I am a Canadian and so in geographical terms I think first of North America.[1] The question of which European 'discovered' what is perhaps more academic to Canadians than to Europeans. There appears to be increasing evidence that Europeans were only late-comers to North America. (Gavin Menzies, 1421 has even postulated that the Chinese may have discovered North America first: see below: this is, of course, yet unproven.) I have chosen to use the geographical definition of North America, which includes the Caribbean and Central America. I have further broadened the foregoing definition to include South America, since the Europeans felt that America (China as Columbas first thought) was all one.

The traditional view has been that the first 'settlers' could only have come on foot across the Bering Strait, it then being land-locked or frozen. A crossable Bering Strait made for a relatively easy date calculation, by examination of archeological ice-age dating. This Bering crossing was thought to have been an exclusive route, however, that idea is now discredited and wider sources of Asian sea travel are now seen as having been viable. Again there is scant evidence for that theory, but human fossil remains in California suggest Polynesian rather than Mongoloid origins. Therefore, there may have been several migrations into America from a variety of Asian origins, as yet this seems still to be hypothetical.[2]

Since various modern demonstrations have persuaded people that sea travel, using available ancient materials and techniques, was quite possible, evidence has accumulated that such travel did in fact occur. A series of archeological discoveries has demonstrated that skeletal-type remains on the American West coast differ from similarly-dated remains on the East coast. This has suggested differing origins for early human explorers. These West coast remains have been dated back to a period 20,000-30,000 BC and have been supported by other findings in South America. In 2005, human footprints found in Mexican volcanic ash (and thus preserved) were dated at c40,000 BC.[3]

Later modern Europeans sought a route back to Asia, which they thought of as a North West Passage, as the Portuguese seemed to have 'locked up' the valuable trade route via Africa. The issue was wealth to be gained from 'China' (also called Cathay), by trade for the silks and spices, which Europeans then craved. China was used as a generic name for all of Asia and certainly covered India and the spice islands.

Recent findings are still under discussion and are not yet generally accepted as fact, but together with firmer skeletal and DNA evidence they are challenging the exclusive Siberian-route to American colonisation. As an example, ancient (40,000-year old) human footprints have been found locked in an old lava bed in Mexico. The known last ice-age closed the Bering route under perhaps a kilometre thick sheet of ice c11,000-c8,000 BC and either the footprint-dating data (and other evidence) is in error, or alternate colonisation routes existed. The alternative proposed has been arrival by boat on the West coast with further dispersion along that coast. You will see below references to the increasingly-supported theory that sea-travel might have been favoured by our early ancestors, and there is considerable evidence of a human presence in the Americas pre-dating the last ice-age.[3]

Not to be outdone, Russian scientists have found evidence suggesting much earlier Bering crossings. Moreover, some experts have suggested that early travelers may have arrived on the East coast directly from Africa as well as from Europe. These last travelers may have been significantly older than modern theories have proposed. New research is being conducted to obtain fresh radiocarbon-dated evidence and then to conduct and compare genetic studies with possible ancient Mt DNA samples.

World Exploration

Chinese records apparently claim that America (called Fusang) had been first visited by Hoei-Shin in 499. There is some possible additional controversial evidence of possible later Chinese colonisation efforts in the Americas. These latter Chinese efforts preceded the known European colonial settlements, but final historical judgement has not yet been made.[4]

The Arctic


The early Viking Sagas and Irish histories seem to carry the European exploration into the West back further than is generally supposed. Farley Mowat has made a comprehensive documentation of sources in his book WestViking and it seems possible that apart from an occasional European Greek, or even Carthaginian, the Irish were the first historical Europeans to visit North America. They are supposed to have sailed under religious motivation and zeal to explore God's world. They would have had to have used the curragh: a 10-20' open boat, consisting of skins stretched over a frame. Remarkably these boats are still in use and seem quite seaworthy. Moreover, distances from Ireland are measured in mere days - if one sails accurately from island to island. No doubt the later Viking raids may have added some motivation to leave Ireland and travel to out-of-the-way islands for sanctuary.

Much of history is military in nature: the Conquistadores explored, fought and claimed much of the new world. The Spanish set the European pattern for future exploration and colonisation. The outlined explorations below and their migration to early military forts give a sense of the breadth of European interest in their search for access to Cathay (China) and the fabulous profits to be made in trade. Having landed in the ‘Indies’ men stayed to profit from the land itself and created the trade in African slaves and later social problems. The reader will find continual references to military affairs are embedded in the following explorations.

My interest here is not to document, but rather to sketch the temper of the times. Led to America by a variety of motives, but perhaps principally greed, many European governments claimed land to expand their settlement. The Spanish again led the way in bringing God (also disease, and the Inquisition) to the natives. In competition with European diseases God did not do well: up to 90% of the 'New World' natives died on exposure to European-born sicknesses. The Europeans were also quick to settle on African slavery as a solution to exploit natural wealth in the New World. Many European nations made New World claims; war became a means to affirmation. The French islands of St Pierre and Michelon off Eastern Canada, and Dutch, English, and French Caribbean islands continue this European mix.

The following table identifies many of the European and other explorations of North America.[5] Much of our knowledge of this history is based in significant part on the 1589 book The Voyages, by Richard Hakluyt: without his collection of details we would not be so well informed. These data are organised chronologically.






Arctic Exploration and Asian migration

Commanders: Asian and Polynesian migrants

Asian hunters explored the Arctic Ocean and peripheral coastal areas. Migrants used the Bering Strait and also sailed directly to the Western Seaboard. The Bering Strait access was closed during the last Ice Age (c15000 BC), so clearly other routes were required.

Skeletal evidence confirms a pre-ice age presence on the west coast north of MesoAmerica by people with non-mongoloid cranial features. These latter people are expected to have sailed from south-east Asia and Micronesia.

40,000-30,000 BC

First Settlement in Yukon, Canada

Commanders: Asian migrants and Inuit Hunters

Archeological remains found in the Yukon c10,000-years old. The migrants apparently found warm valleys to avoid the Ice-Age blockades.

These people were Asians, no doubt migrating from Siberia where Russian scientists have found evidence of human occupation c30,000-years old.

c10,000 BC

Iceland, and Beyond

Commander: Pytheas, The Greek

Pytheas was a Greek merchant, navigator, and explorer from Massalia (Marseille, France). Carthaginians and others had been trading with Spain and Britain since c700 BC and Pytheas wrote a 'book' (On the Ocean) describing a trip c325 BC.

A recent conjectural reconstruction of the trip suggests a route: Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Land's End, Plymouth, the Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides, Orkneys, Iceland, English east coast, Kent, Helgoland, returning finally to Marseille.

Pytheas described the Aurora Borealis, polar ice, and Germanic tribes. He may have used the pole star for navigation and he accurately estimated Britain's circumference. He called Britain the "Isles of the Pretani." Pytheas visited an island six days sailing north of Great Britain, which he called Thule. He said he was shown the place where the sun went to sleep, and he noted that the night in Thule was only two to three hours. One day further north the congealed sea began, he claimed.

He apparently finished his trip with a visit to the North Sea German tribes - perhaps in the Baltic.

c330 BC

First World Map

Ptolemy of Alexandria

Ptolemy created a world map and recorded the geographic coordinates in his book Geographia. Ptolemy introduced longitudes and latitudes and related locations to celestial observations. His concept of global coordinates created a scientific and numerical basis for European world mapping.

Ptolemy identified the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, as well as Europe, Africa, China, India, and Sri Lanka.

c150 AD

Iceland, Labrador and Newfoundland

Commanders: Irish Faeroe Islanders

The Picts and Celts expanded their summer fishing and hunting further afield with the warming climate by c650. The later explorers were guided by local tradition and economic patterns to find their way to new lands.

Both Iceland and Greenland were inhabited and then abandoned by different peoples over a thousand year period.


Exploration of Pacific Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua

Commander: Hoei-Shin

Hoei-Shin was a Chinese Buddhist priest who visited 'Fusang'. The description he gave - which included 'no iron' suggests that Fusang might possibly have been Central America and that the people he met might possibly have been Olmecs. DNA analysis has reportedly shown unique Chinese diseases amongst the Mexican Indians.

The Chinese developed later mapping, navigation, and sailing skills, which culminated in the later voyages of Zheng He in the early 1400s.


Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys, Faeroes, Iceland

Commander: Abbot Brendan St, with 18 monks

A curragh in 2002

6th century Irish legends record that monks were found on Atlantic islands by St Brendan c560. He was the Irish Abbot at Clonfert.

Travel was made by Irish curragh and Snorri records Irish in Iceland prior to Viking settlement in c870. Morison discounts stories of early Irish travel beyond the Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys, Faeroes, and possibly Iceland. St Brendan traveled as a younger man in company with a group of his monks.

The route was well established by the Faroe and other Islanders.


Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Labrador and Newfoundland

Commanders: Irish Faeroe Islanders and Celtic clergy

Celtic settlements made in Iceland and farther. The migration partly caused by Viking raids.

Iceland and Greenland

Commanders: Celtic and Norse settlers

First Papal bull referring to settlements in Iceland and Greenland.


Norse and Danes

First Scandinavian settlement in Iceland. Major immigration c880. Althing (parliament) established and Iceland fully colonised


Commander:Ari Marsson

Ari Marsson, a Norse trader, was blown to Greenland, while en route from Norway to Iceland.

Greenland Colonisation

Commander: Eirik the Red

In 981, Eirik the Red followed up Ari Marsson's tale and sailed from Iceland to establish a winter camp on Greenland. In 982 Eirik explored the Greenland area. Having organised a camp he returned to Iceland and established a colonial venture.

In 985 Eirik led 35 ship-loads of colonists from Iceland to Greenland: 14 ships arrived. Eirik became the chief of Greenland.


Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland

Commander: Bjarni Herjulfsson

Bjarni Herjulfsson sailed from Iceland to Greenland but was blown of course to the southwest near Newfoundland and Labrador, before reaching Greenland. His report of new land inspired Eirik's son Leifr (Leif) to make an exploratory search.

Labrador and Newfoundland

Commander: Leifur Eiriksson

l'Anse Aux Meadows Site

Leif Eiriksson (son of Eirik the Red) followed up Bjarni Herjulfsson's story. Leif sailed to Vinland and established a Viking camp at l'Anse aux Meadows at Trinity Bay in Newfoundland.

Leif also may have been seeking a source for timber as none was available on Greenland.

Leif apparently assessed Vineland as a good place for further colonisation as he organised further visits. (Historical records show that in c1000 Newfoundland's climate was significantly warmer. Grapes grew there then, and apparently now.)



Commanders: Eirik the Red; Thorstein Eiriksson

Failed to reach Newfoundland. Eirik injured himself prior to embarking and stayed on Greenland.

Viking Exploration of Newfoundland

c1004 four ships and 140 Norsemen
c1008 two ships

Commanders: c1004-1007 Thorvald Eirikson, Thorfinn Karlsefni, Freydis Eiriksdottir, c1008 Thorvald Eiriksson, Freydis Eiriksdottir, Hegli, Finnbogi

Space on Greenland and Iceland became crowded and a four-ship expedition established a camp at the Strait of Belle Isle. After a year of exploration (apparently based at a separate site) Thorfinn Karlsefni returned to Greenland. Thorvald Eirikson was killed by 'Skraelings' (apparently Beothuk Indians).

Freydis Eiriksdottir continued to attempt to colonise Vineland at l’Anse Aux Meadows, in Newfoundland for another winter. Evidently she returned to Greenland after a stay in Vineland of about three years. Thorfinn Karlsefni probably explored Nova Scotia, perhaps Prince Edward Island, and probably some of the St Lawrence River. There is some speculation that Thorfinn may have sailed farther south, but there is no evidence.

Thorfinn Karlsefni and Freydis made a further trip to Vineland and took Hegli, and Finnbogi and their crew in a second ship. Freydis seems to have taken command and insisted that Hegli, and Finnbogi build a separate house and not stay at l’Anse Aux Meadows. During the winter tempers rose, apparently Freydis was responsible for ordering the killing of the entire second crew, including Freydis' personal killing of their women. Freydis led the remaining last contingent back to Greenland.

Thorfinn's wife Gudrid's child, Snorri, was apparently born in Newfoundland c1008 on this trip. Snorri was probably the first European born in the Americas.

The Vinland camp remained in occasional use by later Norse explorers and traders until c1350.


Travel to, Exploration and Documentation of China (Cathay)

Traveled overland on the Silk Road

Commanders: Maffeo, Marco, and Niccolò Polo


Polos in China

After capturing Constantinople the Fourth Crusaders moved on, leaving the Venetians - who had supported them. The Polo brothers, Niccolò and Maffeo, were traders in Constantinople, but left in 1259 and began traveling east. In 1264 they reached the Mongol capital - now called Beijing, China.[6]

The elder Polos met Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor. The Polos were then commissioned to escort an ambassador back to the pope. Papal vacancies kept them until their return in 1271, with young Marco. Marco Polo became a favorite and explored and traded in China until 1291.

The Polos returned to Venice in 1295, where their stories were not believed. Marco dictated a book 'Il Milione' recounting his travels. Although disbelieved at the time, later academics supported his claims as the geographical data proved accurate.

As the existence of China and the Polos' stories of incredible wealth were accepted, the Europeans began to explore for a short route to trade with China. Much of the subsequent Atlantic exploration excitement was motivated by the Polos' stories of great wealth.


Caribbean, Malian Expedition, 400 Ships

Commander: Abubakari II, King of Mali

No ships returned from this trip, some men may have reached MesoAmerica. Mali was assured by professors from Timbuktu’s university and by Arab geographers that the world was round and that new lands lay on the other side of the great green ocean.

An attempt to discover and explore new lands was probably made in c1307.


Caribbean, Second Malian Expedition, 2,000 Ships

Commander: Abubakari II, King of Mali

No ships returned from final trip, some men may have reached MesoaMerica. King Abubakari led the second expedition himself in 1312, having organised his empire from his capital at Timbuktu.

Abubakari took his best sailors and navigators, captains and cooks. The ships carried colonists and trade goods - just in case. On the deck of one ship was a throne, apparently covered by a royal parasol.


Norse Exploration via Hudson Bay to Minnesota

10 men

Commander: Paul Knutson, a Swede?

The 'Kensington' carved stone memorialises the trip and death of Norsemen. It was found in Minnesota in 1898.[7]

In 1354 King Magnus IV Eirikson of Sweden commissioned Paul Knutson to sail to Greenland. It appears that Knutson returned in c1364 via Minnesota. The translated text reads...

"8 Geats (South Swedes) and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils.

I have 10 men at the inland sea to look after our ship 14 days travel from this property Year of our Lord 1362."


Indian Ocean, Indian Coast, African Coast, Philippines, Indonesian Archipelago, Moluccas, Korea, Japan Exploration

1405 - East China Sea Indian Ocean Africa, 1421 - 800+ ships and 27,870 men (plus concubines and merchant traders)

Dated 1763, Chinese map purported copy of Mo Yi Tong's Ming-dynasty 1418 map of the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Europe**

Commander: Chinese Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho)

Ming emperor Zhu Di (also called Yong Le, or Chéng zsǔ) used his closest advisor the eunuch Zheng He to build power. Zhu Di seized power in China in 1403 and ordered Zheng He to build a new fleet of 1,681 ships and '...proceed all the way to the ends of the earth...'

In 1405-1430, Zheng He apparently organised and commanded seven expeditions of up to 800+ ships and 27,870 men (plus concubines) on voyages of world discovery.[8] Zheng He spent the next 25 years on various expeditions to South-east Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Indian Ocean, South Atlantic, and East African coast; and then in organising other Chinese admirals to lead further world expeditions. He first sailed to Java, Sumatra, Ceylon, India, the Persian Gulf, and East Africa. The reputed 1421 sixth trip is alleged to have gone further - to Australia, Western Africa, Antarctica, the Americas, Greenland, and along northern Russia. (Considerable academic disagreement disputes the suggestion of the sixth trip and its area of exploration.) The principal Chinese commander was Admiral Zheng He, whose sixth expedition stone memorial apparently records a voyage of 160,000 kms.

The largest Chinese ships were called 'treasure ships' - because of their enormous cost. The fleets were well equipped with navigators, surveyors, astronomers, engineers, cartographers, and historians - as well as diplomats and translators. Several types of specialists were included like mathematicians, stone masons, and metallurgists (China and India led the world in mining and smelting minerals.) He's ships had compasses, 36' stern post rudders, watertight compartments; & the largest were 480' x 180' and 3,000+ tons. (Columbus' ships were 100- tons.) The Chinese ships were armed with cannons and gunpowder, plus flaming arrows, and may have carried regiments of de-facto marines. The main ships were triple-hulled with 16 watertight compartments. Each massive 'treasure' ship '...consumed the wood of three hundred acres of prime teak forest.[9]

In the early 1400s Ming China was a powerful nation with a navy of c3,000 warships and c800 transport and large 'long-distance' ships. There were an additional 3,000 merchantmen, plus smaller specialty ships. (See Gavin Menzies 1421, p. 511.) The Chinese thus had the resources to undertake world exploration and charting. The fleets were reportedly self-contained for up to three months, carried thousands of horses, pigs, chickens, and dogs; and were replenished by special water and grain supply ships. Menzies notes that because the fleets were protected by fast, manoeuverable war ships they were joined by trading ships from: Japan, Korea, Burma, Vietnam, and India .Between 1421 and 1426, Zheng He's Chinese fleets reportedly sailed and visited throughout the world (less Europe) and fulfilled the mandate of their emperor Zhu Di. Menzies claims that the Chinese successfully conducted major mining operations in Australia, South America, America, and on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. (Essentially many academics say '...hogwash didn't happen.[10])

The reputed motive for this exploration was to extend wealthy China's trade empire by re-creating the peaceful world environment of the pre-Mongol period. (In 1237 the Chinese navy deployed 52,000 men in 20 squadrons armed with mines, cannon, and bombs.)[11] This was to be achieved by extending the empire through friendly visits resulting in submission: those states not accepting Chinese suzerainty 'were to be over-awed by a show of armed might'. All the states visited in the first voyage allegedly submitted.[12] The enormous fleets (c800 ships) visited and charted much of the world and every continent, including the Antarctic and northern Greenland coastal waters. Most of the principal 'treasure' ships were lost in the dangerous, unexplored inland waterways. Although the key astral reference points (Polaris, the Southern Cross, and Canopus) had been accurately located and their mapping and navigation charts recorded the enormous amount of survey detail the mandarins destroyed many of the formal records and reortedly now only copies of copies remain of the Chinese world coastal maps. Many of the world's principal rivers are included in these maps, accurately portrayed perhaps exceeding casual map representation - even if then known by others. (North American rivers portrayed on early maps include the: Mississippi, Brazos, Alabama, Roanoke, Delaware, Hudson, and possibly the St Lawrence.) A number of early Japanese and European maps may contain information derived from the remnant Chinese maps. These European maps are alleged to include information which was derived from the Chinese.[13]

By the time the combined fleets reached the Chinese trading base at Calicut India, the fleet allegedly carried the largest single population between China and Japan. The flagship alone is described by Menzies as having 60 staterooms just for foreign ambassadors and their staffs. The reason for the vast fleet was to enable the survey and capture of the world's geographic details to support world charting. Additionally, the diplomats were to make contact with newly discovered 'Barbarians' (the rest of the world) and invite them to send envoys with the fleet to the emperor in Beijing. The emperor and his advisors had reportedly understood that they could not create a world trading empire without creating and sharing world sailing charts and diplomatic contacts.

Why did we not know about this altruistic Chinese enterprise previously? Zheng He's general explorations have been known for centuries, but only recently has Menzie's attempted to compile an extensive record. According to Menzies, sadly, Chinese timing was bad and the maps and a succession of weak emperors merely enabled the Portuguese and others to exploit the charts and seize the trade. Reportedly the last Chinese ships probably returned in 1426. Sadly the visionary emperor died discredited in 1424 and his sailors' alleged triumph was muted: they returned to a different world and the mandarins destroyed most of the records. Historically, China then turned away from external trade and the outside world.

Zheng He's last and Seventh voyage was despatched in 1430, during which he died. Reportedly the fleet carried 27,500 men and travelled to Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ceylon and reached Calicut India. The fleet then divided and sailed to Persia and the African coast, trading with the local Arabs. When the fleet finally returned some of the ships were burned while others were left to rot.

Iceland, Greenland, Labrador

Basque and Bristol seamen began fishing and whaling off eastern Canada. Numerous sea stories have been recorded of European fishermen off eastern Canada.

The first recorded English voyage into Atlantic coastal Canadian water was made by John Day in 1480. Day was a Bristol merchant and there are stories of Bristol men finding Brasile that Day claimed to be the same land Cabot claimed.


Chinese Sixth Voyage of Circumnavigation, Charting of Southern and Northern Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Greenland

This entire trip is disputed as is the claim to have visited all the places alleged

800+ ships and 27,870 Chinese envoys, sailors and passengers (including concubines)

Commanders: Chinese Admiral Zheng He, Fleet Vice Admirals Zhou Man, Zhou Wen, Hong Bao, Yang Qing

According to Menzies, o n 5 March 1421, after years of planning, Zheng He led the fleets into the Yellow Sea and around Korea and Thailand to the Chinese base at Calicut, India. From there they reportedly sailed across to the Horn of Africa and then south around the Cape of Good Hope and up the west coast past the Bulge to the Cape Verde Islands where Menzies says He raised a stone monument. At Cape Verde the fleets reportedly began to separate on their imperial missions.

Zhou Wen allegedly sailed west with the Trade Winds to the Antilles and began serious charting while losing ships and men to the hidden coral reefs. Zhou Wen then allegedly sailed up Florida to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where he got caught in the winds and currents and looped back to Cape Verde and repeated his trip to the Caribbean and the American coast. Fixing Polaris as a baseline reference allegedly required sailing north though the Davis Strait around Greenland and Iceland. Zhou Wen allegedly returned home by sailing north of Europe and along the Russian Siberian coast, via Japan to Tanggu (Tianjin) in late 1423 .[14]

Hong Bao also allegedly sailed west, but more to the south to Brazil: evidently he traveled up the Amazon, since Chinese DNA, a possible stone city, porcelain, jade carvings, and other Chinese items have been found there. Hong Bao then sailed south via Patagonia, transited the Strait of Magellan and then further south to the South Shetlands. In this area he fixed the Southern Cross and Canopus for surveying in the Southern Hemisphere. Hong Bao then mapped the ice limits and Antarctica's mountain peaks and then sailed to the western and southern coasts of Australia. and home to Tanggu (Tianjin) carrying the Ambassador of Callicut in October 1423.

Zhou Man allegedly made a stupendous trip from Cape Verde, sailing around South America via the Strait of Magellan and then caught the Humbolt current up the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. Zhou Man was then allegedly swept across the Pacific to Australia, where he followed the coast and allegedly landed for mining explorations mounted on horses. There were several alleged wrecks along the Australian coast and people were left behind. After exploring along the Australian coast to the west, Zhou Man allegedly returned to the north and then sailed towards Japan, catching the winds and current back to the American coast allegedly near Vancouver.[15] He then allegedly sailed south along California and Mexico to catch the Humbolt again off Peru and allegedly returned to Australia, New Zealand (more wrecks), and then finally home to Beijing.

Yang Qing received orders to sail as the first of the fleets on 13 January 1421. He apparently sailed along the coast to India, then down that eastern coast and across the Indian Ocean to the African Cape of Good Hope. Yang Qing followed the East African coast to Persian port of Hormuz. He then continued along the coast and returned past India to Nanking and then Beijing in September 1422. His trip was short, but he brought back 17 African and Indian envoys and determined how to calculate longitude (three centuries prior to Europe).

(Later emperors tried to destroy all the records of these voyages and refocus Chinese attention inward on the 'Middle Kingdom'. The Portuguese, Spanish, and other Europeans allegedly exploited the hard won charts without crediting their source. Individuals (like Columbus) were motivated to claim discovery and credit for themselves.)


Portuguese Exploration of the Caribbean

Commander: Capitão Gonzalo Velho Cabral

In 1431, Prince Henry sent his senior sea captain to find Antilia, which was then marked on a variety of old maps. Antilia was what is now called Puerto Rico

Not only did Cabral find it - the claimed Chinese data was accurate - but he settled some colonists there, who later greeted Columbus in 1493. When Columbus arrived, he reported being met in Portuguese.[16] The Portuguese had another allegedly ship blown off course in 1447, which touched at Puerto Rico and on return confirmed to Portuguese authorities that the colonists were there.


Labrador, Newfoundland, America

three ships

Commanders: Capitão João Corte Real; Captain Didrich Pining; Captain Hans Pothorst; Navigator Johannes Scolvuus

Caravels had triangular sails

In 1476, a Joint Portuguese/ Danish three-ship exploration was organised by the Portugese Prince Henry ‘The Navigator’.

João Corte Real rewarded for finding ‘Stockfish Land’ (Newfoundland). João Corte Real’s sons … “Gaspar and Miguel disappeared in Newfoundland waters in 1502.[17]

Henry had pushed the design of sailing ships to create the state-of-the-art Caravel design (above). because, unlike his captains Henry knew of the Cape of Good Hope, he knew the courses to find Indian and Chinese silks, and he knew where to find the spices - the key to fabulous wealth and world power. Henry's goal was indeed to grab world trade and he took the spice trade away from the very Chinese who had given him the critical information on how to find it


Spanish Discovery of America

1492 - three ships and 100 men, 1493 - 17 ships and 1,200 men, 1498 - six ships, 1502 - four ships

Commander: Capitán General, Chistóbal Colón, Almirante de Océano, Virrey de las Indias,[18]

The New World

In 1492, Christopher Columbus finally gained the final commissions from Ferdinand and Isabella and he set sail with three small ships from Spain with a Muslim navigator, an Arab translator, maps, and equipment. His goal was to sail across the Atlantic and reach Asia, particulalry rich China and India to establish trade. Of course he was mistaken about the size of the earth and the existence of the Americas to block his way. His trip was the beginning of new ways for Europeans to look at the world.** He may have made his first landing at San Salvador (now called Watlings) Island. On 28 December 1492, he landed and left a 40-man colony at La Navidad, on Hispañola (now in the Dominican Republic).

In 1493, Columbus returned (including Juan Ponce de León) to colonise Hispaniola. He explored Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Hispaniola, In the period 1493-1496, He named Jamaica where he was shipwrecked for a year. Columbus returned to Spain with 225 Spaniards of the orginal 1,200. Columbus reported meeting Chinese in Cuba, and prior Chinese visits to Greenland and the Azores. In a secret report he described meeting Chinese miners in a ship.

1498, Explored Trinidad and Venezuela.

1502-1504, Explored Central America.


Spanish Conquest of Puerto Rico, Exploration of Florida

1513 - three ships, 1521 - two ships,

Commander: Juan Ponce de León, Gobernador de Puerto Rico

1493, With Columbus on his second voyage. Settled on Hispaniola and appointed governor of the Province of Higuey.

1508, Conquered San Juan de Puerto Rico, and established Caparra colony. 1509, Appointed Governor of Puerto Rico and brought European diseases to the 'New World'.

In 1512, Ponce de León was stripped of his governorship, but was authorised to search for and claim land north of Cuba. 27 March 1513, Explored 'La Florida' (flowery). In 1514, Ponce was authorised to conquer Guadalupe and colonize the Island of Florida. He failed in Guadalupe.

1521, Ponce de León failed to colonise Florida due to Indian attacks.

1493-1513 1521

English Exploration and Claim of Newfoundland, Canada

1497 - one ship and 18 men, 1498 - five ships

Commander: Captain John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto)

On 5 March 1496, Henry VII of England authorised Cabot to sail for England and claim lands. He was authorised five ships, but only used one. A false start in 1496 was turned back at Iceland because of trouble with his crew.

On 24 June 1497, Cabot landed on the coast and named and claimed New Found Land for England. He left to return on 20 July and arrived back in Bristol on 6 August 1497. He was the first modern European to claim land on continental North America.

Cabot left with five ships in 1498, but Cabot and four ships never returned.


Explored Africa to Asia Sea-Route

1498 - four ships and 170 men, 1502 - 20 warships, 1524

Capitão Vasco da Gama

Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer, authorised by King Manuel I of Portugal to sail in the East. In 1498, Da Gama discovered the sea route from Europe to Calicut India around Africa. Da Gama established a safe route for trading access to Asian silks. He returned with only two ships and 54 men, but cemented a 450-year Portuguese colonial trading relationship with western India. He left Lisbon on 18 July 1497 and arrived in India on 20 May 1498.

Da Gama returned to India as an admiral in 1502, and to force Calcutta to allow Portuguese access he defeated an Indian fleet.

In 1524 Da Gama died, while en route to India again to replace the Portuguese viceroy.


Explored Colombia, Venezuala and Brazil

Documented the Americas as being continents

Amerigo Vespucci and Capitáns Juan de la Cosa, Alonso de Ojeda, and CapitãoGonçalo Coelho

Vespucci sailed for King Fernando, of Spain, who wanted to know how far Hispaniola was from a mainland, as an Italian merchant on exploration voyages to South America. He made his reputation by grasping and documenting that South America was a continent.

Vespucci sailed with Juan de la Cosa in May 1497 to Colombia, or possibly Nicaragua, and returned to Spain via the Strait of Florida.

Vespucci joined Alonso de Ojeda sailing for Spain in 1499. The two men parted company after reaching Guyana (and probably Venezuela). Vespucci then sailed to the mouth of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers on the coast of Brazil. Vespucci returned to Spain via Hispaniola.

Vespucci sailed again, this time with Coelho for King Manuel I of Portugal, in 1501-1502 to the area of Rio de Janeiro: he may have reached Agentina. On return to Lisbon in 1502, Vespucci wrote to Lorenzo de Medici and suggested that the land was too big to be Asia and must be a New World.

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent "America" after Vespucci's first name, Amerigo.



1              For maps see Houghton Mifflin map, http://www.reisenett.no/ekstern.html?url=http://www.eduplace.com/ss/ssmaps/wrldcont.html, and http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/arctic_region_pol02.jpg.

2             For pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact see Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Pathfinders, A Global History of Exploration; and Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Columbian_trans-oceanic_contact. See also St. Brendan the Navigator at, http://www.sbimailservice.com/brendan.htm.

3             See BBC News report by Paul Rincon, " Footprints of 'first Americans'" dated 5 July 2005, citing Dr Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool's John Moores University's announcement concerning 40,000-year old footprints found near Mexico City in a quarry in 2003.  The following citations relate to the general age of human settlement in North America. For the background to new information back-dating early American imigration see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Columbian_trans-oceanic_contact#American_civilization, and BBC News Report by Paul Rincon, " Early humans followed the coast", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5398850.stm, dated 5 October 2006. BBC News report "World's oldest building discovered", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/662794.stm, dated 1 March 2000 notes discovery of a building 500,000 years old. The building remnants were uncovered near Tokyo. Since Japan is an island evidently the shelter would have been built by an ancient ancestor of humans, Homo erectus. Sea travel had been mastered by then (despite a land-bridge to Japan) and potential travel to America was then possible. See BBC News report by Paul Rincon, "'New World' link to Arctic find", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3361925.stm, dated 2 January 2004; Russian archaelogists have uncovered evidence of human activity in northern Siberia 30,000-years ago. The implication is of a much earlier population of North America. See BBC News report by Paul Rincon, "Seafaring clue to first Americans", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3517229.stm, dated 26 February, 2004; The story concerns evidence of 8,000-year old seafaring practice along the Californian coast. The BBC News report "Human skulls are 'oldest Americans'", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2538323.stm, dated 3 December 2002 notes discovery of 13,000-year old human skulls in Mexico. Since the living Indian ancestors have been previously identified as Asian migrants of c10,000 ago an earlier American occupation is implied.

4              See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1421_hypothesis for redress of Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered America, controversial thesis of Chinese world discovery. There is much evidence of Ming Chinese naval activity and exploration by Zheng He, however, academic consensus appears to be that proof has not been established by Menzies.

5             As you see here, I have not attributed each fact to a specific source, this was for practical reasons of bulk and complexity. I did conduct a fair amount of research as implied below here. General exploration sources and some specific internet citations include: Richard, David, Hakluyt's Voyages, A Selection, Jonathan Clements, The Vikings, The Last Pagans or the First Modern Europeans?, Ole Klindt-Jensen, The World of the Vikings; SE Morison, both The European Discovery of America, The Northern Voyages, AD 500-1600 and The European Discovery of America, The Southern Voyages; AD 1492-1616, Lee Miller, Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke; Richard Middleton, Colonial America, A History, 1607-1760; Peter C, Newman, Company of Adventurers; Michael Wood, Conquistadors, Peter Winn, Americas; David Beers Quinn, Set Fair For Roanoke, Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606, Farley Mowat, WestViking, The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America, Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered America,Nora Chadwick, The Celts; FR Cruikshank, The Life of Sir Henry Morgan, With an Account of The English Settlement of The Island of Jamaica (1655-1688); Jan Rogoziñski, A Brief History of the Caribbean, From the Arawak and Carib to the Present;; Barry Gough, First Across the Continent, Sir Alexander Mackenzie; Gertrude Kerman, Cabeza de Vaca, Defender of the Indians; William H Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, & History of the Conquest of Peru; Thor Heyerdahl, Early Man and The Ocean, A Search For the Beginnings Of Navigation and Seaborne Civilizations; Charles C Mann, 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, The Sioux; Reader’s Digest, Heritage Canada; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Ponce_de_Leon; Jan Rogoziñski, A Brief History of the Caribbean; Nick Hazelwood, The Queen's Slave Trader, Andrew Taylor, The World of Gerard Mercator. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Rodriguez_Cabrillo; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Marquette; http://www.pbs.org/opb/conquistadors/home.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_Polo; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Franklin; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medard_des_Groseilliers; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_de_Champlain; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemy_world_map, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=34160; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Runestone; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_Br%C3%BBl%C3%A9; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Raleigh; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_James_Cook#Third_voyage_.281776-1779.29; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_the_Red, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snorri_%C3%9Eorfinnsson; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudrid_Eiriksdottir; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyd%C3%ADs_Eir%C3%ADksd%C3%B3ttir; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leifur_Eir%C3%ADksson; http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/UMS/Drummers/oralmstory.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus; http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/1700.shtml; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadian#History; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerigo_Vespucci; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_de_Ulloa; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartolomeu_Dias; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Le_Moyne_d'Iberville; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_%C3%81lvares_Cabral; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_V%C3%A1squez_de_Coronado; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Drake; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Frobisher; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6338535.stm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto_%28explorer%29; http://www.famousamericans.net/franciscodeulloa1/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Jolliet; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hern%C3%A1n_Cort%C3%A9s; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispaniola; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cabot; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Esprit_Radisson; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Rodriguez_Cabrillo; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Pizarro; htp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_de_Champlain; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebasti%C3%A1n_Vizca%C3%ADno; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Henry_Morgan; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_da_Gama; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pytheas; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_de_Hezeta; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucas_V%C3%A1squez_de_Ayll%C3%B3n; http://www.1421.tv/; http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0300/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0300/stories/0301_0113.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_N%C3%BA%C3%B1ez_de_Balboa; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitus_Bering; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Edward_Parry; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Verendrye; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodes_Rogers; http://encarta.msn.com/ ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit#Anthropological_analysis; http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/AUD_BAI/AYLLON_LUCAS_VASQUEZ_DE_c_t475_.html; http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/docs/e/english.htm; http://www.blupete.com/Hist/BiosNS/1600-00/Champlain.htm; http://www.collectionscanada.ca/explorers/h24-1460-e.html; http://www.collectionscanada.ca/explorers/h24-1530-e.html; http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/namerica.shtml; http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/Nicolet,+Jean; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_John_Smith; http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/page/l/lasalle.shtml; http://www.fact-index.com/j/jo/john_beaufort__1st_earl_of_somerset.html; http://www.famousamericans.net/pierrelemoyneiberville/; http://www.gallica.co.uk/celts/timeline.htm; http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Dynasty/Ming-1403-Cheng-Zu.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ross_%28Arctic_explorer%29; http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/AA/fag2_print.html; http://www.nationalcenter.org/ColonyofRoanoke.html.

6              The Polos did not visit America, however, the Chinese might have been early visitors. See BBC News report By Quentin Sommerville "Ancient ship raised from S China Sea", http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7156581.stm, dated 21 December 2007. The account describes that Chinese archaeologists have raised a merchant ship which sank in the South China Sea 800 years ago while transporting a cargo of precious porcelain. The Nanhai 1 treasury ship, built during the Song dynasty which ruled China from 960-1279, is believed to contain one of the biggest discoveries of Chinese artefacts from that period. The Chinese were thus maritime traders with large merchant ships able to carry large cargos out of sight of land.

7              Kensington Runestone, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Stone.

8              See Arthur Cotterell, China, A Cultural History, p. 203.

9              The detailed descriptions are taken from Gavin Menzies, 1421, See p. 57 for the number of trees required for each ship. See pp. 29-106 for most of the basic descriptions of the Chinese fleet-preparation activity.

10            See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1421_hypothesis for redress of Gavin Menzies' 1421 hypothesis of Chinese world discovery. There is much evidence of Ming Chinese naval activity and exploration by Zheng He, however, the academic consensus appears to be that proof has not been established by Menzies. However, amongst a wide variety of claimed sources of Chinese world charting are ancient maps allegedly reflecting anomalous data. According to Menzies, the data cannot be explained except by a deliberate Chinese world mapping effort, which included distribution of the collated data to nations intended to be included in a Chinese trading plan. To the Portuguese bent on fame and wealth the Chinese data was gold. There are endless accounts of how reports were kept secret (Spain, England), maps were hidden (Venice, Portugal, Spain), false maps created (Spain), or data changed (France), to mislead the competition away from the prize of discovery and the potential trading wealth it might bring. See Samuel Bawalf, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580, p. 181, and pp. 222-225; also Menzies Op. Cit, pp.173, 284, 398, 428-434, 585. The non-Chinese illustrations below are allegedly copies of copies of the original Chinese data. The principal map sources allegedly reflecting pre-European, unique Chinese data include:

Maps With Reputedly Unique Chinese Data




Postulated Significance


Wu Pei Chi c1422 Strip map Asia, Australia, Melanesia, Africa, charted courses Chinese
Kangnido 1402-1473 Map East, south, west African coast, Azores Japanese
Mao Kun 1422 Star chart Fixed Polaris, Southern Cross, and Alpha Centauri Chinese
Pizzigano 1424 Chart Caribbean Islands Venetian
1428 Map c1424 World Map Indonesia, Africa, Caribbean Islands, South America & Strait of Magellan - now lost Venetian/Portuguese
Vinland c1435 New World Eastern North America, St Lawrence River, Newfoundland, coastal Greenland and Pole star Danish
Fra Mauro's Mapamundi 1459 Planisphere First modern world map Portuguese
Cantino 1502 World Chart Florida, Caribbean Islands, Africa, Indian Ocean Portuguese
Waldseemüller 1507 World Map Florida, Caribbean Islands, South America, Pacfic coastal North America & Vancouver Island, Siberian coast, Bering Strait German
Piri Reis 1513 Map Antarctica, South America, South Shetland Islands Ottoman Turkish
Jean Rotz 1542 World Map Asia, Australia, Great Barrier Reef, Philippines English

11            See Cotterell, op. cit., pp. 203-204.

12            Ibid.

13            See Gavin Menzies, 1421. The Chinese fleets allegedly suffered many casualties en route and Chinese colonies were left in Malasia, Australia, New Zeeland, Africa, throughout the Americas, and Greenland. Some authorities cite etymological evidence of an early Chinese presence in these and other places: others note displaced world plants, known to be carried by the fleets. Chile was purportedly named prior to the Spanish conquest and Chi-le is apparently Chinese for 'dependent territory'. The presence of Chinese DNA and other evidence in such wide-spread locations purportedly helped Menzies track the fleets' routes.

14             See Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered America. Menzies has coordinated a world research effort to try to collect, correlate, analise, and publicise the evidence of the putative Chinese discoveries. Much of the evidence has been available, but was never previously correlated to assidulously perhaps due the the extent of this mammoth undertaking. Menzies has crossed languages, millenia, academic disciplines from archeology to the latest genomic expertise, and travelled around the world himself to validate evidence for his thesus. His website is noted above at 1421.tv, which he has established to facilittate exchange with Chinese history and other experts. The book is a tour de force and an extraordinary undertaking of perseverance, research and organisation.

15            Canadians are proud of the Haida Indian legacy of Totem poles, recognised the world over as a unique symbol of the West Coast. They too may be a legacy of Zheng He's explorations. The 1421.tv website notes that the Coastal totem poles are identical to those from Wuhan, China.

16            Menzies, op. cit., 403-405, 423.

17            Portuguese Discoveries in North America, at //www.thornr.demon.co.uk/kchrist/portam.html. See also See Horace Mann's Site, "Travel by ship", http://www.sfusd.k12.ca.us/schwww/sch618/Travelers/Transportation.html. The site is dedicated to explaining mediaeval Islamic culture and the debt owed by the West, including early explorers like Columbus.

18            Christopher Columbus an Italian, who sailed the ocean blue? Probably not: it now seems more likely that he was indeed a Spaniard from Barcelona. Modern genetic DNA investigation has pointed away from his supposed Italian parents and towards a Spanish family. Certainly his monumental statue in the Seville cathedral gives his name as Christoph Columb. I had previously thought his to be a translation difference, but it now seems to be deliberate …he was never Italian and always known to have been Spanish. (Ergo his success in getting Spanish money and titles?) My information is that the original research into his nationality merely ‘guessed’ (wrongly) that he was born of Italian parents and fitted them to the couple chosen in Genoa. In the event the dates do not seem to work. He would not have been the right age coming from those parents: sloppy work. See Steve Johnson article, "New Television Show Researches the Biography of Christopher Columbus", http://www.interment.net/column/news/christopher-columbus.htm, dated 29 July 2004.

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