Verrazzano, Giovanni da

 Giovanni da Verrazzano, explorer (b at or near Florence c1485; d in the W Indies c 1528). Several years before Jacques CARTIER, he established a French claim in N America. A rarity among early explorers, he was of distinguished lineage and was well educated in Florence, then a centre of geographic and navigational science. He moved to Dieppe, France, to pursue a maritime career and set sail westward from there in 1523 under the French flag. He made landfall around 1 Mar 1524 at or near Cape Fear (33°50´ N lat). He sailed S and then N to avoid the Spaniards, coasted N past New York Bay and the coast of Maine and likely departed from the E coast of Newfoundland (about 50° N lat), arriving back at Dieppe 8 July 1524. Although he mistakenly believed that he saw the Pacific Ocean across a narrow peninsula near Cape Hatteras, he was the first to recognize that the coast from Florida to Newfoundland was contiguous and belonged to a New World. On a second voyage in 1528, he rowed ashore to one of the Caribbean islands, likely Guadeloupe, and was slain and eaten by cannibals.