(Like his contemporary, King Francis I of France, who would send Giovanni da Verrazzano to reconnoiter even more of the Atlantic coastline, Henry VIII was in part motivated by the perceived insolence of the division of the world into two halves by Pope Alexander VI in the Bull Inter Caetera following the success of Columbus's first voyage. One half of the globe was for Portugal and the other half for Spain.)
Cabot went to Bristol to make the preparations for his voyage. Bristol was the second-largest seaport in England, and during the years from 1480 onwards several expeditions had been sent out to look for Hy-Brazil, an island said to lie somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean according to Celtic legends. In 1496 Cabot set out from Bristol with one ship. But he got no further than Iceland and was forced to return because of disputes with the crew.
On a second voyage Cabot again used only one ship with 18 crew, the Matthew, a small ship (50 tons), but fast and able. He departed on either May 2 or May 20, 1497 and sailed to Dursey Head (latitude 51°36N), Ireland. He landed on the coast of Newfoundland on June 24, 1497. His precise landing-place is a matter of controversy, with Bonavista or St. John's in Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Labrador, or Maine all being possibilities. Cape Bonavista, however, is the location recognised by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom as being Cabot's official landing. His men may have been the first Europeans to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings. On the homeward voyage his sailors incorrectly thought they were going too far north, so Cabot sailed a more southerly course, reaching