Sunday, October 11, 2009


"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue..."

That is how the story and teaching of Columbus began when I was in school.

The following is a map Columbus drew in 1490.

Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506), was born in Italy, was a Roman Catholic. His occupation of maritime explorer for the Crown of Castile evolved after several short voyages around Europe.
He tried for years to convince various monarchs that he could establish a trade route with The Indies (southeast Asia) and have direct access to the spice trade. After being turned down, several times, finally King Ferdinand helped convince Queen Isabella of Spain that they should help sponsor the voyage. Columbus entered a contract with them as to what he would get if he found any new islands, etc. One of Columbus' sons later wrote that they agreed because they really did not believe he would make it back.
He left Europe on August 3, 1492 with three ships (Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria) and sailed to the Canary Islands where he restocked, leaving there on September 6, 1492. Around five weeks later, land was first spotted on October 12, 1492; which by coincidence happens to be the same date we set aside as "Columbus Day". Although he believed that he had reached the Indies (and named the people based on that), he was in the Caribbean. He was in the area until leaving to return with only the two smallest of the ships, after the Santa Maria had run aground. He left some men to establish a settlement in what is now Haiti. He took some natives back with him, though most died before getting to Europe. He arrived back to Europe on March 3, 1493.
He was to make three more voyages across the Atlantic (1493, 1498 and 1502). Spain and Portugal backed out of the contract with Columbus and actually had him arrested for awhile in 1500. After his death, some family kept the issue in court for many years. He never reached North America but visited several islands in the Caribbean and one time made it to Central America.
As to the story of him being one of the first to think the Earth was round, well, that does not appear to be true. There is historical evidence of others believing that for centuries prior to Columbus. What he did think is that the circumference of the Earth was smaller than others believed and he thought he could sail west from Europe to Asia while others believed it was too far. He was wrong and they were right, but his error resulted in the discovery of America.

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