On June 24, 1497, Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto—better known as John Cabot—became the first European of his day to record an official landing on the North American continent. Funded by British merchants and sailing under the English flag, Cabot claimed his discovery of the “New founde land” for England. His claim cleared the way for future English settlements in the New World.
On his return voyage to Bristol, England, Cabot sailed his tiny ship Matthew through rich fishing grounds off the Newfoundland coast now known as the Grand Banks. His crew hauled in huge quantities of cod simply by lowering weighted baskets into the sea. This find led directly to the great rise of the Newfoundland cod fishery.
Born around 1450, probably in Genoa, Italy, John Cabot lived at about the same time as Christopher Columbus. Like Columbus, Cabot sailed west to find a new route to China and Japan. He found the American continent instead.