Giovanni da Verrazzano

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Giovanni da Verrazzano

Giovanni da Verrazzano was an explorer; born near Florence, Italy, in 1470; however for most of his sailing career he will sail under the French flag. He went to France as a navigator as early as 1508. He became a bold sea captain, and a terror to the merchant-ships of Spain and Portugal, seizing many vessels. In 1522 he captured the treasure-ship sent by Hernando Cortez to the King of Spain. with the spoils of Mexico, valued at $1,500,000. Verrazzano sailed from France late in 1523 in the ship Dauphine, under a commission from the King, and made landfall in present day America, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River (in present day North Carolina), in March, 1524. He will progress northward up the coast in search of a Northwest Passage that would navigate him through the continent and eventually get to Asia. He describes the people at various points, and his topographical descriptions seem to indicate that he entered the bays of Delaware, New York, and the harbor of Boston. This region of America which he visited he called New France.


It has been said by some historians that perhaps his account of his travels may have been forged by the King of France. There is little argument that da Verrazzano made the trip and explored the areas that he did, however the date of the exploration is in question. The historians who believe this say that it was forged by one of his countrymen anxious to secure glory and the new land for France due to the fact that John Cabot who sailed for France’s rival Great Britain had already staked claims for the discovery of the new North American Continent. Cabot however had really only staked claims for the northern part of the continent (present day Canada). It is possible that Verrazzano the corsair was not Verrazzano the navigator. Some writers say that the latter sailed again for America in 1525, and was never heard of afterwards; while it is known that Verrazzano the corsair was executed in Puerto del Pico, Spain, in 1527.


In 1528, during his third voyage to North America, after exploring Florida, the Bahamas and the Lesser Antilles, Verrazzano anchored away from shore and rowed ashore, probably on the island of Guadeloupe. He was killed by the native Carib inhabitants. The fleet of two or three ships were anchored out of gunshot range and no one could respond in time.


Verrazzano made the mistake of making his discoveries and exploration at the same time of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world (in which Magellan never finished the trip, but received outright fame for it still) and Cortez’s conquest of Mexico. Verrazzano was the first European to explore the present day United States’ Atlantic coastline, and document it. He is also the first to name the continent New France, however that really held no merit as not only was the land inhabited by Native Americans, but his group never began any sort of settlement on the newly explored land.

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