The European exploration of the Atlantic, and the huge appetite for essential manpower for the economic exploitation of new colonies in the Americas, led to the emergence of the African slave trade in the 17th century. European slavers founded slaving colonies on the African coast, but did not penetrate far inland, tending to use native traders to provide slaves for the European colonial market. Australia remained unknown territory to Europeans until the early 17th century, when it is thought that Portuguese and Dutch sailors explored the area around Cape York. In the 1640s Abel Tasman explored Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and New Zealand, but the continent itself was left untouched by Europeans until 1768 when British explorer Captain James Cook was despatched by the British Admiralty to explore the “Great South Land”. The extreme southwest of the continent was first spotted in 1770 and Cook charted the coastline, making some contact with the Aboriginal inhabitants, but the interior remained unexplored. By 1800 much of North America was discovered, but much of the northwest, including the Fraser and Columbia Rivers in what is now British Columbia still remained to be charted in the early 19th century. Both the Russians and British had conducted surveys of the Alaskan coast; in the early years of the 19th century it would be the Russian American Company that began to penetrate into its icy interior.
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