CHAPTER II. THE ATLANTIC COAST AND THE PACIFIC DISCOVERED

THE ATLANTIC COAST LINE EXPLORED. - Columbus having shown the way, English, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers followed. Some came in search of China or the Spice Islands; some were in quest of gold and pearls. The result was the exploration of the Atlantic coast line from Labrador to the end of South America.

SOME FAMOUS VOYAGES. - In 1497 John Cabot, sailing from England, reached Newfoundland, which he believed to be part of China. [1] In 1498 John Cabot and his son Sebastian, while in search of the Spice Islands, sailed along the coast from Newfoundland to what is now South Carolina. [2]

Photographed from the original accounts of the Bristol customs collectors, now in Westminster Abbey, London.]

Before 1500 Spaniards in search of gold, or pearls, or new lands had explored the coast line from Central America to Cape St. Roque. [4]

In 1500 Cabral, while on his way from Portugal to India by Da Gama's route (p. 11), sailed so far westward that he sighted the coast of the country now called Brazil. Cabral went on his way; but sent back a ship to the king of Portugal with the news that the new-found land lay east of the Line of Demarcation. The king dispatched (1501) an expedition which explored the coast southward nearly as far as the mouth of the Plata River.

SOME RESULTS OF THESE VOYAGES. - The results of these voyages were many and important. They furnished a better knowledge of the coast; they proved the existence of a great mass of land called the New World, but still supposed to be a part of Asia; they secured Brazil for Portugal, and led to the naming of our continent.

WHY THE NEW WORLD WAS CALLED AMERICA. - In the party sent by the king of Portugal to explore the coast of Brazil, was an Italian named Amerigo Vespucci (ah-ma'ree-go ves-poot'chee), or Americus Vespucius, who had twice before visited the coast of South America. Of these three voyages and of a fourth Vespucius wrote accounts, They were widely read, led to the belief that he had discovered a new or fourth part of the world, and caused a German professor of geography to suggest that this fourth part should be called America. The name was applied first to what is now Brazil, then to all South America, and finally also to North America, when it was found, long afterward, that North America was part of the new continent and not part of Asia.

Part of a page from Waldseemüller's book Cosmographie Introductio, printed in 1507, now in the Lenox Library, New York.]

BALBOA DISCOVERS THE PACIFIC. - The man who led the way to the discovery that America was not part of Asia was Balbo'a. [6] He came to the eastern border of Panama (1510) with a band of Spaniards seeking gold. There they founded the town of Darien and in time made Balboa their commander. He married the daughter of a chief, made friends with the Indians, and heard from them of a great body of water across the mountains. This he determined to see, and in 1513, with Indian guides and a party of Spaniards, made his way through dense and tangled forests and from the summit of a mountain looked down on the Pacific Ocean, which he called the South Sea. Four days later, standing on the shore, he waited till the rising tide came rolling in, and then rushing into the water, sword in hand, he took possession of the ocean in the name of Spain. [7]

THE PACIFIC CROSSED; THE PHILIPPINES DISCOVERED. - The Portuguese meantime, by sailing around Africa, had reached the Spice Islands. So far beyond India were these islands that the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan took up the old idea of Columbus, and maintained that they could be most easily reached by sailing west. To this proposition the king of Portugal would not listen; so Magellan persuaded the king of Spain to let him try; and in 1519 set sail with five small ships. He crossed the Atlantic to the mouth of the Plata, and went south till storms and cold drove him into winter quarters. [8] In August, 1520 (early spring in the southern hemisphere), he went on his way and entered the strait which now bears his name. One of the ships had been wrecked. In the strait another stole away and went home. The three remaining vessels passed safely through, and out into an ocean so quiet compared with the stormy Atlantic that Magellan called it the Pacific. Across this the explorers sailed for five months before they came to a group of islands which Magellan called the Ladrones (Spanish for robbers) because the natives were so thievish. [9] Ten days later they reached another group, afterward named the Philippines. [10]

On one of these islands Magellan and many of his men were slain. [11] Two of the ships then went southward to the Spice Islands, where they loaded with spices. One now started for Panama, but was forced to return. The other sailed around Africa, and in 1522 reached Spain in safety. It had sailed around the world. The surviving captain was greatly honored. The king ennobled him, and on his coat of arms was a globe with the motto "You first sailed around me."

RESULTS OF THE VOYAGE. - Of all the voyages ever made by man up to that time, this of Magellan and his men was the greatest. It gave positive proof that the earth is a sphere. It revealed the vast width of the Pacific. It showed that America was probably not a part of Asia, and changed the geographical ideas of the time. [12]