History of American Exploration from 1535 to 1540

About the history of American exploration from 1535 to 1540 including voyages of Cortes and de Soto.


1535-1536 Cortes, sailing north from Mexico, took possession for Spain of Baja California, which he thought was an island, at Bahia de la Paz.

1535-1537 Almagro, by now having lost an eye and several fingers while fighting Indians, explored lands given him south of Peru extending 2,500 mi. below Cuzco. With him were 570 Spaniards and thousands of Indians, many of whom froze to death in the Andes. It has been said that he forced Indians to carry newborn foals on litters. No gold was found. When they got back, Almagro fought Pizarro for possession of Cuzco, but he was captured and executed.

1536-1538 Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada (1500?-1579?), a Spaniard, explored the interior of Colombia, searching for gold in the rich kingdom of the Chibchas. He founded the city of Santa Fe (now Bogota) and also uncovered a fortune in gold and emeralds. According to legend, each Chibcha ruler, ascending the throne, coated his body with resin and gold dust, then paddled a raft out into the center of Lake Guatavita in the firelit night to immerse himself in the waters and watch gold dust shower to the bottom. When the lake was drained in 1912, a treasure worth millions of dollars was found.

1536-1538 Georg Hohemut von Speyer (d. 1520), a Venezuelan German, explored the valleys of the Orinoco and the Amazon.

1538-1543 Hernando de Soto (1500?-1542) landed in Florida after sailing from Spain. With his army of 570 men, he marched for four years through southeastern North America. He was the first to cross the Appalachians, exploring as far as Mobile Bay, the Yazoo Delta, and Oklahoma. During the journey he developed a fever and died. Luis Moscoso de Alvarado took over and led the expedition into the upper Brazos, sailed down the Mississippi, and crossed the Gulf of Mexico to arrive in Rio Panuco with 311 survivors.

1539 Fray Marcos and Estebancito, called "children of the Sun" by the Indians, searched the southwest of North America for the fabulous Seven Cities of Cibola. Estebancito, dressed in bells and feathers and with an Indian harem, went ahead and sent back a huge cross, indicating he had found the Seven Cities. However, he was put to death as a spy by the Zuni, and Marcos never found the Seven Cities. He did reach a high point near what is now the Arizona-New Mexico border to view from afar a city of storied pueblos that appeared to his bedazzled eyes and fevered imagination to glitter in the sun with wealth.

1539-1540 Francisco de Ulloa, sponsored by Cortes, explored the Gulf of California, rounded Cabo San Lucas, went north as far as Isla de Cedros, perhaps reached what is now San Diego. He sent one ship back with a report of "ugly and sterile lands" and a notice that Baja California was not an island, but his own ship did not return.

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