Some myths describe voyages to America before 1492; but other voyages are proven with facts. Thus we may conclude that Columbus certainly was not the first European to set foot on American soil.
His predecessors were:
c. 530 AD St. Brendan MYTH
St. Brendan of Ardfert and Clonfert, known also as Brendan the Voyager, was born near the present city of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, in 484; he died at Annaghdown, in 577. Between the years 512 and 530 St. Brendan built monastic cells at Ardfert, and at Shanakeel or Baalynevinoorach, at the foot of Brandon Hill. It was from here that he set out on his famous voyage for the Land of Delight (or the Isle of the Blessed also called Tír na nÓg). Naturally, the story of the seven years' voyage was carried about, and, soon, crowds of pilgrims and students flocked to Ardfert.
St. Brendan belongs to that glorious period in the history of Ireland when the island in the first glow of its conversion to Christianity sent forth its earliest messengers of the Faith to the continent and to the regions of the sea. It is, therefore, perhaps possible that the legends, current in the ninth and committed to writing in the eleventh century, have for foundation an actual sea-voyage the destination of which cannot however be determined. These adventures were called the Navigatio Brendani, the Voyage or Wandering of St. Brendan. The oldest account of the legend is in Latin, "Navigatio Sancti Brendani", and belongs to the tenth or eleventh century. There is no historical proof of this journey. Brendan is said to have sailed in search of a fabled Paradise with a company of monks, the number of which is variously stated as from 18 to 150. After a long voyage of seven years they reached the Terra Repromissionis, or Paradise, a most beautiful land with luxuriant vegetation. The narrative offers a wide range for the interpretation of the geographical position of this land and with it of the scene of the legend of St. Brendan. In the early nineteenth century belief in the existence of the island of St. Brendan was completely abandoned. But soon a new theory arose, maintained by those scholars who claim for the Irish the glory of discovering America, namely, MacCarthy, Rafn, Beamish, O'Hanlon, Beauvois, Gafarel, etc.
Madoc (Madog or Madawg) ap Owain Gwynedd was a Welsh prince who, according to legend, discovered America in 1170. Madoc has been the subject of much historical speculation, but most scholars doubt that Madoc ever made a trip to North America, and some doubt that the prince even existed at all.
His father, Owain Gwynedd, had at least 13 children from his two wives, and several more born out of wedlock, among them Madoc and his brother Rhirid. Upon Owain's death in 1170, fighting broke out among the possible successors. Madoc was disheartened, says the story, and he and Riryd set sail from Rhos-on-Sea to explore the western ocean with a small fleet of boats. They discovered a distant and abundant land where one hundred men disembarked to form a colony, and Madoc and the others returned to Wales to recruit settlers. After gathering ten ships of men and women the prince sailed west a second time, never to return. Madoc's landing place has been suggested to be west Florida or Mobile Bay (in what is now Alabama) in the United States. Though no one ever returned who could have reported this, the story continues that Madoc's colonists traveled up the vast river systems of North America, raising structures and encountering friendly and unfriendly tribes of Native Americans before finally settling down somewhere in the Midwestern United States or the Great Plains.
The first written account of Madoc's story is in George Peckham's A True Report of the late Discoveries of the Newfound Landes (1583).
There exist disputed archaeological evidence, three hill fort sites similar to Celtic hill forts, along the river in the area they are supposed to have "colonised". The Mandan Indians are reportedly the descendents of these early Welsh explorers.
Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin, and Lord of Shetland (c.1345-c.1400), was a Scottish explorer and nobleman. He is sometimes identified by the alternative spelling Henry St Clair. He was the grandfather of William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel. He is also noted for being the subject of legend that he undertook early explorations of Greenland and North America in about the year 1398. According to a biography published many years after his death, he died in battle against the English around the year 1400.
Starting in the 19th century, he was identified by Johann Reinhold Forster as possibly being the prince Zichmni described in letters allegedly written around the year 1400 by the Zeno brothers of Venice, in which they describe a voyage throughout the North Atlantic under the command of Zichmni.
The authenticity of the letters (which were not discovered and published until the early 16th century), the exact course of the voyage, as well as whether or not it even occurred, has not been firmly established. Many historians regard the letters (and the accompanying map) as a hoax, either by the Zeno brothers or by the descendant who later published them.
The most controversial theories speculate that Henry (Zichmni) traveled not only to Greenland but to present-day Nova Scotia, where he may have founded a settlement among the Micmac Indians, and perhaps as far south as present-day Massachusetts and Rhode Island. According to these theories, his expedition may have been responsible for the building of the Newport Tower and the carving of the Westford Knight.
The theory that Henry Sinclair explored North America is based on several separate propositions:
The letters and map ascribed to the Zeno brothers and published in 1558 are authentic.
The voyage described in the letters taken by Zichmni around the year 1398 actually reached North America.
Zichmni is Henry Sinclair.
The Newport Tower (Rhode Island) was described by the first Spaniard who reached North America. The building of the rock tower was monumental and it was molded on the example of a church in Jerusalem. Only people who were in Jerusalem with engineering capabilities could have made it (crusaders or Templars not vikings)
A cannon of a type already obsolete before the voyage of Columbus was purportedly dredged out of the sea near Nova Scotia, Canada in 1849 and later moved to the fortress at Louisburg, Cape Breton island. According to author Andrew Sinclair, the cannon is of the same type fitted on Henry Sinclair's ships.
The theory also hinges on the contention that there are stone carvings of American plants in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, plants supposedly not seen by Europeans until Columbus. The Chapel was build by Henry Sinclair's grandson William Sinclair and was completed in 1486. Columbus made his first voyage in 1492. This is seen by authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas as being compelling evidence for the theory that Henry sailed to America.
In 1998 Clan Sinclair celebrated the 600 anniversary of Henry' trip to America.
The only monument to commemorate the landing of the Prince Henry Sinclair Expedition in 1398 to Nova Scotia, Canada was erected November 17, 1996 by the Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America, Inc. It is a fifteen-ton granite boulder with a black granite narrative plaque located at Halfway Cove on Rt. 16 in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, above the original landing site.
Intertwined with the Sinclair voyage story is the 18th century legend that Henry Sinclair was a Knight Templar and that the voyage either was sponsored by or conducted on the behalf of the Templars.
It is theorized by Knight and Lomas, in their book "The Hyram Key" that the inspiration for the naming of America was not Amerigo Vespucci (as most scholars agree) nor Richard ap Meurig (Amerik) (who has also been credited with being the inspiration), but instead comes from a Phonician name for the star (Venus, the brightest in the sky). According to their unsourced theory, the medieval Knights Templar discovered a royal archive, dating from the time of King Solomon, hidden 80 feet under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This archive supposedly stated that Phoenicians from Tyre, by orders of Solomon, made trade trips from his port on the Red Sea (Eilat) to a westerly continent they named Merika. According to Knight and Lomas, the Templars learned that to sail to that continent, they have to follow a star by the same name, and that’s where the name America came from ("La Merika").
Brian Smith in the New Orkney Antiquarian Journal, vol. 2, 2002 wrote about this:
Henry Sinclair, an earl of Orkney of the late fourteenth century, didn't go to America. It wasn't until 500 years after Henry's death that anybody suggested that he did. The sixteenth century text that eventually gave rise to all the claims about Henry and America certainly doesn't say so. What it says, in so many words, is that someone called Zichmni, with friends, made a trip to Greenland. None of Henry Sinclair's contemporaries or near-contemporaries ever claimed that he went to America; and none of the antiquaries who wrote about him in the seventeenth century said so either, although they made other absurd claims about him. The story is a modern myth, based on careless reading, wishful thinking and sometimes distortion, and during the past five years or so it has taken new outrageous forms.
Brian Smith, Earl Henry Sinclair's fictitious trip to America. New Orkney Antiquarian Journal, vol. 2, 2002 On-line.
James A. Earl, Prince Henry Sinclair (The American Bias Against Pre-Columbian Discovery. 1993. On-line
1479/82 Bristol fishermen Probably true
Four prominent Bristolians obtained a charter from England’s King Edward “to explore and find new foreign nations to trade with”, for a three year period, between June 1480 and June 1483. Unfortunately we cannot place any exact date on just when English ships reached Newfoundland, except to say that it was on a summer day sometime between 1479 and 1482. If they did succeed in locating Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, or Brassyle as they called it, they did not leave any traces that can be found today. However, evidence has surfaced over the years that they did indeed discover North America, and probably at least ten years before Columbus sailed to the Caribbean.
One of Bristol’s major merchants, a local politician and aristocrat, was directly involved in this saga for twenty years between 1480 and 1500. His name was Richard ap Meurig (of ap Merick, Ameryk, Amerike), a name very close to America, according to some the real source of the word. He was mentor of John Cabot (c 1450 – c 1498), an Italian-born British navigator who is said to have reached America in 1497.