Major Explorers of New York State

          In 1493, Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from America with tales of his voyage to the islands he had discovered off the coast of what he thought was India. Soon other countries in Europe began sending ships to explore these new lands seeking the riches they might provide.  One of their primary goals was also to try to find a quicker trade route to Asia, the land of silks and spices.  This search for the Northwest Passage, lead to many new discoveries and claims.  By the early 16th century (1500ís) France, Italy, and England had begun their explorations.

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John Cabot

John Cabot, like Columbus, believed that Asia could be reached by sailing westward.  Cabot, an Italian ship captain, made two voyages to the new world.  In 1497, he sailed for the King of England.  He reached the northern coast of North America in what today is part of Canada.  He sailed southward, exploring possibly as far as New York.
          In 1498, Cabot returned to explore more of this new land.  As a result of his voyages, the English king later claimed the land Cabot explored for England.

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Giovanni Da Verrazano

Giovanni da Verrazano:

In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer, sailing for France, reached the eastern coast of North America.  He sailed up and down the coast looking for a passage that would take him west through the continent.  He reached the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Bay, and wrote "we found a very pleasant situation amongst some steep hills ..."
          After rowing ashore in a small boat Verrazano had a brief encounter with a group of Native Americans.  The friendly natives welcomed the strangers, giving them gifts and food.  Verrazano and his crew did not stay long however, due to uncertain weather.
          A bridge connecting Long Island and Staten Island today is named the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, after this early explorer.

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Jacques Cartier

          In 1534, the French king, Francis I, sent Jacques Cartier, a French navigator and explorer to North America.  He wanted Cartier to search for gold and other precious metals, as well as to seek a water route through North America. Cartier sailed into what is now the Gulf of St. Lawrence, claiming the land along the river for France.
Cartier encountered Native Americans along the shores of the St. Lawrence River.  He gave them gifts and established friendly relations with them.  Today the people of New York state enjoy a state park located on the St. Lawrence River named after Jacques Cartier.

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Henry Hudson:

In 1609, an English sea captain, Henry Hudson sailed to America for a Dutch trading company.  Hudson and his crew aboard the ship, Half Moon, were searching for the Northwest Passage.  They sailed into a great river know today as the Hudson. The crew of the Half Moon fished, traded with the Native Americans, and explored the river.  They sailed up the river until it became too shallow to navigate near present-day Albany.  Hudson claimed the land they explored in the Hudson River Valley for Holland.

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Samuel de Champlain:


          Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who became known as the "Father of New France." In 1603 he went on his first voyage to North America on an exploration and fur-trading expedition. He returned a year later, to look for a place in which to make a permanent French settlement. He remained until 1607, exploring the Atlantic coast from Canada to Massachusetts.
In 1608, Champlain brought a group of settlers to the area along the St. Lawrence River.  They built a trading post and settlement.  It was the first European settlement in Canada.  They called it Quebec. Today it is the oldest city in Canada.
          Champlain befriended the Huron Indians living near Quebec in 1609, and began trading for furs. This peaceful relationship helped make it easier to explore the area. Their friendship also made them allies in battle against the Huron's bitter enemies, the Iroquois. Champlain and his French companions helped the Hurons attack the Iroquois in what is now New York State.  They easily won the battle with their muskets.  It was during this raid that he discovered a lake on the border of northern New York State.  He named this lake, Lake Champlain.  

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Letís Review the Major Explorers of New York State


Sailed For

Area explored

John Cabot


Northeast coastline of
North America

Giovanni daVerrazano


New York Bay and mouth of Hudson River

Jacques Cartier


St. Lawrence River

Henry Hudson


Hudson River

Samuel de Champlain


St. Lawrence River, Canada, and northern New York




Northwest Passage:  A water route through North America to Asia
Allies:  Partners or friends who help each other

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