THE EARLY EXPLORERS
THE EASTERN ROUTE TO THE INDIES
Prince Henry was the third son of the King of Portugal and grandson of the English John of Gaunt, but he cared nothing for court life and little for military glory; his whole heart was in exploration and discovery. He collected charts and maps and books on geography, and he caused a new type of vessel, the "caravel," to be built. Prince Henry sent out various expeditions with orders to round Africa and sail due east for the Indies, not realizing the enormous extent of the "dark continent."
His life-work it was to inspire and equip seamen to explore those coasts he was never able to visit himself. Morally the discoverer of the eastward route to the Indies, the genius of the Portuguese explorers, and the unconscious father of the slave-trade.
To the credit of Prince Henry it must be said that he did not look upon the slave-trade he had initiated as a means of making money, his one thought was to convert the natives to Christianity. But others were less scrupulous, and soon a flourishing trade was established. In the next century, when it was found that slave-labour would be needed to develop the West Indies, the unfortunate West Africans were shipped across the Atlantic often with almost incredible cruelty-and so began the American slave-trade. Prince Henry died in 1460 and for some years after his death slave hunting proved more attractive than exploring the long coast, but in 1484 Diego Cam reached the mouth of the Congo River, and sailed up it a distance of four miles.
|In the year 1486. an expedition under the leadership
of Bartholomew Diaz sailed on past the Congo, past the Orange River, running
before incessant storms and a cold unfriendly sea. Then the ships were blown back towards the coast, and the north,
they struck land and followed the coast north-east as far as Algoa Bay and the Great Fish River. Diaz had passed
the Cape without realizing he had done so; it was not until the return voyage that he saw the great headland, and
named it the Cape of Storms. On his return to Portugal, it was re-named the Cape of Good hope.
The first explorer to make the voyage from Europe to India was, like Diaz, a Portuguese, and his name was Vasco da Gama. 1497-1499. The expedition set out from Lisbon, and made a good voyage round the Cape and up to Mombasa, and thence across the Indian Ocean to Calicut.
The voyage lasted just eleven months, and the return was equally successful. Vasco da Gama was well rewarded for his venture, and rightly so, for he had laid the foundation of the Portuguese dominion in the East. His voyage was the logical conclusion and fulfillment of Prince Henry's schemes, and at last a new route to Cathay had been found.
Vasco da Gama
|With Portugal in control of the south-eastern
route to the Indies, and Spain the Straits of Magellan in the south-west, men of other nations conceived the idea
of trying to find a northern route to Cathay and India.
John Cabot, was a Venetian pilot, who resided at Bristol, and was highly esteemed for his skill in navigation.
Sebastian Cabot, his son was born at Bristol about 1474. In 1497, in company with his father and two brothers, he discovered the mainland of North America having visited Nova Scotia and Newfound. In 1517 he made an attempt to discover the north-west passage, visiting Hudson's bay. In 1526, when in the Spanish service, he visited Brazil and the river Plate.
|In 1548 Sebastian Cabot again settled
in England, and received a pension from Edward VI. He was the first to notice the variations of the compass; and
he published a large map of the world.
One of the first expeditions fitted out by the Merchant Adventurers was sent in 1553 under two captains named Willoughby (d. 1553) and Chancellor (d. 1556), to find a north-eastern route to the Spice Islands. They had no idea of the hardships and rigorous climate they would have to face, and their preparations were of the slightest.They did not even take stoves with them, or warm clothing, or suitable stores, and the result was that many of the "adventurers" died of exposure. Willoughby and his party missed the others in a storm, and finding their retreat cut off by ice, they landed in Lapland. where they all perished miserably of cold and want
Sebastian Cabot died c. 1557
A few years later, the Company sent out another Englishman, Jenkinson. to follow up Chancellor's discoveries, and to report on the possibility of an overland route to Persia and the East via Russia. From the Tsars court he made his way down the Volga, and then struck overland to Bokhara. He was the first Englishman to travel from the White Sea to the Caspian. Jenkinson failed to open up trade with Persia, though he was sent out again in 1561, and the Merchant Adventurers had to be content with Russian hides and wax and honey, instead of the Oriental merchandise they hoped for.
Sir Martin Frobisher, was a great Elizabethan navigator, born near Doncaster England, about 1535; The spirit in which he under-took to find a way to the Indies by sailing to the north of America is illustrated by a contemporary account of his first voyage.
"He began first with himself to devise, and then with his friends to confer, and laid a plain plot unto them that that voyage was not only possible by the North-West, but also, he could prove, easy to he performed - . he determined . . . him. self to go make full proof thereof, and to accomplish or bring true certificate of the truth, or else never to return again; knowing this to be the only thing of the world that was yet left undone, whereby a notable mind might he made famous and fortunate." (From "Voyages of the Elizabethan Seamen," ed. E. 3. Payne, p. 88.)
Frobisher's first voyage was made in 1576, and he discovered and named Frobisher Strait, which he was convinced was the beginning of the passage he was seeking. He brought home a curious black stone, which was found to contain a small proportion of gold, and immediately a "gold rush" began. The Cathay Company was formed (in which Queen Elizabeth herself took shares) and everyone thought a new El Dorado had been discovered. Further voyages proved this was an illusion, and the gold brought home did not pay the expenses of the expedition. He made three expeditions to the Arctic regions for the purpose of discovering north-west passage to India and endeavoured to found a settlement north of Hudson's Bay, because hopes were high of immense wealth to be found in these northern regions.
Other explorers followed, in the Stuart period ; Davis (d. 1605).
Henry Hudson sailed from London (1607) in a small vessel, with only ten men and a boy to discover the Northeast Passage, and proceeded beyond the 80th degree of latitude. In a second voyage he landed at Nova Zembla, but could get no further eastward. In 1609 he sailed for North America, and discovered the Hudson River, which he ascended about 50 leagues. In 1610 he sailed in an English ship named the Discovery, and discovered Hudson Strait and Hudsons Bay, where he wintered; but his crew, after suffering many hardships, mutinied and set him adrift in a boat along with his son John and seven of the most infirm of the crew, none of whom were ever again heard of. Hudson published Divers Voyages and Northern Discoveries (1607), and Second Voyage (1608).
and Baffin, who in 1616 found and named his bay, and also Lancaster Sound. Many lives were lost, and many hearts were broken in this profitless search.
THE TERRA AUSTRALIS.
Just as there was a legend of a mysterious continent, Atlantis, lying to the west of the Azores, so there was a belief in a great southern continent, which was given the name of Terra. Australis. When Magellan sighted land to the south, as he passed through his Strait, he supposed it to he part of this land, not realizing that Tierra del Fuego is an island. For a long while it was thought that New Guinea was a part of the Terra Australis, but a Dutchman named Honduis in 1595 drew a map showing it as an island, marking the strait known to us as Torres Strait (where the Spaniard Torres sailed ten years later).
The Dutch, as well as the English, had formed an East India Company to compete with Portugal in the East Indies, and towards the end of the sixteenth century they had established themselves in Java and began to gain control of trade in the Spice Islands. In 1606 they defeated a Portuguese fleet at Malacca, and a Spanish fleet the following year. They were more enterprising than the Portuguese and sailed boldly due East front the Cape, making full use of the July monsoon, instead of creeping up the African coast. In this way they sighted parts of Western Australia, and gave it the general name "New Holland."
From 1636 to 1645 the Dutch East India Company was governed by Anthony van Diemen (d. 1645) and he it was who sent Abel Tasman (d. 1659) to explore the Terra Australis, and, if possible, to open up trade with the natives. He was also to keep a careful record of all he heard and saw, and to make careful charts and maps. Blown out of his course by a westerly gale, Tasman sighted Tasmania (which he named "Van Diemen's Land"), believing it to be part of the mainland. He made the same mistake with regard to New Zealand, thus imagining the new continent much larger than it is.
From Tasman's time until the English buccaneer-explorer William Dampier visited Australia in 1688, " New Holland " remained a Dutch preserve, but the Dutch did not find the resources of the country of much practical use, at least, of those parts they examined, and did not take the trouble to explore it with any thoroughness.
It was left for the Englishman Captain James Cook to exolore the coast in 1770, report favourably upon the country, and annex it as a British possession.