The Exploration of the World’s Oceans



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Voyages of Exploration: from the Atlantic to the Pacific


  1. Intro

    • While some Europeans sought opportunities in the Americas, other continued to seek a western route to Asian markets

      • The Spanish military commander Vasco Nunez de Balboa sighted the Pacific Ocean in 1513 while searching for gold in Panama

      • In the early 16th century, no one knew how much ocean lay between the Americas and Asia

  2. Ferdinand Magellan

    • The recon of the Pacific Ocean basin began with the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

      • While sailing in the service of Portugal, Magellan had visited ports throughout the Indian Ocean basin and had traveled east as far as the spice islands of Maluku

      • Believed that the spice islands and east Asia were close to the west coast of the Americas

        • Portugal had little interest in another route to India since they already had one

        • Thus, he traveled for Spain on his Pacific expedition

  3. The Circumnavigation

    • Started in 1519 and made his way to the eastern coast of South America in search of a strait

      • Found one in the south, and then sailed for four months until reaching Guam

        • Many sailors fell to scurvy

        • Resorted to eating hides soaked in saltwater

      • When he made his way to the Philippines, he became embroiled in a local conflict that killed 40 of his men

        • The survivors continued on to the spice islands of Maluku where they received cloves

      • Rather than brave the Pacific again, they sailed through the Indian ocean, completing the first circumnavigation of the world

        • Returning with 18 of 280 men

  4. Exploration of the Pacific

    • Took European explorers three centuries to chart the Pacific ocean

      • Spanish merchants built on info from Magellan’s expedition and established a trade route between the Philippines and Mexico, but stopped exploring the ocean basin itself

      • English navigators ventured into the Pacific in search of a northwest passage from Europe to Asia

        • It does exist, but it is in the Arctic Circle and ice blocks most of it for much of the year

        • It was only until the 20th century that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen traveled the Atlantic to the Pacific via the NW Passage

      • While searching for a passage, English mariners established many of the details of Pacific geography

        • Sir Francis Drake scouted the west coast of North America as far north as Vancouver Island

        • BY the mid-18th century, French mariners had joined English seafarers in exploring the Pacific Ocean

      • Russian expansion was mostly a land-based affair in early modern times

        • By the 18th century Russians were also exploring the Pacific Ocean

        • Commissioned the Danish navigator Vitus Bering to undertake to maritime expeditions (1725-30 and 1733-42) in search of a NE passage to Asian ports

          • Bering sailed through the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Strait which separates Siberia from Alaska

          • Recon’d northern Asia as far north as the Kamchatka peninsula

        • Russian mariners scouted the western coast to northern California

  5. Captain James Cook

    • One of the most important of the Pacific explorers was Captain James Cook (1728-1779) who led three expeditions into the Pacific and died in a scuffle with the indigenous peoples of Hawaii

      • Charted eastern Australia and New Zealand, added New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Hawaii to European maps

      • Probed the waters of the Arctic and spent months at a time in the tropical islands of Tonga, Tahiti, and Hawaii

        • Showed deep interest in the customs of the indigenous peoples

    • By the end of Cook’s voyages, European geographers had a reasonable understanding of the world’s ocean basins, their lands, and their peoples

Trade and Conflict in Early Modern Asia


  1. Intro

    • The voyages of exploration taught European mariners how to sail to almost any coastline in the world and return safely

      • Once they arrived at their destinations, they sought commercial opportunities

      • In the eastern hemisphere they built a series of fortified trading posts

      • Even attempted to control the spice trade in the Indian Ocean but with limited success

        • They mostly did not have the numbers of military power to impose their rule in the eastern hemisphere

        • Spanish and Dutch forces established small island empires in the Philippines and Indonesia

      • In a parallel effort involving expansion across land, Russian explorers established a presence in central Asian regions formerly ruled by the Mongols and in the tundra and forests of Siberia

        • Laid the foundation for a vast European empire

      • Commercial and political competition in both the eastern and the western hemispheres led to conflict between European peoples

      • By the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, English military and merchants forces had gained an initiative over their rivals

        • Enabled them to dominate world trade and build the vast British empire of the 19th century
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