Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy and he was a navigator, colonizer, and explorer who was instrumental in Spanish colonization of the Americas. When he discovered America he was actually looking for Asia. His revolutionary assertion that the Indies (comprising India, China, the East Indies and Japan) could be reached by sailing westwards was later proved correct by Magellan who was also a maritime explorer, but what Columbus did not realize was that an entire continent lay in his path.
Columbus secured the support of Queen Isabella of Spain, and left
Palos, Spain, on 3 August 1492. On 12 October he sighted what he thought was the Indies and went ashore on what is now known to be one of the Bahamas, his shore party becoming the first modern Europeans to set foot in the Americas. Columbus made three more voyages during the next 12 years, exploring more islands as well as the coast of mainland South America.
King Henry VII of England gave John Cabot a grant to go on "full and free authoritie, leave, and power, to sayle to all partes, countreys, a see as, of the East, of the West, and of the North, under our banners and ensignes, with five ships ... and as many mariners or men as they will have in saide ships, upon their own proper costes and charges, to seeke out, discover, and finde, whatsoever iles, countreyes, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in what part of the world soever they be, whiche before this time have beene unknowen to all Christians" and that's how he became the first European to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings. Cabot landed on 24 June 1497 to claim North America for England.
The location of Cabot's first landfall is not definitely known, due to lack of surviving evidence. Many experts think it was on Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, but others look for it in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Labrador, or Maine. Cape Bonavista, however, is the location recognised by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom as being Cabot's official landing.
In 1606 Spaniard Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the Torres Strait and became the first European to sight mainland Australia, though he thought it was simply another island rather than the elusive southern continent. Little seems to be known of Torres, other than the details of the voyage during which he sailed into what later became known as 'Torres Strait'. Later the same year the shore party of Dutch navigator Willem Jansz became the first Europeans to land in Australia, although Jansz thought he had landed in New Guinea. The original journal and log made during Janszoon's 1606 voyage have been lost. The Duyfken chart, which shows the location of the first landfall in Australia by the Duyfken, had a better fate.
Other Dutch navigators subsequently explored the north, west and south coasts of Australia but reported that the land was arid and the people poor. In 1770 English Captain James Cook became the first European to explore the more fertile east coast, and laid claim to New South Wales for Britain. Englishman Matthew Flinders circumnavigated the continent from 1801-03, proving that it was Terra Australis, which soon became known as Australia.
Short Facts :
- 1512-13 Juan Ponce de Leon (Spain) becomes the first European to discover Florida
- 1565 The Spanish settlement of St Augustine (Florida) becomes the first permanent European settlement in North America
- 1606 Explorer Willem Jansz (Holland) becomes the first European known to have set foot in Australia
- 1642 Explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman (Holland) becomes the first European to discover Van Dieman's Land, renamed Tasmania in 1855, and New Zealand
- 1770 Captain James Cook (England) becomes the first European to explore Australia's east coast, and claims New South Wales for Britain
- 1788 Sydney is founded as a British penal colony.
Good to Know :
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ When Columbus discovered the New World he thought he had reached the Indies, so he called the native people Indians. When his mistake was realized, the place became known as the West Indies.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Tradition has it that the Americas are named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian-born naturalized Spaniard said to have coined the phrase 'New World'. In 1507, having read a distorted account of Vespucci's travels, German cartographer Martin WaldseemLiller used the Latinized version of Vespucci's first name on a map of the recently discovered continent and the name stuck. However, a new theory claims the continent is named after Welshman Richard Amerike, who liaised between John Cabot and King Henry VII.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Australia is the only country that is also a continent. In terms of area it is the sixth largest country in the world but the smallest continent.