The explorers are in order based on when they were born!



Christopher Columbus - (1451-1506)

Christopher Columbus grew up with a family who knew how to weave wool. He learned how to weave too but had always dreamed to sail on the seas. He wanted to become rich and famous when he got older.

In the year of 1492, Columbus got his wishes. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain had agreed to give him money and three ships Santa Maria and two smaller ships, the Pinta and the Nina . These he took on his expedition to sail west around the world to the East Indies.

When Columbus got to Cuba, he thought that he was in the Indies. Since he had that idea, he called the people there Indians.

The Santa Maria crashed on one of the islands.

When Columbus came back from Cuba he brought back gold and some new spices and new land for Spain. Columbus did go back to the new land four times, but after the fourth time he stopped and had to stay in bed because of bad arthritis. He never became rich, but he lived a good life.


Vasco da Gama (1460-1524)

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who discovered an ocean route from Portugal to the East. He started his explorations on the ocean when he was young because his father was an explorer as well. Estavao, his father, died before he could finish his journey from Portugal to India, so his son took over the journey.

Most people thought that da Gama’ s journey was crazy because they thought that the Indian Ocean wasn’t connected to the other oceans. After making an agreement with King Manuel I of Portugal, da Gama left and sailed around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Then on November 20th, he went to Indian. da Gama made a lot of trades with the people in the country and he also made enemies. Muslim traders didn’t like da Gama. They were not wiling to work with him because they didn’t want him to steal their trade routes. When da Gama was going to leave India he found out that he had to pay a large tax on what he took back to Portugal. He ended up taking all of his goods and some hostages. When they got back to Lisbon, Portugal, the crew died of scurvy.




Hernando Cortes- (1485-1547)
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Hernando Cortes was a Spanish conquistador and adventurer. He overthrew the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain. He began by sailing with eleven different ships from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula in search of silver, gold, and other riches. Hearing of great treasures, Cortes traveled inland and found the capital of Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan.

When Cortes and his followers first arrived, the Aztecs considered them to be gods because of their god-like figure. Then Cortes fiercely captured Montezuma, the Aztec Emperor, and took over his Empire of Mexico, claiming it for Spain in 1521. He brought home ancient Aztec treasures and was a hero on his homeland. Cortes was then appointed governor of the colony, New Spain. He soon fell out of favor with the royals and returned to Spain where he died a few years later.

Note: Cortes can also be spelled “Cortez”



Jacques Cartier -(1491-1557)
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Jacques Cartier was a European explorer. In 1531, Francis I commissioned him to look for the Northwest Passage. He got together 61 crew members for two small ships. He left St. Malo in April. Less then three weeks later he was sailing down Newfoundland’s coast and discovered the Magdalen and Prince Edward islands. Then they went across the Gaspe Peninsula taking possession of it for France before leaving. Sadly, he mistook the mouth of the St. Lawrence River for a bay, and therefore did not investigate it. Carter’s description of the new land had many young explorers excited to seek fortune in the New World.



Sir Humphrey Gilbert- (1539-1583)
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Sir Humphrey Gilbert was an English nobleman, a member of Parliament, an army officer, and an explorer. He first started English settlements in Ireland and then sailed to North America searching for the Northwest Passage. He also founded an English settlement in Newfoundland. Gilbert is said to have believed that America was the lost continent of Atlantis. He was determined to discover a sea route through the northern waters of America.

On September 23, 1578, he sailed from England, but was attacked by the Spaniards and returned home. Then, on June 11, 1583, he successfully sailed out again with five ships. One ship turned back because of leakage, but the others moved on toward North America. He landed in Newfoundland on July 30, 1583 and then sailed to St. John’s. He claimed the new area for Queen Elizabeth I of England and started another colony. Two weeks later, Gilbert left his colony and explored the area around Nova Scotia. He then died when his ship the “Squirrel” sank on the way home to England.

Note: Gilbert was the step-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh.



Henry Hudson -(1565-1611)

Henry Hudson was already known for exploring Arctic waters. The Dutch East India Company hirer him to find a shorter and less expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope to the Orient. The Dutch gave him a boat that was 85ft Half- Moon shaped to explore the area. He was headed toward Norway, but there was some ice and very cold weather that blocking his way so he went west. Going along the North Atlantic, he landed on the coast of Maine.

When they had landed, the crew fix some of the damage that the ice had caused and traded with the Natives Americans. Then they set sail again along the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay to find this new route. After looking for a while he thought that this wasn’t what he was looking for so he went up the Hudson River. Spending some time around the river he began to like it and he named the river after him. When he came back home with his crew they had discovered the best fur trading place in North America


Samuel de Champlain (1567?-1635)

Samuel de Champlain was born on a bay of Biscay, in 1567. His family was fairly rich because his father was a ship-captain. When he reached the right age he entered the army and became quartermaster of Calvary. Since his father was a skilled ship-captain, Champlain was taught very well in leading a crew, and a respected and talented navigator. We give much thanks to Champlain for discovering the lake that was soon named after him “Lake Champlain”. He was also responsible for establishing and administering the French colonies of his day. Champlain died in Québec in the year 1635. Champlain was an amazing person who will be forever remembered for all time.

Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain




James Cook -(1728-1779)
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James Cook was a British explorer and captain. He was also an astronomer and went on many expeditions to the Antarctic, Arctic, and on the Pacific Ocean. His first expedition was when he sailed to Tahiti from 1768-1771. He wanted to observe the planet Venus as it passed between the Earth and the sun, hoping to discover the distance between the Earth and the sun. Also during this trip he mapped the northern part of Australia.

On Cook's second expedition he went to Antarctica and Easter Island from 1772-1775. He then discovered that Antarctica was no more then ice. During this voyage he only lost four men in the whole three years, an amazing record in those days.

Cook’s last expedition was from 1776-1779. He was searching for the Northwest Passage across North America to Asia. He also discovered some of the islands around Hawaii. Unfortunately during this journey Cook was killed by a mob of Native Americans. He was trying to get the natives to return a sail boat they had stolen by taking a chief hostage, which was not a very good idea.

Note: Cook was the first ship captain to stop the disease scurvy, by providing fresh fruits to all his sailors.





Sir John Franklin -(1786-1847)
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Sir John Franklin was an English Explorer and Admiral who proved the existence of a Northwest Passageway. From 1819-1822 he surveyed a part of the northwestern Canadian coast. From 1825-1827, on his second expedition, he explored the American coast line. Then in 1845, Franklin sailed from England in an expedition of 128 men to Canada in search of the Northwest Passage. Two of his ships soon became trapped in ice and the people were freezing, desperate, and starving.

A Scottish explorer by the name of John Rae determined that Franklin and the other members of the expedition most likely died of exposure to the cold and starvation. Food poisoning from badly-canned food aloes could have killed them.

Note: After reading about Franklin's adventures, Roald Amundsen (as a teenager) decided to become an Arctic explorer many years later.