Christopher Columbus is known as a great historical figure and was considered as one of the greatest mariners in history. He sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a route to Asia but achieved recognition by making arrival in the Americas instead. About 5-6 centuries have passed since his death yet his great navigational skills have not been forgotten and not to mention that the routes he used to travel around the seas, are still being used by sailors till this very day. He was an Italian explorer, colonizer, and navigator.
Christopher Columbus was born in the 31st of October 1451, in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. His name is originally pronounced Critoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish but was translated into English as Christopher Columbus. His father was a poor weaver; he had 4 younger siblings; and went to school during his early ages. Since Genoa was known to be a busy seaport, Christopher learned much of what he knows from the sailors there. He worked with his father for a while but he knew that his destiny was to sail the vast waters.
Christopher Columbus began his sailing career with short fishing trips and worked his way up to longer trips with merchants that traded along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He began his seagoing career at the age of 14 where he served on several ships in roles that include working as a messenger, common sailor, and probably a 21-year-old privateer as well. Christopher Columbus was interested by map making and geography, which he tends to study between voyages or trips. During the years of his twenties, he went on his first trip out of the Mediterranean Sea and into the Atlantic Ocean. In this trip, his ship was attacked and was set on fire. His only option to survive this tragic occurrence was to swim; he swam six miles back to the shore by only clinging to wreckage.
Between the years of 1492 and 1503, Christopher Columbus accomplished four round-trip voyages between Spain and the Americas. Columbus’s voyages manifested the start of the European exploration and colonization of the American continent thus making Columbus a national hero as he made an impact on Western history.
After receiving significant funding from the Spanish Monarchs, Columbus set sail on the evening of August 3, 1492. He left Palos de la Frontera with three ships, the Santa María, Santa Clara, and Pinta. These ships belonged to the inhabitants of Palos but the monarchs forced them to contribute to the expedition thus granting the usage of their ships. Columbus first sailed to the Canary Islands in order to resupply and perform repairs. On the 6th of September, he departed San Sebástian de La Gomera for his first voyage across the ocean that lasted for five weeks.
On the 12th of October, one of the Pinta’s crewmembers spotted land and informed the rest of crew immediately. The captain of Pinta confirmed the discovery and notified Columbus. Columbus named the island San Salvador whilst the natives called it Guanahani. As described by Columbus, the natives at San Salvador, or Guanahani, were peaceful and friendly. Upon leaving this island, Columbus went on to explore the northeastern coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola. On Christmas morning 1492, the Santa Maria had to be abandoned as it got wrecked on the shores of the northern coast of Hispaniola. He had to leave behind 39 men at a fort called the Navadid due to no space in the other two ships.
His final stop before heading back home was Samaná Peninsula but his landing wasn’t so peaceful as expected. A violent resistance from a hostile named Ciguayos greeted him on his first voyage to the Americas. He stole about 10 to 25 natives before his departure and brought them back to Spain (about 7 or 8 were brought back alive).
En route to Spain, Columbus faced another storm, which was considered as one of the worst storms during that century, and was forced to set sail to Lisbon, Portugal where he anchored his ships on 4 March 1943. He stayed for more than one week then left to Spain where he reached on 15 March 1493. Words of his journey immediately spread throughout Europe thus granting him fame and acknowledgment.
On the 24th of September 1493, Columbus left Cadiz, Spain in search of new territories, with 17 supply-carrying ships and nearly 1,200 men (consisting of priests, farmers, and soldiers) to settle the region. As what he did on his first voyage, they stopped at Canary Islands and left on 13 October 1493 going on a more southerly course.
His first sighting was a rugged land named Dominica then he sailed north where he discovered and named islands that include Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Redonda, Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Martin, and Saint Croix in His first sighting was a rugged land named Dominica then he sailed north where he discovered and named islands that include Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Redonda, Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Martin, and Saint Croix in the Lesser Antilles. He claimed all of these lands for Spain. He went on to the Greater Antilles and on the November 19 1493, he boarded at Puerto Rico. He then went back to Hispaniola to check up on the 39 men he left behind at the fort Navadid but all he could find was that most of the colonists were gone and about 11 dead bodies left behind as they have been in a dispute with the Indians. He, however, established a new settlement at Isabella, on the northern coast of Hispaniola. The location happened to be poor though and the settlement didn’t last long.
He went on to explore the interior of the island in search of gold. He found some and went on to establish another small fort in the interior. He left Hispaniola on the 24th of April and on April 30th, he reached and went on to explore the southern coast of Cuba and was convinced that it is a peninsula rather than an island. He discovered Jamaica on the 5th of May. He went back to Hispaniola and from there, he finally returned to Spain.
On the 30th of May 1498, Columbus went to embark on his third voyage. He brought with him six ships from Sanlucar, Spain and led them first to his wife’s native land, Porto Santo, which is a Portuguese Island. Afterwards, he went on sail to Madeira to meet up with the Portuguese Captain João Gonçalves da Camara before heading to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.
Columbus boarded the southern coast of the island of Trinidad on the 31st of July. From the 4th to the 12th of August, he sailed to the Gulf of Paria that divides Trinidad from Venzuela. He went on to explore the mainland of South America and also the islands of Chacachacare and Margarita Island. He also discovered and named the islands Tobago and Grenada.
Columbus returned to Hispaniola yet again on the 19th of August and to his disappointment, many of the Spanish settlers he left behind were unhappy, as they could not find the abundant riches Columbus told them about.
Upon his return back to Spain, he was arrested for 6 weeks due to being accused of his and his brothers’ cruelties by a number of returning settlers and sailors.
Fourth and Final Voyage
Columbus’ fourth and final voyage began in May 1502; he sailed with 4 ships that were the Capitana, Gallega, Vizcaina, and Santiago de Palos. His brother Bartolomeo and his son Fernando accompanied him. They left Spain on the 11th of May and sailed to the Arzilla on the Moroccan coast to save Portuguese soldiers that were under siege by the Moors. He then went to the Cabaret on the island of Martinique and landed on the 15th of June. He intended to head to Hispaniola for shelter since a storm was brewing but he was denied port at Santa Domingo and the new governor refused to listen his storm predictions. They instead went to the mouth of the Rio Jaina for shelter. Due to the new governor negligence, he sent out the first Spanish treasure fleet and it happened to sink because of the storm which caused 500 casualties and the loss of a cargo of gold. As for Columbus’s ships, they all survived with minimal damage.
After the storm, Columbus sailed to Jamaica for a brief stop then went on to Central America. He arrived at Guanaja in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras on the 30th of July. On the 14th of August, he landed on Honduras and from there he spent two months exploring Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica before heading off again to Panama. It was during October when they reached Panama but had to wait until after surviving a tremendous storm in December to explore Panama. The storm began on the 5th of December 1502, and Columbus described it as a storm unlike any other they had ever experienced before.
Christopher Columbus described the storm in this segment from his journal:
“For nine days I was as one lost, without hope of life. Eyes never beheld the sea so angry, so high, so covered with foam. The wind not only prevented our progress, but offered no opportunity to run behind any headland for shelter; hence we were forced to keep out in this bloody ocean, seething like a pot on a hot fire. Never did the sky look more terrible; for one whole day and night it blazed like a furnace, and the lightning broke with such violence that each time I wondered if it had carried off my spars and sails; the flashes came with such fury and frightfulness that we all thought that the ship would be blasted. All this time the water never ceased to fall from the sky; I do not say it rained, for it was like another deluge. The men were so worn out that they longed for death to end their dreadful suffering”
In May 1503, he sighted the Cayman Islands but the ships took a lot of damage en route to Hispaniola. He had to withdraw to St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica due to the ship not being able to travel any farther.
For about a year, Columbus and his crew were stranded on Jamaica while some of crew and a few natives padded a canoe to Hispaniola for help but the island’s governor disliked Columbus and gave no effort to rescue him and his men at all. Columbus had to persuade the natives to continue providing Columbus and his men food and support; he won the natives over by successfully predicting a lunar eclipse that occurred on the 29th of February 1504. Help finally arrived on the 29th of June 1504, and Columbus and his men finally arrived in Sanlucar, Spain on the 7th of November.
Christopher Columbus’ Death
Christopher Columbus died on the 20th of May 1506 in Spain. Even though he didn’t get 10% of all profits made in the new lands, he died somewhat a wealthy man due to the gold his crew collected in Hispaniola. However, Columbus believed that what he discovered were part of the East Coast of Asia. Even after his untimely death, his body was still travelling around everywhere. His corpse was first transferred to Valladolid, then to Seville, and later on his son Diego had the corpse transferred to Santo Domingo in 1542. During the year 1795, the French took over and had the corpse moved to Havana. Cuba become independent after the war of 1898 and Columbus’s corpse was yet again transferred but this time back to his homeland Spain.
Baldwin, C. C., Paine, N., & American Antiquarian Society. (1901). Diary of Christopher Columbus Baldwin.
Worcester, MA: Pub. By the Society.
Little, McBougal. (2009). Modern World History: Patterns of interactions. USA: Houghton Mifflin-High School.
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Camusso, L. (1991). The voyages of Columbus, 1492-1504.
New York: Dorest Press.
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