Jacques Cartier (c. 1491–1557)
French explorer

Cartier was the first European explorer of the St. Lawrence River of present-day Canada.

The king of France asked Cartier to lead an expedition to North America. Like many European explorers, Cartier hoped to find a Northwest Passage to Asia. He was also looking for gold. In 1534 he reached the gulf where the St. Lawrence River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Cartier explored the land. He returned to France with animal skins but without any gold.

His second voyage to North America, in 1535, was his most important. He went deeper into the gulf area and found the St. Lawrence River. Cartier sailed up the river as far as the present-day city of Montreal. This river would be the entrance to the North American continent for most future French explorers. However, Cartier returned again to France without hoped-for riches. In 1541 Cartier sailed a third time to the region but still found no treasure. Later, France’s claims to northern North America were based on Cartier’s findings.

On the map below, you can follow Jacques Cartier’s second voyage to North America.

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