Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus is a name that most give tribute to for so many of the explorations of the 15th century.

Columbus was an Italian explorer who was financed by the Spanish royalty to compete with the Portuguese in the most explosive time of seafaring exploration.

During that era, ships sailing to Asia took long and hazardous routes for necessary trade. Explorers that were sent out to sea were also tasked with the job of finding new lands to claim and bring wealth back to the country they represented.

The Atlantic Ocean

Columbus made a total of four trips across the Atlantic Ocean: 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. On one of these voyages he was in search of India, and when he landed at what is now America, he mistook it for India and named the indigenous people “Indians.”

The 15th and 16th centuries were known as the “Age of Exploration,” and with newly designed ships, many countries were sending explorers out to find spices, gold, and other items from Africa and Asia.

Spain and Portugal led the way with the most ships and explorers and it was during this time that Christopher Columbus was given ships to sail to unknown territory to claim land for Spain.

Early Years 

He was born on October 31, 1451, in Genoa, Italy, and began sailing when he was just a teenager.

Columbus was married to Felipa Moniz Perestrelo, in 1477 who later died while given birth in 1485.

In his early life, Columbus studied cartography, mathematics, astronomy, and navigation. These lessons were valuable for his future voyages.

Columbus had different ideas

The Portuguese had figured out a way to shorten sailing to Asia, but Columbus had a different idea.

He took a chance on believing that he could sail across the Atlantic instead of around the African Cape of Good Hope, and this was the basis for his planned voyages.

Columbus thought that those that had configured the circumference of the Earth had miscalculated. His idea was that it was smaller than the experts thought and an easier voyage from Europe to Asia could be accomplished.

He was to later find out that his math was incorrect, but it did lead him to other successes.

Columbus approached both the Portuguese and the English to accomplish his ideas, but only Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, monarchs of Spain were interested.

Their goal was more land, riches, and expansion of the Catholic religion, and they believed that Columbus’ ideas were sound.

Columbus made a deal with the Spanish monarchs to keep ten percent of the riches he might find as well as having a Spanish noble title, and to be the governor of any lands that he discovered.

Discoveries in 1492

1492 is the famous year that Columbus launched the ships named the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, with the goal of finding a shorter route to the East Indies. The first landfall was on one of the islands in the Bahamas.

Columbus and the three ships sailed for months from one island to the next in what is now the Caribbean. At this point, they were in search of riches such as gold, silver, precious stones, spices, and any other valuables.

By 1493 Columbus had to leave some of the men from the ships behind in what was known as Hispaniola; today’s Haiti and the Dominican Republic, so that he could return to Spain.

Detailed diary

Columbus kept a very detailed diary of the first voyage, documenting everything from daily life with the crew to wildlife they encountered.

The diary includes very racist impressions of local inhabitants and his belief that they should be enslaved.

Six months later Columbus set out on another voyage to the Americas. His voyage to find riches was mostly a failure, but he brought 500 slaves back to Queen Isabella.

To the surprise of Columbus, Isabella rejected the slaves as she felt these people were Spanish subjects and she returned the “gift.”

What happened in 1498

By 1498 Columbus was on his third voyage and this time he stopped at the mainland of South American and Trinidad.

When he sailed back to Hispaniola the colonists had revolted due to mismanagement of the colony and the native Taino population had all but been destroyed.

Although Columbus was arrested and returned to Spain in chains, he was cleared of charges in 1502 but lost his noble title.

The last voyage of an aging Columbus took his ship to Panama, only miles from the Pacific Ocean.

After storms damaged two of the four ships he abandoned them and returned to Spain where he died in 1506.

Facts about Christopher Columbus for Kids

  • Born – October 31, 1451, in Genoa, Italy.
  • Married – Felipa Moniz Perestrelo, in 1477 and had one son. Felipa died while given birth in 1485
  • Later in life, he had another son with Beatriz Enríquez de Trasierra
  • His real name in Italian was Cristoforo Colombo
  • His name in Spanish was Cristóbal Colón
  • He had ideas to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to reach China and East Asia and spent years trying to find funds.
  • Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain decided to help fund and pay for the trip
  • He left Spain on August 3, 1492, with three ships called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria
  • On October 12, 1492, he discovered the small island in the Bahamas that he later named San Salvador
  • Best known for Discovering America
  • Died – May 20, 1506

What did you learn?

What country did Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sail his ships for?
Spain

What were the reasons the Spanish royalty agreed to finance Columbus’ voyages?
riches, wealth, new routes for trade, expansion of the Catholic religion

What education did Columbus have that helped him as one of the new explorers?
Columbus studied cartography, mathematics, astronomy, and navigation

What was the deal that Columbus made with the Spanish royalty for his voyages?
keep ten percent of the riches he might find as well as having a Spanish noble title, and to be the governor of any lands that he discovered

What were the names of the three most famous ships that were under Columbus’ control?
Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria

What was the goal of Columbus’ first voyage?
find a shorter route to the East Indies