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Because of the limits of the sailing ships at the time, Verazzano could not simply sail along the coast as it ran to the north and northeast. Instead he had to sail northeast into the Atlantic and then sail back to the northwest (because of this Verazzano missed many features of the coast, such as the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay). Each time Verazzano tacked back, he must have hoped that he would soon find himself sailing in the Pacific Ocean, on his way to the Orient. With this hope firmly in his mind, when Verazzano saw a large body of water across a narrow bit of land on one of his approaches to the coast north of Florida, he jumped to the conclusion that this was the Pacific Ocean. What he in fact had seen was either Pamlico Sound across the Outer Banks of North Carolina or part of Chesapeake Bay. Despite finding more land as he went further north, Verazzano believed he had spotted the long hoped-for passage to China.
The following account appeared in the margin of a letter written Verazzano in 1524:
|"We called it Annunciato from the day of arrival, where was found an isthmus a mile in width and about 200 long, in which from the ship, was seen the oriental sea between the west and north. Which is the one, without doubt, which goes about the extremity of India, China and Cathay. We navigated along the said isthmus with the continual hope of finding some strait or true promontory at which the land would end toward the north in order to be able to penetrate to those blessed shores of Cathay."|
The first maps to show the false sea of Verazzano were manuscript maps by Vesconte de Maggiolo in 1527, showing a the sea labeled as "Mare Indicum," and by Verazzano's brother, Girolamo, made in 1529. This latter map clearly showed the sea and included the legend "from this eastern sea you may behold the western sea and there are six miles of land between them." This was followed by other maps, including Sebastian Munster's famous map of North & South American first issued in 1540. Munster's map, with its wide distribution in many editions, probably had more to do with the spread of this cartographic myth than any other map. As late as 1651, John Farrer's map of Virginia indicated that it was only a ten day march from the Atlantic to the Pacific in that region, and it also shows a very short land bridge to the Pacific at the head of the Hudson River. The failure of the English to find the Pacific Ocean anywhere near Virginia soon led to the demise of this cartographic myth.
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