Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The province's official name was also "Newfoundland" until 2001, when its name was changed to "Newfoundland and Labrador" (the postal abbreviation was later changed from NF to NL).
The island of Newfoundland (originally called Terra Nova, from "New Land" in old Italian) was visited by the Icelandic Viking Leif Eriksson in the 11th century, who called the new land "Vinland". The first European visitors to Newfoundland were Portuguese, Spanish, French and English migratory fishermen. In 1501, Portuguese explorers Gaspar Corte-Real and his brother Miguel Corte-Real charted part of the coast of Newfoundland in a failed attempt to find the Northwest Passage. The island was later visited by the Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Cabot), working under contract to King Henry VII of England on his expedition from Bristol in 1497. This landing is considered the initial foundation of the British Empire – a fact solidified on August 5, 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland as England's first overseas colony under Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I of England, thus officially establishing a fore-runner to the much later British Empire. Claims for Ireland notwithstanding, Newfoundland is considered Britain's longest serving colony. According to 2006 official Census Canada statistics, 57% of responding Newfoundland and Labradoreans claim British Isles ancestry, with 43.2% claiming at least one English parent, 21.5% at least one Irish parent, and 7% at least one parent of Scottish origin. Additionally 6.1% claimed at least one parent of French ancestry. The island's total population as of the 2006 census was 479,105.
The island of Newfoundland is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the