- João Fernandes
João Fernandes (pronounced|ʒuˈɐ̃ũ fɨɾˈnɐ̃ðɨʃ) (John, Joam) (sometimes called João Fernandes Lavrador) was a Portuguese
explorerof the 15th century. He was perhaps the earliest of modern explorers in the upland of West Africa, and a pioneer of the European slave- and gold-trade of Guinea.
We first hear of him (before 1445) as a captive of the Barbary
Moorsin the western Mediterranean; while among these he acquired a knowledge of Arabic, and probably conceived the design of exploration in the interior of the continent whose coasts the Portuguese were now unveiling.
Life away from Europe
In 1445 he volunteered to stay in
Guineaand gather what information he could for Prince Henry the Navigator; with this object he accompanied Antão Gonçalvesto the "River of Gold" (Rio d'Ouro, Río de Oro), where he landed and went inland with some native shepherds. He stayed seven months in the country and was then taken off again by Gonçalves at a point farther down the coast, near the "Cape of Ransom" (Cape Mirik); and his account of his experiences proved of great interest and value, not only as to the natural features, climate, fauna and flora of the south-western Sahara, but also as to the racial affinities, language, script, religion, nomad habits, and trade of its inhabitants. These people maintained a certain trade in slaves, gold, etc., with the Barbary coast(especially with Tunis), and classed as "Arabs," "Berbers," and "Tawny Moors" did not then write or speak Arabic.
In 1446 and 1447 Fernandes accompanied other expeditions to the Rio d'Ouro and other parts of West Africa in the service of Prince Henry. He was personally known to
Gomes Eannes de Azurara, the historian of this early period of Portuguese expansion; and from Azurara's language it is clear that Fernandes' revelation of unknown lands and races was fully appreciated at home.
Fernandes was granted a patent by King Manuel I in 1499 given him the right to explore that part of the Atlantic Ocean as set out in the
Treaty of Tordesillas. Kevin Major, "As Near to Heaven by Sea: A History of Newfoundland and Labrador", 2001, ISBN 0-14-027864-8]
Fernandes, together with Pêro de Barcelos, first sighted the province Labrador in 1498. Fernandes charted the coasts of Southwestern
Greenlandand of adjacent Northeastern North Americaaround 1498 and gave notice of them in Europe. The areas are believed to have been named "island of the Labrador" and "land of the Labrador" (modern-day Labrador), respectively, after him. His landowner status allowed him to use the title "lavrador" ("landholder" in Portuguese) (pronounced|lɐvɾɐˈðoɾ) .
On early sixteenth maps a landmass west of Greenland bears the title "Terra Laurador," and "Terra Laboratoris." Upon his return from Greenland he sailed to Bristol and received a patent from
King Henry VIIand in 1501 Fernandes set sail again in discovery of lands in the name of England. He was never heard from again.
Fernandes was granted title to much of the lands he had discovered and is considered the first European landowner in Labrador.
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=212 Biography at "the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
NAME = Lavrador, João Fernandes
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SHORT DESCRIPTION = Portuguese explorer
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