HISTORY. DiscovEny. Christopher Columbus. in 1492, added a new world to European commerce and civilization; but. there can be little doubt that the Western Hemisphere to which Columbus opened the way had previously been visited by voyagers from the older world. There is ing inherently impossible in the stories that Japanese or Chinese vessels. blown by storms or carried by the Pacific currents, reached the ern coast of North America. The most stantial of these tales relates that some Chinese Buddhist priests in the fifth Christian century reached a land of Fu-sang, and successfully turned with the account of their adventures in what some critics have thought was the country now known as Mexico. From Europe the liest visitors to America came by way of Iceland, and the story of their experiences, though it does not satisfy all the demands of modern historical criticism, may safely be deemed true in its prin cipal details. In 876, Gunnbjorn, a rover, while on his way from Norway to the new Norse settlement in Iceland, was blown westward until he sighted an unknown land. A century later, about 985, a restless youir, Norwegian named Eric the Red succeeded in verifying the stories which had been handed down from Gunn bjorn's time, and in establishing a settlement on the shores of the land to which, with the idea of attracting colonists, he gave the naive of Greenland. Two years or so after this, Bjarni Herjulfson, while in command of a ship in which he had set out to visit the Red Eric's settlement, encountered storms that drove him, as he re ported, southward until he came in sight of land.
In the year 1000, Leif, Eric's son, started to explore BjarnEs land. He came first to a barren shore backed by ice-covered mountains, a descrip tion which suggests Labrador. Sailing south, he met With more pleasant regions, to which he gave the names of _parkland and Vinland. Many at tempts have been made to identify these localities, and Newfoundland and Nova Scotia perhaps best answer the essential conditions. At Vinland a flourishing settlement was established and main tained for several years. and there Gudrid, the wife of Thorfinn Karlsefne, gave birth, in 1007, to a son, Snore, from whom the sculptor Tho• waldsen claimed descent. Many localities—New po•t and Dighton, on Narragansett Bay; Cam bridge and Waltham, on the Charles; Salem, in deed, well-nigh every town situated beside a pleasant river northward from Long Island—have laid claim to this Norse settlement, regarding the actual situation of which, however, nothing cer tain is known. During the succeeding five hundred years, many voyagers may have crossed the At lantic. but none of them left any proof of their work. Madoc, son of Owen Gwynnedd, a prince of Wales, is said by Humfrey Lloyd, in a book printed in 1559, to have sailed westward and to have established a transatlantic Welsh colony in 1170. The Venetitn brothers Zeno, between 1380 and 1390, probably made a voyage from the Shetland islands to Iceland and Greenland, and in their letters home to their Italian brethren they seem to have given a picturesque account of what they had learned about the country lying still farther to the southwest. French, Breton, and Basque fishing vessels very likely visited the cod banks in the western Atlantic during the fifteenth century; hut if they did, they were care ful not to let the information of their valuable discovery reach their rivals.
Consecutive discovery and exploration began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. (For a full account of his expeditious, see COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER.) In 1493 and 1494 Columbus established the main features of the islands in the West Indies. In his third voyage, 1498, he touched at Trinidad, and followed the mainland for some distance; and in 1502-04 he coasted from Yucatan to Venezuela. Meanwhile, in 1497, John Cabot sailed from England, and reached the neighborhood of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; but many years passed before the identity of the land which served as headquarters for the hosts of fishing boats which frequented the Banks with that of the New World of the Spaniards was definitely determined. It appears probable that almott simultaneously with Ca bot's landing on the American continent, Pinzon (accompanied by Vespueius) discovered Central America. A succession of voyages now rapidly extended geographical knowledge of the coast line of the Mexiean Gulf and northeastern South America. In 1499 Ojeda and Vespueius coasted the northern shores of the southern continent, naming Venezuela, "the little Venice," and unit ing this coast with the territory visited by Co Muffins. Pinzon, early in 1501f, reached Brazil, entered the mouth of the Amazon, and crossed the equator, reaching 8° 20' S. on the Brazil coast. Cabral, in 1500, too, was blown to the same coast while trying to follow the route of Vasco da Gama to the East Indies, and thus es tablished the Portuguese claim to a part of America. Vespueius. transferring his services to Portugal, in 1501 followed the coast from Cabral's Land nearly to the mouth of the Plata. These were the official recorded voyages; hut the extent and importance of the information se cured by the surreptitious voyagers who were striving to gain a part of whatever the new found lands had to offer is best shown by the fact that though Cuba was not officially circumnavi gated until 1508, by Ocampo, nevertheless, it is represented as an island on La C'osa's map of 1500 and en the Cantino Portuguese map of 1502. As soon as it was realized that a vast land mass still barred the way to India and Ja pan, the problem of foremost importance became that of finding a water route through or around the western continent. The way was found in 1520 by Fern;lo Mae•alhiles, commonly known as Magellan. Magalimes sailed so directly for the strait which now bears his name that it has been surmised that he already knew of its probable existence from the captains of merchant vessels who had explored the coast to the extreme south in their search for trading chances. From the western end of the strait, Magalhaes laid his course to the East Indies. There, on one of the Philippine Islands, he was killed in April, 1521; hut Juan Sebastian del Ca no, in command of the rictoria, prosecuted the voyage successfully, and reached Seville in September, 1522, by way of the Cape of Good 1-lope, having circumnavigated the globe for the first time.