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North Atlantic Crossings

It was not until the fifteenth century that Europeans initiated more frequent transatlantic crossings with the help of improved navigational instruments, such as the astrolabe. (Thus, the first Norse settlement had virtually no impact on later European exploration of North America.)

With a compass or lodestone, the sixteenth-century navigator could always locate magnetic North, even in the absence of any visible stars. Using Jacob's cross-staff or an astrolabe, he could determine latitude. With the aid of an hourglass, he could calculate time, longitude and the ship's speed. Finally, he could gauge the water's depth and explore the ocean floor with a sounding lead and line.

S93-14785 European commerce and the importance of marine resources encouraged seamen to venture farther and farther out on the North Atlantic. The search for a sea route to the Spice Islands and the Orient led Europeans such as Cabotto, Verrazzano, Cartier, Frobisher, Davis, Champlain and Hudson to explore North America. The exploitation of the Newfoundland fishing banks from the late fifteenth century contributed to the continuing European presence in the northern regions of the North America.