Where the Heck is the “Sea of Verrazzano”?

We wonder if the residents of eastern North Carolina know that they live near a body of water that was once known as the “Sea of Verrazzano?”  Probably Not.  But it’s true that the Pamlico Sound was named the “Sea of Verrazzano” in 1523.

Giovanni Da Verrazzano, born in 1485 near Florence, Italy, was the first known European to explore the waters between what is now New York and New Jersey. The “Narrows,” beneath what is now the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, was named for Verrazzano.  But that’s old news.

Verrazzano persuaded King Francois I of France to loan him a ship so that he could discover a new passage to the Pacific Ocean. The King expected that France would benefit from the trade route in light of the demand for trade with that part of the world.

With a ship at his disposal, the explorer Verrazzano solicited financial backing from bankers in his homeland of Italy. In 1523, he sailed west on the “Dauphine,” a 100-ton French vessel.  Verrazzano landed in what is now known as the Cape Fear area of eastern North Carolina.

From the Cape Fear region, Verrazzano sailed north along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and up past Cape Hatteras. He landed in what is presently Kitty Hawk. Upon observing the large body of water inside the Outer Banks, he erroneously concluded that it was what we now know as the Pacific Ocean.

Like any good explorer, upon discovering what he thought was “something new,” he named it after himself. That’s right, the “Sea of Verrazzano.”  Okay, anyone can make a mistake.  However, Verrazzano was eventually one of the first navigators to realize that America was actually a new continent. Until that period, America was thought to be an extension of Asia.

In any event, Verrazzano did finally figure out where the Pacific Ocean was located. But, there were other problems for Verrazzano.  Upon his return to Europe, he was unable to secure financing for another voyage in search of a new passage to the Pacific.  After all, he brought nothing of value back from his first trip, and got lost to boot! Not a good track record for an explorer.

In time, Verrazzano was able to scare up the funds for another Atlantic crossing. As it turned out, Verrazzano didn’t find the new passage on the second trip either. But, he was successful in returning with valuable cargo from South America. The second trip was successful enough to finance a third trip, which he made in 1528.

Verrazzano explored along what is now the coast of Florida, still in search of the Pacific passage. During that voyage, he visited the Bahamas and the Lower Antilles. He took a small boat toward the shore, got out of the boat and waded the rest of the way in. Unfortunately, he was greeted on the shore by some very “unfriendly man-eating natives” who cut him up and ate him on the spot.

Until next time, we wish you clear skies, fair winds and calm seas!


World Wide Marine Training, LLC, is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved facility authorized to give examinations for captain’s licenses up to Master 200 Tons, Able Seaman up to Unlimited, STCW Basic Training, Radar, ARPA and other Endorsements. Please visit www.worldwidemarinetraining.com or call toll-free 866-249-2135.