At the time, Ponce de León thought that he had landed on another island, and not the coast of mainland North America. He named the site Florida, not only because they landed around the time of Easter (Pascua Florida in Spanish), but also in honor of the region’s lush and florid vegetation. On that first expedition to Florida, Ponce de León explored the coast, including the Florida Keys, and discovered the Gulf Stream, the warm ocean current that would help future Spanish ships maneuver their way home from the New World. He then returned to Puerto Rico and made his way to Spain, where he was named military governor of Bimini and Florida and given permission to colonize the region. The Spanish crown also ordered him to organize an army to subdue a native uprising on Puerto Rico, and he sailed with a small fleet in mid-1515.
In February 1521, Ponce de León departed San Juan on his second expedition to Florida, accompanied by two ships and around 200 people. They landed on the southwest coast of Florida, near what is now Charlotte Harbor, with the intention of founding a colony. The exact circumstances of what happened next are uncertain, but it appears that in early July local Indians attacked the party of settlers, leaving Ponce de León fatally wounded by an arrow in his thigh. His comrades sailed back with him to Havana, Cuba, where he died.