Famous Portuguese Explorers
In the late 15th and early 16th centuries Portugal was the undisputed leader in the European Age of Discovery (also referred to as the Age of Exploration). This period produced many famous Portuguese explorers who took great risk in venturing out into unknown waters. On this page you will discover who these great men were, where they traveled to, why they took such great risk, and other interesting information about them. This information is written so that kids and adults alike will understand.
Henry the Navigator
Born in 1394 AD Henry the Navigator was the third child of King John I of Portugal. He was the driving force behind Portugal's age of exploration. He used his position as governor of the Order of Christ to obtain the funding for voyages. When his father died his brother Edward became king. Edward granted Henry a lot of power in
organizing and funding many expeditions. He granted Henry the sole right to approve of expeditions beyond Cape Bojador on the northern coast of the Western Sahara in
Africa. Cape Bojador was the most southern point known to Europeans at that time. Under his initiative Portuguese Explorers found water routes to the far east and
therefore bypassed the Ottoman Empires blockade of land trade routes to that region. This enabled Portugal to monopolize the Eastern spice trade. Henry over saw
expeditions to the New World and Japan resulting in great wealth and influence for Portugal.
Famous Portuguese Explorers Motives for Exploration
- To discover new trade routes.
- To gain fame and prestige.
- To spread the Catholic religion.
- To explore and learn about the world.
- To increase their wealth and Portugals wealth buy finding gold, silver, and spices.
List of Famous Portuguese Explorers
- Diogo Silves - In 1427 he discovers the Azores Islands. This group of nine islands is in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 907 miles from Lisbon.
- Bartholomew Diaz - In 1488 becomes the first person to sail around the Cape of Good Hope (the southern most tip of Africa).
- Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira - In 1419 they discovered the Madeira Islands. The discovery was an accident and happened when they were blown off course while sailing along the African coastline. This discovery was the first territorial discovery by the Portuguese during the Age of Discovery.
- Vasco da Gama - In 1498 he sailed around the tip of Africa up the east coast of Africa across the Indian Ocean and on to India. He was the first European to reach
India by sea. An important accomplishment that opened up a trade water route to India. This accomplishment also paved the way for Portugal to start building a colonial empire in Asia.
- Pedro Alvares Cabral - He is credited with discovering Brazil (1500). He also made the first exploration of the northeast coast of South America. He claimed this land for Portugal.
- Ferdinand Magellan - Although he was killed during the trip this famous Portuguese explorer lead the first voyage around the world in 1519. His voyage was financed by Spain.
- Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real - Between the years 1500 Ad and 1503 AD these brothers explored Greenland and Newfoundland.