I will be posting Chapter 3 this whole week & this chapter has five parts.
A Man from Genoa
Christopher Columbus was born in the old seaside city of Genoa, Italy, in 1451. His father and his grandfather were weavers. His mother was a weaver's daughter. But Columbus chose to go to see.
Christopher Columbus had two brothers. Bartholomew, the older, was though, skillful, and loyal. He became a partner in the project that resulted in Columbus's voyages to America. The other brother was named Diego. Though willing enough, Diego failed as a sailor and colonist in the New World. Later he became a priest.
Columbus had a sister named Bianchinetta. She married a wine merchant in Genoa. Little more is known of Bianchinetta.
A Plan for Reaching the Indies
When Christopher Columbus was 25, he sailed with a fleet of merchant ships from the port of Genoa. Off the coast of Portugal, Columbus's ship was attacked and sunk. He saved himself by grabbing a large oar. Hanging onto it, he floated to the coast of Portugal, 6 miles away.
Columbus stayed in Portugal for several years. There he sailed with and talked to many experienced sailors. At that time Europeans were talking of finding a water route to the Far East, or East Asia. There was a great demand in Europe for the silks, spices, and other products of eastern Asia. Trade with the Far East by way of land routes had proved to be slow, costly, and dangerous. A water route would be much better.
Some sailors talked of reaching Asia by sailing south from Portugal and then east around Africa. In this way they hoped to reach the rich islands off the southeastern coast of Asia called the Indies.
Gradually, Columbus formed another plan. Like other people of the time, he believed the world was round. If so, Columbus could reach the Indies by sailing west from Europe.
Christopher Columbus presented his plan to the king of Portugal. Much to his disappointment, the king's advisers turned down Columbus's plan. For this reason the Columbus brothers traveled to the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They succeeded in getting approval there, though it took 6 years.
The king and queen of Spain furnished the Columbus brothers with three ships--the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Each ship was less than 100 feet in length. The little fleet sailed from the harbor of Palos, Spain, on August 3, 1492. At the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa, the ships made their first stop. The crews rested there and made needed repairs on their ships. They took on supplies for a long voyage before lifting anchor once more. This time they sailed directly westward. On September 9 the three ships passed the last island then known to European sailors.
After sailing for more than a month, Rodrigo de Triana, a lookout on the Pinta, doubted the ships would ever reach land. But as a good sailor, he still kept watch carefully. Several hours before sunrise on October 12, he thought he saw something like a white cliff shining in the moonlight. "Land! Land!" he shouted.
Within a few minutes the captain of the Pinta also saw the land. He ordered a cannon fired as a signal that land had been sighted. As the three ships sailed closer together, Columbus called from the Santa Maria that the Pinta had sighted land first.
The rising sun revealed an island in the distance. When Columbus went ashore he knelt to kiss the soil. With tears of joy in his eyes, he named the island San Salvador, Spanish for "Holy Savior." It was one of the many small islands in the Bahamas.
The West Indies
Columbus and his crew stayed for a few months in the islands they had discovered. They believed these were the rich Indies near the coast of Asia. For this reason, Columbus called the people there Indians. To this day the islands he explored are known as the West Indies.
After his first voyage, Columbus sailed to the New World three more times. On these voyages his ships carried colonists, seeds for planting, pigs, cattle, chickens, sheep, and goats. On his third voyage, Columbus reached the coast of South America. However, he never saw any part of the mainland of what is now the United States.
Columbus had an agreement with the Spanish rulers and businesspeople who backed his first voyage. He was to be made admiral and also governor of the islands and continents he might discover. Moreover, these titles were to pass to his elder son and the son's heirs. In addition Christopher Columbus was to receive 10 percent of the profits from "pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, and all other things" obtained as the result of his discoveries.
Had things worked out differently, Christopher Columbus might have been the riches man in the world. Instead he never received anything close to the 10 percent promised him. Disappointment, poverty, and ill health clouded his last years. He died in 1506, a bitter man.
As you read in the last chapter, the first people to reach America were probably those who came from Asia by way of the Bering Strait land bridge. Nor was Columbus even the first European to reach America. Centuries before Columbus's first voyage, the Vikings had visited the North Atlantic islands of Iceland and Greenland. The Vikings were a bold, seagoing people who came from what are today the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. According to legend a Viking named Bjarni Herjulfson set out for a small Viking settlement in Greenland but was blown off course. The storm drove his ship to a coast west of Greenland. In time he returned to Greenland with the exciting news of a land to the west.
A few years later another Viking, Leif Ericson, accidentally reached this new land. He and his crew spent a winter there. They called it Vinland, which means "land of vines," because of the wild grapes they found there. Other Vikings founded a colony in Vinland. A colony is a settlement that is ruled by another country.
Although no one actually knows the location of the Vinland colony, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Viking colony on Newfoundland. The buildings and artifacts prove that the Vikings lived there around the year 1000. The Viking colonies, however, were shortlived. The discovery of a land across the sea was soon forgotten.
In contrast, news of Columbus's discovery spread through Western Europe. His first voyage led directly to the exploration and colonization of the New World. That is why Columbus, even though others came before him, is called the discoverer of America.
Other Early Explorers
Soon after Columbus's third voyage, Pedro Cabral, a Portuguese sea captain, set out on a voyage down the coast of Africa. Storms blew his ship far off course, and he landed on the coast of South America. Cabral claimed for Portugal the land that we now call Brazil.
It was, however, the Spaniards who led the way in exploring the mainland of the American continents. In 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama. He became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the shores of the New World. In the same year, Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsula he named Florida, while searching for a fountain of youth.
These and other explorers soon suspected there was more land in the New World than anyone had first realized. Still they hoped there was a way around or through this land. Such a passage would make it possible to reach Asia by sailing west, as Columbus had believed.
The First Voyage Around the World
In 1519 the Spanish king, Philip II, sent Ferdinand Magellan to look for a passage through the newly discovered lands. Magellan was Portuguese but had enlisted in the service of Spain. After crossing the Atlantic in five ships, Magellan's expedition spent the winter on the coast of South America. One ship was lost in a storm, but the other four sailed, south in the spring. At the southern end of South America, they entered the strait, or narrow passage of water, that today bears Magellan's name.
In the stormy strait the crew of one ship seized control of the vessel and headed back to Spain. The other three ships sailed into the ocean that Magellan named the Pacific, which means peaceful, because it seemed so calm. For months they sailed across this huge ocean. Food supplies ran out, forcing the men to eat rats and to chew pieces of leather. At last they reached Guam, an island in the Pacific. After finding food, they sailed west until they reached a group of islands, later named the Philippines for King Philip of Spain. On one of these islands Magellan was killed when he took part in a battle between rival Filipino groups.
With the death of its commander, this voyage might have ended in the Philippines. But it did not. Juan Sebastian del Cano took charge of the one remaining ship, the Victoria. He and his crew sailed south, picked up a cargo of spices in the Indies, and then sailed westward across the Indian Ocean. After passing the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa, the ship turned north into the Atlantic. In 1522 it reached Spain, 3 years after it had first set sail. The Victoria was the first ship to sail around the world.
The Voyage proved it was possible to reach Asia by sailing west from Europe. Even so, very few explorers wanted to suffer the hardships of such a lengthy voyage. In the years that followed, they devoted their attention to exploring and colonizing the American continents.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?: America
Christopher Columbus not only lost the chance to become the richest man in the world--the lands to which he led the way were named for someone else.
Amerigo Vespucci was a skillful navigator born in Florence, Italy. He took part in several Spanish and Portuguese voyages to the New World. He claimed to have been a member of an expedition that in 1499 discovered the mainland of a continent.
Martin Waldseemuller, a German geographer and mapmaker, published some of Amerigo Vespucci's accounts in 1507. Along with the accounts Waldseemuller printed 12 pages of maps with the name "America" spread across each page. The maps showed all the discoveries made in the New World up to that time. Waldseemuller called the New World "the fourth continent," suggesting it be named for Amerigo Vespucci because he had discovered it.
Not many people agreed with Waldseemuller about the discovery. But the book and Waldseemuller's maps became so popular that people got into the habit of calling the New World that was being explored "America."
Still the name of Columbus is remembered in a number of ways in the lands he discovered. The republic of Colombia in South America is named for him. Twenty-seven of the United States have counties, towns, or cities named Columbus or Columbia.
The District of Columbia is the site of our nation's capital. The mighty Columbia River drains a good part of the Pacific Northwest.
No one in the United States celebrates Amerigo Vespucci Day, but 40 states make Columbus Day a legal holiday. So Christopher Columbus is far from being forgotten as the foremost European discoverer of America.
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This post is met for Saturday, which is today.