IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > F. The Pacific Region, 1513–1798 > 2. European Exploration, 1600–1800
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
2. European Exploration, 1600–1800
The first Europeans entered the Pacific Ocean in 1520. Between then and 1779, when Captain Cook died in Hawaii, hundreds of European explorers traversed the Pacific. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the main reason for the exploration was the search for the Terra Australis Incognita, which was believed to contain fabulous wealth. Later, scientific discovery and the search for alternative trade routes were important factors. The 16th century of European exploration was dominated by the Spanish and the Portuguese, the 17th century by the Dutch, and the 18th century by the English and the French. By the time of Cook's death, the islands had been charted and added to the world's rapidly growing corpus of geographical knowledge. The romance of the islands had entered European folklore, and the stage was set for more intensive European movement into the islands. Some of the main dates of European discovery are listed below.  1
1513, Sept. 25
Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean, from the isthmus of Panama, and named it the Great South Sea.  2
1520, Nov. 28
Ferdinand Magellan (Fernao de Magalhaes) entered the Pacific and reached the Philippine Islands in 98 days, making no major discoveries en route. He was killed on Cebu.  3
First Spanish colony on Philippines. Good route discovered, Philippines to Mexico.  4
Alvaro de Mendana (Spanish) set sail from Callao and early in 1568 sighted one of the islands of Tuvalu and Ontong Java before reaching the Solomon Archipelago.  5
Francis Drake became the first English circumnavigator when he crossed the Pacific to the East Indies.  6
Mendana left Callao in April on his second voyage to colonize the Solomon Islands. In May, he discovered a group he named Las Marquesas de Mendoza (Marquesas). He died in the Santa Cruz group in the Solomons on October 18, 1595.  7
Pedro Fernández de Quirós, one of Mendana's captains, set sail again from Callao in December 1605 in search of new lands and unknown southern continents (Terra Australis Incognita). In April 1606, he sighted La Australia del Espiritu Santo (now Espiritu Santo) in the New Hebrides.  8
Abel Janzoon Tasman (Dutch) sighted Tasmania, which he named Anthony Van Dieman's Land. He also explored New Zealand and parts of Tonga, Fiji, New Ireland, and New Britain. He proved that Australia was not part of a great Antarctic continent.  9
Jacob Roggeveen (Dutch), sailing east to west, entered the Pacific in March, discovered Easter Island and Samoa.  10
Captains Wallis and Carteret entered the Pacific in search of the southern continent and discovered Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands, respectively.  11
Louis Antoine de Bougainville entered the Pacific in January and visited Tahiti; subsequently, he went to Samoa and Espiritu Santo. His journal contributed greatly to the cult of the noble savage in France and Europe generally.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.