia, Newport halted the execution of Captain John Smith (the Jamestown leader who had been accused of causing the deaths of the men on his expedition to obtain food from the Indians); Smith’s life had been previously saved by Pocahontas when he was brought before the Indian Chief Powhatan. On his fourth trip to America (in 1609), Newport was ship-wrecked in the Bermuda Islands and did not reach Virginia until mid-1610. After his American adventures, he sailed to Persia in 1613-1614 for the East India Company. Captain Newport died in Bantam, Java in 1617 on a voyage to the East Indies.
Jean Nicollet [also spelled Nicolet] (1598 - 1642) was a French explorer who was the first European to travel through the Great Lakes area, visiting Lake Michigan and what are now Wisconsin and Illinois, possibly reaching the Mississippi River. For many years, Nicollet lived among the Native Americans in what is now the Ontario, Canada area.
Robert Edwin Peary (May 6, 1856 - Feb. 20, 1920) was an American explorer and Naval officer who led the first expedition to the North Pole. In 1909, Peary, Matthew A. Henson, and four Eskimos were the first people to reach the North Pole.
Juan Perez (ca.1725-1775) was a Spanish navigator who explored the northwest coast of North America. He sailed from Port San Blas, Mexico, up the coast of North America in 1774, in a ship named the Santiago. He had been ordered to sail as far north as Alaska (60 degrees north latitude), but only made it to what is now British Columbia, because of bad weather. He anchored his 82-foot ship off the Queen Charlotte Islands, by northern Vancouver Island. On two occasions, Native Americans canoed to Perez’s ship to trade and invite Perez ashore. Perez never went ashore and so wasn’t able to claim the land for Spain. He made detailed reports of the shoreline and his reports prompted later expeditions.
Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 - April 27, 1813) was an American explorer and military officer (he served in the War of 1812). Pike tried to find the source of the Mississippi River; he also explored the Rocky Mountains and southwestern North America. Pike’s Peak in Colorado is named for him.
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).
Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) was a Spanish conquistador who traveled through much of the Pacific coast of America along Peru. He “discovered” the Incan empire and conquered it brutally and quickly, stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures.
Chief Pontiac (1720 - April 20, 1769) was a great leader of the Ottawa Indian tribe. He organized his and other tribes in the Great Lakes area to fight the British, in what is known as Pontiac’s War (1763-1764).
Pierre Esprit Radisson (1636-1710) was a French explorer and fur trader who settled in Canada in 1651. He and his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart de Groseillier, were the first European explorers to see what is now Minnesota. Radisson was instrumental in forming the Hudson’s Bay Company (an English fur trading monopoly which was founded in 1670). Radisson also trekked to Hudson Bay (in 1668 and 1670). Radisson wrote about his treks through the North American wilderness and his capture by the Iroquois (1651-1653).
John Rae (1813-1893) was a Scottish explorer, surveyor, and surgeon who explored the Canadian Arctic. Rae made three voyages, in 1848-1849, 1851, and 1853-1854, to find the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who had disappeared together with his Arctic expedition. Rae surveyed and mapped over 1,400 miles (2255 km) of uncharted Canadian coastline. He also showed that King William Land was an island. On his third journey, Rae determined that Franklin and his expedition had died of starvation and exposure in the Arctic; Eskimos at Pelly Bay told Rae of Franklin’s fate. During his Arctic expeditions, the hearty Rae walked over 23,000 miles (37000 km).
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a British explorer, poet, historian, and soldier. Raleigh led expeditions to both North America and South America; he was trying to found new settlements, find gold, and increase trade with the New World. In 1585, Raleigh sent colonists to the east coast of North America; Raleigh later named that area Virginia, in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. He is often credited with bringing tobacco and potatoes from the New World to Britain, but they were already known there. Raleigh was later executed by King James I for treason.
Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who traveled to Mexico in 1749 to do missionary work and perform other church functions.
In 1767, Serra went north from Mexico to what is now California and continued his missionary work, converting native Americans zealously (sometimes forcibly). He founded many missions in California, including the Mission of San Diego (founded in 1769) and 8 other missions, which were often built by the forced labor of Indians who were rounded up by Spanish soldiers. The death rate of Native Americans at Serra’s missions was tremendously high; many more died than were baptized. Serra also helped an expedition in locating San Francisco.
Father Serra was well-known for his acts of mortification of the flesh; he wore heavy hair shirts with sharp wires that rubbed against his skin, he whipped himself, and he burned himself with candles. Although the Catholic church bestowed sainthood on Serra in 1988 for his missionary work, his cruelty and the tremendously negative effect he had on Native Americans have made him a very controversial saint to many people.
Jedediah Smith (1798-1831) was an American mountain man, hunter, trapper, and explorer. Smith was from New York and was the first European American to reach California overland from the east (though the Rocky Mountains and the Mojave Desert). He was also the first European American to cross the Great Basin Desert via the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Salt Lake (on his return from California). During this trip, the heat was so unbearable that Smith and his men resorted to burying themselves in the sand during the hottest parts of the day. Smith was killed by Comanche Indians on the Santa Fe Trail near the Cimarron River in 1831. His body was never found. Smith never published an account of his travels, so little is known about them.
John Smith (January 9, 1580 - June, 1631) was an English adventurer and soldier, and one of the founders and leaders of the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement. Smith also led expeditions exploring Chesapeake Bay and the New England coast.
Smith was one of 105 settlers who sailed from England on December 19, 1606, and landed in Virginia on April 26, 1607. When they reached North America, the group opened sealed instructions and found that Smith was chosen as one of the seven leaders of the new colony.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (November 3, 1879 - August 26, 1962) was a Canadian explorer (born of Icelandic parents) who explored the Canadian Arctic and lived among the Inuit (Eskimos) for many years.
Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) was a Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam (now called New York City). Stuyvesant was born in Holland and began working for the Dutch West India Company in 1632. In 1643, Stuyvesant was appointed the director of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire (islands in the Caribbean). Fighting against the Portuguese in the Caribbean, Stuyvesant lost his right leg when it was crushed by a cannonball, and thereafter walked on a silver-tipped wooden leg.
In 1645, Stuyvesant became the director general of the extensive Dutch lands in North America, including islands in the Caribbean. He went to New Amsterdam (New York City, New York) as governor in 1647, succeeding Willem Kieft. Stuyvesant ruled the chaotic colony in a harsh, despotic manner that was often resented by the colonists. After the colonists demanded self-governance, Stuyvesant appointed a 9-man advisory board based on a model of Dutch government (this was the first municipal government in New Amsterdam), but Stuyvesant was still in charge. In a boundary dispute, Stuyvesant gave up a large tract of land between New Netherland and Connecticut in 1650. He also conquered New Sweden, driving Swedish colonists from their land along the Delaware River.
Stuyvesant lost New Amsterdam to the British in 1664, when the colonists decided to surrender to the British without a fight (against Stuyvesant’s wishes). New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and the British Captain Richard Nicholls became governor. Stuyvesant later retired to his 62-acre farm on Manhattan, called the Great Bouwerie. (Bouwerie is the old Dutch word for farm, from which the modern-day Bowery gets its name.) Stuyvesant died in August, 1672.
David Thompson (1770-1857) was a Welsh explorer (born in London, England); Thompson’s family name was originally as Tomos. Thompson was also a mapmaker, surveyor, fur trader, and journal writer. . Thompson explored western North America, including what is now western Canada and the western USA. Thompson was the first European to explore the entire length of Columbia River. Thompson’s detailed maps of western North America were the first ones made, and were the basis of maps for years to come. Thompson began working as a clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1784. In 1796, Thompson explored Lake Athabasca. In 1797, Thompson joined and become a partner in the North West Company (a rival trapping company). In 1797-1798, Thompson went on an expedition down the Missouri River; he discovered Turtle Lake, one of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, in 1798. In 1807, Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains and built the first trading post on the Columbia River. From 1818 to 1826, Thomson surveyed the border between Canada and the USA.
Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) was an English explorer and navigator who sailed to the northwest coast of North America. His two ships, “Discovery” and “Chatham,” reached the Strait of Juan de Fuca (near what is now the US-Canadian border) in May, 1792. He then sailed to Puget Sound (near what is now Seattle); Vancouver named Puget Sound (he named it for Lieutenant Peter Puget who was sailing under Captain Vancouver on the ship “Discovery”). Vancouver also named Mt. Rainier, Whidbey Island, and the Hood Canal. The expedition then sailed north, discovering what is now called Vancouver Island, and then sailing around it. Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named for him. Vancouver had previously served under Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages sailing around the world.
Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528) was an Italian navigator who, in 1524, explored the northeast coast of North America from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Maine while searching for a Northwest passage to Asia. Verrazzano sailed for King François-premier (Francis I) of France. Verrazzano’s brother, Girolamo da Verrazzano, was a mapmaker who accompanyed Giovanni on his voyage, and mapped the voyage.
Verrazzano left Madeira, Spain, on January 17, 1524, and landed at Cape Fear on March 1. He first sailed south, then returned and sailed north, to New York, anchoring the narrows that are now name for him. He sailed up to Maine and then on to New Foundland, Canada, and back to Europe (landing in Dieppe, France on July 8). Verrazzano thought that North America was a thin isthmus separating the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Verrazzano was killed and eaten by Carib Indians in 1528. The Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, a suspension bridge that spans New York Harbor, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island (New York, USA), was named for Verrazzano.
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.
Sebastián Vizcaíno (1550?-1628?) was a Spanish nobleman, explorer and merchant. In 1602, Vizcaino sailed up te coast of California in three ships at the request of King Phillip II of Spain. Vizcaino named Monterey Bay (named for the viceroy Conde de Monterey who sponsored this voyage) and San Diego (Vizcaino arrived there on the feast day of San Diego de Alcala, November 12). One ship sailed as far north as Oregon. Vizcaino also named San Clemente, Catalina, Santa Barbara, Point Concepcion, Carmel, Monterey, La Paz, and Ano Nuevo. Most of the crew died from scurvy (a lack of vitamin C). Although Cabrillo had already named many of these place, Vizcaino published well-read accounts of his voyages, and his names were used. Vizcaino’s earlier attempt, in 1596, to colonize southern California failed; it was 150 years before other Europeans came to California. Vizcaíno travelled to Japan in 1610, meeting with the retired shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sumpu (now Shizuoka); Vizcaino returned to Mexico with a mission led by Hasekura Tsunenaga, who both hoped to open trade between Mexico/Spain and Japan (but the mission failed after the expelled Japanese Christian priests from Japan, angering the Spanish). Sebastián Vizcaíno Bay, a bay of the Pacific Ocean, in the western Baja California peninsula, Mexico, is named for Vizcaino.