Timeline of Major Explorers


John Cabot Cabot, John John Cabot

c.1455-1498. Born in Italy as Giovanni Caboto, he migrated to England and became famous for his 1497 voyage from Bristol, landing on what was likely Newfoundland, the second European to land in America, after Columbus. Returning the following year with 5 vessels, he and his fleet were lost, except for one vessel that returned early. Of special importance was his discovery of large quantities of cod.
goes to Grand Banks but probably not as far as Maine. Fish were reportedly so plentiful that he could scoop them up in baskets. His son, Sebastian, claimed to have been on this voyage and to have returned the following year but this has been proven false.


Giovanni da VerrazzanoVerrazzano, Giovanni da Giovanni da Verrazano, Giovanni da Verrazzano

c.1485-c.1528 The first European to sail the American coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland. An Italian captain from Florence, member of a prominent family, he was wealthy and well-educated. He entered the French service in 1522 and organized his first voyage to America for the French king Francis I, sailing in January 1524 from the Madeiras, and landing in North Carolina, probably around Cape Fear, early in March.
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looks for Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage

A route to the Far East across North America, sought by early explorers. The search for this passage would drive exploration from the 15th century voyage of John Cabot through to the early 17th, and then was taken up again in the late 1700s.
, sailing along the coast of Maine, New England, and the Northeast.


Esteban GómezGomez, Esteban Estêvão Gomes, Esteban Gómez

c.1483-1538. Portuguese navigator who worked for Spain (Estêvão Gomes is the Portuguese spelling.) Piloted one of Magellan's ships on Magellan's around the world voyage in 1519, but mutined and turned back at Cape Horn for which he was jailed on his return in 1521. Released after the survivors returned in 1522, he convinced Charles V, king of Spain, that he could find a passage through North America.
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was a Portugese sailing for Spain, looking for gold and the Northwest Passage, but found the beauty of the coast, naming Campobello Island (pretty country) and Penobscot Bay.


David Ingram arrives in Maine, having walked from Florida, starting with two others in October 1567. Ingram, a sailor with Drake and Hawkins, was put ashore after his ship’s defeat by the Spanish. He eventually walked all the way to New Brunswick, where a French vessel took him back to Europe. Ingram told of the fabulous city of gold NorumbegaNorumbega

Name for a legendary City of Gold, thought to be near the site of present day Bangor. Name first appears on a map in 1529.
. He influenced Sir Humphrey GilbertGilbert, Sir Humphrey Sir Humphrey Gilbert

c.1539-1583. English nobleman and explorer who annexed Newfoundland to Britain in 1583. He was lost at sea on his return voyage. He had been active in promoting English North American colonization. Queen Elizabeth reissued Gilbert's exploration and colonization patent to Walter Raleigh, Gilbert's brother in law, who used it to plant a colony at Roanoke.
, but there is considerable question as to the truth of his tale.


Simon Ferdinando was a Portuguese navigator who was hired by Sir Humphrey Gilbert for a reconnaissance voyage in 1579. Gilbert was interested in finding a site for a colony and in the stories of Norumbega. Ferdinando went on to become the chief navigator for Raleigh's Roanoke voyages of 1584-1587. The following year, Captain John Walker followed him to the Penobscot and returned with a reasonably accurate description.


Sir Humphrey Gilbert leads an expedition with a wide ranging charter to colonize in America. Arriving off St. John's, Newfoundland, despite a harbor full of fishing vessels from many nations, Gilbert took formal possession of the land for England, but returned home.


Martin PringPring, Martin Martin Pring

c.1580-1646. English explorer, first sent to America in 1603 in a follow-up to Gosnold's voyage in search of sassafras, then thought to be a cure for syphillis. With two vessels, he made landfall in the vicinity of Penobscot Bay, probably around Matinicus. After exploring Penobscot Bay, he coasted down to outer Cape Cod, probably visiting the mouths of the Saco, Kennebunk and York Rivers, and possibly sailing up the Piscataqua.
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, with support of Humphrey Gilbert's son Raleigh and Sir Walter RaleighRaleigh, Sir Walter Sir Walter Raleigh

c.1522-1618. English soldier, courtier, writer and explorer. When his half brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert's patent, or right to plant colonies, was due to run out, Raleigh became the financial backer of the expedition in which Gilbert found Newfoundland and lost his life. After getting the patent renewed in 1584, Raleigh organized the expedition that planted a colony in Roanoake Island, then sent a second expedition there in 1587. Raleigh was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I and named Virginia for her. Elizabeth's death ruined Raleigh; he was imprisoned by James I and beheaded.
, outfitted two ships, Speedwell and Discoverer, explored the Maine coast, and stopped at Monhegan.


Samuel de ChamplainChamplain, Samuel de Samuel de Champlain

1567-1635. Between 1603 and 1635, Champlain made 12 voyages to what was to become Canada, establishing it as a French colony, founding Quebec, and exploring up the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. In Maine history, he is chiefly known for his 1604-1607 voyage, in which he wintered at St. Croix and made the first accurate maps of the New England coast.
under the leadership of Pierre du Gua de MontsMonts, Pierre du Gua de Pierre du Gua de Monts

c.1558-1628 French nobleman, trader, and colonial leader. After making several voyages to Canada, in 1603 he was granted a trading monopoly, appointed lieutenant-general and tasked with establishing a 60 person colony by the French king Henry VI.
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established a colony on Saint Croix IslandSaint Croix Island

Located on the Saint Croix River in Passamaquoddy Bay, below Calais, Maine, Saint Croix Island was the site of the first French colony in Northern North America in 1604. Other than the Norse effort six centuries earlier, there is no other evidence of earlier European colonies in the New England/Canada area.
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in 1604, which after a hard winter was moved the next year to Port Royal across the Bay of Fundy. In September, 1604, he sighted Mt. Desert and Penobscot (Pentagoet) on an exploratory voyage up Penobscot Bay to the area around Bangor. Champlain found no golden city called Norumbega. He sailed down Penobscot Bay to the St. George River and back. Champlain made remarkably accurate maps and drawings.


Capt. George WaymouthWaymouth, George George Waymouth

c.1585-c.1612. English ship captain and explorer, and student of mathematics, navigation and ship building. In 1602 he led an unsuccessful voyage in search of the Northwest Passage, exploring the area between Greenland and Labrador. After returning he wrote "The Jewell of Artes" a manuscript on navigation, shipbuilding and fortification presented to King James I.
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explored the MidcoastMidcoast

In Maine, generally refers to the area between the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.
under the sponsorship of Ferdinando GorgesGorges, Sir FerdinandoSirFerdinando Gorges

c.1566-1647. Wealthy British nobleman and governor of Plymouth, a main sponsor of a number of exploring expeditions and colonization attempts in New England, having been granted major lands.
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, friend of Raleigh, in ship Archangell. Waymouth held the first Christian service in North America. He kidnapped five Indians at Allen Island and took them back to England. Waymouth’s “Gentleman in the Voyage,” James RosierRosier, James James Rosier

1573-1609 Son of a Norwich clergyman, James Rosier graduated from Cambridge with a B.A. in 1592/3 and M.A. in 1596. He became a Catholic in 1602. He was hired by Thomas Arundell, the prime backer of George Waymouth's voyage to New England in 1605 aboard the vessel Archangell as recorder and naturalist.
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, kept a written account of the trip which was published in London and has survived. It is the earliest English language account of Maine and its inhabitants. Waymouth just missed Champlain, who explored the Maine and Massachusetts coast down to Cape Cod in 1605 from the base in Port Royal. The following year Champlain continued to explore the coast resulting in the first accurate map of New England.

Explorers 2: Walker to John Smith