Henry of Portugal, who is also known as Henry the Navigator, was the patron of many sailing expeditions that explored the West African coast; through his explorations, maps were created of the known world, trade routes were established and Christianity was spread. Prince Henry is widely regarded as a major influence in the beginning of the Great Age of Discovery that began in the 15th century and lasted through the early 16th century.
Prince Henry founded a school of navigation in 1418. Attendees learned navigation skills along with skills in map making that would help them as they sailed down the West African coast. Up until the time, no European explorer had made it further than Cape Bojador, and what lay beyond that point was known throughout Europe as the "Sea of Darkness." Prince Henry and his crew were able to go beyond that point by 1434.
The results of Prince Henry's explorations paved the way for the establishment of a main route between Europe and the New World. One of the biggest discoveries of Prince Henry was the ability to return to Europe after explorations by developing an understanding of the winds. This concept is known as "Volta do Mar," which translates to "return from the sea."