History of American Exploration from 1525 to 1530

About the history of American exploration from 1525 to 1530 including voyages of de Narvaez and Alfinger.


1526-1530 Sebastian Cabot, with a crew of 200 which included the first official "ship's cook," sailed from Seville on what was supposed to be a circumnavigation of the globe. En route to South America Cabot lost his flagship and treated the men so badly that one tried to kill him by "accidentally" dropping a block on his head. Hearing that somewhere in the reaches of the Rio de la Plata in South America there was a mountain of solid silver ruled by el rey blanco ("the white king"), he scotched his plans to sail around the world and spent three years exploring the Rio de la Plata waterways. Sailing upriver, the crew sometimes had to haul the ship with tow ropes. Sometimes they had only snake to eat, sometimes nothing. They didn't find the silver mountain.

1527-1537 The incompetent Panfilo de Narvaez (1480?-1528) sailed from Spain to Florida, where he landed already minus 140 men who had jumped ship and 70 more lost at sea in a storm. He sent his remaining ships to look for a harbor to the west, then set off overland with about 300 men. According to Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (1490?-1557?), who recorded the journey, which for him was to end more than eight years later, Narvaez was extremely cruel to the Indians. For example, after one battle he ordered the cacique's nose cut off and his mother thrown to the dogs to be torn apart alive. The skillful Indian archers, with their 6-ft. bows, retaliated. At the Gulf of Mexico, no ships were waiting. With ingenuity, the Spaniards built five ships out of improvised materials (nails were fashioned from spurs and sails from shirts). One by one these ships were wrecked on a voyage that took Narvaez and his men past the mouth of the Mississippi to Galveston Island, where they spent the winter of 1528-1529. Only 15 survived, looking like "pictures of death." Cabeza de Vaca was separated from the others until 1533, when he met three survivors at the Colorado River in Texas: Alonso del Castillo, Andres Dorantes, and Dorantes's black servant Esteban, nicknamed Estebancito by Cabeza de Vaca. With a retinue of thousands of Indians, the four made it through hundreds of miles of territory by acting as faith healers, blessing the sick and reciting prayers over them, and ended up in Mexico City.

1528 Verrazano, looking for a passage to Asia on a third voyage, sailed through the Lesser Antilles and anchored off an island that may have been part of Guadeloupe. He and his brother Girolamo took a longboat to explore the shore. Girolamo sat in the boat while Giovanni waded ashore to be set upon by Caribs, killed, cut up, and eaten raw.

1530 Ambrosio Alfinger, in South America with a German banking group which had been given the right to exploit Venezuela in return for cancellation of Spain's debts to these bankers, searched for El Dorado, a legendary kingdom of incalculable riches, and ended up exploring a large part of Venezuela instead. When several Indian members of his chain gang fell over, Alfinger cut off their heads rather than detach the ring the Indians wore around their necks. He later got what he deserved-death at the hands of angry Indians.

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