Core Knowledge Quiz: The Age of Exploration

by Robert Pondiscio
October 12th, 2009

1. Who was the first explorer to circumnavigate the world?
2. What is a caravel?  Describe its significance
3.  Which Spanish explorer supposedly sought the Fountain of Youth and in the process landed in Florida?
4. If Columbus “discovered” America, why are the continents of the Western Hemisphere called North and South America and not North and South Columbia?
5. Who led the first European expedition down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico?
6. Which English explorer named land on the east coast of North America Virginia, to honor “The Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I?
7. Which Spanish conquistador’s expedition led to the fall of the Aztec empire and the colonization of much of present-day Mexico?
8. Which European made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, making contact with Australia and the Hawaiian Islands?
9. Who made the first water voyage from Europe to India, around Africa via the Indian Ocean?
10. What is the Northwest Passage?
11. Which English explorer made four attempts to find the Northwest Passage and died after his crew mutinied and set him adrift in a rowboat?
12. Which European’s 1497 expedition is commonly believed to be the first European voyage to North America since Leif Ericson’s?

Answers below:

1. Ferdinand Magellan (Update:  Reader Mike Caulfield points out Magellan died en route and that it was his crew that deserves the credit for the feat)
2. A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable and fast sailing ship.  Its development is the technological advance that enabled Europeans to safely cross the Atlantic Ocean.
3. Ponce de Leon
4. When Columbus reached the West Indies, he thought he had reached Asia.  Around 1500, Amerigo Vespucci explored the coast of what is now called South America.  A mapmaker used the Italian explorer’s descriptions to make a map of the new continent, “America.”
5. Robert de LaSalle
6. Sir Walter Raleigh
7. Hernán Cortés
8. James Cook
9. Vasco de Gama
10. The Northwest Passage is the name given to a presumed sea route through North America to Asia.  It was sought unsuccessfully by many explorers. 
11. Henry Hudson
12. John Cabot


  1. I remember learning all of this in 5th grade, but I only remembered correctly 8 of the 12 answers (fifth grade was a long time ago.)

    Comment by Anonymous — October 12, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  2. Thanks to Wikipedia, I got a 12/12!

    Comment by Shelly — October 12, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

  3. We are finishing up a unit on explorers today – thanks for the review questions for my 5th graders! (And for me – I enjoy these quizzes.)

    Comment by Janet — October 14, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

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