Age of Exploration Timeline: 15th Century
The 15th century was the beginning of European Discovery. The Portuguese began to explore the coast of Africa and colonize vacant islands. By the end of the century, exploration had exploded, and a New World had been discovered.
Portugal pretty much dominated the 15th century due to their practice of incrementally going south around the coast of Africa. Eventually, Vasco da Gama was able to round Africa into India.
The Spanish were not that involved but would open up the world to a New World with the discovery of two new continents.
1418 - 1419 - Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator begins sending missions out into the Atlantic. The first is João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, who discover Porto Santo Island in the Madeira archipelago. It was located off the coast of Portugal. By 1419, they discover the island of Madeira.
1427 - Diogo de Silves allegedly discovers the Azores. However, the islands appeared on the Catalan Atlas in 1375. It is also said that Goncalo Velho rediscovered them in 1427.
1434 - A huge breakthrough for the Portuguese occurred when Gil Eanes sailed beyond Cape Bojador and returned alive. The violent waters had destroyed many other attempts, which led many to believe that the cape had mythical sea monsters. The breakthrough made it possible for further exploration of the coast of Africa, which would eventually lead to going around the tip of Africa to India.
1444 - Dinis Dias became the first European since antiquity to finally reach the mouth of the Senegal River. Henry the Navigator had continued pressing its discovery since they sailed beyond Cape Bojador.
1446 - The Portuguese continued their push further south on Africa's coast and are able to go past Cape Verde to the Gambia River.
1456 - Henry the Navigator continues to open the gateway for further discovery as his explorers Alvise Cadamosto and Diogo Gomes discover the Cape Verde Islands.
1460 - In the year Prince Henry died, Pêro de Sintra reached Sierra Leone. It would be another 10 years until the Portuguese would make another discovery. Prince Henry's dedication to naval exploration set the stage for a few decades later.
1472 - Fernão do Pó rounds western Africa and discovers the island of Bioko. The island would be renamed in his honor and would eventually become a source of sugar cane.
1473 - The Portuguese incremental approach would continue to pay off. Lopo Concalves would become the first European sailor to cross the Equator.
1474 - 1475 - The Portuguese discover São Tomé and Príncipe. It would be discovered by Ruy de Sequeira. The island was uninhabited but would be colonized and cultivated by the Portuguese.
1482 - Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão discovered the Congo River estuary, which he marked by a Padrão, or stone pillar (still existing, but only in fragments) erected on Shark Point.
Cão sailed up the river for a short distance, establishing contact with the Kingdom of Kongo. The full course of the river remained unknown throughout the early modern period.
1485 - 1486 - Cão made a second voyage and discovered Cape Cross. He would not return from the second voyage.
1487 - 1492 - Pêro da Covilhã sails to the mouth of the Red Sea and eastward to the Malabar Coast. On his return, he visits Mecca and Medina and then stops at Ethiopia to look for the mythical Prester John. While these are not new discoveries, it was one of the first times that a Western European country made contact with Arabia since the fall of Constantinople.
1488 - Bartolomeu Dias becomes the first European to round the Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost tip of Africa. This was a significant accomplishment as it proved there was another ocean on the other side of the continent.
1492 - Christopher Columbus is funded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He sets sail and discovers a New World, although he believes he discovered Asia. He goes on to explore the future Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola.
1493 - 1494 - Columbus returns on a second voyage and discovers Dominica and Guadeloupe. He continues his exploration and discovers Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
1497 - Henry VII sponsors John Cabot to find the Northwest Passage. He would explore Newfoundland and return to England.
1498 - 1499 - Vasco da Gama circles Africa and makes it to India. This event would increase Portugal's wealth and make them a global empire.
1498 - Columbus becomes the first European to see South America on his third voyage. Unfortunately, his third voyage would end with him being shipped back to Spain in shackles.
1499 - Continuing from Columbus's discovery, Alonso de Ojeda, along with Amerigo Vespucci, explored the mainland of South America. He would be credited for naming Venezuela.
1499 - Amerigo Vespucci begins to explore the mouth of the Amazon River.
1499 - Portugal begins to sail north, and explorers João Fernandes Lavrador and Pêro de Barcelos see Labrador.
1499 - Gasper Corte-Real and his brother Miguel rediscover Greenland. Greenland had previously been discovered by Leif Ericson and the Vikings almost 500 years prior but was unknown to the rest of the world.
Age of Exploration Timeline: 16th Century
1500 - Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, a captain on Christopher Columbus' first voyage, makes landfall on what became known as Brazil. He locates a cape and names it "Santa Maria de la Consolación." He also sails up what will become known as the Amazon River.
1500 - Pedro Álvares Cabral discovers Brazil. He will get the credit for it and is recognized as a national hero in Brazil today.
1500 - João Fernandes makes it to Cape Farewell, Greenland.
1500 - 1502 - The Corte-Real brothers explore Newfoundland and name the coasts "Terra Verde."
1500 - 1501 - Diogo Dias sales around the tip of Africa to Madagascar. From there, he sails to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which is the southern end of the Red Sea near Arabia.
1500 - Rodrigo de Bastidas explores the coast of South America to the Gulf of Uraba.
1501 - 1502 - Rio de Janeiro is discovered by Goncalo Coelho. It is not called that at the time, but will go on to become a major city in Brazil.
1502 - 1503 - Christopher Columbus sets out on his fourth and final voyage to what he believed to be India.
1505 - Bermuda is discovered by Juan de Bermúdez.
1506 - Portuguese explorer and military commander sails to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
1506 - The remote island of Tristan da Cunha is discovered in the South Atlantic Ocean by Tristão da Cunha. The island remains remote and is inhabited by 250 people. There has never been anyone arrested by the only policeman on the island.
1509 - Portugal continues its push east when Diogo Lopes de Sequeira makes it to Sumatra and Malacca.
1511 - The Portuguese try and begin diplomatic missions with Thailand with Duarte Fernandes.
1511 - Rui Nunes da Cunha begins to have diplomatic relations with Pegu. The Portuguese are laying the foundations for what will become their global empire.
1513 - Portugal reaches China by sea for the first time in its history when Jorge Álvares lands on Nei Lingdind Island at the Pearl River Delta.
1513 - Vasco Núñez de Balboa becomes the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from a different continent.
1513 - Ponce de Leon explores Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth.
1515 - Gonzalo de Badajoz travels into the interior of Panama and reaches the Azuero Peninsula.
1516 - Portuguese explorers land in modern-day Vietnam.
1519 - Hernán Cortés travels to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.
1519 - Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda proves that the Gulf of Mexico is its own separate body of water. He also reaches the Mississippi River.
1519 - 1522 - Ferdinand Magellan attempts to circumnavigate the globe. His ship and crew would make it, but Magellan would die at the Chiefdom of Mactan.
1520 - 1521 - Portuguese Explorer João Alvares Fagundes explores Newfoundland and Nova Scotia
1524 - Giovanni da Verrazzano explores the eastern seaboard of North America. He explores Cape Fear to Main and then the Hudson River.
1524 - 25 - Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro explore the southern coast of Panama to the San Juan River.
1525 - The Portuguese reach "Celebes."
1526 - 1528 - Francisco Pizarro explores the west coast of South America and becomes the first European to see the coast of Ecuador and Peru.
1528 - Diogo Rodrigues explores the Mascarene Islands, naming the islands of Réunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues.
1528 - 36 - Cabeza de Vaca and three others are the only survivors of a group of several hundred colonists who travel from the coast of western Florida to the Rio Sinaloa in northern Mexico, where they encounter Spanish slavers.
1532 - 33 - Pizarro explores and conquers inland to Cajamarca and Cuzco.
1534 - Jacques Cartier explores the Gulf of St. Lawrence, discovering Anticosti Island and Prince Edward Island.
1539 - Francisco de Ulloa sails to the Gulf of California and discovers that Baja is a peninsula.
1540 - 1542 - Fransico Coronado begins his failed search of the Seven Cities of Cibola. His expedition would give yield much information about the southwest portion of the United States, but he would not find any gold.
1540 - The Spanish continued their push into the interior of North America when Hernando de Alarcon travels to the Colorado River.
1541 - 1542 - Francisco de Orellana becomes the first European to sail the length of the Amazon River.
1542 - 1543 - Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo continues Spanish expeditions into California. He would reach the Channel Islands prior to his death.
1542 - 1543 - Around this time, there were several explorers who reached Japan. Fernão Mendes Pinto, António Mota, and Francisco Zeimoto made contact with Japan and began to trade with them.
1553 - Hugh Willoughby seeks the Northeast Passage over Russia. He was able to make it to Kolguyev Island or Novaya Zemlya.
1556 - Steven Borough makes it to the Kara Strait.
1557 - 1559 - Juan Fernandez Ladrillero and Cortes Hojea explored the coast of Chile and pass through the entrance of the Strait of Magellan.
1565 - The Marshall Islands are discovered by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
1568 - Álvaro de Mendaña reaches the Solomon Islands.
1576 - Martin Frobisher discovers "Meta Incognita" ("the unknown bourne"; Baffin Island) and what he believes to be a passage to Cathay: "Frobishers Streytes" (Frobisher Bay).
1577 - 1580 - Sir Francis Drake becomes the first European to complete a second circumnavigation of the globe.
Age of Exploration Timeline: 17th Century
1606 - Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon discovers Australia at the mouth of the Pennefather River on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula, exploring its coast from Badu Island south to Cape Keerweer.
1607 - English explorers Captain John Smith and Christopher Newport sail into Jamestown, which would become the first English settlement in America.
Henry Hudson coasts the east coast of Greenland, naming "Hold-with-Hope"
1609 - Hudson sails the Halve Maen up the Hudson River as far north as present-day Albany, New York.
1610 - 11 - Hudson sails through Hudson Strait into Hudson Bay, where he overwinters in James Bay. It would be around this time that his crew mutinied and left him and his son, along with another loyal member, stranded in the New World.
1616 - Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten discover and name Le Maire Strait, Staten Island, and Cape Horn; also discover Tonga, Futuna, and Alofi, and several islands in the Tuamotu and Bismarck Archipelagos.
1620 - The Pilgrims arrive in Plymouth Rock, where they endure the first winter. Many Mayflower passengers perish in the harsh winter.