John Cabot

On June 24, 1497, on St. John's Day, Cabot set anchor in a sheltered bay, went ashore, and planted the British flag, claiming the land for King Henry VII and the Church of England. He named it 'Terre Nova' or 'New Found Land'. It is believed Cabot set foot on either Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland, Labrador, or Gaspé, but, by his descriptions of the land, it was most likely the northern tip of Cape Breton Island.

Cabot noticed a small trail leading inland and followed it, discovering an abandoned campsite with a recent campfire and a small, decorated and painted stick. It is believed to have been a Beothuk campsite who, following the Viking encounters, had become reclusive and reluctant to greet any newcomers.

Cabot then sailed south for a month before returning to his original landing point where he searched once more for the natives, but found no other trace.

On July 20, Cabot sail for England, arriving in Bristol on August 6 to great acclaim. His tales of vast schools of cod (which the English called 'stockfish') at Grand Banks so abundant that all one had to do was to dip a basket into the water and haul it back up, filled to the brim with fish, began decades of fishing by all the major European countries. So important was the fishing industry, in fact, that exploration took second place.

Cabot's second voyage, in 1498, ended in tragedy. Caught in a severe storm, 4 of the 5 ships, including Cabot's, were lost at sea. Only one ship returned to England to relay Cabot's fate.