Early Explorers
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Captain James Cook (1728 -1779) was a British explorer, navigator, map maker and captain in the Royal Navy. In 1776 he commanded the Bark H.M.S. Endeavour on the first of three Pacific voyages. Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He mapped lands from the Atlantic to the Bearing Sea.

In 1773, Resolution was the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle (66.5 degrees south latitude) which she crossed twice more on the voyage. The third crossing, on 3 February 1774, was to be the most southerly penetration, reaching latitude 71° 10 south.

On the second and third southern voyage a K-one chronometer was issued to Captain Cook. It was on board to help calculate longitude.

A disagreement between the Europeans and Hawaiians occurred at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii. The quarrel resulted in Captain Cooks Death,
on February 14, 1779.
Captain James Cook

Commander Ferdinand Magellan

In August, 1519, five ships, under the command of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, set sail from Seville, Spain. The purpose of their voyage was
to discover a new sea-route to the Spice Islands (also known as 'Moluccas Islands). Magellan was the first person to propose sailing west from the Atlantic, into the Pacific Ocean and on to the Spice Islands. All previous routes from Europe to the Spice Islands were eastward, over land and sea.

Magellan landed in the Philippines, on Cebu Island. He died in the Philippines while fighting the indigenous people at Mactan. After Magellan's death, his ship, ‘Victoria’, was taken over by commander, Juan Sebastian de Elcano.

In November, 1521, the armada landed on Tidore one of the Spice Islands. They purchased nutmeg, cloves, mace, pepper and cinnamon, before sailing back to Spain. In September, 1522, eighteen crew members, with twenty-six tones of spices, arrived back in Spain.

The 3 year expedition was the first ever to circumnavigate the globe. The voyage provided clear proof that the Earth is round. The 'Victoria' was the only one of the five ships to make it back to Europe. 'Victoria', a Spanish Carrack, was a 3-masted sailing ship.


Sir Francis Drake - British Sea Captain, Navigator, Slave Trader and Privateer (a privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war). Drake’s voyage was the second circumnavigation in history (Magellan’s was first). Drake's exploits made him a hero to the English, but his privateer activities led the Spanish to brand him a Pirate.

On December 13th, 1577 - Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England in his flagship, the “Pelican” accompanied by four smaller ships (Swan, Marigold, Benedict and Elizabeth). After leaving Africa, Drake set sail for the Straits of Magellan. Various problems in the straits left Drake with only one ship (he renames “Pelican” the “Golden Hind”) and continues on.

He sails north along the coast of South America, Central America, Mexico and the west coast of United States. They then turns west and crosses the Pacific Ocean. The next part of the voyage takes them past the Philippians and Indonesia. They then cross the Indian Ocean and arrive
back in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Town, South Africa. They turn north and return to Plymouth, England.

Sir Francis Drake
Golden Hind

Captain George Vancouver

On April 1st, 1791 Captain George Vancouver (a British officer of the Royal Navy and protégé of James Cook) left England aboard the HMS “Discovery” with the HMS “Chatham”.

Captain Vancouver and crew were on a three year expedition (1791–1795) to circumnavigate the world.

They explored and mapped the Pacific including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, California and Oregon. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and the southwest coast of Australia. April 1792, Captain Vancouver entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca and commenced his exploration of Puget Sound and Vancouver Island. He set out to explore and name every island, mountain, waterway, and point of land in sight.

On July 12th 1795, Vancouver returned to London and completed the circumnavigation.

HMS Discovery


In 1523, Jacques Cartier set sail on the “Grande Hermine” from Saint-Malo, Brittany, under a commission from the King of France. Between 1524 and 1527, he led three voyages to Canada. They were hoping to discover a passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and access to markets in Asia.

He explored the North Eastern parts of North America before it was called Canada, including Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The land around the Gulf of Saint Laurence and the Saint Laurence River was already occupied by “Iroquois” and “Mi’kmaq” First Nations. Even so, it allowed France to lay claim to the land.

Grande Hermine

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain on August 3, 1492 with three ships the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. On October 12, 1492 land was sighted in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus was in search for a maritime route from Europe to Asia. This search led to the unintentional the discovery of North America. These voyages led to the widespread knowledge that a new continent existed west of Europe and east of Asia.
Columbus made a total of four voyages to the Americas between 1492 and 1502. At the time of the Columbus voyages, the Americas were inhabited by indigenous Americans.

Santa Maria