Earlier this week received word that the famous explorer John Cabot died. He died mysteriously, no one really knowing when, where, or how he died. He was born in Genoa, Italy in 1450. His name was actually Giovanni Caboto, but he would be remembered by the English translation, John Cabot. In 1476, Cabot lived in Venice, Italy, the main trading center for the entire Mediterranean region. He worked there as a merchant and a navigator.
Horrible experiences with Arab traders probably influenced Cabot’s decision to find a new sea route to the Far East which would allow merchants to trade directly with Asian traders instead of the Arab traders. In 1483, Cabot moved to Bristol, England. He believed that Asia could be reached by sailing west. In 1493, when word of Columbus’ reports of his successful journey to the New World arrived, Cabot convinced King Henry VII that England did not have to sit still while Spaniards helped themselves to the New World.
Even though the Pope had given Spain control of all of the new lands in the New World, King Henry VII liked Cabot’s idea. He had this to say about Cabot, “He was so Passionate about helping England I just couldn’t turn him down. ” He paid for Cabot to begin an exploration of the New World because Cabot convinced him that it was possible to reach Asia on a more northerly route than Columbus had taken, and this route would be even shorter. The idea that a northern route existed started the search for the Northwest Passage to the Indies.
Cabot sailed out of Bristol with his ship, the Matthew, on May 2, 1497. He landed in the New World, believing that he had landed on the east coast of Asia. Even now, we don’t know exactly where he landed. He may have landed in Maine or Newfoundland, Canada. Wherever he landed, he claimed it in the name of King Henry VII. Cabot became the first European explorer to discover the mainland of North America. He sailed further north, making the first recorded attempt to find the Northwest Passage, only to find icy waters.
When Cabot arrived back in England, he was given a hero’s welcome for (supposedly) reading the “Land of Spices. ” He was made an admiral and sent immediately back to find Japan. This time he sailed with five ships, but instead of finding Asian spices, he found dark forests and horrible rivers. Some people believe that he returned from his last expedition and died peacefully at home. Others believe that he never returned from his last expedition and was never heard from again.