Samuel de Champlain (1567?-1635) was a French explorer and navigator who mapped much of northeastern North America and started a settlement in Quebec. Champlain also discovered the lake later named for him (1609) and was important in establishing and administering the French colonies in the New World.
William Dampier (1651 or 1652-1715) was a British buccaneer (pirate), explorer and map-maker. As a teenager, he sailed to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Dampier sailed to Australia, New Guinea, southeast Asia, and the South Seas, charting the coastlines, rivers, and currents for the British Admiralty (1699-1700). He also kept a detailed journal, noting native cultures, the first noted typhoon, and other discoveries made during his voyages. He discovered and named New Britain (near New Guinuea). His book, A New Voyage Round the World, was published in 1697, and quickly became very popular. Dampier died a pauper in March, 1715.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) was a French explorer. He was sent by King Louis XIV (14) to travel south from Canada and sail down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River (1682). His mission was to explore and establish fur-trade routes along the river. La Salle named the entire Mississippi basin Louisiana, in honor of the King, and claimed it for France on April 9, 1682. He also explored Lake Michigan (1679), Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. He tried to start a settlement in the southern Mississippi River Valley, but the venture ended in disaster.
Juan de Oñate y Salazar (1550?-1626) was a Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain and became New Mexico’s first governor. Oñate, the son of a conquistador who made a fortune in silver, was married to a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés. In 1595, Oñate requested that he be sent to conquer and rule New Mexico, search for treasure (especially the legendary silver treasure of Quivira), and bring Christianity to the local Indians. After governmental approval, Oñate left for New Mexico in January, 1598, with 400 settlers and soldiers (and their livestock). In July 1598, the expedition crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso. They arrived at the Tewa pueblo of San Juan and were helped by the local Indians. Oñate’s group built San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital. After they realized that the area was not rich in silver, many settlers wanted to return to Mexico, but Oñate would not let them go, and executed many of them. He was also incredibly brutal to the local Indians, killing, enslaving, and mutilating hundreds of Indian men, women, and children.
In 1601, Oñate led an expedition to the Great Plains of America that tried, unsuccessfully, to find the legendary silver of Quivira (thought to be in what is now central Kansas, east of Salina). While he was gone, most of his settlers returned to Mexico City. In 1604, he explored the area west toward the Colorado River and south to the Gulf of California. In 1606, Oñate made plans for the town of Santa Fé.
Later in 1606, Spain removed him from office (Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed to be the new governor); Oñate was later tried and found guilty of cruelty, immorality, mismanagement, dereliction of duties, and false reporting. Oñate was exiled from the colony. Later, on appeal, he was was cleared of the charges. Onate, sometimes called the “Last Conquistador,” died in Spain in 1626.
Dirck Hartog was a Dutch explorer who was the first European to chart of the western coast of Australia. Hartog sailed from Amsterdam on the ship called Eendracht. He traveled around the Cape of Good Hope to Java, and then sailed on to western Australia. He landed in 1616 on a small island now named for him (Dirk Hartog Island). To mark his landfall, Hartog nailed an inscribed pewter plate (which noted details of his exploration and visit) to a post on the north end of the island; this area is now called Cape Inscription. Almost a century later (in 1696), the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh landed on Dirk Hartogs Island. He found the commemorative plate, replaced it with a new inscribed plate, and brought Hartog’s original plate to Amsterdam. Hartog’s historic plate is now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who explored parts of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay are named for Hudson.
Willem Jantszoon was a Dutch explorer who was the first European to sail to Australia. In 1606, Jantszoon reached the northern coast of Australia in his ship, the Duyfken. Jantszoon was later made Admiral of the Dutch Fleet.
Louis Joliet (1645-1700) was a Canadian explorer (born in Québec City) who explored the Canadian wilderness, including the Great Lakes area. He and Father Jacques Marquette found the Mississippi River in 1673; they were the first Caucasians to see the Mississippi River. Together, they travelled along Lake Michigan to Green Bay, canoed up the Fox River, and went downstream on the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River. They travelled almost to the mouth of the Arkansas, and then stopped because they were warned of hostile Indians and Spanish explorers. They returned via the Illinois River, then the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. Joliet’s journal and his maps were lost when his canoe overturned on the rapids of the Montreal River. Marquette’s diary is all that remains of their journey. Joliet expanded fur trade westward, did extensive mapping, and established a fort on Anticosti Island.
Henry Kelsey (1667-1724) was a British explorer of inland Canada. Also known as Boy Kelsey, he became the first inland explorer of the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was seventeen years old (in 1684). On an expedition lasting from 1688 to 1690, Kelsey travelled to the Churchill River region. During his second expedition (1690 - 1692), Kelsey was the first European to see the Canadian prairies. Kelsey extended the trade routes of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade to the Saskatchewan River by negotiating with various Indian tribes, including the Bree, the Gros Ventres. Kelsey spoke Cree (and perhaps Assiniboin); he respected and enjoyed Indian culture. After his Canadian expeditions, Kelsey returned to his native England and remained with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The company kept his journeys secret for many years since they were crucial to its trade. Kelsey’s journal was re-discovered in 1926.
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J., (Aug. 10, 1645 - March 15, 1711) was a Jesuit priest, missionary, explorer, map-maker, mathematician, and astronomer. Kino was a missionary who founded many missions and explored areas in southwestern North America (Pimería Alta), including areas in what are now northern Sonora (Mexico), southern California (USA) and southern Arizona (USA).
Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a French Jesuit priest and explorer. He sailed to Quebec in 1666 and in 1671 started a Chippewa mission at Chequamegon Bay (at the western end of Lake Superior). Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette (and five others) found the Mississippi River in 1673; they were the first Caucasians to see the Mississippi River. They travelled along Lake Michigan to Green Bay, canoed up the Fox River, and went downstream on the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River. They travelled almost to the mouth of the Arkansas, and then stopped because they were warned of hostile indians and Spanish explorers. They returned via the Illinois River, then the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. Marquette died of dysentery on his way to the Kaskaskian indians, to whom he had planned on preaching.
Peter Minuit (1580-1638) was the first director general of New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony in America. Minuit was sent to the area by the Dutch West India Company. Minuit is famous for buying the island of Manhattan (in what is now New York, USA) from Native Americans in 1626. He bought the island with trinkets valued at about $24. He founded New Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan. In 1631, Minuit was dismissed from the Dutch West India Company, and in 1638 headed a Swedish group that founded New Sweden (the first European settlement on the Delaware River). Minuit bought land from the Native Americans and founded Fort Christina (near what is now Wilmington, Delaware, USA). Minuit died in a hurricane in the West Indies while on a trading mission in 1638.
Captain Christopher Newport (1560? - 1617) was an English privateer and navigator who transported colonists to the first permanent English colony in America, Jamestown, and sailed back and forth from England to the New World five times between 1606 and 1611, transporting both supplies and colonists. Captain Newport had been hired by the Virginia Company to transport the colonists. On December 19, 1606, Captain Newport sailed from London, England, commanding three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, carrying the Jamestown, Virginia settlers, including Capt. John Smith. Jamestown was founded on May 14, 1607, by this small group of English settlers. Newport left the 104 settlers in June 22, 1607, sailing back to England for supplies. That winter, most of the Jamestown settlers died from starvation, attacks, and disease. In 1608, back in Virginia, Newport halted the execution of Captain John Smith (the Jamestown leader who had been accused of causing the deaths of the men on his expedition to obtain food from the Indians); Smith’s life had been previously saved by Pocahontas when he was brought before the Indian Chief Powhatan. On his fourth trip to America (in 1609), Newport was ship-wrecked in the Bermuda Islands and did not reach Virginia until mid-1610. After his American adventures, he sailed to Persia in 1613-1614 for the East India Company. Captain Newport died in Bantam, Java in 1617 on a voyage to the East Indies.
Jean Nicollet [also spelled Nicolet] (1598 - 1642) was a French explorer who was the first European to travel through the Great Lakes area, visiting Lake Michigan and what are now Wisconsin and Illinois, possibly reaching the Mississippi River. For many years, Nicollet lived among the Native Americans in what is now the Ontario, Canada area.
Pierre Esprit Radisson (1636-1710) was a French explorer and fur trader who settled in Canada in 1651. He and his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart de Groseillier, were the first European explorers to see what is now Minnesota. Radisson was instrumental in forming the Hudson’s Bay Company (an English fur trading monopoly which was founded in 1670). Radisson also trekked to Hudson Bay (in 1668 and 1670). Radisson wrote about his treks through the North American wilderness and his capture by the Iroquois (1651-1653).
John Smith (January 9, 1580 - June, 1631) was an English adventurer and soldier, and one of the founders and leaders of the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement. Smith also led expeditions exploring Chesapeake Bay and the New England coast.
Smith was one of 105 settlers who sailed from England on December 19, 1606, and landed in Virginia on April 26, 1607. When they reached North America, the group opened sealed instructions and found that Smith was chosen as one of the seven leaders of the new colony.
Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) was a Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam (now called New York City). Stuyvesant was born in Holland and began working for the Dutch West India Company in 1632. In 1643, Stuyvesant was appointed the director of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire (islands in the Caribbean). Fighting against the Portuguese in the Caribbean, Stuyvesant lost his right leg when it was crushed by a cannonball, and thereafter walked on a silver-tipped wooden leg.
In 1645, Stuyvesant became the director general of the extensive Dutch lands in North America, including islands in the Caribbean. He went to New Amsterdam (New York City, New York) as governor in 1647, succeeding Willem Kieft. Stuyvesant ruled the chaotic colony in a harsh, despotic manner that was often resented by the colonists. After the colonists demanded self-governance, Stuyvesant appointed a 9-man advisory board based on a model of Dutch government (this was the first municipal government in New Amsterdam), but Stuyvesant was still in charge. In a boundary dispute, Stuyvesant gave up a large tract of land between New Netherland and Connecticut in 1650. He also conquered New Sweden, driving Swedish colonists from their land along the Delaware River.
Stuyvesant lost New Amsterdam to the British in 1664, when the colonists decided to surrender to the British without a fight (against Stuyvesant’s wishes). New Amsterdam was renamed New York, and the British Captain Richard Nicholls became governor. Stuyvesant later retired to his 62-acre farm on Manhattan, called the Great Bouwerie. (Bouwerie is the old Dutch word for farm, from which the modern-day Bowery gets its name.) Stuyvesant died in August, 1672.
Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659?) was a Dutch explorer who was the first European to sail to Tasmania, New Zealand, Tonga, and the Fiji Islands. His first expedition (1642-1643) was to Australasia, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific. His second expedition (1644) was to Australia and the South Pacific.
Sebastián Vizcaíno (1550?-1628?) was a Spanish nobleman, explorer and merchant. In 1602, Vizcaino sailed up te coast of California in three ships at the request of King Phillip II of Spain. Vizcaino named Monterey Bay (named for the viceroy Conde de Monterey who sponsored this voyage) and San Diego (Vizcaino arrived there on the feast day of San Diego de Alcala, November 12). One ship sailed as far north as Oregon. Vizcaino also named San Clemente, Catalina, Santa Barbara, Point Concepcion, Carmel, Monterey, La Paz, and Ano Nuevo. Most of the crew died from scurvy (a lack of vitamin C). Although Cabrillo had already named many of these place, Vizcaino published well-read accounts of his voyages, and his names were used. Vizcaino’s earlier attempt, in 1596, to colonize southern California failed; it was 150 years before other Europeans came to California. Vizcaíno travelled to Japan in 1610, meeting with the retired shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sumpu (now Shizuoka); Vizcaino returned to Mexico with a mission led by Hasekura Tsunenaga, who both hoped to open trade between Mexico/Spain and Japan (but the mission failed after the expelled Japanese Christian priests from Japan, angering the Spanish). Sebastián Vizcaíno Bay, a bay of the Pacific Ocean, in the western Baja California peninsula, Mexico, is named for Vizcaino.