Christopher Columbus was one of
the greatest sailors and explorers of all time. In 1492,
Christopher's exploration to the New World linked Europe
and the Americas. His discoveries enlarged the world and
began a new age of exploration. His vision and courage
changed the history of the world.
Christopher was born
in 1451, in Genoa, Italy. Although the exact date of
Christopher's birth is unknown, he is believed to have
been born between August 25 and October 31.
In Christopher's time, people
did not celebrate their birthdays. Instead, they celebrated
the feast day of their patron saint. Christopher was
baptized in the name of St. Christopher, the patron
saint of travelers. St. Christopher's feast day is June
Beginning in the 1200's, Europe
traded with the Far East for spices, jewels, gold, ivory,
pearls, and silk. The Far East includes the countries
of India, China, and Japan. The Far East is also known
as the Indies.
In the mid-1400's, the trade
route to the Far East was blocked. Some explorers looked
for a new trade route by sailing around the tip of Africa.
The tip of Africa is called the Cape of Good Hope.
Christopher, however, looked
for a new trade route by sailing west across the Ocean
Sea. Today, we call the Ocean Sea the Atlantic Ocean.
Myths about the Atlantic Ocean
life, explorers stayed close to the known lands of Europe
and Africa. They did not sail into the Atlantic Ocean
because it was unknown and uncharted. The ocean was
thousands of miles wide, and there were no landmarks
to guide ships.
People believed the Atlantic
Ocean contained monsters and boiling water. No one attempted
to sail across the unknown ocean. No one, except Christopher.
In 1492, King Ferdinand
and Queen Isabella of Spain supported Christopher's
voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Christopher left from
Spain with a crew of 90 men and a fleet of three ships.
His three ships were called the Niña,
the Pinta, and the Santa María.
There were 24 men on the Niña,
26 men on the Pinta, and 40 men on the Santa
María. These ships were on the cutting-edge
of 1492's technology. The Niña and the
Pinta were caravels. A caravel is a small ship
with one deck and three masts. The Santa María
was a larger and slower-sailing supply ship. Did
you know Christopher sailed on the Santa
On October 12, 1492, Christopher
and his crew spotted land for the first time in three
months. Christopher thought he had reached the Far East,
but he had actually landed in the Americas.
When Christopher successfully
crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the myths about the ocean
were dispelled. The Atlantic Ocean was now safe to cross.
was not the first person to discover the Americas, he
was the first European to discover and return to the
The Europeans called the Americas
the "New World" because this world was unknown to the
Europeans. Before Christopher, the Europeans believed
there were only three continents and one ocean: Europe,
Asia, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean.
When Christopher sailed west
across the Atlantic Ocean in search of Asia, he "discovered"
the Americas. This was the first time the Europeans
realized there were two more continents in the world:
North and South America. They would later learn about
the Pacific Ocean.
Today, we know there are seven
continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South
America, Australia, and Antarctica) and four oceans
(Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic).
Between 1492 and 1504, Christopher
made a total of four voyages to the New World. On his
First Voyage, Christopher discovered the Americas. Christopher
made more discoveries on his next three voyages.
On his Second Voyage (1493-1496),
Christopher sailed with more than 1,000 men and 17 ships.
He established a Spanish colony on Hispaniola. Today,
Hispaniola consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Christopher also discovered Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico,
Christopher sailed with six ships
on his Third Voyage (1498-1500). His brother, Diego,
accompanied Christopher. Christopher discovered Trinidad
(the southernmost island of the Caribbean), South America,
and the mouth of the Orinoco River.
Christopher's Fourth Voyage (1502-1504)
was called the "High Voyage." He sailed with four ships
and 135 men. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 21 days.
This was the fastest ocean crossing. Christopher discovered
the coast of Central America, including Honduras, Nicaragua,
Costa Rica, Panama, and Martinique.
Christopher died on
Wednesday, May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, Spain. He was
54 years old. His brother, Diego, and his two sons were
by his side.
Christopher was buried at the
Franciscan convent in Valladolid, Spain. Christopher's
remains were then moved to the Carthusian monastery
of Santa Maria de las Cuevas outside Seville, Spain.
Since then, they were moved to a new cathedral in Santo
Domingo, Hispaniola, and to Havana, Cuba. Today, there
has been a disagreement as to where Christopher is buried.
There are monuments in both Seville and Santo Domingo
claiming to be the resting place of Christopher Columbus.
are recognized in different countries and in different
The United States celebrates
Columbus' first voyage to the Americas with a holiday
on the second Monday in October. This holiday is called
Columbus Day. It has also been called Discovery Day
and Landing Day. Some cities, like New York City, Los
Angeles, and San Francisco, have parades. The city of
Columbus, Ohio, is named after Christopher.
Spain and South America celebrate
Christopher's accomplishments on October 12. Spain calls
it National Day. Some South American cities place flowers
around statues of Christopher.
Christopher Columbus was a great
sailor and explorer, and an excellent navigator by the stars.