On today’s date in 1497, a hired Genoese seaman, John Cabot, reached Newfoundland on the Matthew after a 35-day voyage; the day is remembered as Discovery Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Matthew – a relatively small vessel carrying about 20 people and 50 tons of cargo – left Bristol sometime in May 1497. While a lack of primary evidence has left historians guessing, it’s generally agreed Cabot sailed down the Bristol Channel, across to Ireland, and then north along the Ireland’s west coast before turning out to sea.
About 35 days after leaving Bristol, Cabot sighted land. Historians have proposed Cape Bonavista and St. John’s, Nfld. Cape Breton Island, N.S.; or Labrador as Cabot’s Canadian point of arrival. Other possibilities include Maine in the U.S. For celebrations surrounding the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s discovery, the governments of Canada and the U.K. designated Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland as the official landing place. It was there, in 1997, Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Italian and Canadian governments greeted the replica Matthew of Bristol following its celebratory crossing of the Atlantic.
Cabot was back in Bristol on Aug. 6 after a 15-day return crossing.
On the 400th anniversary of Cabot’s discovery of North America, the Newfoundland Post Office issued a 10-cent black/brown stamp (Scott # 68) honouring Cabot and his discovery.