Age of Exploration: Christopher Columbus

Age of Exploration: Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was an explorer, navigator and coloniser in the fifteenth century. He was born in Genoa in 1451 and later studied navigation in Portugal.

He believed that the Earth was round and thought that he could reach Asia if he just kept sailing west. He went to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to ask for sponsorship for his voyage and reluctantly agreed to supply him with three ships, a crew and supplies for his journey. He was given a nao for him to captain called the Santa Maria, and two caravels, the Niña and the Pinta, which were captained by Martin an Vincente Pinzón. Columbus’ voyage began on the 3rd of August 1492.

They sailed first from the port of Palos to the Canary Islands and then out into the Atlantic. However, Columbus had his maths completely wrong and reckoned that they would reach India in three weeks. They travelled for two months with no sight of land, the crew began to suffer from scurvy and demanded that they turn back. Columbus lied to his crew about the distance they had travelled as not to worry them and on the 12th of October 1492 eventually they saw land. He thought he had landed in India but had in fact landed on an island in the Caribbean. He claimed the island for Spain and named it San Salvador. He returned to Spain in March 1495 bringing with him native goods and people.

He returned to ‘the Indies’ three more times but he refused to accept that he had not found India but a new continent. He was made Governor but failed to control his men from robbing, torturing and murdering the natives and returned to Spain bitter and disappointed. He died in 1506. The new continent was named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian mapmaker who proved that the land found by Columbus did not resemble the Asian coast.

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