North American exploration occurred from the 15th to 19th centuries by non-native people wishing to discover the continent. French and English exploration had as an incentive the necessity of reaching the Pacific via North America. An efficient trade route was at the heart of the travel. The expeditions and explorations were led by various explorers in order to check out North America and map the territory accordingly. The colonization of the Americas by European countries followed.
The best-known explorer who is generally credited with discovering America is Christopher Columbus. Prior to Columbus, the Vikings had led exploratory journeys, although their pursuits were not broadly known in the Old World. Other claims by countries attesting to the discovery of North America include Portugal's assertion of Joao Vaz Corte-Real as the discoverer in 1472.
European nations began to search a shorter way to China for silk trade purposes. After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, travel to China took longer, and there were further issues surrounding trade routes controlled by the Portuguese.
Los Reyes Catolicos (the Catholic monarchs), Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, whose marriage in 1469 had united the two mightiest Christian kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula (today known as Spain), agreed to fund Columbus' voyage. The journey set off on August 3, 1492. When Columbus discovered the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispanola, he sent letters of his first voyage and discovery, which became known through Europe. Later accounts of Columbus's discovery are still filled with an air of excitement and expectation. The second voyage that Columbus undertook entailed a rediscovery of the Lesser Antilles. Tobago and Trinidad were discovered on his third excursion as he sailed around the northern part of the South American coast. When he traveled around the Atlantic coast of Central America during the fourth voyage, he was attempting to find a narrow channel to the Pacific Ocean. Christopher Columbus' voyages opened up an entire new world, which became known as the New World, in contrast to the Old World from which the explorers originated and which was already known. In 1507, the New World became known as "America." The name is thought to have derived from Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian cartographer, explorer and navigator.
The area of North America was discovered by Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) on June 24, 1497. Caboto, an Italian explorer and navigator, is credited with the discovery, although the exact place is unclear. The island of Newfoundland is the location designated by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom.
Numerous additional explorations transpired in the years following. The expeditions set out at sea. Juan Ponce de Leon, from the Hispanola colony, was sent by King Ferdinand II of Aragon to verify that land had been discovered to the northwest. He arrived at the Northeast coast, naming the place Florida. This occurred on April 2, 1513. He found a way whereby he could reach land on the Southwestern coast of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, by passing through the Florida Keys.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa, a Spanish conquistador, crossed the Isthmus of Panama on September 25, 1513, and was the first European to view the Pacific Ocean from the New World. Once he claimed the land for the Crown, settlement of Las Californias followed.
The first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America since the Icelandic Norse sailors was an Italian, Giovanni da Verrazzano. Da Verrazzano's 1524 journey consisted of exploring the coast of South and North Carolina, as they are known today. He passed Long Island, as he sailed by exploring Newfoundland and Narragansett Bay.
Henry Hudson, as part of the Dutch East India Company mission, set sail in 1609. He sailed up the Hudson River in an attempt to find a sea route to the Pacific. James Bay, the Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay were discovered by Hudson during his final fourth voyage; the area was mapped by him at this time.
Charles Wilkes, James Cook and George Vancouver are other well-known nautical explorers of North America. Captain James Cook was a British captain in the Royal Navy. His role as explorer, navigator and cartographer took him on various journeys during the 1700s, which included North America. Cook's journeys to Newfoundland, where he charted the territory, took place between 1762 and 1767. Also a British Royal Navy officer and explorer, George Vancouver is well-known for his North American explorations, particularly the Pacific coast where Oregon and Washington were established. Vancouver's Northwest coast voyage was conducted on the HMS Discovery from 1791 to 1795. His journey occurred along lines Cook had followed previously. Charles Wilkes, an American naval officer and explorer, led an expedition from 1838 to 1842, to explore the United States. The United States Exploring Expedition, as it was termed, was also called the Wilkes Expedition.
Current scholarship attempts to articulate the exploration of North America and the New World in a broader global context. This contrasts with the documentation that ordinarily ascribes New World discovery from a European or Euro-American perspective.