Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator, led a French expedition that in 1524 explored the coast near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The coast was visited as far north as Cape Hatteras by Spanish explorer Angel de Villafane in 1561. Parts of the mountain area were explored by Spaniards Hernando de Soto in 1540 and Juan Pardo in 1566 and 1567.
In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh of England obtained permission from Queen Elizabeth I to explore the Western Hemisphere and claim any land not already claimed by Christians or inhabited by them. Raleigh sent out an expedition that same year to choose a site for a colony; its members returned with an enthusiastic description of the Roanoke Island area. Two Native Americans, Wanchese and Manteo, returned with the expedition to England.
Raleigh’s vaguely defined land was named Virginia in honor of Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. In his first attempt at settlement, Raleigh sent 108 men, including Wanchese and Manteo as interpreters, to Roanoke Island. Leaving England in April 1585, the group reached Roanoke Island in August. However, unable to cope successfully with the new and difficult problems of colonization, in June 1586 the men boarded ship with the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, who had put in at Roanoke Island on his way back to England after a raid on the Spanish West Indies. Eighteen men were left behind to hold England’s claim to the land. "North Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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