An Italian sailor who tried to reach the east by sailing westwards. It took Columbus 8 years to get anyone to give him money for ships and sailors. Eventually the King of Spain did. In 1492, he sailed with three ships called the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria. Columbus was out of sight of land for longer than anyone else before him. Eventually he sighted land and realised he had discovered a new island. It was in fact what we now call the Caribbean. Columbus died in 1506. He never did achieve his goal of reaching the East.
John Cabot was an Italian sailor, who, in 1497, set out from Bristol to reach Asia by sailing across the northern part of what we now call the Atlantic Ocean. He eventually landed in Canada having made the same mistake as Columbus before him. It was important for the explorers to reach Asia because they knew great wealth was to be made there. Not only would they become rich themselves and be rewarded for their great achievements but their countries would benefit too.
Magellan was a Portuguese sailor. He set out in 1519 with 5 ships to find a way around the southern tip of South America. He too was trying to find a sea passage to the Spice Islands. The King of Spain wanted them to belong to him. Magellan managed to find a narrow channel that led to the Pacific Ocean. By now, he had only 3 ships left. After months at sea, he arrived at the Philippines where he persuaded the chief of one of the islands to become a Christian. While fighting the chief’s enemies, Magellan was killed. One ship continued westwards loaded with spices and eventually returned home. It was the first voyage around the world and had taken 3 years.
Vasco da Gama
In 1497, Vasco da Gama was sent by the King of Portugal to find a way from the Cape of Good Hope to India. The Cape is at the bottom tin of Africa. He sailed right out into the Atlantic Ocean and was out of sight of land for 96 days. Eventually he neared the Southern tip of Africa and sailed around the coast to Mozambique. From there he sailed back to the mainland of Africa where he persuaded the ruler of Malindi to lend him someone who knew the way to India. Following this discovery, the King of Portugal sent more ships and eventually they reached the Spice Islands.
In 1487, Dias was sent by the King of Portugal to find a way to the Indian Ocean. He sailed around the coast of Africa to Cape Cross when he was blown south by strong winds. Dias was out of sight of land for 13 days. Dias realised what had happened and that he had been blown past the southern tip of Africa. He turned north and eventually land. He wanted to go on but his sailors were exhausted and so he turned for home.
Sir Francis Drake
Francis Drake was an English explorer although many considered him no more than a pirate. In 1577 Drake left England with 5 ships to trade in Africa. This was however not the real reason for the voyage but they didn’t think the sailors would be happy with the real reason, a voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Eventually after 3 years, Drake had sailed around the world 36,000 miles. Sir Francis Drake however is probably more famous for his part in the battle with the Spanish Armada and thwarting their attempts to invade England.