English Entrepreneur & Explorer
In 1497 a tiny ship,
the Matthew, sailed from Bristol, England, with a crew of 18 men on a
historic voyage. The captain was John Cabot, an Italian born in Genoa.
He had moved to England in about 1484 and was sailing under the flag of
King Henry VII. Henry had refused to help Columbus when he was trying to
fit out his expedition. Five years later he was delighted to give
permission for Cabot's voyage.
Cabot was sure he could reach Asia by sailing westward. After several
weeks, he sighted the coast of North America on June 24, 1497. The land
he discovered was probably Cape Breton Island and the nearby island of
"New Found Land." When Cabot returned with news of his discovery, the
king gave him ten pounds and the rank of admiral.
The next year, 1498, Cabot set out on a second voyage with two ships and
300 men. He intended to sail down the coast he had already found. This
he believed to be the extreme northeast of Asia. He thus hoped to find
Japan. Instead he discovered the barren shores of Labrador, which he
named. Afterward he sailed as far south as Maryland. There he abandoned
his search for Japan because his supplies had run low. It is thought
that he died in Bristol shortly after his return from this voyage.
Cabot was the first European to reach the shores of North America since
the days of the old Norsemen. England later claimed the whole of North
America on the ground that Cabot was the first discoverer to reach the
Sebastian Cabot, John's son, was born in Venice, Italy. He apparently
accompanied his father on his voyages. He was a cartographer to King
Henry VIII in 1512, when he was sent with the English army to aid King
Ferdinand II of Aragon against the French. Ferdinand's death cancelled a
North American voyage he was to command in 1516.
In 1526 he commanded a Spanish expedition to South America. Seeking a
strait to the Pacific, he entered the Plata, Parana, and Paraguay
rivers. After about three years of fruitless exploration, he was
banished to Africa. He published an engraved map of the world in 1544
and later returned to England. In 1552 he founded the Muscovy Company to
find a northeast passage to the Orient. Ships from this company later
opened the Russian market to England.
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