During the age of European exploration of the Western Hemisphere the driving forces were searching for a route to the East Indies, the acquisition of gold and other valuables and, later, land for settlement. Consequently, the Caribbean Sea and surrounding lands and islands first discovered by Columbus became one of the most mapped areas in the world. Several European countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands competed for what they thought would be the "riches of the Indies". Each one made contributions to the description and mapping of the area even after their recognition that the discoveries were a new land and not what they dreamed of discovering. However, they did benefit from the acquisition and settlement of the New World.

Florida was an important part of the picture because it constitutes over one fourth of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico which is the origin of the Gulf Stream. It is recognized as being part of the Caribbean as well as the southeastern United States. It was the site of the first permanent European Settlement in what is now the United States. It was also the route of entry for explorers of the southeastern mainland of