History of American Exploration from 1520 to 1525

About the history of American exploration from 1520 to 1525 including voyages of Verrazano and Pizarro.

A CHRONOLOGY OF THE EXPLORATION OF THE AMERICAS

1520 Joao Alvarez Fagundes, sailing for Portugal, rounded the south coast of Newfoundland to reach Penguin Island, where flocks of flightless great auks--now extinct--were herded up the gangplanks, killed, and used for fish bait.

1522 Cortes was appointed governor and captain general of the huge territory of New Spain, which included Mexico.

1522 The Victoria, commanded by Juan Sebastian del Cano (1487?--1526), reached Seville, its long circumnavigation of the globe as part of the Magellan expedition ended. Magellan himself had been killed in a battle with Philippine natives on Apr. 27, 1521.

1524 Tuscan nobleman Giovanni da Verrazano (1485?--1528?) departed from France, sponsored by the crown and some Lyons bankers, to search for a strait to Cathay. Dark and bearded, with a Roman nose, he had the look of a commander but the personality of a snob; he called his crew la turba marittima ("the maritime mob"). Landfall was Cape Fear, off what is now North Carolina. After a brief voyage south, his ship, La Dauphine, turned north and proceeded to Newfoundland, with stops at New York Bay and Narragansett Bay. Verrazano wrote the first comprehensive description of the geography and people of the east coast of North America. On the Carolina banks, Verrazano mistook the narrow belt of land for the mainland and the inner bay, apparently limitless, for el Mare Orientale ("the Oriental Sea"). For the next century cartographers showed North America as narrow-waisted at this spot, and the bay was known as "Verrazano's Sea." The natives they encountered were friendly--succoring a sailor inadvertently washed ashore and offering peace pipes--and Verrazano waxed rhapsodic about them until the Abnaki, in what is now Maine, shocked him and his crew with their "crudity and evil manners," expressed by "exhibiting their bare behinds and laughing immoderately." In disgust he named their land Terra Ondi de Mala Gente ("Land of the Bad People"). Verrazano, immortalized by a bridge named after him that spans the Narrows south of New York Bay, thought he had reached a New World, but his surmise was based on distance miscalculations.

1524 Francisco Pizarro (1470?--1541), son of a Spanish officer, sailed for the Spanish governor of Panama down the Pacific coast of present-day Colombia. With him were 100 men, among them his partner, ugly but likable Diego de Almagro (1475?--1538), and a priest named Hernando de Luque, later nicknamed Hernando el Loco for his propensity to get involved in get-rich-quick schemes.

1526--1528 Pizarro, with two ships and Bartolome de la Ruiz as navigator, set off down the western coast of Colombia. While Pizarro traveled inland, Ruiz sailed south to a point somewhere below the equator and returned with tales of a great civilization in Peru. He had come upon a native balsa raft carrying finely crafted gold and silver ornaments, rubies, and emeralds. When the governor of Panama refused to let them investigate the new lands, Pizarro drew a line in the sand and said to his men that north of the line was Panama and poverty, south of it Peru and riches. With that dramatic gesture, he began a course that eventually led to the conquest of the Inca empire. He went south to the Inca city of Tumbes and beyond to what is now Trujillo, but made no effort on this expedition to conquer the Incas.

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