Very little is known about the life of Giovanni da Verrazano (ca. 1485–ca. 1528); even his birthplace is a matter of dispute: some scholars place it in Tuscany while others claim that he was born to Italian parents in the French city of Lyon. There is some speculation that he began voyaging to the New World as early as 1508 as part of the expanding French fishing industry in the Grand Banks. His experience led to his appointment by King Francis I of France in 1523 to head an expedition seeking a passage through the New World to the Pacific. In March 1524 he made first landfall near Cape Fear in the Carolinas and briefly sailed south before proceeding up the Atlantic coast mapping many of the bays and inlets all the way to modern-day Newfoundland. These charts served as a basis for France’s claims to New France in North America.

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