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Block, Adriaen (1610–1624), Dutch mariner, explorer, and trader, was most likely born in Holland, but nothing is now known of his place of birth, parents, early education, or marital status. It is thought that he studied law but soon felt eager to go to sea. His opportunity came after ...

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Cabot, John (1450?–1498?), navigator and explorer, may have been born in Genoa, Italy. His parents are unknown. In 1498 the Spanish ambassador in London referred to him as “another Genoese like Colon (Columbus),” and most scholars accept Genoa as John Cabot’s place of birth, although no documents have been found to confirm this. Records in Venetian archives, however, document the granting of citizenship in that republic to John Cabot sometime during the period between 9 November 1471 and 28 July 1473. The 28 March 1476 senatorial confirmation of the grant mentions that he had been a resident of Venice for fifteen years. In the letters patent from England’s King Henry VII granting him permission “to sail to all parts, regions and coasts of the eastern, western and northern sea,” Cabot is identified as a citizen of Venice. Like his contemporary ...

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Hudson, Henry (?–23 June 1611), English navigator and explorer, was evidently a Londoner by birth and was probably trained in the service of the Muscovy Company, but his early life has not been documented. He is known to have married Katherine (maiden name unknown) and to have had three sons: Oliver, who was of marriageable age by 1608, Richard, and John. His career can be followed only from 19 April 1607 to 23 June 1611, shortly after which he died at sea in Hudson Bay. The Muscovy Company, seeking a route to Asia, sent him on the earliest known polar expedition to investigate the possibility of open water between Spitzbergen (Svalbard), recently explored by the Dutch, and the northern shore of Greenland. Leaving the Thames on 1 May 1607, he sailed successfully north until he reached his remarkable estimated latitude of 81° 23′ (actual 80° 23′) by 15 August before being turned back by ice. He investigated the western shores of Spitzbergen and Bear Island and on the return was the first Englishman to discover what was to be Jan Mayen Island. He reached the Thames on 15 September after a successful pioneer exploration of these northern waters....

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Slocum, Joshua (20 February 1844– November 1909?), circumnavigator, shipbuilder, and author, was born in Wilmot Township, Nova Scotia, Canada, the son of John Slocombe, a farmer and bootmaker, and Sarah Jane Southern. Slocum attended school only until age ten, when he was set to work to earn his keep. He left home permanently after the death of his mother when he was sixteen, working as a deep-water sailor. From that time on his life, for better and for worse, was defined by the sea....