Giovanni da Verrazano

Giovanni da Verrazzano (also spelled Giovanni da Verrazano) explored the east coast of what is now the United States in 1525.

He is best known for being the discoverer of New York Harbor and for mistaking Pamlico Sound for the PacificOcean. The east coast of what is now known as the United States of America was largely unexplored in the early 1520s.

King François-premier (Francis I) of France decided to send out an expedition to investigate the area. As he was a fan of everything Italian, it is no wonder that he chose the Florentine Giovanni da Verrazzano to lead the expedition. The expedition was also backed by wealthy Italian bankers and merchants living in Lyons.

Verrazzano discovered New York Harbor, and anchored in the Narrows, later named after him and now spanned by the Verrazzano Narrows bridge. He describes the bay and its people as follows:

"The people are almost like unto the others, and clad with feather of fowls of diverse colors. They came towards us very cheerfully, making great shouts of admiration, showing us where we might come to land most safely with our boat. We entered up the said river into the land about half a league, where it made a most pleasant lake [the Upper bay] about 3 leagues in compass; on the which they rowed from the one side to the other, to the number of 30 in their small boats, wherein were many people, which passed from one shore to the other to come and see us. And behold, upon the sudden (as it is wont to fall out in sailing) a contrary flaw of wind coming from the sea, we were enforced to return to our ship, leaving this land, to our great discontentment for the great commodity and pleasantness thereof, which we suppose is not without some riches, all the hills showing mineral matters in them."

1) Richard E. Bohlander: World Explorers and Discoverers. New York et al.: Macmillan publishing co. (1992).
2) Samuel Eliot Morison: The European Discovery of America. The Northern Voyages. A.D. 500-1600. New York: Oxford University Press (1971).