Beating Columbus to America by twenty years? #history

João Vaz Corte-Real

Excerpt from 1492 and all that!

João Vaz Corte-Real sailed to the north in 1473 with a joint Portuguese-Danish expedition, manned by a German crew, and where they discovered what they called the ‘New Land of the Codfish’, Terra Nova do Bacalhau . There is no clear proof of where this was but Newfoundland and several other part of North America have each been speculated. If true then he would have beaten Columbus to the New World by almost twenty years!

Little is recorded of the man except that he had been granted São Jorge Island in the Azores in 1472. In 1474 he was awarded the captaincy of Angra, on Terceira Island aka Ilha Lilás, in return for some unidentified expenses and services. At one stage this was the capital of the Azores and later featured as a base for the King of Portugal when he tried to rule his country remotely while the Spanish were in occupation.

His youngest son, Gaspar Corte-Real, was charged by King Manuel I to seek a north-west passage to Asia in 1500. He set off with a single ship and landed on an icy landmass that he assumed to be in east Asia; when icebergs began to form he returned home. In 1501, accompanied by his brother Michael, they travelled with three ships and arrived when the land was no longer frozen and named it Terra Verde, or Greenland.


They sailed on south and charted the coastline of Labrador where they captured some sixty local men whom Michael took back to Portugal as slaves. Gaspar pressed on south only to disappear. Michael set off again in 1502 to search for him, but he too was lost to history. A third brother was forbidden by the King from going to look for them.


Dighton Rock, discovered in Massachusetts, is inscribed with some petroglyphs or carvings. One authority suggested that these were made by Michael Corte-Real whom he suggested had at some stage made his way down to New England. Other sources suggest that they were either made by indigenous peoples, or Phoenicians or Norsemen.


See also:

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