1524 Giovanni da Verrazzano Explores the Northeast Coast of America
The first confirmed account of a Western European surveying today’s New England after William Weston’s trip in 1499 is that of Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524. Unlike John Cabot and William Weston, Verrazzano left records of his travels. But his measurements are so vague and inaccurate, he doomed later explorers to follow wild goose chases when searching for the Northwest Passage.
Whereas Admiral Columbus sailed for the Spanish crown, and Admiral Cabot sailed for the English, Giovanni Verrazzano served the thirty-year-old King of France, Francis I (1494-1597). The Age of Discovery was in full bloom. A lot had happened since Columbus claimed Central America for the Spanish in 1492 and Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467/8-1520) claimed Brazil for the Portuguese in 1500:
- In 1504, Isabella, Queen of Castile died. She had opposed the exploitation of natives in the New World, hoping to Christianize them instead.
- In 1508, in spite of the late Isabella’s wishes, her husband Ferdinand II, King of Aragon (1452-1516) authorized the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León (1474/5-1521) to conquer the remaining Taino natives in the West Indies, enslave them, and put them to work in the gold mines.
- In 1513, Spanish conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the New World.
- Also in 1513, Juan Ponce de León reached Florida(1), which he named after the abundant flowers(2). León had been among the “200 gentleman volunteers” who joined Christopher Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. León’s expedition discovered the section of the Gulf Stream where it reached its maximum force between the Floridian coast and the Bahamas. From that time on, the Gulf Stream provided the primary route for ships leaving Central America heading eastbound to Spain and Portugal. León was the first conquistador/explorer to be knighted by his monarch for discovering new lands.
- In 1516, King Ferdinand II died. He was succeeded by Joanna I “the mad” (r.1504-1555), though her son Charles [I] ruled for her.
- In 1519, Portuguese captain, Ferdinand Magellan with five ships set out to find a passage to India by sailing under South America, which he did after discovering the strait that bears his name. Magellan was killed in the Philippines, but his crew, under the command of the Basque navigator Juan Sebastiân Elcano, sailed the sole surviving Victoria [an 85-ton carrack, home. They reached Portugal in 1522.
- Meanwhile, in 1521, Spain conquered the Aztecs.
Europeans had finally come to understand there was a land mass between the Mar del Nort [Atlantic] and the Mar del Sur [Pacific]. They just did not know how big it was.
For a long time, historians believed that Giovanni Verrazzano came from Greve in Tuscany, Italy. In his subsequent report to King Francis, he referred to himself as a Florentine nobleman. Florence is the closest metropolis to Greve. However, some historians insist that recent discoveries indicate Verrazzano was French [though they do not reveal what those discoveries are].
Like the merchants of Bristol and King Henry VII of England, King Francis I found it nearly impossible to compete in trade with the Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish. By 1524 the Portuguese and Dutch controlled the trade routes under Africa to the Far East. The Spanish controlled trade in South and Central America. Hoping to find a route that would avoid the Spanish and Portuguese dominions, King Francis commanded Verrazzano to sail to the northern lands John Cabot had discovered in 1497. He wanted Verrazzano to find a northwest passage to the Far East.
Giovanni Verrazzano was an accomplished mariner. He had sailed many times to the Levant [Middle East]. It is believed he ventured west too, probably on fishing trips to Newfoundland.
1523 – First Attempt
Verrazzano left in the spring of 1523 with four ships. He followed the northern fishing route. As he neared Newfoundland, he ran into a horrendous storm and lost two ships. The remaining two, the Normandy and the Dauphine(3), were so badly damaged, he returned to Brittany.
1524 Second Attempt
In 1524, Verrazzano set out again in La Dauphine. This time he took the southern course determined by the trade winds Admiral Columbus had followed. He passed the Spanish Dominions without running into any warships. Then he followed the East Atlantic coast until he reached Newfoundland and turned back for France. He then wrote the following report to his patron, King Francis. This letter gives us the first detailed description of New England and her people before the Europeans infiltrated. [We have condensed it and slightly modernized the wording for better readability. We have also incorporated the notes Verrazzano wrote in the margins of his original text.](4)
The voyage of Florentine Nobleman Verrazzano in the Service of Francesco, the King of France, made in 1524 to North America
8 July 1524
To the Most Serene King,
I have not yet written to tell Your Majesty of what happened to the four ships that you sent out over the ocean to explore new lands since the storm we encountered in the northern regions. We were forced by the fury of the winds to return in distress to Brittany with only the Normandy and the Dauphine. After undergoing repairs there, we began our voyage with these two ships, equipped for war, following the coasts of Spain. Then, according to our new plan, we continued the original voyage with only the Dauphine. Now, on our return from this voyage, I will tell Your Majesty of what we found.
On the twelfth day of January last, we set sail with the Dauphine from the deserted rock near the island of Madeira, which [at the beginning of 1524] belongs to the Most Serene King of Portugal. We had fifty men, and were provided with food for eight months, with arms and other articles of war, and naval munitions. We sailed westward on the gentle breath of a light easterly wind. In twenty-five days, we covered eight hundred leagues [2400 nautical miles].
On the 24th day of February, for about sixteen hours, we went through a storm as violent as ever a sailing man encountered.
We were delivered from it with the divine help and goodness of the ship, whose glorious name and happy destiny enabled her to endure the violent waves of the sea. We continued on our westerly course, keeping rather to the north. In another twenty-five days, we sailed more than four hundred leagues [1200 nautical miles], where there appeared a new land that had never been seen before by any man, either ancient or modern [probably Cape Fear].
At first it appeared to be rather low-lying. Having approached to within a quarter of a league [less than a mile], we realized that it was inhabited, for huge fires had been built on the seashore. We saw that the land stretched southward, and coasted along it in search of some port where we might anchor the ship and investigate the nature of the land. But in fifty leagues [150 nautical miles] we found no harbor or place where we could stop with the ship.
Seeing that the land continued to the south, and so as not to meet with the Spaniards, we decided to turn and skirt it toward the north, where we found the land we had sighted earlier. We anchored off the coast and sent the small boat in to land. We had seen many [natives] coming to the seashore, but they fled when they saw us approaching. Several times they stopped and turned around to look at us in great wonderment. We reassured them with various signs. Some of them came up, showing great delight at seeing us and marveling at our clothes, appearance, and our whiteness. They showed us by various signs where we could most easily secure the boat, and offered us some of their food.
We were on land [still Cape Fear], and I shall now tell Your Majesty briefly what we were able to learn of their life and customs. They go completely naked except that around their loins they wear skins of small animals like martens, with a narrow belt of grass around the body, to which they tie various tails of other animals that hang down to the knees. The rest of the body is bare, and so is the head. Some of them wear garlands of birds’ feathers. They are dark in color, not unlike the Ethiopians, with thick black hair, not very long, tied back behind the head like a small tail.
As for the physique of these men, they are well proportioned, of medium height, a little taller than we are. They have broad chests, strong arms, and the legs and other parts of the body are well composed. There is nothing else, except that they tend to be rather broad in the face. But not all, for we saw many with angular faces. They have big black eyes, and an attentive and open look.
They are not very strong, but they have a sharp cunning, and are agile and swift runners. From what we could tell from observation, in the last two respects they resemble the Orientals, particularly those from the farthest Sinarian [Chinese] regions. We could not learn the details of the life and customs of these people because of the short time we spent on land, due to the fact that there were few men, and the ship was anchored on the high seas.
Not far from these people, we found others on the shore whose way of life we think is similar. I will now tell Your Majesty about it, and describe the situation and nature of this land. The seashore is completely covered with fine sand fifteen feet deep, which arises in the forms of small hills about fifty paces wide. After climbing farther, we found other streams and inlets from the sea that come in by several mouths, and follow the ins and outs of the shoreline. Nearby we could see a stretch of country much higher than the sandy shore, with many beautiful fields and plains full of great forests, some sparse and some dense; and the trees have so many colors, and are so beautiful and delightful that they defy description.
Do not think, Your Majesty, that these forests are like the Hyrcanian Forest [in today’s Iran and Turkmenistan] or the wild wastelands of Scythia [central Eurasia] and the northern countries, full of common trees. They are adorned and clothed with palms, laurel, cypress, and other varieties of tree unknown in our Europe. These trees emit a sweet fragrance over a large area. We smelled the fragrance a hundred leagues away, and even farther when they were burning the cedars and the winds were blowing from the land, the nature of which we could not examine for the reason stated above, not because we found it difficult to get through the forests indeed, they are nowhere so dense as to be impenetrable. We think that they belong to the Orient by virtue of the surroundings, and that they are not without some kind of narcotic or aromatic liquor.
There are other riches, like gold, which ground of such a color usually denotes. There is an abundance of animals, stags, deer, hares; and also of lakes and pools of running water with various types of bird, perfect for all the delights and pleasures of the hunt. This land lies at 34 degrees north latitude, like Carthage and Damascus. The air is salubrious and pure, and free from the extremes of heat and cold. Gentle winds blow in these regions, and the prevailing winds in summertime, which was beginning when we were there in those regions, are northwest and westerly. The sky is clear and cloudless, with infrequent rain. If occasionally the south winds bring in clouds and murkiness, they are dispelled in an instant, and the sky is once more clear and bright. The sea is calm and unruffled, its waves gentle.
We left this place and continued to follow the coast, which veered to the east. All along it, we saw great fires because of the numerous inhabitants. We anchored off the shore, since there was no harbor. Because we needed water, we sent the small boat ashore with twenty-five men. The sea along the coast was churned up by enormous waves because of the open beach, and so it was impossible to put anyone ashore without endangering the boat. We saw many people on the beach making various friendly signs, and beckoning us ashore.
There I saw a magnificent deed, as Your Majesty will hear. We sent one of our young sailors swimming ashore to take the people some trinkets, such as little bells, mirrors, and other trifles. When he came within four fathoms of them, he threw them the goods and tried to turn back, but he was so tossed about by the waves that he was carried up onto the beach half dead. Seeing this, the native people immediately ran up to him. They took him by the head, the legs, and arms and carried him some distance away.
The youth, realizing he was being carried away like this, was seized with terror and began to utter loud cries. They answered him in their language to show him he should not be afraid. Then they placed him on the ground in the sun, at the foot of a small hill. They made gestures of great admiration, looking at the whiteness of his flesh and examining him from head to foot. They took off his shirt and shoes and hose, leaving him naked, then made a huge fire next to him, placing him near the heat. When the sailors in the boat saw this, they were filled with terror, as always when something new occurs, and thought the people wanted to roast him for food. After remaining with them for a while, the youth regained his strength, and showed them by signs that he wanted to return to the ship. With the greatest kindness, they accompanied him to the sea, holding him close and embracing him. Then to reassure him, they withdrew to a high hill and stood watching him until he was in the boat.
The youth learned the following about these people: They are dark in color like the other tribes. Their skin is very glossy. They are of medium height. Their faces are more clear-cut, their body and other limbs much more delicate and much less powerful, but they are more quick-witted. He saw nothing else.
We left this place, which we called Annunciata [Cape Lookout, North Carolina] from the day of arrival, and found there an isthmus one mile wide and about two hundred miles long [outer banks of North Carolina], in which we could see the eastern sea [Pamlico Sound] from the ship, halfway between [west] and north. This is doubtless the sea that goes around the tip of India, China, and Cathay [Indian Ocean]. We sailed along this isthmus, hoping all the time to find some strait or real promontory where the land might end toward the north, and we could reach those blessed shores of Cathay. This isthmus was named by the discoverer Varazanio, just as all the land we found was called Francesca after our Francis.
We still followed the coast, which veered somewhat to the north. After fifty leagues, we reached another land that seemed much more beautiful and full of great forests. We anchored there, and with twenty men, we penetrated about two leagues [six miles] inland to find that the people had fled in terror into the forests [Algonquian Indians, possibly the Hattaras or Croatoan tribes].
Searching everywhere, we met with a very old woman and a young girl of eighteen to twenty years, who had hidden in the grass in fear. The old woman had two little girls whom she carried on her shoulder. A boy clung to her neck. Her children were all about eight years old. The young woman also had three children, but all girls. When we met them, they began to shout. The old woman made signs to us that the men had fled to the woods. We gave her some of our food to eat, which she accepted with great pleasure.
The young woman refused everything and threw it angrily to the ground. We took the boy from the old woman to carry back to France. We wanted to take the young woman, who was very beautiful and tall, but it was impossible to take her to the sea because of the loud cries she uttered. As we were a long way from the ship and had to pass through several woods, we decided to leave her behind, and took only the boy.
We continued to follow the coast to the northeast, which we baptized Arcadia(6) on account of the beauty of the trees. In Arcadia we found a man who came to the shore to see who we were. He stood suspiciously and ready for flight. He watched us but would not come near. He was handsome, naked, with olive-colored skin, his hair fastened back in a knot. There were about twenty of us ashore. As we coaxed him, he approached to within about two fathoms [twelve feet] of us, and showed us a burning stick, as if to offer us fire.
We made fire with powder and flint. He trembled all over with fear as we fired a shot. He remained as if thunderstruck, and prayed, worshiping like a monk, pointing his finger to the sky, and indicating the sea and the ship. He appeared to bless us [indicating he thought we were Gods].
Sailing only during the day and casting anchor at night, we followed a coast that was very green and forested, but without harbors, and with some pleasant promontories and small rivers. We baptized it the Costa di Lorenna after the Cardinal: the first promontory Lanzone [Cape Henlopen, Delaware], the second Bonivetto [Cape May, New Jersey], the largest river Vandoma, and a little mountain by the sea [Navesink Highlands, New Jersey], di S. Polo after the Count.
After a hundred leagues we found a very agreeable place between two small but prominent hills [the Narrows in New York Harbor](7). Between them, a very wide river, deep at its mouth, flowed out into the sea. With the help of the tide, which rises eight feet, any laden ship could have passed from the sea into the river estuary. Since we were anchored off the coast and well sheltered, we did not want to run any risks without knowing anything about the river mouth.
We took the small boat up this river to land that we found densely populated. The people were almost the same as the others, dressed in birds’ feathers of various colors. They came toward us joyfully, uttering loud cries of wonderment, and showing us the safest place to beach the boat. We went up this river for about half a league, where we saw that it formed a beautiful lake about three leagues in circumference. About thirty of their small boats ran to and fro across the lake with innumerable people aboard who were crossing from one side to the other to see us.
Suddenly, as often happens in sailing, a violent unfavorable wind blew in from the sea. We were forced to return to the ship, leaving the land with much regret on account of its favorable conditions and beauty. We think it was not without some properties of value, since all the hills showed signs of minerals. We called the land Angoulême(8) after the principality that you attained in days of lesser fortune. The bay formed by this land we called Santa Margarita, naming it after your sister, who surpasses all other matrons in modesty and intellect.
We weighed anchor, and sailed eastward since the land veered in that direction [south of Connecticut]. We covered eighty leagues, always keeping in sight of land. We discovered a triangular-shaped island [possibly Martha’s Vineyard], ten leagues from the mainland, similar in size to the island of Rhodes. It was full of hills, covered in trees, and highly populated to judge by the fires we saw burning continually along the shore. We baptized it in the name of your illustrious mother, Aloysia, but did not anchor there because the weather was unfavorable.
We reached another land fifteen leagues from the island, where we found an excellent harbor [probably Narragansett Bay]. Before entering it, we saw about twenty boats full of people who came around the ship uttering various cries of wonderment [the Narragansett or Wampanoag Indians]. They did not come nearer than fifty paces, but stopped to look at the structure of our ship, our persons, and our clothes. Then all together they raised a loud cry that meant that they were joyful. We reassured them somewhat by imitating their gestures. They came near enough for us to throw them a few little bells and mirrors and many trinkets, which they took and looked at, laughing. Then they confidently came on board ship.
Among them were two kings, who were as beautiful of stature and build as I can possibly describe. The first was about forty years old, the other a young man of twenty-four. They were dressed thus: the older man had on his naked body a stag skin, skillfully worked like damask with various embroideries. The head was bare, the hair tied back with various bands.
Around the neck hung a wide chain decorated with many different colored stones. The young man was dressed in almost the same way. These people are the most beautiful and have the most civil customs that we have found on this voyage. They are taller than we are; they are a bronze color, some tending more toward whiteness, others to a tawny color. The face is clear-cut. The hair is long and black, and they take great pains to decorate it. The eyes are black and alert, and their manner is sweet and gentle, very like the manner of the ancients.
I shall not speak to Your Majesty of the other parts of the body, since they have all the proportions belonging to any well-built man. Their women are just as shapely and beautiful; very gracious, of attractive manner and pleasant appearance. Their customs and behavior follow womanly custom as far as befits human nature. They go nude except for a stag skin embroidered like the men’s, and some wear rich lynx skins on their arms. Their bare heads are decorated with various ornaments made of braids of their own hair that hang down over their breasts on either side. Some have other hair arrangements such as the women of Egypt and Syria wear. These women are older and have been joined in wedlock.
Both men and women have various trinkets hanging from their ears as the Orientals do. We saw that they had many sheets of worked copper that they prize more than gold. They do not value gold because of its color. They think it the most worthless of all, and rate blue and red above all other colors. The things we gave them that they prized the most were little bells, blue crystals, and other trinkets to put in the ear or around the neck.
They did not appreciate cloth of silk and gold, nor even of any other kind, nor did they care to have them. The same was true for metals like steel and iron, for many times when we showed them some of our arms, they did not admire them, nor ask for them, but merely examined the workmanship. They did the same with mirrors. They would look at them quickly, and then refuse them, laughing.
They are very generous and give away all they have. We made great friends with them, and one day before we entered the harbor with the ship, when we were lying at anchor one league out to sea because of unfavorable weather, they came out to the ship with a great number of their boats. They had painted and decorated their faces with various colors, showing us that it was a sign of happiness. They brought us some of their food, and showed us by signs where we should anchor in the port for the ship’s safety. Then they accompanied us all the way until we dropped anchor.
We stayed there for fifteen days, taking advantage of the place to refresh ourselves. Every day the people came to see us on the ship, bringing their womenfolk. They are very careful with them, for when they come aboard and stay a long time, they make the women wait in the boats. However many entreaties we made, or offers of various gifts, we could not persuade them to let the women come on board ship.
One of the two kings often came with the queen and many attendants for the pleasure of seeing us. At first they always stopped on a piece of ground about two hundred paces away from us and sent a boat to warn us of their arrival, saying they wanted to come and see the ship. They did this as a kind of precaution. Once they had a reply from us, they came immediately and watched us for a while. But when they heard the irksome clamor of the crowd of sailors, they sent the queen and her maidens in a light little boat to wait on a small island about a quarter of a league from us.
The king remained a long while, discussing by signs and gestures various fanciful notions, looking at all the ship’s equipment, and asking especially about its uses. He imitated our manners, tasted our food, and then courteously took his leave of us.
Sometimes when our men stayed on a small island near the ship for two or three days for their various needs, as is the custom of sailors, he would come with seven or eight of his attendants, watch our operations, and often ask us if we wanted to stay there any length of time, offering us all his help. Then he would shoot his bow and run and perform various games with his men to give us pleasure. We frequently went five to six leagues into the interior. We found it as pleasant as I can possibly describe and suitable for every kind of cultivation: grain, wine, or oil. The fields extend for twenty-five to thirty leagues. They are open and free of any obstacles or trees, and so fertile that any kind of seed would produce excellent crops.
When we went farther inland we saw their houses, which are circular in shape, about fourteen to fifteen paces across, and made of bent saplings. They are arranged without any architectural pattern, and are covered with cleverly worked mats of straw that protect them from wind and rain.
They move these houses from one place to another according to the richness of the site and the season. They need only carry the straw mats, and so they have new houses made in no time at all. In each house there lives a father with a very large family, for in some we saw twenty-five to thirty people. They live on the same food as the other people: game, fish and pulse [legume crops such as beans and peas], which they produce with more systematic cultivation than the other tribes. When sewing the seeds, they observe the influence of the moon, the rising of the Pleiades, and many other customs derived from the ancients.
There is no doubt that if the natives had the skilled workmen that we have, they would erect great buildings. The whole maritime coast is full of various blue rocks, crystals, and alabaster, and for such a purpose it has an abundance of ports and shelter for ships.
The natives live a long time, and rarely fall sick. If they are wounded, they cure themselves with fire without medicine. Their end comes with old age. We consider them very compassionate and charitable toward their relatives, for they make great lamentations in times of adversity, recalling in their grief all their past happiness.
We sailed one hundred and fifty leagues. Within this distance, we found sandbanks that stretch from the continent fifty leagues out to sea. Over them, the water was never less than three feet deep; thus there is great danger in sailing there. We crossed the shoals [east of Nantucket and Cape Cod] with difficulty and called them Armellini. We found the land similar in nature, but somewhat higher, with several mountains with a high promontory that we called Pallavisino [Cape Cod], which all showed signs of minerals.
We did not land there because the weather was favorable and helped us in sailing along the coast. We think the people resemble the others. The shore ran eastward. At a distance of fifty leagues [150 nautical miles], keeping more to the north, we found high country [Maine] full of very dense forests, composed of pines, cypresses, and similar trees that grow in cold regions.
The people were quite different from the others [possibly the Abenaki Sagadohocs or Etchemin Indians], for while the previous ones had been courteous in manner, these were full of crudity and vices, and were so barbarous that we could never make any communication with them, however many signs we made to them. They were clothed in skins of bear, lynx, sea-wolf and other animals. As far as we could judge from several visits to their houses, we think they live on game, fish, and several fruits that are a species of root that the earth produces itself [groundnuts]. They have no pulse [legumes], and we saw no sign of cultivation, nor would the land be suitable for producing any fruit or grain on account of its sterility.
If we wanted to trade with them for some of their things, they would come to the seashore on some rocks where the breakers were most violent. While we remained in the little boat, they sent us what they wanted to give [in a basket] on a rope, continually shouting to us not to approach the land. They gave us the barter [goods for trade] quickly, and would take in exchange only knives, hooks for fishing, and sharp metal. We found no courtesy in them, and when we had nothing more to exchange and left them, the men made all the signs of scorn and shame that any brute creature would make such as showing their buttocks and laughing. At 43⅔ degrees latitude, we penetrated two or three leagues inland with twenty-five armed men. This was against their wishes and when we disembarked on the shore, they shot at us with their bows and uttered loud cries before fleeing into the woods.(9)
After sailing 150 leagues [450 nautical miles] in a northeasterly direction, we approached the land that the Britons once found [Cape Breton] that lies in 50 degrees north latitude. Since we had exhausted all our naval stores and provisions, and had discovered seven hundred leagues or more of new land, we took on supplies of water and wood, and decided to return to France. We departed from the land that the Lusitanians [Portuguese] found long ago, Bacalaia [Terra de los Bacalhaus].(10)
Due to the lack of a common language, we were unable to find out by signs or gestures how much religious faith these people we found possess. We think they have neither religion nor laws, that they do not know of a First Cause or Author [Creation or Creator], that they do not worship the sky, the stars, the sun, the moon, or other planets, nor do they even practice any kind of idolatry. We do not know whether they offer any sacrifices or other prayers, nor are there any temples or churches of prayer among their peoples. We consider that they have no religion and that they live in absolute freedom, and that everything they do proceeds from Ignorance; for they are very easily persuaded, and they imitated everything that they saw us Christians do with regard to divine worship, with the same fervor and enthusiasm that we had.
My intention on this voyage was to reach Cathay and the extreme eastern coast of Asia. I did not expect to find such an obstacle of new land as I have found. If for some reason I did expect to find it, I estimated there would be some strait [passage] to get through to the Eastern Ocean. This was the opinion of all the ancients, who certainly believed that our Western Ocean was joined to the Eastern Ocean of India without any land in between. Aristotle supports this theory by arguments of various analogies, but this opinion is quite contrary to that of the moderns, and has been proven false by experience.
Nevertheless, land has been found by modern man that was unknown to the ancients, another world with respect to the one they knew, which appears to be larger than our Europe, than Africa, and almost larger than Asia, if we estimate its size correctly. All this land or New World that we have described above is joined together, but is not linked with Asia or Africa (we know this for certain). It could be joined to Europe by Norway or Russia. But this would be false according to the ancients.
I hope that with Your Majesty’s help we shall have more certain knowledge of this. May God Almighty prosper you in everlasting glory, so that we may see the perfect end to our cosmography, and that the sacred word of the gospel may be fulfilled, “their sound has gone out into every land.”
From the ship Dauphine on the eighth day of July, M.D.XXIII 
[Your] Humble servant Janus Verazanus [John Verrazzano in Latin](11)
Immediately upon Verrazzano’s return, cartographers throughout Europe revised their maps of America, including Verrazzano’s brother, Girolamo da Verrazzano, who drew the map below. [The original of the chart resides in the Vatican Library in Rome today.] Important to future explorations was Giovanni’s claim that at 41 degrees north latitude, there was a great river that led to the Eastern Sea; He referred to it as the sea under India. That river was most likely today’s Hudson River.
Giralamo da Verrazzano, Mappa Mundi, 1524.(12)
We have traced the old map so that you can read the image more clearly. You will notice how the coastline between the Hudson and Cape Breton are relatively straight. Historians are amazed that even though Verrazzano coasted the entire eastern seaboard, he did not mention the Bay of the Chesapeake, the Bay of the Delaware or the Bay of the Massachusetts.
The Demise of Verrazzano
Giovanni da Verrazzano made two more trips to the New World, though not to New England. In 1527, he sailed to Brazil. In 1528, he returned to Brazil with a fleet of three ships. From there he explored Florida, the Bahamas, and the Lesser Antilles.
One day, after rowing ashore at one of the Lesser Antilles Islands, he was captured by the cannibalistic Carib Indians [after whom the Caribbean was named]. In desperation, he fired his pistol, calling to his crew for help. But his ships were anchored far away from shore and his crew did not hear him. The Caribs killed the explorer, roasted him over a fire, and ate him for supper.
Next article: 1527 - The Spanish Try to Colonize Florida
- Spanish ships had been sailing to Florida and the Bahamas to collect slaves since as early as 1494. The Florida peninsula in included on the “Cantino Map” of 1502 with several locations already named.
- The myth about Ponce de León searching for the Fountain of Youth was not attached to him until after his death. It referred to the waters of the mystical Bimini he wrote about in his memoir.
- Dauphine means dolphin. It is also the title of the wife of the heir apparent to the French throne. There are two dolphins on the Dauphin’s coat of arms.
- Translated from the Italian by Susan Tarrow; in Lawrence C. Wroth, ed., The Voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano, 1524-1528 (New Haven: Published for The Pierpont Morgan Library by Yale University Press, 1970). Excerpted by the National Humanities Center, 2006, www.nhc.rtp.nc.us/pds/pds.htm. Some paragraphing added by NHC. Full text (translation by Joseph Cogswell) in American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement (Wisconsin Historical Society) at www.americanjourneys.org/aj-094/. Web source: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/contact/text4/verrazzano.pdf
- Wroth, in his book, Voyages, p. 79, wrote, “It may now be suggested, but not affirmed, that the landfall was not exactly at 34° on the Georgetown peninsula [SC] nor at Cape Fear [NC] itself at 33° 51′, but rather in this last-named latitude on the continental coast west of Cape Fear, near the place where today’s boundary line between the Carolinas reaches the sea.”
- Arcadia was a district in Greece. Since Classical antiquity, it also meant refuge or idyllic place. Arcadia was first used to name Maryland and or Virginia on maps in 1548 by Gastaldo. It is the only name on that map that has survive Canadian usage.
- The Bay of New York that Henry Hudson will investigate in 1610.
- Historians consider Angoulême to be the first name for New York City on Manhattan Island. It was named after King Francis, who was the Count of Angoulême.
- This description of Maine discouraged explorers from visiting her for many decades.
- Bacalaia referred to the Portuguese discovery Terra de los Bacalos [Land of the Codfish]. This either confirms Joáo Corte Real’s discovery in 1472 or Gaspar and Michael Corte-Real’s discovery in 1500 and 1501.
- Verrazzano signed off “To Leonardo Tedaldi or to Thomaso Sartini, merchants in Lyons. To be forwarded to Bonacorso Ruscellay.”
- Verrazzano, Girolamo. Mappa Mundi, held in the Vatican Library, 1529. Image source: Paullin, Charles; Wright, John (ed). Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States.Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute, 1932. The Verrazzano Map: pl. 13. http://www.nyc99.org/1500/verrazzano.html