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After Spain sent Columbus on his first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers followed.The first Europeans to arrive in territory of the modern United States were Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, who made his first visit to Florida in 1513; however, if unincorporated territories are accounted for, then credit would go to Christopher Columbus who landed in Puerto Rico on his 1493 voyage.

After having arrived in the Hawaiian islands in 1778, Captain Cook sailed north and then north-east to explore the west coast of North America north of the Spanish settlements in Alta California.

English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups.

As coastal land grew more expensive, freed indentured servants pushed further west.

In March 1778, Cook landed on Bligh Island and named the inlet "King George's Sound".

He recorded that the native name was Nutka or Nootka, apparently misunderstanding his conversations at Friendly Cove/Yuquot; his informant may have been explaining that he was on an island (itchme nutka, a place you can "go around").

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