Facts about Christopher Columbus – Voyages and Unknown Facts
Christopher Columbus, born in the Republic of Genoa, Italy on October 3, 1451 and died on May 23, 1506. Today Christopher Columbus is credited for discovering America. Christopher Columbus indeed did discover America. However, he is not necessarily the first person to have discovered it. There are two other people that were in the Americas before Christopher Columbus arrived: Leif Eriksson and John Cabot.
John Cabot was a North Italian navigator born in England who went to live in Venice, Italy during his early years. He started his exploration career in Bristol, UK and was able to get permission from King Henry VII of England to search for new lands on the eastern coast of North America so that England could trade with them. His voyage began on March 25th 1497 and landed on what is now known as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland around June 24th 1497 (this date is often debated).
Was Columbus the first European to reach the New World?
Despite the popular perspective, Christopher Columbus was not likely the first European to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, there is evidence that Norse sailors reached present-day Canada much earlier than Christopher Columbus set foot on Caribbean shores.
It’s commonly believed that Vikings discovered North America before Colombus (though some historians don’t agree) and new evidence backs their story. The man who invaded Normandy in 1066 was Harald Hardrada, and he had two brothers with him who sailed west across the Atlantic to Newfoundland before returning home with an abundance of riches – something that would have been very difficult without a strait in between Greenland and North America.
Columbus’ Three Ships
The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. These are the three ships that Christopher Columbus set sail on 2 August 1492 to find a new way to the Indies.
The Nina was a carrack or nao and had a crew of 18 seamen, 27 soldiers and sailors, with an armed contingent of 17 men. The Pinta was also a carrack or nao with 40 crew members, including Francisco de Bobadilla who carried out the conquest of Granada in 1492. The Santa Maria was said to be bigger than both ships combined and had a crew of about 100 people as well as Admiral Columbus’s son and heir Diego aboard.
Columbus was convinced that his ships were not different enough from other Iberian ships to attract any more than a cursory glance by the natives they met on their voyage. And so his crew sailed these three small caravels into the unknown with no hope of rescue if they went astray or found themselves in a storm without land in sight.
What would you do? What would you use for navigation? How would you signal distress if the ship hulls were wrecked in a terrible storm? These are just some of the problems Columbus faced when he set sail to find new trade routes to India, Cathay and Cipango (Japan).
Columbus and his crews sailed with the help of the best navigational instruments of the age. He made use of a cross staff and quadrant as well as an astrolabe to measure angles to distant objects such as islands.
The cross staff consists of a vertical stick topped by a horizontal bar that is free to rotate. It’s used by lining up the zero mark of the vertical stick, held on one eye, with some distant object on the horizon. Then you rotate your head until you line up that same distant object with a mark (such as 90 or 45 degrees) on the horizontal bar. You can then read off how far away an object is from your current location.
Explorer Christopher Columbus made four voyages, from 1492 to 1504.
His first voyage was in the service of the Kingdom of Portugal at a time when they were competing with Spain to find a new route to Asia. He got as far as Trinidad on the southeastern coast of Central America before turning back because his crew was near mutiny and he was running out of supplies. On this voyage, he discovered what would later be called Antilles and named them after the boy king who ruled Portugal at that time — António II. Columbus would later say that he did not realize until later that he had discovered a new continent.
Columbus’ second voyage began in 1493, six months after his first, when King John II of Portugal granted him a second commission to find an all-water route from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. He left Lisbon on May 30 with a fleet of 17 ships and 1,200 men. This time he went to Trinidad, explored much of the Caribbean coast of Central and South America and went on to Panama where he discovered the Pacific Ocean before crossing it. There he claimed islands in the name of Spain before returning to Hispaniola in January 1496. He was able to report some gold but had not found a passage to India.
In January 1498, Columbus made his third voyage, again with the sponsorship of the Spanish monarchy. In November of that year, he reached the coast of present-day Honduras and began exploring north across the Gulf of Honduras in search of a strait or river that would lead him to the Pacific Ocean. He encountered native settlements on islands in the Gulf and explored for ten weeks along its shores. By this time, he was becoming disillusioned by earlier promises by King Ferdinand II of Aragon that he would be given precious metals if he could find them.
The natives told him that they mined gold in a place called Cipangu, but no one had yet found it. (They thought it was on the island of Zipangri, which is now known as Japan.) Columbus continued to explore around the Gulf of Honduras and into Yucatán, where he heard from native merchants about a wealthy civilization far to the northwest.
In May 1499, Columbus’ crew mutinied in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. Because of this and because his crew believed that their Castillian Spanish Linguas were not adequate to communicate with them, he explored less than he might have otherwise. During this voyage, he became convinced that the island of Cipangu was on the coast of Asia.
In August 1499, Columbus made his fourth and last voyage. By this time, he was again in disgrace with the Spanish crown and out of favor with other Spanish merchants. He left Spain with six ships provided by a new Spanish monarch, trying to find a direct route to Japan and hoping to claim new territories for himself along the way. Falling short on supplies and money, he went first to Hispaniola where he resupplied and gathered more colonists for his “kingdom” as well as gold to pay for them. On December 25, he set off for the coast of Honduras, planning to sail west to Japan and south to reach the Spice Islands in Indonesia.
He hit land in the Bahamas on his way west and landed at what is today called San Salvador Island. He did not know that what he had found was an island at all. On January 2,
1500, he departed for Cuba and on January 6 arrived at Hispaniola. There, he found that many of his settlers had been killed by Spanish soldiers when they did not give them their land and treasure as promised. Columbus went to Spain on March 15 but died there before King Ferdinand could hear his plans or see his treasures.
Columbus made four voyages, from 1492 to 1504. His first voyage was in the service of the Kingdom of Portugal at a time when they were competing with Spain to find a new route to Asia. He got as far as Trinidad on the southeastern coast of Central America before turning back because his crew was near mutiny and he was running out of supplies. On this voyage, he discovered what would later be called Antilles and named them after the boy king who ruled Portugal at that time — António II. Columbus would later say that he did not realize until later that he had discovered a new continent.
Columbus’s adventurous spirit also transcended his own death
But even in death, Columbus continued to cross the Atlantic and make waves across time and space by continuing to inspire exploration and discovery centuries after he died.
After Columbus died in 1506, he was buried in Valladolid… But he never stopped traveling.
In 1536, the conquistador’s remains were moved to Hispaniola, and then on to Santo Domingo, Cuba. In 1796, they were sent back to Spain and added to the Royal Pantheon of Kings at El Escorial.
Today Columbus rests in Seville, thanks to an agreement between King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Venezuela’s democratic government under President Hugo Chávez in 1992.
According it is clear that even after death Columbus was busy crossing the Atlantic.
Chavez said that “It is an honor for Venezuela to provide a resting place to Columbus, after all that he did in the Americas.”
But Spain pushed back, saying that it was the monarchs who had returned Columbus’ remains to the Americas.
The bones were exhumed in September 2007 and sent back to Spain in February 2008. The Venezuelan government expressed its disapproval of how quickly this was done and accused those involved of being disrespectful. According to Hugo Chávez, “Once again we’ve witnessed how the dignity of our people has been trampled with.” He also stated, “We have said it before and we’ll say it again: The remains of Columbus are Venezuelan.
A Life in Voyages
The flag that flew over the ships of Christopher Columbus when he first set sail was a white cross on a red field. He called it the “San Diego” and took it with him from his home town as a symbol of the righteousness of his cause.
At present, there is much dispute about whether or not to honor Columbus and most places ignore him completely. Recently, however, some cities have marked the date October 12th as Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of those who were here before Columbus arrived.
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