The Cabots and their voyages of discovery

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John cabot

John Cabot and the Cabot voyages of discovery

Have you ever heard of the Cabots and their voyages of discovery? In 1497, the Italian Giovanni Caboto, also known as John Cabot, embarked on a voyage of discovery on behalf of King Henry VII of England. Cabot explored the coast of North America and probably reached Newfoundland. The route taken by Giovanni Caboto is not fully known to this day. The discovery of North America by John Cabot was an important step in the history of discovery.

John Cabot? – approx. 1498

Little is known about John Cabot. His real name was Giovanni Caboto. He received the citizenship of Venice in 1476. The English King Henry VII hired him around 1496 for a voyage of discovery to the west with the task of looking for a way to Asia. He was called John Cabot by the English, a name with which he became world famous.

In May 1497, John Cabot set out from Bristol and on June 24th sighted land for the first time, which he briefly set foot in order to take possession of it in the name of Henry VII. For thirty days he followed the coastline without seeing a soul and returned to England at the beginning of August, where he proudly reported that he had discovered Asia.

In fact, John Cabot was the first European after Columbus to set foot on American soil. It is still unclear where this happened, as neither his logbook nor an eyewitness account of his journey has been preserved. Historians agree that it must have been somewhere between Labrador and Cape Breton, perhaps even on Prince Edward Island. Most likely it was the east coast of Newfoundland.

In 1498 John Cabot set out on another voyage of discovery, from which he never returned.


Learn more about John and Sebastian Cabot in this novel*.

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Sebastian Cabot approx. 1484 - 1557

John Cabot's son, Sebastian, followed in his father's footsteps. In 1509 he made the first attempt to circumnavigate the globe on the north path. It appears to have reached the entrance to Hudson Bay before its crew refused to proceed. He thought the bay was a passage to Cathay in northern China.

Upon his return, he joined the Spanish Navy in 1512, where he served until 1547. At the age of 63 he retired to England, where he died in 1557.

Ships and Navigation by John Cabot and his son

The sailing ships with which the John Cabot and his son made their voyages were three-masters with rectangular sails and at least one latin sail in the shape of a triangle, which made the ships more manoeuvrable.

The bow planks were smoothed. Ships were wide to withstand the strong storms of the North Atlantic. They were not built large to be easily maneuverable in the unfamiliar coastal waters. John Cabot's Matthew could therefore only transport 50 tons of cargo and had a crew of fewer than 20 men.

Life on board these ships was unpleasant. The crew's quarters were cramped, dirty and cold. Fires were only lit when the weather was calm and there were no washing facilities. The food at sea was extremely monotonous. It consisted mainly of dried rusks, beer (which remained drinkable longer than water), salt meat, dried peas, salt fish, butter, cheese, rice, oats, raisins and nuts. Scurvy was therefore a constant scourge of sailors.

Navigation was difficult in these times. In addition to the compass, which could be used to determine the north direction, the sailors of those days knew the astrolabe, the quadrant and the cross staff. They used this to determine the angle between the North Star or the sun and the horizon and were able to calculate the latitude of the ship. However, longitudes had to be guessed. Speed ​​was measured by throwing a rope into the water with knots attached at regular intervals. However, there were no coastal maps. Only if someone was constantly on the lookout could sandbanks or reefs be avoided. A weighted rope was also thrown into the water to determine the depth of the water.

Questions and answers about John Cabot and his voyages of discovery

Where exactly did John Cabot dock in North America?

It is believed that John Cabot landed in Newfoundland in 1497, possibly near Bonavista or St. John's.

How many expeditions did John Cabot make to North America?

John Cabot made at least two expeditions to North America, one in 1497 and another in 1498.

Why is John Cabot's discovery of North America so important?

The discovery of North America by John Cabot was an important step in the history of discovery. He also laid the foundation for European settlement on the continent.

What role did John Cabot play in the English colonization of North America?

John Cabot laid the foundation for the English colonization of North America by exploring the coast and establishing England as a claimant to the territory.

Where can I still find traces of him and his expedition today?

In Bonavista, Newfoundland, there is a memorial and interpretive center dedicated to the story of Cabot's discovery of North America. There is also a John Cabot monument in Bristol, England, as well as the Cabot Tower, which commemorates the voyages of discovery.

On the trail of the Cabots through eastern Canada


John cabot
Click on the photo and then bookmark “John Cabot Explorer” on Pinterest


Do you know anything else?


Source: own research. In any case, our opinion remains our own.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Public Domain

The Cabots and their voyages of discovery

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Slow Travel and Enjoyment travel blog TravelWorldOnline Traveller. You have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Your topics are Trips to Savor and wine tourism worldwide and Slow Travel. During her studies, Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she traveled to the USA and Canada - sometimes together with Petar Fuchs - and spent a research year in British Columbia. This strengthened her thirst for knowledge, which she pursued for 6 years Adventure Guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as Study tour guide for Studiosus Reisen tried to breastfeed all over the world. She constantly expanded her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: “What is beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do you eat in this region?” These are the questions she is now trying to answer as a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), among others. travel writer and travel blogger answers in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is below Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021 Other Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs. Recommendations on LinkedIn from tourism experts Further recommendations from cooperation partners and tourism experts Professional experience Monika on LinkedIn