Skip navigation links (access key: Z)Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives CanadaSymbol of the Government of Canada
Français - Version française de ce siteHome - The main page of the Institution's websiteContact Us - Institutional contact informationHelp - Information about using the institutional websiteSearch - Search the institutional - Government of Canada website

Banner: Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada About This Site
The Mapmakers: An Essay in Four Parts
Graphical element

The "New" Continent

16th Century

At the beginning of the 16th century, several European countries were determined to find a sea-route to the rich trading countries in the East  --  one that would bypass the treacherous overland journey through the Ottoman and Muslim empires. The Portugese, then the reigning masters of navigation, had just succeeded in finding such a route, but it involved braving the turbulent waters around the Cape of Good Hope, at the tip of Africa.

With Portugal soon dominating the African route and the southern parts of America under Spanish control, England and France had little choice but to look for another way. They surmised that the answer could lie to the north of Spain's American possessions.

Although the Cabots and the Corte Reals reported their sightings of northern North America, it was descriptions by European fishermen of these new lands and waters that had a substantial impact on the French. They were the first to pursue the Northwest Passage.

Proactive Disclosure