Explorerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. History knows Christopher Columbus best for his voyage in 1492 when he landed in the Caribbean and discovered the New World. Columbus was convinced that he had landed in the Far East. However, he had bumped into America and also had bumped himself into history books for the rest of time.
Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy somewhere between August and October of 1451. Columbus’s father Domenico was a weaver and also somewhat involved in local politics in Genoa. Columbus had four younger siblings and became close friends with his younger brother Bartolomeo. Columbus’s education may not have been very thorough, but he did learn to read and write. As a young boy, he started out working with his father in weaving but soon turned to sailing.
Genoa is a seaport in Italy so Columbus grew up by the sea and among many sailors. He spent his teenage years first as a cabin boy then a sailor, and he learned much about sailing, astronomy, and geography through his voyages. During his twenties, Columbus settled down in Lisbon with his brother Bartolomeo. Columbus helped Bartolomeo with his map-making business. During this time Columbus also captained ships for Italian merchants. In 1478 he met and married a young woman named Felipa who came from a relatively respected family. He then moved with her family to Porto and there Felipa gave birth to a son, whom they named Diego. Soon after Diego was born, Felipa died.
The years following Felipa’s death were filled with ocean voyages. Columbus moved to Portugal where he had connections with the Portuguese court through Felipa’s family. It was during these years that Columbus began to develop the idea that he could reach the Far East by sailing west. Through his study of geography and his knowledge gained in map-making Columbus began to believe that the earth was round. He read about Marco Polo’s trip over to the Far East, and the spices and riches there. Columbus began to believe he could reach the Far East by sailing west.
Convincing someone to provide for such a voyage across the Atlantic was not very easy. He used his connections into the Portuguese court to ask King John II to provide for his trip across the Atlantic. However, King John rejected his request. Both France and England also refused to provide for his voyage. Columbus took his son and moved to Spain.
Columbus was known to be a devote Christian. In Spain he formed connections with monks, who were scholars, and through his connections he eventually met Fray Juan Perez, Queen Isabella’s confessor. Perez was a scholar and he and Columbus had many discussions. Perez eventually introduced Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. After a few years and many petitions, Columbus got patronage for his voyage from Ferdinand and Isabella.
Columbus was given three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Sainta Maria. Recruiting a crew courageous enough to sail across the Atlantic was difficult but was managed. On August 3, 1492, three ships left Spain to find the Far East. There were community prayer meetings held on deck each morning and evening. Less than two months later after a long voyage land was sighted. Columbus set down on an island and named it San Salvador. He called the natives Indians for he believed he had reached the Indies. After staying in the Caribbean for a few months he had visited many of the islands. He believed the Cuba was a peninsula of the great country of Cathay that Marco Polo wrote of. After a few months of sailing around the Caribbean islands, Columbus left a small group of men as a colony on an island with specific instructions on how to treat the natives with kindness and respect. He then sailed back to Spain with only the Pinta and the Nina (for the Santa Maria had run aground but had been salvaged with the voluntary help of natives).
Although Columbus’s two remaining ships had become separated during a violent storm, they miraculously reached Spain on the same day. After a brief stop in Portugual for repairs, Columbus made it to Spain and told the Spanish court of the wonderful riches that he had found. He showed them birds, natives, and gold that he had brought back with him. The Spanish court was very impressed with him and gave him all that he had requested were his voyage a success. Ferdinand and Isabella appointed him Admiral of the Ocean Seas and gave him much gold. They then supported three more expeditions to the New World made by Columbus. However, Columbus’s life did not end with him as a glorious hero of his time.
At the end of his days Columbus had made many great discoveries and done many great things. However, he lost all of his titles. Although he did die rich, he was never given full credit for all he had done in the Caribbean. On May 20, 1506, he died in the city of Valladolid of a disease he had caught in the Caribbean.
During Columbus’s life he never actually was given the full credit that he should have been. Even though Columbus did not get everything he should have, he introduced the Old World to a New World. He himself never knew the extent of his discovery, but now that it is known he has received credit. The legendary voyage made in 1492, made new lives possible for many as they came to America.
• Tirado, Thomas C. Christopher Columbus.
• Pickering, Keith A. A Christopher Columbus Timeline.
• Morison, Samuel E. “Columbus, Christopher.” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1991.