Christopher Columbus is credited with the
discovery of the New World;
but, Columbus was not looking for a new world when he sailed from
Spain in 1492. In fact, he was looking for an old world.
To be more precise, Columbus was looking for a shorter route from Europe to
the orient. What he found, though, was the Americas. Columbus was not
convinced that he had discovered a new world and in four separate voyages to the
Caribbean from 1492 to 1504, he remained convinced that he had found the
lands that Marco Polo reached in his overland travels to China at the end
of the 13th century. Columbus believed it was only a matter of time before a passage
was found through the Caribbean islands to the fabled cities of Asia.
Born in Genoa, Italy in 1451,
Christopher Columbus loved the sea and became a sailor at the age of fifteen.
Growing up he had heard stories of Marco Polo and the Far East. Even
though the rest of the world believed the world was flat, Columbus
thought the world was round. He also knew that Europeans depended on
the Far East for items like silk, gems and rare spices. Obtaining
these luxuries was difficult and costly because of the long land route
that had to be traveled to the orient and back again. So, Columbus
decided to sail west in order to find a shorter route to the Far East.
Columbus first went to King Henry of
Portugal to ask for
ships and money to make his exploration, but King Henry didn't believe
that Columbus could make it to the east by going west, so he denied Columbus'
request. Columbus didn't give up, though. Instead he went to Spain and asked King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle for ships, men, and money. The Queen said yes,
but because there was a war going on at that time, she told him he would have
to wait until the war was over.
Columbus waited patiently until the war ended in 1492.
Then Queen Isabelle gave Columbus three ships, 90 men, and the money he needed for his trip.
On the third of August, 1492, Columbus set sail with the three ships, the Nina,
the Pinta and the Santa Maria. These ships were nothing like the modern ocean liners
of today. These little ships were made of wood and were very
uncomfortable on long voyages. They had no sophisticated navigation devices so,
Columbus had to navigate by using the stars and the moon.
Columbus and his crew
first sailed to the Canary islands where they took on fresh supplies before heading
for the open seas. Columbus and his three ships had been at
sea for about four weeks when the crew began to get worried. No one had ever
been at sea for so long without seeing land and the sailors were afraid they would
fall off the edge of the world and die. Columbus had to be strong in the face of a
possible mutiny. He told his men
that if they did not see land in three days they would turn back. He also
offered a reward to the first man who spotted land.
On the thirty-fifth day they saw birds flying overhead.
That was a very good sign since birds do not fly to far away from land.
Then at about 2 a.m. a sailor on the Pinta sighted land. On the morning of
October 12, 1492 the men went ashore on an island in the Carribean sea.
They named the island San Salvador. Today, this island is shared by two
countries, Hatti and The Dominican Republic.
As mentioned earlier, even though Columbus is remembered for discovering the
Americas he is not the first European explorer to visit the Americas. To learn more about the person who found
the Americas before Columbus click next.