For many years people believed that Europeans were the first to travel to America and that it was discovered by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. But, in fact, many travellers had reached America before him.

Some historians claim that sailors from China crossed the Pacific to Mexico in AD 460. According to others, although there is not enough evidence, Asians other than the Chinese crossed the Bering Strait to Alaska long before this date and moved through North America on to South America.

Irish explorers may also have visited America in the ninth and tenth  centuries. Irish people living in Iceland before the Norsemen, who came from Scandinavia, reached ii in the ninth century. They may have sailed from Iceland to America after the Norsemen arrived in Iceland.


The Norsemen themselves may also have visited America. We learn this from their stories. They were used to sailing long distances. Some  Norse stories tell of a Norseman called Bjarni Herjolfsson, who visited North America in AD 986. Another Norseman named Leif Ericsson probably lived for a time in Newfoundland in Canada and returned to Greenland.

However, the first Western explorer whose success we can be sure about was Christopher Columbus. He left Spain on August 3, 20 1492, and on October 12th, he arrived in the Bahamas. Columbus thought he had arrived in the Indies, the name then used for Asia. That is why he called the people there Indians. He spent many weeks sailing around the Caribbean and then went back to Spain. He made several more voyages to the New World until 1504, though he never actually  landed in North America. However, America was named after another Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who was a friend of Columbus’ and who later explored the coastline of the New World.


Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512) was a successful Florentine  businessman and navigator who was knowledgeable in geography and cosmography. He was also the financial representative of the Medici, who were influential people in the fifteenth century. It was mainly for these reasons that he got involved in various expeditions at the time , made acquintance of Columbus and was of great help to hirr Although  he did not actually join in any of the Columbus expeditions, he was responsible for their organisation.

He obtained the ships and the necessary supplies, such as food. Vespucci’s own expeditions took place at a later date. To find answers to the questions raised by Columbus’ claims to have reached  Asia by travelling west, Vespucci was employed by the Spanish and the Portuguese to organise new expeditions. The first of these was in 1499 – 1500, the second in 1501 -1502.

During these expeditions, he travelled down the South American coastline, from Venezüella to Brazil, and discovered the mouth of the Amazon river, which received  plenty of attention. Although Columbus is considered the most important explorer of all times, he could not achieve what Vespucci did. Vespucci proved that America was a new continent-and not a part of Asia. For this reason, the continent was named America after him in 1507.

A. What do the following refer to?

1. ‘others’ (line 5): other

2. ‘it* (line 11):

3. They’ (line 11):

4. They’ (line 14):

5. ‘who’ (line 27): 6. ‘at the time’ (line 33): 7. ‘the second’ (line 42): 8. ‘which’ (line 44):


B. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F),

1. Europeans travelled through America before AD 460.

2. In the ninth century there were Irish people living in Iceland.

3. History books say that the Norsemen visited America before the Irish,

4. Herjolfsson and Ericsson probably did not visit South America.

5. Columbus landed in North America on October 12, 1492.

6. In Columbus’ day, Asia was called the Indies.


1. Who were the first people to reach America? Which route did they follow?
2. Why was America named after A. Vespucci?
3. Give one reason why Vespucci was involved in the expeditions at his time.
4. How did Vespucci help Columbus?
5. Why were the new expeditions set up by the Spanish and the Portuguese?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *