Giovanni Caboto was an Italian navigator and explorer. He was the first European to reach America sailing the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean. His expeditions were financed by the English monarchy. Caboto was born in 1450, some sources say in Savona, others in Gaeta near Naples. When he was very young, he moved to Venice and started working as a merchant.
He sailed the eastern Mediterranean commercial routes and soon became an able navigator. He married Mattea, with whom he had three sons: Sebastiano, Luigi and Santo. During his time in Venice, Caboto developed a dream similar to that of Christopher Columbus – to reach Asia by sailing westward. At the time, Europeans didn’t know the American continent existed, and assumed they could also reach Asia from the west. In 1493 Caboto left Italy and went to Valencia, in Spain. He asked King Ferdinand II of Aragon to finance an expedition to explore more northerly routes than those Columbus had followed. The sovereign, who had already financed the Genovese navigator, refused.Three years later, Caboto moved to England and proposed the same trip to Henry VII. The King was interested in the discovery of new commercial routes to Asia, and agreed to finance Caboto’s expedition.
In May 1497, Caboto set sail from Bristol aboard the ship “Matthew.” He had a crew of 18, including his son Sebastiano.
He sailed along the Irish coasts and then turned out to sea towards the northwest. After sailing for a month, the expedition reached dry land. Caboto thought he had arrived in Asia. In reality, he had discovered the coasts of North America. The Italian explored what are known today as Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Cap Breton.He returned to Bristol triumphant on August 6, 1497.Over the next several months, Caboto organized a second expedition to the west. His aim was to reach Japan by sailing even further north. Like the rest of his contemporaries, he believed that the earth’s diameter was only one quarter of its actual size. This time Caboto was given five ships and a crew of about 200 sailors. The expedition left England in the summer of 1498. It never returned.The fate of Caboto and his crew is shrouded in mystery. It is thought that the ships reached Greenland and the coasts of Labrador. Some historians, however, believe the navigator and his men were shipwrecked in the Atlantic. Financed by the British monarchy, Caboto’s explorations marked the beginning of the English colonization of North America. In the wake of his initial discovery, most of North America has become English-speaking.