Great European Sailors

Many European sailors were famous explorers who discovered new oceans and new lands. They found new routes to travel which was very important for trade. Ferdinand Magellan in 1519 discovered what is now known as the Strait of Magellan. His fleet sailed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain and arrived in South America. Magellan and his crew were the first European sailors to discover the Pacific Ocean which he referred to as Mar Pacifico, Magellan set the stage for many other European sailors who were to explore in later years. People realized after Magellan’s journey that the Earth was in fact much larger than was originally thought.

Bartholomew Diaz

One of the first European explorers was Bartholomew Diaz who was the first sailor to sail around the tip of Africa from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean in 1488. This was a major achievement as many other sailors from Portugal had been trying to find a way to India from Africa. Diaz was the first European to accomplish this. The southernmost tip of Africa then became known as Cape of Good Hope. The ocean is very treacherous around the Cape which makes this an even greater achievement.

Christopher Columbus is probably even more famous than Bartholomew Diaz. He was an Italian who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean four times. His goal was to travel west to reach the West Indies. He discovered Bermuda, Central America and of course landed in North America as well. Prior to Columbus, the Norwegian Leif Erickson had already landed in North America in the 11th century but Columbus is recognized as being the explorer who established the permanent colonization of North America by the Europeans.

Vasco de Gama was the first European to arrive in India after sailing over the ocean.  He established an ocean route from the Pacific to Indian Ocean which avoided travelling via the disputed and at the time, dangerous Mediterranean and Arabian Peninsula. While travelling around the southern part of Africa he discovered Natal on the eastern coast, today this province is known as Kwazulu-Natal. The Portuguese explorer and sailor Pedro Álvares Cabral crossed the Pacific Ocean and discovered Brazil after landing on the northeast coast of South America.

Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish explorer who along with conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa travelled across the Pacific and across the Isthmus of Panama. Pizzaro was involved in the conquering of Peru and establishment of Lima as the capital city. Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first European sailor and explorer to see the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean which he saw from Peru. These great European sailors were able to sail and colonize many parts of the world. Sailing across vast oceans with dangerous storms did result in many ships being lost and most of these European explorers returned home with only a few ship and men remaining. This only makes their achievements that much more remarkable considering that they did not have the technology that modern-day vessels have.


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