Italian-born explorer Giovanni Caboto, better known as John Cabot, set out in the footsteps of Columbus to discover a route to Asia by sailing west. Like the great man himself, Cabot assumed that the land he sighted in 1497 was in fact Asia, claiming it for King Henry VII of England – where he had settled in the 1490s after falling into debt in Venice. It is thought that Cabot and the small crew of his ship the Matthew first came ashore at Newfoundland, making them the first Europeans to arrive on mainland North America since Scandinavian seafarers four centuries earlier. After a briefly triumphant return to England, in 1498 Cabot embarked on a more ambitious voyage, with the goal of discovering Japan. A flotilla of ships crewed by around 300 men set sail. However, with the exception of one vessel that was forced ashore in Ireland, the expedition’s fate has never been officially determined. Theories range from Cabot being lost at sea, to landing in Canada and even successfully coming back to England. Yet while Cabot’s fate may be unknown, his place in the pantheon of great explorers is assured.
I remember John Cabot from history classes but little else besides he was an explorer. These people are remembered because they did cool stuff that unfortunately gets reduced to a few bullet points for a high school test. But there is so much history and only limited time, and attention spans.