Giovanni da Verrazano

Italian Navigator & Explorer

Born: 1485

Died: 1528

Verrazano first became famous for raiding Spanish ships while serving the French. Late he sought and received a commission from the French King, Francis I, to seek a western sea route to China. This trip was not entirely funded by the French crown, but also by a group of private investors.

Since the Spanish had already explored South and Central America in search of a strait leading to Asia, Verrazano decided to seek such a strait on along the North American coast. He set sail in 1524 and quickly reached the coast of present day North Carolina and continued northward. While cruising along the Carolina Banks Verrazano spotted Pamlico Sound, which he mistook for the Pacific Ocean. He also discovered Block Island near Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the New York and Narragansett Bays. His explorations went further north, eventually reaching Nova Scotia. Although Verrazano was the first person to name sites in the New World after people and places in the Old World, but most for these names are no longer used. However, in his Journal, Verrazano compared Block Island to the Isle of Rhodes in the Mediterranean sea. Later, thinking Verrazano was referring to Aquidneck Island, named their new settlement ‘Rhode Island.’

Although Verrazano was unsuccessful in luring the French to invest on settlements and colonies in the New World, he was able to organize another expedition in 1527. He made no new discoveries during this voyage, but did return with a profitable cargo of logwood. The following year Verrazano led yet another expedition to the New World, but while exploring the Lesser Antilles, he was killed and eaten by the Carib Indians.

The Verrazano Narrows, at the mouth of New York Harbor and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York Harbor (between Brooklyn and Staten Island) are named after him.

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