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statue of Gaspar Corte-RealGaspar Corte-Real

Portuguese navigator

Gaspar Corte-Real was born sometime between 1450 and 1455. The third son of Joo Vaz Corte-Real, Governor of the southern half of Terceira Island and of St. George Island in the Azores, Gaspar is believed to have served as Acting Governor during the absence of his father in 1488 and of his elder brother in 1497.

In 1500, King Manuel I of Portugal asked Gaspar to find a passage to the Orient by going northwest, as John Cabot had tried to do for the English just a couple of years earlier. On his first voyage Gaspar sighted "Ponta d'Asia" (Greenland), in the probable vicinity of Cape Farewell. He was prevented from landing, however, either by the ice floes or by the weather (the record is unclear). How far he voyaged beyond Greenland, or even if he did at all, is also not entirely certain. The following year, Gaspar made a second voyage with three ships, and discovered "Terra Verde," so called because of its tall trees. Where exactly this discovery was located is open to conjecture, but it is believed to have been either eastern Labrador or somewhere in Newfoundland. Only two of the ships returned to Portugal, bringing 57 captured Beothuk (Greenland Eskimos), who were then sold as slaves to defray the costs of the voyage. The third ship, with Gaspar and all his crew, never returned.

In the spring of 1502, Gaspar's brother Miguel left Lisbon to look for his brother. He, too would disappear. In 1503, Vasco Aes, a third brother, was refused permission by the King to continue the search.


John Cabot

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This page was last updated on 12/16/2014.

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