Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1519) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer. He was the first European to see the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean (in 1513), after crossing the Isthmus of Panama overland.
Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467-1520) was a Portuguese nobleman, explorer, and navigator who was the first European to see Brazil (on April 22, 1500). His patron was King Manuel I of Portugal, who sent him on an expedition to India. Cabral’s 13 ships left on March 9, 1500, following the route of Vasco da Gama. On April 22,1500, he sighted land (Brazil), claiming it for Portugal and naming it the “Island of the True Cross.” King Manuel renamed this land Holy Cross; it was later renamed once again, to Brazil, after a kind of dyewood found there, called pau-brasil. Cabral stayed in Brazil for 10 days and then continued on his way to India, in a trip fraught with shipwrecks (at the Cape of Good Hope), and fighting (with Muslim traders in India). After trading for spices in India, Cabral returned to Portugal on June 23, 1501, with only four of the original 13 ships.
James Cook (October 27, 1728- February 14, 1779) was a British explorer and astronomer who went on many expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, Antarctic, Arctic, and around the world.
Cook’s first journey was from 1768 to 1771, when he sailed to Tahiti in order to observe Venus as it passed between the Earth and the Sun (in order to try to determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun). During this expedition, he also mapped New Zealand and eastern Australia.
Cook’s second expedition (1772-1775) took him to Antarctica and to Easter Island.
Cook’s last expedition (1776-1779) was a search for a Northwest Passage across North America to Asia. Cook was killed by a mob on Feb. 14, 1779, on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). At the time, he was trying to take the local chief hostage to get the natives to return a sailboat they had stolen.
Cook was the first ship’s captain to stop the disease scurvy (now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C) among sailors by providing them with fresh fruits. Before this, scurvy had killed or incapacitated many sailors on long trips.
Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse (August 23, 1741-1788) was a French explorer and naval officer. La Perouse mapped the west coast of North America in 1786, and visited the Easter Islands and Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaii). He was lost at sea while searching for the Solomon Islands (after reaching Australia’s Botany Bay).
Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) was a great Portuguese navigator and explorer who explored Africa’s coast. In 1488, Dias led the first European expedition to sail around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, leaving Tagus, Portugal in 1487. This breakthrough of circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope opened up lucrative trading routes from Europe to Asia. Dias may have originally called the southern tip of Africa the “Cape of Storms”; it was later renamed the Cape of Good Hope. On a later expedition (in 1500, with Pedro Álvares Cabral), Dias sailed near South America on the way to Africa, and spotted land at Espírito Santo in Brazil, calling it the “Land of the True Cross.” Although they thought it to be an island, Dias was still among the first Europeans to see Brazil. Dias died during this expedition; he was lost at sea near the Cape of Good Hope in 1500.
Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was an Admiral). Drake led the second expedition to sail around the world in a voyage lasting from 1577 to 1580 (Magellan led the first voyage around the world).
Robert Gray (1755-1806) was a American explorer who had previously been in the Navy during the Revolutionary War. Gray sailed from Boston, [Massachusetts[(/usa/states/massachusetts/), in 1787, and traveled around South America to the northwest coast of North America and on to China, where he traded furs for tea. He began his journey with Captain John Kendrick on a sister ship. Gray continued west and returned to Boston in 1790. Gray was the first American-born explorer in an American ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1791, he led another expedition to the northwest coast on a ship called “Columbia.” In 1792, Gray sighted, named, and sailed up the Columbia River in Oregon, and also explored Gray’s Harbor in what is now the state of Washington. Because of Gray’s exploration, the United States now laid claim to the Oregon territory. Gray again continued westwards and circumnavigated the globe again, returning to Boston in 1793.
Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian naturalist and explorer who explored much of Central and South America. Humboldt and his friend, the French botanist Aime Bonpland, explored the coast of Venezuela, the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, and much of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico (1799-1805).
On their many expeditions, Humboldt and Bonpland collected plant, animal, and mineral specimens, studied electiricity, did extensive mapping of northern South America, climbed mountains, observed astronomical phenomena, and performed many scientific observations.
Charles Marie de la Condamine (1701-1774), was a French mathematician, explorer, and geographer. La Condamine was sent to Ecuador in 1735 to measure the Earth at the equator. He also scientifically explored and mapped the Amazon region.
Vincente Yáñez Pinzon (1460? - 1523?) was a Spanish explorer and navigator who sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, as captain of the Niña. His older brother, Martin Pinzon, was captain of the Pinta and the co-owner of both the Nina and the Pinta.
In 1499, Vincente Pinzon sailed to the Brazilian coast (at a cape he named Santa María de la Consolación). From there, he sailed northwest to the Amazon River, whose mouth he explored. He sailed north to northeastern Venezuela (to the Gulf of Paria) and then returned to Spain.
In 1508, he sailed to the New World twice with Juan Díaz de Solís, trying to find a a passage to the Spice Islands. They sailed to Central America, but the exact locations of these explorations are unknown (they either sailed to Honduras and the Yucatán peninsula or to Venezuela and Brazil).
Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) was a Spanish conquistador who traveled through much of the Pacific coast of America along Peru. He “discovered” the Incan empire and conquered it brutally and quickly, stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures.
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a British explorer, poet, historian, and soldier. Raleigh led expeditions to both North America and South America; he was trying to found new settlements, find gold, and increase trade with the New World. In 1585, Raleigh sent colonists to the east coast of North America; Raleigh later named that area Virginia, in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. He is often credited with bringing tobacco and potatoes from the New World to Britain, but they were already known there. Raleigh was later executed by King James I for treason.
Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) was an English explorer and navigator who sailed to the northwest coast of North America. His two ships, “Discovery” and “Chatham,” reached the Strait of Juan de Fuca (near what is now the US-Canadian border) in May, 1792. He then sailed to Puget Sound (near what is now Seattle); Vancouver named Puget Sound (he named it for Lieutenant Peter Puget who was sailing under Captain Vancouver on the ship “Discovery”). Vancouver also named Mt. Rainier, Whidbey Island, and the Hood Canal. The expedition then sailed north, discovering what is now called Vancouver Island, and then sailing around it. Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named for him. Vancouver had previously served under Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages sailing around the world.
Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) was an Italian explorer who was the first person to realize that the Americas were separate from the continent of Asia. America was named for him in 1507, when the German mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller, printed the first map that used the name America for the New World.
On his first expedition (sailing for Spain, 1499-1500), Vespucci was the navigator under under the command of Alonso de Ojeda. On this trip, Ojeda and Vespucci discovered the mouth of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America, thinking it was part of Asia. On his second expedition (sailing for Portugal, 1501-02) he mapped some of the eastern coast of South America, and came to realize that it not part of Asia, but a New World.