Columbus Day: Little Known Facts About Explorers

Christopher Columbus may be known for discovering the New World, but did you know that he was later arrested for neglecting to care for his settlements? Find out about this and more little known facts about famous explorers.
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Throughout history, famous explorers have intrepidly ventured into the unknown to chart the course to new lands. While we may know their names from the history books, there are little known facts woven into the lives of these famous explorers that often tell interesting tales about who they really were.

On this Columbus Day, here are some discoveries about some of history’s most legendary explorers.

Christopher Columbus

For all of the glory he received for his discoveries, Christopher Columbus was actually arrested by the Spanish Crown for neglecting the Hispaniola settlement in the New World. He was stripped of his authority and returned to Spain in chains to face the royal court. The charges were later dropped, but Columbus lost his title as governor of the Indies and, for a time, much of the riches made during his voyages. Watch a mini bio about Columbus’ real life and travels.

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto went from a small time crew member to a big time explorer in almost no time at all. Born to a poor family in Spain, de Soto helped Francisco Pizarro conquer Peru as part of his crew before leaving to make a name for himself by exploring the New World in the 1530s. He explored much of the South, including modern-day Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Unfortunately, one of his discoveries brought about his untimely death in 1542. Find out what Southern landmark this Spanish conquistador uncovered by watching his mini bio.

Hernán Cortés

Explorer Hernán Cortés wasn’t one to follow instructions, similar to most explorers of the past. After joining an expedition led by Diego Velazquez, Cortés ignored his leaders' command to abandon a voyage to Mexico in 1518. After reaching the Mexican coast the following year, he used brute force to take over an empire and claim the territory as New Spain. Learn what ancient civilization was brought to its knees by this famed explorer by watching his mini bio.

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain was not only a famed explorer, but he was known for his skills as a cartographer as well. De Champlain first found his sea legs by sailing through the unknown with his father to the West Indies. But he proved that he was an able explorer in his own right after working as a geographer for François Gravé Du Pont during a venture to Canada. He later made a voyage to Canada in 1608 and established Quebec, but what’s not commonly known about the explorer is the age of his significantly younger wife. Find out just how young de Champlain’s younger half was by watching his mini bio.

Jacques Cartier

Canada literally wouldn’t be Canada without Jacques Cartier. Born in France, Cartier was originally given the mission to find riches and an alternative route to Asia by King Francis I of France in 1534. After he traveled along the St. Lawrence River, where he came across a Native America community. Cartier showed off his spoils to the king—which included two Native American children he kidnapped—and was granted more ships and resources on a second and third voyage back to the land which came to be known as Canada. Discover how Cartier came up with the name Canada by watching his mini bio.