[1-John Cabot circa 16th c.]
Giovanni Caboto (c. 1450 - c. 1498), known in English as John Cabot, was an Italian navigator and explorer commonly credited as the first European to discover Canada in 1497, notwithstanding Norseman Leif Ericson's landing (c. 1003).
When Cabot was eleven, he moved to Venice and became a Venetian citizen.
Like other Italian explorers he was commissioned by another country. He had a simple plan, to start from a northerly latitude where the longitudes are much closer together, and where, as a result, the voyage would be much shorter.
Cabot sought funding from England and so his explorations were made under the English flag. King Henry VII of England gave him a letters patent to go on:
“... full and free authoritie, leave, and Power, to sayle to all Partes, Countreys, and Seas, of the East, of the West, and of the North, under our banners and ensignes, with five shippes, ... and as many mariners or men as they will have with them in the saide shippes, upon their owne proper costes and charges, to seeke out, discover, and finde, whatsoever Iles, Countreyes, Regions, or Provinces, of the Heathennes and Infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in what part of the worlde soever they bee, whiche before this time have been unknowen to all Christians..”
Cabot went to Bristol to make the preparations for his voyage. Bristol was the second-largest seaport in England, and during the years from 1480 onwards several expeditions had been sent out to look for Hy-Brazil, an island said to lie somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean according to Celtic legends.
[2-Newfoundland from space]
He departed on either May 2 or May 20, 1497 and sailed to Dursey Head, Ireland. He landed on the coast of Newfoundland on June 24, 1497. Cape Bonavista, is the location recognized by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom as being Cabot's official landing. His men may have been the first Europeans to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings. Cabot went ashore to take possession of the land, and explored the coast for thirty days not meeting any natives, and departed on July 20.
[3-East coast of Newfoundland]
Not wanting to return to England empty handed Cabot filled the holds of his ships with cod. He reported that the schools of cod were so thick in the water off Newfoundland that they slowed the ship. Cabot’s news set off a fishing frenzy, and soon the Europeans from France, Portugal and Spain were fishing in Newfoundland’s waters. Today, the cod has all but been fished out.
Drinking water for the voyage was carried in wooden casks and soon went bad. Often by the time the sailors got to the end of the cask there were more maggots than water.
[4-Replica of the Matthew in Bristol]
Back in England, Cabot was made an Admiral, rewarded with £10 and a patent was written for a new voyage. Later, a pension of £20 a year was granted to him. The next year, 1498, he departed again, with five ships this time, one being the Matthew, a small ship known as a “caravel” (24 metres long, weighed 50 tons and had a high sterncastle), but fast and able. He had 18 crewmen. Cabot wanted to travel south of his last voyage in the hope of proving he would be able to reach China. One of the ships returned to an Irish port because of damage taken on in a storm. Upon repair the ship again headed West. Cabot and his expedition were never heard from again and are presumed to have been lost at sea.
Of the five ships, it is believed one or two returned to England. What happened to the others is a mystery.
Photo Credits: wikipedia, -Bercana CC-nc-flickr.
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