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, the Waldseemüller map
dated 1507, from a time when the nature of the Americas was ambiguous, particularly North America, as a possible part of Asia, was the first map to show the Americas separating two distinct oceans. South America was generally considered a "new world" and shows the name "America" for the first time, after Amerigo Vespucci
Made in 1529, the Diogo Ribeiro
map was the first to show the Pacific at about its proper size
Important human migrations occurred in the Pacific in prehistoric times. About 3000 BC, the Austronesian peoples on the island of Taiwan mastered the art of long-distance canoe travel and spread themselves and their languages south to the Philippines, Indonesia, and maritime Southeast Asia; west towards Madagascar; southeast towards New Guinea and Melanesia (intermarrying with native Papuans); and east to the islands of Micronesia, Oceania and Polynesia.
Long-distance trade developed all along the coast from Mozambique to Japan. Trade, and therefore knowledge, extended to the Indonesian islands but apparently not Australia. By at least 878 when there was a significant Islamic settlement in Canton much of this trade was controlled by Arabs or Muslims. In 219 BC Xu Fu sailed out into the Pacific searching for the elixir of immortality. From 1404 to 1433 Zheng He led expeditions into the Indian Ocean.
Map of the Pacific Ocean during European Exploration, circa 1702–1707.
Map of the Pacific Ocean during European Exploration, circa 1754.
The first contact of European navigators with the western edge of the Pacific Ocean was made by the Portuguese expeditions of António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão, via the Lesser Sunda Islands, to the Maluku Islands, in 1512, and with Jorge Álvares's expedition to southern China in 1513, both ordered by Afonso de Albuquerque from Malacca.
The east side of the ocean was discovered by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513 after his expedition crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached a new ocean. He named it Mar del Sur (literally, "Sea of the South" or "South Sea") because the ocean was to the south of the coast of the isthmus where he first observed the Pacific.
Spanish explorations and routes across the Pacific Ocean.
Later, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed the Pacific East to West on a Castilian (Spanish) expedition of world circumnavigation starting in 1519. Magellan called the ocean Pacífico (or "Pacific" meaning, "peaceful") because, after sailing through the stormy seas off Cape Horn, the expedition found calm waters. The ocean was often called the Sea of Magellan in his honor until the eighteenth century. Although Magellan himself died in the Philippines in 1521, Spanish Basque navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano led the expedition back to Spain across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope, completing the first world circumnavigation in a single expedition in 1522. Sailing around and east of the Moluccas, between 1525 and 1527, Portuguese expeditions discovered the Caroline Islands, the Aru Islands, and Papua New Guinea. In 1542–43 the Portuguese also reached Japan.
In 1564, five Spanish ships consisting of 379 explorers crossed the ocean from Mexico led by Miguel López de Legazpi and sailed to the Philippines and Mariana Islands. For the remainder of the 16th century, Spanish influence was paramount, with ships sailing from Mexico and Peru across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines via Guam, and establishing the Spanish East Indies. The Manila galleons operated for two and a half centuries linking Manila and Acapulco, in one of the longest trade routes in history. Spanish expeditions also discovered Tuvalu, the Marquesas, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, and the Admiralty Islands in the South Pacific.
Later, in the quest for Terra Australis (i.e., "the [great] Southern Land"), Spanish explorations in the 17th century, such as the expedition led by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, discovered the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos, and sailed the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named after navigator Luís Vaz de Torres. Dutch explorers, sailing around southern Africa, also engaged in discovery and trade; Willem Janszoon, made the first completely documented European landing in Australia (1606), in Cape York Peninsula, and Abel Janszoon Tasman circumnavigated and landed on parts of the Australian continental coast and discovered Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642.
In the 16th and 17th century Spain considered the Pacific Ocean a Mare clausum—a sea closed to other naval powers. As the only known entrance from the Atlantic the Strait of Magellan was at times patrolled by fleets sent to prevent entrance of non-Spanish ships. On the western end of the Pacific Ocean the Dutch threatened the Spanish Philippines.
The 18th century marked the beginning of major exploration by the Russians in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, such as the First Kamchatka expedition and the Great Northern Expedition, led by the Danish Russian navy officer Vitus Bering. Spain also sent expeditions to the Pacific Northwest reaching Vancouver Island in southern Canada, and Alaska. The French explored and settled Polynesia, and the British made three voyages with James Cook to the South Pacific and Australia, Hawaii, and the North American Pacific Northwest. In 1768, Pierre-Antoine Véron, a young astronomer accompanying Louis Antoine de Bougainville on his voyage of exploration, established the width of the Pacific with precision for the first time in history. One of the earliest voyages of scientific exploration was organized by Spain in the Malaspina Expedition of 1789–1794. It sailed vast areas of the Pacific, from Cape Horn to Alaska, Guam and the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and the South Pacific.
Growing imperialism during the 19th century resulted in the occupation of much of Oceania by other European powers, and later, Japan and the United States. Significant contributions to oceanographic knowledge were made by the voyages of HMS Beagle in the 1830s, with Charles Darwin aboard; HMS Challenger during the 1870s; the USS Tuscarora (1873–76); and the German Gazelle (1874–76).
In Oceania, France got a leading position as imperial power after making Tahiti and New Caledonia protectorates in 1842 and 1853 respectively. After navy visits to Easter Island in 1875 and 1887, Chilean navy officer Policarpo Toro managed to negotiate an incorporation of the island into Chile with native Rapanui in 1888. By occupying Easter Island, Chile joined the imperial nations.(p53) By 1900 nearly all Pacific islands were in control of Britain, France, United States, Germany, Japan, and Chile.
Although the United States gained control of Guam and the Philippines from Spain in 1898, Japan controlled most of the western Pacific by 1914 and occupied many other islands during World War II. However, by the end of that war, Japan was defeated and the U.S. Pacific Fleet was the virtual master of the ocean. Since the end of World War II, many former colonies in the Pacific have become independent states.