Exploration Reading

Exploration Reading
Hernán Cortés
As a youth, Hernán Cortés studied Latin for 2 years at the University of Salamanca, but lured by tales of
new discoveries in America, he abandoned student life and in 1504 sailed for the New World.
Cortés settled initially on the island of Santo Domingo (Hispaniola) but in 1511 joined an expedition to
Cuba, where he became a municipal official and an intimate friend of Diego Velázquez, the governor of the
island. When Velázquez determined to dispatch an expedition to Mexico, he named Cortés for the command,
but Velázquez soon came to suspect Cortés of excessive ambition and determined to relieve him. Cortés,
aware of this danger, managed to slip away with part of his followers before the governor could formally
confront him. After meeting with other recruits, on Feb. 18, 1519, Cortés departed for Mexico with over 600
Spanish soldiers, sailors, and captains, some 200 Indian auxiliaries, and 16 horses.
Cortés's route took him first to Yucatán and thence up the Mexican coast to the vicinity of the modern
city of Veracruz, where he founded a town, Villa Rica de Veracruz, which became the base for the conquest.
There he arranged to have the municipal council­­which he had appointed­­name him captain general and
principal judge, an act which gave him at least quasilegal status. He also negotiated alliances with adjacent
Indian tribes and gathered intelligence about the Aztecs.
Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León was born in San Servas. Although of noble lineage, he was penniless and like so
many destitute bluebloods sought fame and fortune as a soldier. He served in the 10­year conquest of the
Moslem kingdom of Granada in southern Spain. Afterward, he heard exaggerated accounts of Columbus's
discovery and migrated to the island of Hispaniola (modern Dominican Republic and Haiti).
After he had put down an Indian uprising in the eastern province of the island in 1504, the Indians told
Ponce de León that he would find gold on a neighboring island to the east, called Boriquien (Puerto Rico). Four
years later he crossed over and conquered the island. It was said that the Indians were more afraid of ten
Spaniards with the dog than one hundred without him. Ponce de León governed Puerto Rico until the King
removed him from office in 1512.
On March 3, 1513, Ponce de León sailed from Puerto Rico and a month later anchored near the mouth
of the St. Johns River on the northeast coast of Florida. Impressed with its floral beauty and having landed at
Eastertide, he named the land Florida, from the Spanish Pascua florida, "flowery Easter."
Amerigo Vespucci
In 1500, Amerigo went on by far his most important voyage, this time for Portugal, at the invitation of
King Manuel I. A Portuguese explorer, on his way to the Cape of Good Hope and India, had discovered Brazil.
Portugal claimed this land by the Treaty of Tordesillas, and the King wished to know whether it was merely an
island or part of the continent Spanish explorers had encountered farther north. Vespucci, having already been
to the Brazilian shoulder, seemed the person best qualified to go as an observer with the new expedition Manuel
was sending. Vespucci did not command at the start, but ultimately took charge.
This voyage traced the South American coast. Among the important discoveries were Guanabara Bay
(Rio de Janeiro) and the Rio de la Plata. Vespucci, whatever his earlier beliefs had been, now realized that this
could be no part of Asia, as flora, fauna, and human inhabitants in no way corresponded to what ancient writers,
and such later ones as Marco Polo, had described. The expedition returned by way of Sierra Leone and the
Azores, and Vespucci, in a letter to Florence, called South America Mundus Novus (New World).
Ferdinand Magellan
The Portuguese mariner Fernão de Magalhães, whom the world knows as Ferdinand Magellan, was
given command of a Spanish fleet of five ships in 1518 to discover the Spice Islands for Spain. This three­year
expedition was the most important European voyage of discovery after the voyages of Vasco da Gama (ca.
1469–1524) to India in 1497 to 1499 and Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) to America in 1492 to 1493.
Magellan's expedition was an expedition of many "firsts." It was the first voyage to pass from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through what came to be known as the Strait of Magellan, the first European
voyage to cross the Pacific Ocean, the first European "discovery" of the Philippines, and—most famously—the
first circumnavigation of the globe. This 96,500­kilometer (about 60,000­mile) voyage opened the remaining
crucial sea­lanes of the world to European ships, commerce, and colonial empires.
Vasco da Gama
Da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal, where his father was governor. As a member of the nobility, he
led a Portuguese attack on French ships in 1492, and later served as a gentleman at the court of King Manuel I.
Under the leadership of Manuel, the Portuguese continued the tradition, begun by Prince Henry the Navigator
(1394­1460) and maintained sporadically ever since, of exploring the African coast. Now Manuel was prepared
to take the bold step of passing the Cape by and sailing across thousands of miles of open sea to India.
Therefore on July 7, 1498, da Gama and his crew set sail from Lisbon aboard four ships.
Their goal was the city of Calicut (not to be confused with Calcutta) on the Malabar, or southwestern,
coast of India. Sailing well west of Africa, the crew rounded the Cape on November 22, then began tracing the
continent's east coast. This put them in contact with coastal trading cities, which served as ports for Arab and
Persian vessels plying the Indian Ocean route da Gama intended to cross. The Portuguese did battle with the
Muslims in Mozambique and Mombasa (now part of Kenya), but found a better reception in the city of Malindi,
whose sultan provided them with an Indian pilot to guide them across the ocean. Thanks in part to this help, da
Gama landed in Calicut on May 20, 1498.
Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro went with Alonso de Ojeda on his expedition to the Gulf of Urabá in Colombia in 1509.
When Ojeda left the struggling colony that he founded on the northern coast of South America to get supplies,
he left Pizarro in charge of the garrison. He then went to Panama when Vasco Núñez de Balboa moved the
settlement there. Pizarro accompanied Balboa on his trip across the Darien Peninsula to the Pacific in 1513,
and he is listed in the chronicle of the expedition as being the second European to see the Pacific Ocean.
Ever since their arrival in Panama, the Spanish had heard rumors of a rich land to the south, which was
called Birú (later Peru). Pizarro set up a partnership with two other men, Diego de Almagro and Hernando de
Luque, to search out these lands. Luque put up the money while the other two led the expedition. They set out in
November 1524 and got as far south as Buenaventura on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The men suffered
greatly from hunger and the hostility of the Native Americans they met, but they did collect some gold and heard
tales of richer kingdoms to the south. They returned to Panama in 1525.
Pizarro and Almagro signed another agreement with Luque on March 10, 1526, in which they agreed to
divide any conquered lands between the three of them. They then sailed from Panama with 160 men that it had
been difficult to recruit after the hardships of the previous voyage. They sailed once again to the San Juan River
that empties into the bay at Buenaventura, and the pilot, Bartolomé Ruiz, was sent ahead to see what he could
find. He crossed the equator and came back with stories about a heavily populated land, rich with gold and
silver. He was the first European to see Peru.
The entire expedition then sailed southward to the city of Tumbes on the southern shore of the Bay of
Guayaquil in Ecuador. This they found to be a large and beautiful seaport, and the inhabitants came out to greet
them in boats made from balsa wood. They were brought a wide variety of exotic foods and saw llamas for the
first time. Pizarro greeted an Inca nobleman on his ship and sent two of his men ashore. These two Spaniards
proceeded 200 miles south where they heard about a great city in the interior that was the capital of a rich and
powerful king. They then returned to Panama.
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus first went to sea when he was nine or ten years old, making several
Mediterranean voyages. Years later, while on a voyage in 1476, he was wounded in a battle at sea off the coast
of Portugal. Though his Genoese ship was sunk, he swam to shore, and remained in Portugal for about ten
At that time, Portugal was the leading seafaring nation of Europe, carrying out voyages further and
further south down the coast of Africa. The ultimate goal was to reach the Indies by sailing around Africa.
Columbus began to develop the idea of reaching the Indies by sailing due west across the Ocean Sea. Despite
a variety of arguments that favored continuing the attempt to reach the Indies by sailing around Africa,
Columbus pressed the king of Portugal for financial aid in the enlisting of men and outfitting of ships. Rebuffed
by the Portuguese monarch, he then carried his case to the Spanish court of King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella. In 1492, he was successful in his suit.
On the morning of August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail west with approximately 100 men aboard three
ships. Despite the misgivings and restlessness of his crew, he kept on for 37 days. Finally, on October 12,
1492, the present­day island of San Salvador was sighted and possession was taken in the name of the
Spanish sovereigns. About 100 days were spent in exploring; then Columbus and his crew touched on the
islands off Cuba and Hispaniola. Believing that he had reached the outskirts of the Indies, he was unaware that
he had discovered the "New World"­­the Americas.