When did Europeans first reach
Buckminster Fuller proposed that Polynesian sailors who he called "World
Around People" were the first the reach North America. No archiological
or historic record has yet been found to verify this theory. In later units
we will study Fullers ideas and compare them to other current theorys about
First Contact with North America.
The Vikings, Norse people from Scandinavia, were in potentially the first
to discover and settle in the "new world".
There are two events that we know happened.
First, archaeological evidence and the Icelandic sagas have established
that the Norse arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador around 1000 CE.
Second, there is no dispute that Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) sailed from
Bristol to North America in 1497.
Whether other Europeans explored the region before the Norse, or between
1000 and 1497, is unclear.
are legends. The most famous are the story of St. Brendan's sixth century
voyage from Ireland, and the fable that a Welsh prince, Madoc, reached America
in the 12th century.
Another theory is that Portuguese voyagers sailed to Newfoundland in the
1470s. This would make Jošo Corte Real was the actual "discoverer" of America.
In Bristol, there exists a firm belief, backed by some documentary evidence,
that mariners from that port were crossing the Atlantic before John Cabot
All that can be said for certain is that during the 15th century, as Europeans
began to look for sea routes to Asia, stimulated by dreams of the wealth
to be made trading in spices and precious metals, so the geography of the
globe became known more accurately. Europe was expanding, and a part of
the process was the progressive exploration of the Atlantic Ocean.
Certainly, the Portuguese were sailing further to the west, and all along
the Atlantic seaboard there was a growing interest in a direct, western
route to Asia. While there is no firm evidence of European explorers in
Newfoundland and Labrador between, the Norse and John Cabot, the suggestion
that Portugese and English voyagers reached the shores of eastern North
America before Cabot is broadly consistent with what we know of the times.
The Norse exploration of North America, though by far the earliest for which
we have definite proof, left no permanent legacy.
On the other hand, the voyages of John Cabot, soon to be followed by others,
began the European exploitation and settlement of what was to Europeans,
a new founde lande.