Christopher Columbus (1451–1506)
Christopher Columbus, as well as some learned men of his time, had decided that the eastern coast of Asia could be reached by sailing westward across the Atlantic. Columbus thought, also, that Asia was no farther from Europe on the west than we know now America to be. He thought the East Indies were directly west from the Canary Islands. In these far-away lands men, thought they, should find honour, wealth, and fame.
Such an enterprise would require the equipment of vessels at much expense. Money and influence were essential. Columbus had neither. He sent his brother to England and to France. Then went to Spain again. Finally, after seven years of waiting, Columbus found success. Isabella, Queen of Spain, agreed to aid him in carrying out his plans. Three small vessels, only one of which had a deck, were fitted out. The largest of these, the Santa Maria, was commanded by Columbus. The others were the Nina and the Pinta. Before sunrise, August 3, 1492, this little fleet, with one hundred and twenty men and provisions for a year, sailed out of the port Palos.
At last, after a voyage of ten weeks, land was discovered on October 12, 1492. Columbus had discovered one of the Bahama Islands which he called San Salvador. He coasted along the shores of Cuba and Haiti.
He did not find the cities of Asia as he had expected, but he had no doubt that he was in the East Indies, and therefore called the natives Indians.
When Columbus returned to Spain with the news of his discovery the people were enthusiastic with delight. Men were now eager to go where they expected to get all kinds of wealth. Four voyages were made in all, but when adventurers reached the land of their hopes and found no silks, no spices, no precious stones, no gold, they reproached Columbus. The Court of Spain, also, finding no return for the great expense of fitting out these expeditions, censured him. His enemies increased, and his last days were spent in disappointment and neglect. Heart-broken, he died ignorant of the greatness of his own discovery.