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EXPLORATION

People have always set out to discover new lands and oceans. The greatest age of world exploration began in the 15th century and lasted over four centuries. The Arabs and Chinese had already made improvements in ship design and NAVIGATION. These were now developed further by European seafarers.

Table 46. EXPLORATION

1405–1433 Chinese fleets explore the Indian Ocean
1486 Diaz rounds southern Africa
1492 Columbus reaches the Caribbean
1497 John Cabot reaches Canada
1498 Columbus reaches South America
1498 Vasco da Gama sails to India
1500 Pedro Cabral reaches Brazil
1522 Magellan’s crew sails around the whole world
1606 Willem Jansz reaches Australia
POINTING THE WAY

This type of mariners’ compass first came into use in about 1250. This one dates from the 16th century.

WHY DID PEOPLE EXPLORE THE WORLD?

The most common reason was trade. The OLD WORLD wanted Asian spices, African ivory, and gold. European traders were soon also seizing lands and trying to convert the local populations to the Christian faith. Many explorers, though, were driven by a sense of adventure or scientific inquiry.

HOW DID EXPLORATION AFFECT THE WORLD?

European countries brought many lands under their control. The world was opened up and new crops were introduced from one land to another. However, there were some disastrous effects. In the NEW WORLD, many native peoples died because they had no resistance to the European diseases that explorers and crews brought with them.

OLD WORLD

Europe, Asia, and Africa had been known to geographers since ancient times. They became known as the Old World after the European discovery of the Americas.

WHO EXPLORED THE OLD WORLD?

In the Middle Ages, the Venetian Marco Polo and the Moroccan Ibn Battutah traveled east to China. The Chinese admiral Zheng He sailed west to Africa in the 15th century. By the 16th century, Portuguese and Dutch ships were trading in southeast Asia.

NAVIGATION

Navigation is any method used to find one’s way or hold a ship on course. Sailors of the 16th century had various kinds of instruments to help them cross the oceans.

WHAT INSTRUMENTS WERE USED?

Sailors used a compass to see which direction they were traveling. They could also work out a ship’s position by measuring the angle of the Sun or stars above the horizon. They did this with a metal plate called a quadrant, a disk called an astrolabe, or a simple stick called a cross-staff.

HOW WAS DISTANCE MEASURED?

Distances traveled at sea were calculated from speed and time. To measure these, a wooden log was thrown overboard. The crew called out the time it took for the log to pass between two measuring points on the ship. The ship’s course and progress were measured on a pegboard.

BIOGRAPHY: HENRY THE NAVIGATOR 1394–1460

This Portuguese prince founded an observatory and a school of navigation on Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. Here, a new type of ship, called a caravel, was designed. Henry also sponsored voyages along the coast of West Africa.

NEW WORLD

“New World” was one of the terms that came to be used by Europeans to describe the newly discovered lands of North and South America.

WHY DID COLUMBUS SAIL WEST?

In 1492, Christopher Columbus persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to sponsor a voyage westward. The goal was to find a new trading route to Asia. Columbus landed in the Bahamas, starting a new age of exploration and invasion.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

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