You are here: History > Explorers > North American exploration

North American exploration

English navigator Henry Hudson encounters Native Americans along what is now the Hudson River in 1609. He explored the region...Read More >>English navigator Henry Hudson encounters Native Americans along what is now the Hudson River in 1609. He explored the region around present-day New York looking for a Northwest Passage to Asia on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. He sailed up the Hudson River, which was later named after him. Hudson later discovered the Hudson Strait and the vast Hudson Bay on his final expedition.When Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the Americas in 1492, he believed he had arrived in Asia, not an island in the Caribbean. After it became clear that a new continent and another vast expanse of ocean—the Pacific—lay between the Atlantic and Asia, other European expeditions set off to visit the "New World" looking for lands to settle and riches to plunder. The Spanish, who colonized Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in the early 1500s, soon started to explore the lands to the north of their territory: Florida, the region of what is now the southeastern United States, the Gulf Coast and the American Southwest. They also ventured up the Pacific coast. The French sailed up the Atlantic coast north of Florida, eventually focusing on the region around the St Lawrence River, inland to the Great Lakes and south into the heart of the North American continent.



Columbus sets foot on a Caribbean island during his first voyage.

Christopher Columbus

At the end of the 15th century, a number of expeditions were launched from European nations in search of a sea route to East Asia (or "the Indies" as the region was called). One was desperately needed now that the overland Silk Route had been closed off by the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

In 1793, the Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie (1764–1820) was the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean by travelling overland. His was the first east to west crossing of North America north of Mexico. He found a way across the Rocky Mountains and descended the Bella Coola River in British Columbia to the ocean.

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.


Find the answer