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Portuguese Explorers: Corte Real & de Quiros

In 1500, Gaspar Corte Real became known as the explorer who sailed to Greenland. He is also sometimes credited with reaching the coast of North America (Newfoundland to be specific). Sadly, the explorer became lost at sea around 1501. In another turn of unfortunate events, his brother Manuel searched long and hard for his brother (in 1502), dying in the process. More information on Corte Real and Pedro Fernandez de Quiros is offered in this article.

Background on Corte Real

Gaspar Corte Real was the baby of the Corte-Real family. His thirst for exploration came from his father, who he joined during his travels to North America. In 1500, King Manuel I of Portugal decided to send Gasper to uncover new lands and identify a Northwest Passage to Asia. He reached Greenland during his adventures (mistaking it for East Asia), but did not land.

Instead, he embarked on a second voyage to Greenland in 1501 with his brother in tow. At the time, the sea had become frozen, and they were forced to change direction to the south. When they reached land, they thought that had encountered Labrador and Newfoundland. It was there that they collected close to 60 natives, which they would later sell as slaves.

In a final attempt to reach the land he sought, he sent his brother and two ships back to Portugal before he pushed on towards the south. This is the last time that any one heard from Gaspar Corte Real.

Pedro Fernandez de Quiros

Sailing in the name of Spain, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros was a Portuguese navigator and explorer who took control of the Solomon Island expedition that once belonged to Alvaro de Mendana. He assumed the position when Mendada died in 1595. In the end, de Quiros would find and establish a Spanish settlement on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.

Before taking over Mendana’s travels, de Quiros served as his pilot. After his death, de Quiros guided the ships back to Peru, as they were in sorry shape. To boot, the crew was battling starvation, didn’t have enough water on board, and were becoming increasingly unruly. Another factor to take into consideration was that Mendana’s widow was left behind. In such dire times, she wasted drinking water for the washing of her clothes and actually has a pet pig when crew were dying of starvation around her. Out of three ships, only one survived.

Overall, de Quiros encountered a series of shipwrecks, mutinous crews, as well as disagreements with the rulers he came across. He still managed to sail to the South Pacific, where he wished to travel on to the Marquesas Islands with hopes of converting the natives to Christianity. Two ships sailed on this quest , 300 people attached to the mission. In 1606, he was forced to settle on the Island of Vanuatu after unsuccessfully reaching the Marquesas.

The outcome of the expedition did not end so joyfully. He wound up losing a ship to either bad weather or a mutiny as he returned to Spain. Upon his return, he sent out a great deal of letters and maps to King Phillip III, requesting him to sponsor another expedition. In the end, Quiros died near Panama while on a trip to Peru in 1614.