The Story of Geographical Discovery eBook

Joseph Jacobs
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 165 pages of information about The Story of Geographical Discovery.
by adopting Columbus’s bold idea, had attempted it by the western route, and under Magellan’s still bolder conception had equally succeeded in reaching it in that way; the English and French sought for a north-west passage to the Moluccas; while the English and Dutch attempted a northeasterly route.  In both directions the icy barrier of the north prevented success.  It was reserved, as we shall see, for the present century to complete the North-West Passage under Maclure, and the North-East by Nordenskiold, sailing with quite different motives to those which first brought the mariners of England, France, and Holland within the Arctic Circle.

The net result of all these attempts by the nations of Europe to wrest from the Venetians the monopoly of the Eastern trade was to add to geography the knowledge of the existence of a New World intervening between the western shores of Europe and the eastern shores of Asia.  We have yet to learn the means by which the New World thus discovered became explored and possessed by the European nations.

[Authorities: Cooley and Beazeley, John and Sebastian Cabot, 1898.]



We have hitherto been dealing with the discoveries made by Spanish and Portuguese along the coast of the New World, but early in the sixteenth century they began to put foot on terra firma and explore the interior.  As early as 1513 Vasco Nunez de Balboa ascended the highest peak in the range running from the Isthmus of Panama, and saw for the first time by European eyes the great ocean afterwards to be named by Magellan the Pacific.  He there heard that the country to the south extended without end, and was inhabited by great nations, with an abundance of gold.  Among his companions who heard of this golden country, or El Dorado, was one Francisco Pizarro, who was destined to test the report.  But a similar report had reached the ears of Diego Velasquez, governor of Cuba, as to a great nation possessed of much gold to the north of Darien.  He accordingly despatched his lieutenant Hernando Cortes in 1519 to investigate, with ten ships, six hundred and fifty men, and some eighteen horses.  When he landed at the port named by him Vera Cruz, the appearance of his men, and more especially of his horses, astonished and alarmed the natives of Mexico, then a large and semi-civilised state under the rule of Montezuma, the last representative of the Aztecs, who in the twelfth century had succeeded the Toltecs, a people that had settled on the Mexican tableland as early probably as the seventh century, introducing the use of metals and roads and many of the elements of civilisation.  Montezuma is reported to have been able to range no less than two hundred thousand men under his banners, but he showed his opinion of the Spaniards by sending them costly presents, gold and silver and costly stuffs.  This only aroused

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The Story of Geographical Discovery from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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