Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca [Cabeza de Vaca means “head of a cow”] (1490?-1557?) was a Spanish explorer who sailed to North America from Spain, leaving in 1527. He traveled from Florida to Texas on a raft, then walked from Texas to Mexico City. He also explored the Paraguay River in South America. De Vaca and his fellow travelers were the first Europeans to see the bison, or American buffalo.
John Cabot (1450-1499) was an Italian-born English explorer and navigator. In Italy, he is known as Giovanni Caboto (which is his original name).
Sebastian Cabot (1474?-1557?) was an explorer, mapmaker and navigator of Italian descent. He worked as a cartographer (mapmaker) for England’s King Henry VIII, was a captain for Spain’s King Ferdinand V, explored for England’s King Henry VII, and may have secretly explored for Venice. Sebastian Cabot’s father was the explorer John Cabot.
Cabot searched for the Northwest passage across North America (1508). He began an unsuccessful trip around the world (1526-1529) in a voyage that supposed to sail to China and the Moluccas (the Spice Islands, in Indonesia), but he only made it as far as the enormous mouth of the Rio de la Plata (a river between Argentina and Uruguay in South America). Later, he began to work for the English again, searching for a water passage across the north of Asia around 1553.
See John Cabot.
Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467-1520) was a Portuguese nobleman, explorer, and navigator who was the first European to see Brazil (on April 22, 1500). His patron was King Manuel I of Portugal, who sent him on an expedition to India. Cabral’s 13 ships left on March 9, 1500, following the route of Vasco da Gama. On April 22,1500, he sighted land (Brazil), claiming it for Portugal and naming it the “Island of the True Cross.” King Manuel renamed this land Holy Cross; it was later renamed once again, to Brazil, after a kind of dyewood found there, called pau-brasil. Cabral stayed in Brazil for 10 days and then continued on his way to India, in a trip fraught with shipwrecks (at the Cape of Good Hope), and fighting (with Muslim traders in India). After trading for spices in India, Cabral returned to Portugal on June 23, 1501, with only four of the original 13 ships.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (? -1543) was a Spanish or Portuguese explorer (his nationality is uncertain). Cabrillo was the first European explorer of the Californian coast. In 1542, he sailed from Acapulco to southern California, claiming California for King Charles I of Spain. Cabrillo named San Diego Bay and Santa Barbara. He died on San Miguel Island (in the Santa Barbara Channel) after a fight with Indians, from complications resulting from a broken leg.
Alvise da Cadamosto (1432?-1511?) was a Venetian (from Venice, Italy) navigator and merchant who sailed for Prince Henry of Portugal.
In 1455, Prince Henry sent the Cadamosto on two expeditions. On the first, in 1455, Cadamosto reached the mouth of the Gambia River (in west Africa). On the second, in 1456, Cadamosto sailed up the Gambia river to the Geba River. He tried trading with the Africans but was unsuccessful. Cadamosto claimed to have discovered the Cape Verde Islands, but this is uncertain.
Cadamosto published a detailed account of his explorations in 1507.
Antonie Laumet de La Mothe de Cadillac ( March 5, 1658 - Oct. 15, 1730) was a French explorer, soldier, and leader. Cadillac founded the city of Detroit in 1701 and was the governor of the Louisiana Territory from 1710 to 1716 or 1717.
Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson (Dec. 24, 1809 - May 23, 1868) was an American explorer, guide, fur trapper, Indian agent, rancher, and soldier, who traveled through the southwestern and western USA.
Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was a French explorer who led three expeditions to Canada, in 1534, 1535, and 1541. He was looking for a route to the Pacific through North America (a Northwest Passage) but did not find one. Cartier paved the way for French exploration of North America.
Cartier sailed inland, going 1,000 miles up the St. Lawrence River. He also tried to start a settlement in Quebec (in 1541), but it was abandoned after a terribly cold winter. Cartier named Canada; “Kanata” means village or settlement in the Huron-Iroquois language. Cartier was given directions by Huron-Iroquois Indians for the route to “kanata,” a village near what is now Quebec, but Cartier later named the entire region Canada.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo, also known as Bernal Diaz, (1492-1584) was a Spanish historian and soldier who chronicled the Spanish conquest of Mexico. In 1514, he went to America as a soldier, with Pedrarias Dávila, the new governor of Darien. In 1517, he sailed to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, with Francisco de Córdoba’s expedition. He returned to Mexico in 1518 with Grijalva, and in 1519, with Hernando Cortés. This last expedition entailed over 100 battles, including the surrender of Mexico City (in 1521). As a reward for his service, he was appointed governor of Santiago de los Caballeros in Guatemala. Bernal Diaz del Castillo published “Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de Nueva España”, (True History of the Conquest of New Spain) in 1568.
Sebastian Meléndez Rodríguez Cermenho (also written Cermenon) was a Spanish navigator and explorer (Cermenho was Portuguese by birth). Cermenho was directed by Cortés to explore the California coastline in 1595. With a crew of 70 men on the Manila (Philippines) Galleon San Agustin in the service of Spain, Cermenho sailed from the Philippines to California. After running aground near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco), Cermenon named the nearby bay San Francisco (it is now called Drakes Bay). They built a smaller boat from the wreckage and sailed to Acapulco, Mexico, charting the coastline all the while.
Samuel de Champlain (1567?-1635) was a French explorer and navigator who mapped much of northeastern North America and started a settlement in Quebec. Champlain also discovered the lake later named for him (1609) and was important in establishing and administering the French colonies in the New World.
Zhang Qian, also called Chang Ch’ien (?-114 BC) was a Chinese explorer who traveled to the steppes of Central Asia during the reign of the Han dynasty Emperor Han Wudi (also called Wu Ti, he reigned from 140-87 BC). He was the first person to bring information on this area to China.
Emperor Wudi sent Zhang Qian to visit the Indo-European Yüeh-chih tribe of central Asia in order to establish a trade relationship. On his way northwest in 138 B.C. with about 100 men, Zhang Qian was imprisoned by the nomadic Hsiung-nu people (the Huns) for 10 years. He escaped and made his way to the Yueh-chih tribe (a journey of over 2,000 miles), returning to China 3 years later. Upon his return from this 12-year journey, Zhang Qian was named supreme counselor of the palace by the Emperor.
Many years later, the Emperor sent him to visit the Wu-sun people to the northwest of China, another Indo-European tribe living in what is now Russia. His travels, and those of his assistants (who visited Uzbekistan and Afghanistan) opened up Chinese trade and helped begin the Silk Road, an important trade route connecting the east and the west.
Pierre François-Xavier de Charlevoix (Oct. 29, 1682 - Feb. 1, 1761) was a French Jesuit priest, explorer, and writer. His writings are some of the earliest written accounts of North America.
Michael Collins (1930-2021) was an American astronaut and US Air Force pilot. Collins piloted NASA’s 3-day Gemini 10 Mission, which was launched on July 18, 1966; this mission successfully rendezvoused and docked with a separate Agena target vehicle, and Collins walked in space twice during this mission. Collins piloted the Command Module pilot of Apollo 11 (the mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. on the moon, it flew from July 16-24, 1969); Collins circled the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, and later rendezvoused with them.
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, hoping to find a route to India (in order to trade for spices). He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504, sailing for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
James Cook (October 27, 1728- February 14, 1779) was a British explorer and astronomer who went on many expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, Antarctic, Arctic, and around the world.
Cook’s first journey was from 1768 to 1771, when he sailed to Tahiti in order to observe Venus as it passed between the Earth and the Sun (in order to try to determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun). During this expedition, he also mapped New Zealand and eastern Australia.
Cook’s second expedition (1772-1775) took him to Antarctica and to Easter Island.
Cook’s last expedition (1776-1779) was a search for a Northwest Passage across North America to Asia. Cook was killed by a mob on Feb. 14, 1779, on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). At the time, he was trying to take the local chief hostage to get the natives to return a sailboat they had stolen.
Cook was the first ship’s captain to stop the disease scurvy (now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C) among sailors by providing them with fresh fruits. Before this, scurvy had killed or incapacitated many sailors on long trips.
Francisco Fernández de Córdoba (? - 1524) was a Spanish explorer and slave trader who explored Mexico (1517) and Nicaragua (1524).
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510-1554) was a Spanish ruler, explorer and conquistador. He was the first European to explore North America’s Southwest.
Gaspar Corte Real (1450?-1501?) was a Portuguese explorer who sailed to Greenland in 1500, and perhaps also reached the coast of North America (Newfoundland). Gaspar was lost at sea about 1501, and his brother Manuel died trying to find him.
Hernán Cortés (also spelled Cortez), Marqués Del Valle De Oaxaca (1485-1547) was a Spanish adventurer and conquistador (he was also a failed law student) who overthrew the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain (1519-21).
Cortes sailed with 11 ships from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula to look for gold, silver, and other treasures. Hearing rumors of great riches, Cortés traveled inland and “discovered” Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. He then brutally killed the Aztec emperor Montezuma and conquered his Aztec Empire of Mexico, claiming all of Mexico for Spain in 1521. Treasures from the Aztecs were brought to Spain, and Cortés was a hero in his homeland. Cortés was appointed governor of the colony of New Spain, but eventually fell out of favor with the royals. He then returned to Spain where he died a few years later.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) was a French undersea explorer, environmentalist, and innovator. In 1943, Cousteau and the French engineer Emile Gagnan invented the aqualung, a breathing apparatus that supplied oxygen to divers and allowed them to stay underwater for several hours. Cousteau traveled the world’s oceans in his research vessel “Calypso,” beginning in 1948. (Calypso was a converted 400-ton World War 2 minesweeper; it sank in 1996, after being hit by a barge in Singapore harbor). Cousteau’s popular TV series, films and many books [including “The Living Sea” (1963), and “World Without Sun” (1965)] exposed the public to the wonders of the sea.
Allan Cunningham (1791 - 1839) was an English explorer and botanical collector. Cunningham’s explorations included Brazil (from 1814 to 1816), eastern Australia (1816 - 1839), and New Zealand (1826).
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) set out in May 1804 to explore and map the American West. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition to explore the newly-bought Louisiana Territory. Lewis and Clark were accompanied by a crew of men, and later, the Shoshone Indian guide and interpreter Sacagawea and her infant son. Lewis and Clark travelled by river and by land from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Oregon coast (Fort Clatsop), and back again. Their journey took 2 years, 4 months, and 10 days; they covered over 8,000 miles.
Activities: Print out this map, then draw Lewis and Clark’s route and label the states they passed through.
Do a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activity on Lewis and Clark