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Crist�bal Col�n is credited with the discovery of America; although the Italian, who thought he was a Spaniard, didn't realise there was another continent there at all.

Christopher Columbus was born in the busy Italian seaport of Genoa and would have made many shorter sea voyages during his youth.

The Discovery of America?

Christopher's brother, Bartholomew Columbus, was a cartographer in Lisbon, where the 25 year-old Crist�bal joined him in 1476.

In 1484 the Portuguese were already working on a way to Asia by going around the coast of Africa, and rejected Christopher's theories that the Indies could be reached by sailing west around the world.

Columbus moved to Spain, and initially met similar rejections from a Spanish royal commission. In April 1492 his persistence finally paid off as Ferdinand V, king of Castile, and Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor his expedition with promises of riches and nobility for the navigator if his theories were right.

Christopher Columbus made a total of four voyages from Spain to what he called the New World, between 1492 and 1504.

First Voyage

The first voyage set sail from Palos, Spain, on August 3rd, 1492, with Christopher Columbus in the Santa Mar�a; accompanied by the Ni�a and the Pinta, and less than one hundred men.

The mast of the Pinta was damaged after three days and they were forced to drop anchor in the Canaries to repair it. The three vessels weighed anchor again on September 6 and sailed west.

After more than a month at sea, the crew could have been forgiven for thinking that their commander had lost his way and perhaps his marbles too. Columbus altered course to the south-west and the men soon saw signs that they were approaching land.

Early on the morning of October 12th land was indeed sighted, and a landing party arrived on an island in the Bahamas and named it San Salvador. The natives must have been surprised to hear that their island now belonged to Spain.

Over the next few weeks landings were also made on Cuba, named Juana by Columbus, and Espa�ola, now known as Hispaniola and shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Columbus believed that they had arrived in the Indies.

The Santa Mar�a was wrecked off the coast of Espa�ola in December, and a temporary fort,  La Navidad, was built of materials salvaged from the vessel. Columbus returned to Spain in the Ni�a, accompanied by the Pinta.

Second Voyage

Columbus' fleet on the second voyage was made up of 17 ships and one and a half thousand men. They left Spain in September 1493 and made landings on the islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Antigua.

When the fleet arrived at La Navidad, on November 27th, Columbus found that the fort had been destroyed and its men killed. The colony of Isabella was then founded as the first settlement of Europeans in the New World.

Columbus went on to explore the coast of Cuba again, and was adamant that they had found a part of the Asian mainland. Jamaica was also added to the new map.

The Naming of America

Enough about Columbus, his day is past and he treated the natives poorly. He even tried to introduce them as slaves to Spain.

The continent that celebrates Columbus Day is actually named after Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian navigator who explored the northern coast of South America between 1499 and 1500, and told the world that they had discovered a new continent.

Columbus might have beaten us to the Americas, but there is still scope to be adventurous, and to feel afloat in the sea of chance; with luck the compass and faith the sextant.

By Michel.

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